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Same-sex unions could split Church

Same-sex unions could split Church: new primate

Anglican Debate

Charles Lewis
National Post

Disagreement over whether to bless same-sex unions could result in a split in the Anglican Church in Canada, its new leader says.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said in an interview with the National Post that the Church may eventually have to face the fact it will never find agreement on the contentious issue. But, he said, some in the Church will not be able to live with same-sex blessings happening anywhere under the Anglican name and will leave.

“There may come a point we have to acknowledge that and respect their decision. It’s not what any of us want, but it’s what happens sometimes. If they feel they cannot stay and withdraw other parishes with them, obviously it’s a sad moment for the Church. But I also think at that point you don’t fight. You don’t fight. You have to acknowledge the situation, acknowledge the pain, acknowledge the brokenness. It’s the kind of stuff that drives the Church to its knees.”

Archbishop Hiltz, who was elected as head of the Church in June at the general synod in Winnipeg, said he thinks the Church may reach a point where some parishes allow same-sex blessings and others do not and both sides will have to find a way to coexist. The challenge right now, he said, is to keep everyone talking.

“My own personal position is that there’s an urgency in many places where it would be appropriate for parishes to move ahead on blessing same-sex unions,” Archbishop Hiltz said.

“The reality is, in the office I hold now, my task is to hold the Church together in a conversation, so we arrive at some conclusion. But my sense is that over this particular issue we may have to acknowledge that we’re never going to find consensus, we’re never going to reach a position where we all agree that this is the right thing to do or the wrong thing to do.”

Archbishop Hiltz added: “In the final analysis, the real challenge may be to learn how to disagree with grace. How can we remain a church in which we have huge theological differences? There’s a huge challenge there.”

In June, the Church defeated a motion that would have allowed individual dioceses to decide whether their parishes could perform such a rite. At the same meeting, though, the synod said same-sex blessings do not violate core doctrine — something many say opens the door to eventual approval of the practice. Since then, the dioceses of Ottawa and Montreal have asked for permission to perform same-sex blessings — which cannot happen unless their bishops agree.

In the United States, a schism is gaining momentum. The U.S. Episcopal Church has been in a fight with the global Anglican Communion over allowing same-sex blessings and the consecration of an openly gay bishop, Gene Robinson, in 2003. A number of conservative U.S. dioceses have already started to form a parallel church structure outside the main U.S. Episcopal Church.

Later this month, the Anglican Network of Canada, which opposes the blessing of same-sex unions and represents a small number of parishes, will hold a meeting to discuss the future of the Church. Retired Bishop Donald Harvey, the group’s leader, has said there could be a realignment of conservative churches here, too.

Archbishop Hiltz said that the issue of same-sex blessings is important enough that the Church should continue to strive to resolve it, but he wants to make sure that under his leadership it is not the only focus for Anglicans in Canada.

“Let’s, for heaven’s sake, put that issue in perspective. Sex is not the only thing the Church needs to be concerned about. There’s a whole host of other things out there that the church needs to give its attention to. One of the things that I’m going to try to say, when we shape our agenda, is let’s make sure that we don’t allow one issue to dominate all our time and energy, because there are other issues we need to be concerned about as well.”

© National Post 2007


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