ACC CoGS – A Report from Canon James Robinson

You may remember I wrote recently on the manipulative meeting of the ACC CoGS in March 2007. If you would like a soft-peddled version of these events, may I direct you to the Anglican Journal, where you can discover what happened ‘after agonizing hours of discussions’. Apparently, after all this agonizing, there ‘were only two dissenting votes’. For the full report from one of the dissenters, you may like to read below; the same report can be found in the Calgary Anglican Sower here.

Same Sex Blessings Will Need 60 Percent Vote
by Canon James Robinson

The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada will deal with the issue of same-sex blessings by resolution, requiring 60% support of laity, clergy and Bishops. This decision, taken at the last meeting of the Council of General Synod (CoGS) before the June General Synod, rejects the cornerstone recommendation of the St. Michael report.

That report by the Primateʼs Theological Commission recommends the issue be dealt with by canon, which would require a two-thirds majority in support at two consecutive general synods.

The debate on how General Synod should deal with same sex blessings was the most contentious and time-consuming issue on the March CoGS agenda.

At the previous CoGS meeting on November 10-12, 2006, a motion was passed that a resolution be brought to General Synod, which would “accept the conclusion of the Primateʼs Theological Commission that the blessing of same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine but is not core doctrine in the sense of being credal.”

At that meeting we were advised that the Handbook Concerns Committee (a committee which deals with proper canonical procedure) recommended that since there is no distinction made in our Canons between “core” and “non-core” doctrine that the appropriate way to propose changes in the churchʼs practice concerning same-sex blessings would be by changing the Canons of the church.

Such changes require a two-thirds majority of votes in all three orders of Bishops, Clergy, and Laity at two consecutive General Synods. A straw vote taken at that meeting indicated that a strong majority of CoGS members favoured such a process.

However, when we met again in March, it was clear that many had changed their minds. It was argued that trying to change church policy in this matter by canon would be setting the bar “too high” and that this would create an “impasse.”

It was proposed that General Synod be asked to vote on a motion, which would allow this matter to be decided by a simple resolution, requiring only a majority of fifty percent plus one, at General Synod.

After several members of the Council expressed their concerns about such an important issue being decided by only a simple majority, a proposal was brought forward that a majority of 60% be required, but only at one Synod.

Those in favour of proceeding by simple resolution rather than by canon argued that matters such as the ordination of women, or the approval of the Book of Alternative Services had been decided by simple resolution.

Those of us in favour of dealing with this matter canonically pointed out that matters directly effecting the churchʼs understanding of marriage such as the remarriage of divorced people and even the matter of giving permission for marriage ceremonies to take place in venues other than church buildings had, in fact, been decided by canon.

I expressed my deep conviction that an issue such as this, which has caused deep division in our national church and has caused serious strain in our World Wide Anglican Communion, needs to be decided by using our most rigorous and transparent procedures.

The two-thirds formula is well established in our constitution and procedures, and quite recently, our House of Bishops has required that parishes requesting Shared Episcopal Ministry be required to have congregational majorities of two-thirds before such requests can be met.

There is no precedent in our procedures or practice requiring a 60% vote and this seems to me like “pulling a rabbit out of a hat.” Nevertheless, an overwhelming majority of CoGS members voted in favour of recommending that resolutions approving the blessing of same-sex unions would require only “60% of the members of each order present” or if a vote by dioceses is requested, “if they receive the affirmative votes of 60% of the dioceses” – at one General Synod.

Canon James Robinson is the representative of the Diocese of Calgary on the Council of General Synod. In the next issue of the Sower we will print part two of his report, which will discuss other matters brought before the March meeting of CoGS.

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9 Responses to ACC CoGS – A Report from Canon James Robinson

  1. Pauline Bettney says:

    The Reformation has begun. Check Drell’s Descants for an interesting article on the Reformation which is underway in all Protestant denominations, by Scott Purdy.

  2. Craig Goodrich says:

    Those in favour of proceeding by simple resolution rather than by canon argued that matters such as the ordination of women, or the approval of the Book of Alternative Services had been decided by simple resolution.

    Observe that really, really bad precedents will come back to haunt you. “The sins of the fathers …”

    … trying to change church policy in this matter by canon would be setting the bar “too high” and that this would create an “impasse.”

    But that’s the whole idea — this assertion presupposes that the question is trivial, which is precisely what the St Michael Report (however timidly) denied.

    Is there any parliamentary process in the Bylaws to allow this ruling to be challenged from the floor of GS?

  3. white rabbit says:

    Reminds me a bit of my time in psychology 101 when the professor told us in amazement how the psychology “scientists” got together in San Francisco and had a vote on whether homosexuality was abnormal or not. Like my old professor I could not care less who votes for what and like anything else facts are facts.

  4. Peter says:

    Pauline, ouch that might take a bit of a while to read. However I like the summary of it all to just the next iteration of the question “Did God really say?”.

    Craig, I think it is possible to push other resolutions 30 days ahead of time, and it is also possible to amend or reject resolutions. With that said, CoGS resolutions do carry some weight.

    White rabbit, I though in our enlightened world that facts were what we chose them to be?

  5. Marg Ellen says:

    It seems fairly clear to me that the 60% “pulled out of the hat”, as James put it, was decided upon because it is believed that majority can be attained at this General Synod. Would that they be proven wrong! Or better yet, someone put forward a motion 30 days prior to Synod requesting this motion be decided canonically. Let us at least fight the good fight to the end!

  6. Peter says:

    Yup, I guess they think they can swing 60% or they wouldn’t have suggested it. Time to pray there would be a turning back, even at the 11th hour. Lord have mercy!

  7. Craig Goodrich says:

    I note with no little bitter amusement that in a Pastoral Letter dated Feb. 6, the Bishop of Ottawa tells his flock,

    We need to trust that the Holy Spirit speaks through the Councils of our Church.

    Of course, actually obeying the bylaws would set the bar “too high” for the Holy Spirit, so we need to help Her by bending things a little — or quite a bit, actually… Beyond recognition, to be precise.

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  9. Peter says:

    Indeed, Craig, indeed. It would be funny if it were not so sad…..

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