Anglican Gay Row Intensifies with Second Canadian Blessings Request

The Montreal branch of the Anglican Church of Canada has urged its bishop to allow clergy to bless same-sex unions, becoming the second in the church body to make the request.

Days after the Diocese of Ottawa voted to ask its bishop to allow clergy to bless "duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples," the Montreal Diocese approved a similar motion on Friday, raising another red flag to conservative branches in the global Anglican Communion.

Some Anglicans in the diocese may not be happy with the decision, said Montreal bishop Barry Clarke, who concurred with the vote.

"But at least we can say we are out there and we can say that's where we stand," he said, according to the Anglican Journal.

Friday's vote does not immediately change the policies and practice of the diocese. Clarke is scheduled to bring up the results of the vote at an Oct. 25-30 meeting in London, Ontario, with the Canadian house of bishops. There, Clarke will consult other bishops and consider the wider concerns of church members in the wider Anglican family, according to Clarke.

"Until a decision is made, there is no change in our current policy and practice; I expect our clergy to refrain from blessing same-sex couples," he said.

Delegates were urged to vote in accordance with their own consciences rather than being preoccupied with the possible political consequences of the vote at various levels of the worldwide Anglican church body, according to the Anglican Journal.

The 77-million-member Anglican Communion has been torn by divisions, particularly since the 2003 consecration of an openly gay bishop in the United States as well as an earlier authorization for the blessing of same-sex unions in the New Westminster diocese of Canada. The Anglican Communion had urged the Canadian church and the U.S.-based Episcopal Church not to authorize same-sex blessings. Such approval, many have said, could fracture the already divided communion.

Debating the measure in the Montreal Diocese, opponents of the resolution argued that the strongest scriptural arguments against same-sex "marriage" come not from a few selected texts but from a general view of the couple as male and female right from the Creation story through the Bible.

"However you interpret this scripture, you have to take it seriously," said the Rev. Gregory McVeigh of St. Stephen's Church in Westmount, according to the church's Journal publication.

Canon Paul Jennings, who sponsored Friday's approved resolution, asked delegates to ask themselves what they would want for their children if they were homosexual.

"What do we believe in all honesty that God wants for them?" he posed.

Meanwhile, the Rev. Anthony Harvey of St. Michael and All Angels Church in the Montréal suburb of Pierrefonds asked whether the resolution "is really God's will or is it bringing God down to our level of understanding and acceptance?"

If bishops in the Montreal and Ottawa dioceses approve the resolutions, their decision would contradict a vote in June by Canada's national Anglican synod that narrowly rejected a proposal to give churches the option of blessing of same-sex unions. However, the Church of Canada had also agreed in June that same-sex blessings do not conflict with the "core doctrines" of the church.

The resolution in the Montreal Diocese requests that the bishop allow clergy, whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages, including marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized. It also asks that the bishop authorize an appropriate rite and make regulations for its use in supportive parishes.