Friday, 12 July 2013

General Synod 2013: Water, the Marriage Canon, Kindness and Severity, Flesh and Spirit, and a Gospel Song

Home from beautiful Ottawa after General Synod (in Joint Assembly with the Evangelical Luther Church in Canada) and an Anglican Renewal Ministries Board meeting. I really enjoyed time spent with Calgary delegates and friends from across the church, both delegates and exhibitors—particularly The Prayer Book Society and The Anglican Communion Alliance folk. 

Some things that stay with me. 


I was moved by the Right to Water prayers Saturday morning on Parliament Hill. The prayers in my little group of Lutherans and Anglicans from across the land were heartfelt and real. I felt blessed to be one of several hundreds turning in unison to face east, south, west and north as we prayed, in Jesus' name, that our water resources would be protected and available to all who need them. 


Last Saturday, the following resolution was carried by orders in the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada meeting in Ottawa.
Be it resolved that this General Synod 
direct the Council of General Synod to prepare and present a motion at General Synod 2016 to change Canon XXI on Marriage to allow the marriage of same sex couples in the same way as opposite sex couples, and that this motion should include a conscience clause so that no member of the clergy, bishop, congregation or diocese should be constrained to participate in or authorize such marriages against the dictates of their conscience. 
This motion will also include supporting documentation that:
a) demonstrates broad consultation in its preparation;
b) explains how this motion does not contravene the Solemn Declaration;
c) confirms immunity under civil law and the Human Rights Code for those bishops, dioceses and priests who refuse to participate in or authorize the marriage of same-sex couples on the basis of conscience; and
d) provides a biblical and theological rationale for this change in teaching on the nature of Christian marriage.
While I am grateful for the second section which was the amendment proposed by the surprising duo of Bishop Stephen Andrews and Dean Peter Elliot, and appreciate the call for a rigorous biblical and theological rationale before we abandon historical, Biblical, Christian marriage, I continue to be profoundly saddened and disappointed that our Church continues to be so intent on this course. Despite the amendment, I see this resolution as another significant step along that road.


One of the things which makes all this so difficult is that those who want to redefine marriage in this way are doing it out of kindness, so to oppose is to seem unkind. Sometimes my kids thought I was unkind when I wouldn't allow them to do what they wanted to do. In their youth they were unable, or unwilling, to accept that my denying them came out of love. I am far from perfect, but the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, whose Word written we are about to reject, is. He is kind, but he can also be severe. My kids sometimes thought I was unreasonably severe. They were not able to appreciate what I was trying to do when I said "No" to what they wanted to do. Neither am I, or my brothers and sisters who think the Bible's prohibition of sex outside marriage and sex between people of the same gender is unreasonably severe.

In God's kindness and severity we don't always get to do what we want to do, what feels right, or what seems good to us. Whatever our gender or sexual orientation, there's a battle going on over the Bible's authority and trustworthiness regarding sexual morality.

For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (Ga5.16-17)

This is a hard word. It seems unfair. I know that many people who experience same sex attraction did not choose to do so. I know that many love Jesus and truly want to follow him faithfully. I really wish I could say that God says it's good and right in the Bible, but the plain reading says it's not, so I am left in the uncomfortable and increasingly unpopular position of having to say I cannot believe that it's good and right—notwithstanding the arguments in favour coming from such things as Jesus' silence on the matter, questions about the biblical acceptance of slavery, and that we no longer observe such biblical prohibitions as mixing different textiles, eating shell-fish, and divorce.

Sin is crouching at our doors. Its desire is for us. We must master it (Ge4.7).


Another highlight for me was the singing of the Gospel during the closing service. I loved the mixture of voices, styles and harmonies worship leader Tim Piper, Charlotte Corwin and the choir provided.

I particularly enjoyed watching those little legs swinging from the snuggly as her (I think) mother (third from the left) sang in the choir.