Sunday, June 17, 2007

Anglicans gather as threat of schism looms

Richard Foot, CanWest News Service

Trapped for more than a decade inside a wrenching cyclone of doctrinal disputes, the Anglican Church of Canada will try to chart a path through the storm at a historic meeting in Winnipeg.

More than 400 bishops, clergy and ordinary members of Canada's oldest Protestant church will convene on Monday for the church's General Synod - the first such national meeting in three years - to elect a new Canadian leader and to vote on whether to let priests bless the partnerships of same-sex couples.


For gay and lesbian Anglicans, however, the same-sex issue is itself a core question, and some say if the church rejects the idea, significant numbers of clerics in Canada will simply perform blessings anyway, creating the conditions for schism.

That in turn could lead to debilitating rounds of litigation, as priests and parishes on either side of the dispute battle in the courts over Anglican properties and financial assets.

Chris Ambidge, who leads the Toronto chapter of Integrity, a group of gay and lesbian Anglicans, acknowledges that same-sex couples could simply get married outside the church, or transfer their worship, as many already have, to more welcoming denominations such as the United Church.

But Ambidge says many couples have personal allegiances to local Anglican churches, and have a real need for public recognition of their relationships in their own parishes.

"Why are we asking for church 'blessings' in a country where we can already be legally married?" Ambidge says. "Because there's a pastoral emergency - there are Christians who are getting older, who want to be married in church, but who are willing to settle for blessings now, and the church needs to minister pastorally to them."

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