ACC CoGS March meeting

I’ve dug out some stuff from the Council of General Synod’s March meeting. This is far from the be-all and end-all of the ACC response, but it does provide some indicators of positions ahead of the full ACC General Synod meeting in June.

This was a four day meeting so I’ve put the sequence of events in that order. My comments in italics.
Council reconvened in committee of the whole to consider a number of issues.

Peter Elliott suggested three goals for council to consider: 1) To send a positive message to lesbian and gay Anglicans in Canada, both those who are civilly married and those in committed partnerships; 2) To affirm the autonomy and interdependence of our church in the Anglican Communion; 3) Find a way for the church to include the breadth of Christian views on homosexuality. We must acknowledge the diversity of views. Dean Elliott said that a change to the Canons to resolve the same-sex issue would be very difficult because of the requirement for a two-thirds majority.

They recognise this rule as a problematic sticking point. That is to say, they may well not get same sex blessings etc passed unless they can circumvent this rule.

Council members commented on different aspects of dealing with the same-sex issue through a canonical change.

A two-thirds majority requirement over two General Synods would be very hard to achieve;
A canonical change would cause consternation in some churches with which we engage in ecumenical dialogue;
Perhaps it is the marriage canon that should be amended to encompass same-sex couples;
The worst possible outcome of General Synod would be to do nothing or appear to have done nothing;
A canonical change is only an issue if the conclusion of the St. Michael Report that same-sex blessings are a doctrinal issue is accepted. Another option would be to simply receive the report and thank its authors.
The St. Michael Report has been in circulation for some time and there has not been a written dissenting opinion so far.
Is there a common understanding of the difference between doctrine and core doctrine?
The cost of seeking a canonical change is too great and will result in gridlock for the church.
We want an explicit rule that is nuanced. You can’t have it both ways.
This question should not have been referred to the Primate’s Theological Commission. The commission produced a poor piece of work that is vague and not helpful. We should receive the St. Michael Report and then go back to consider the deferred motion from 2004.

St Michael report basically said that same-sex blessings (SSM) was a matter of doctrine (though not core doctrine). Hence, the rules say that 2/3 of General Synod need to pass the change, over two sessions. This is a safeguard to prevent key decisions being railroaded through one General Synod. Hence, the general antipathy to the St Michael Report.
Jim Cowan reported on the group that discussed the St. Michael Report. There was discussion around procedural issues and how this will come to General Synod. There was discussion on what is the issue and on how it should be approached. In some ways there was not much more clarity than there was during council’s discussion last night. There was discussion on what is doctrine, core doctrine and adiophora. A series of four motions were proposed and will come to the council.
Council convened as committee of the whole to consider revised motions regarding the St. Michael Report.

The Primate opened the discussion. He said that council’s goal must be to assist the conversation at General Synod and not to manipulate an outcome. He said his view is that the 2007 synod should make a clear decision and not put the matter off another three years, which a canonical change would require. “Another three years does us no good whatever because in the eyes of the Communion we will have crossed the Rubicon and whatever damage has been done will have been done.” He said he is not convinced we are dealing with a matter of doctrine except that all we do is related to doctrine. He said he believes this is a matter of pastoral discipline. He said if council chooses to place a motion to General Synod, CoGS could still require approval by more than 50 per cent – perhaps approval by 60 per cent.

Bishop Ingham suggested a straw vote now between two options – to proceed by resolutions or by canonical amendment.

Council declined to take a straw vote and the discussion resumed. At the end of the discussion, the Primate asked some members to recraft the motion again.

Actually, I partly agree with the primate here. A clear decision is important. Nevertheless, this is still IMHO an attempt to railroad SSM through.
Council considered resolutions and canonical amendments regarding the St. Michael Report. The resolutions were revised by Ron Stevenson, Stephen Andrews, Sue Moxley and Bob Falby. A significant revision is that the motions at General Synod would required approval by 60 per cent of each order or 60 per cent of dioceses if a vote by diocese is requested.

Not sure if this 60% is just a recommendation or binding.

The Chancellor moved that three of the resolutions proposed be sent to General Synod:

2. That resolutions 3 and 4 below be deemed to have been carried only if they receive the affirmative votes of 60 per cent of the members of each Order present and voting and if a vote by diocese is requested, only if they receive the affirmation of 60 per cent of the dioceses whose votes are counted.
3. That this General Synod resolves that the blessing of same-sex unions is consistent with the core doctrine of the Anglican Church of Canada.
4. That this General Synod requests the Council of General Synod to consider revision of Canon 21 (On Marriage) including theological rationale to allow marriage of all legally qualified persons and to report at the next General Synod (2010).
The motion carried.

John Steele moved that the proposed wording regarding a canonical change also be sent to General Synod. The motion was defeated.

There you have it. CoGS have proposed these resolutions which would only take 60% at one sitting rather than 66% at two sittings. They have also managed to effectively accept the St Michael report while at the same time doing an end-run around it. Disingenuous does not begin to cover these Machiavellian antics. Why they imagine that this is going to be seen for anything other than it is, well, it’s beyond me. Going to all the trouble to produce a report that tells you what you don’t really want to hear, ‘accepting’ it, then going on to say ‘actually it doesn’t matter whether it’s doctrine or not because SSM is consistent with doctrine anyway’ is moving into the theatre of the absurd.

Also, note they are also wanting to consider revisions to the Marriage Canon (no, no it’s not about marriage, it’s just pastoral, never about marriage…..oh, look over there….as we were saying it’s all about marriage).

Another motion that came from CoGS in November 2006 was this:
CoGS voted to bring the following wording to General Synod: “That General Synod accept the conclusion of the Primate’s 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.”

Of course, as I said, the newly proposed motions make this somewhat moot. I am rather curious though as to the difference in reality between core and non-core doctrine, and indeed why CoGS though it necessary in the new resolutions to make reference to core doctrine?

Just because CoGS have sent motions to GS does not mean that they will necessarily be adopted. Anything can happen in that arcane environment. However, it does send a very clear signal as to where the leadership of ACC want to go. Watch this space….

(Another response from a Canuck blogger).

(And another).

(Heh, and another – who let the Canucks out then?)

(Also, read this if desperate for more information. A masterpiece in obfuscation).

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14 Responses to ACC CoGS March meeting

  1. Pauline Bettney says:

    Peter – I shall be so glad when June is over – I am so tired of this game of cat and mouse. The ambiguity is so exhausting spiritually. If SSBs are to be approved – so be it – we can move forward along the path that the Lord has placed before his faithful followers. It will be glorious – we can proclaim the Gospel without shame and can continue in a new realigned Anglican Church. I would feel the same exultation as when we moved from a liberal church where you were ashamed to mention your relationship with Jesus, to a church where the Priest knows and worships Him without reservation.


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  4. Peter says:

    Hi Pauline,

    Me too, I’m hoping that GS will be a watershed moment. It is draining. I’m hoping to be there in June, we shall see….




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  9. Matthew says:

    Exhausting is the word, and seeing parts of the church acting as ‘powers and principalities’ does not make it any easier.

    There is a need for a synod delegate to propose a set of resolutions as an alternative, to at least start the discussion from a balanced position. Here’s an initial suggestion:

    Be it resolved that:

    1. This General Synod fully accepts the conclusion of the St Michael Report, that the blessing of committed same-sex relationships are a matter of doctrine.

    2. This General Synod fully accepts the conclusion of the St Michael Report that the blessing of committed same-sex relationships are analogous to marriage to such a degree that they must be considered coherently in relation to the doctrine of marriage.

    3. This General Synod acknowledges the great diversity of opinion surrounding the issue of same-sex marriage and the potential severing of the bonds between parts of the Anglican Communion as a result. We confirm our continued acceptance of the Solemn Declaration of 1893 that our desire is to “continue, in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world.”

    4. This General Synod requests that Dioceses of the Anglican Church of Canada refrain from proceeding with any liturgical activity that involves the blessing of same-sex relationships until the mind of the communion is decided on this matter.


  10. Pauline Bettney says:

    Matthew – sounds wonderful. Can you do that? I imagine that the Essentials leadership will be planning to do something similar. There is an article on Stand Firm entitled “What Katy Did” – which makes the situation very clear. If we elect an orthodox Primate next there maybe hope, but we have to submit to God’s plans all the way. Our church is under judgement and He will find a way to bring us back to His plan even if our church does not look like the Anglican Church of Canada which we know.


  11. Peter says:

    That is the question eh? Can we raise resolutions from the floor? If so, can ‘process’ be used to nullify that ability? If it’s anything like the American experience there’ll be a mixture of an attempt to control, total confusion, paralysis and ill-conceived last minute resolutions. He said, with much hope and faith, ahem.


  12. Matthew says:

    Any synod delegate can raise motion, they must be in writing and submitted prior to the cut-off time announced by the motions committee – usually during the synod itself. If the motion relates to a matter of canon or worship, it must be submitted in time to allow all synod delegates to have 30 days to consider it prior to the start of synod.

    Peter’s concern about process is very valid as we’ve just seen in the US (and at our own COGS). Those agitating for change are being very crafty with the rule book. Anyone submitting some kind of counter-resolutions should do it at least 45 or 50 days prior to the start of synod, just to be sure.

    Our hand-waving, however, bears nothing compared to God’s will for the church. I know the end will be glorious…in between we’ll contend with issues of power, control, confusion and paralysis – all from the spirit of this age.


  13. Peter says:

    Amen, Matthew, Amen!


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