PASTORAL LETTER, June 8, 2004
to the People of God in the Diocese of Ottawa
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
From May 27th to June 4th, 2004 AD, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada met at Brock University in St. Catherines.
Archbishop Andrew Hutchison of the Diocese of Montreal and the Bishop Ordinary to the Anglicans of the Canadian Forces, was elected and installed as Primate of All Canada. We assure him and Lois of our prayers and support.
Inspired by the worship, and stirred by Stephen Lewis's call to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic in our world, we accomplished much more than is commonly known.
I want to share with you my understanding of some of the decisions that were made regarding the issues of committed same sex unions.
First, General Synod deferred consideration of the blessing of committed same sex unions until General Synod 2007 and requested that our Canadian Primate's Theological Commission consider whether the blessing of such unions is a matter of doctrine. Its report is to be prepared for study by the Ecclesiastical Provinces, Dioceses, and the House of Bishops by 2006.
Secondly, we affirmed the continued need to study the subject through respectful dialogue, examining the biblical, theological, liturgical, pastoral, scientific, psychological, and social aspects of human sexuality. We recognized that indigenous and other communities will need to consider this matter in culturally appropriate ways.
We affirmed that in spite of the variety of convictions held, we are members one of another in Christ Jesus through our baptism, and committed "ourselves to strive for that communion into which Christ continually calls us." We also requested the House of Bishops to continue to do its work on the provision of adequate episcopal oversight and pastoral care for all.
Thirdly, while deferring consideration of blessings, General Synod affirmed "the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same sex relationships." To me it seems that this was a pastoral and not a doctrinal response to our faithful gay and lesbian church members.
While all of these issues passed with clear majorities, there were nine Bishops who expressly disagreed with the use of the word "sanctity" referring to same sex relationships.
As you know, the Canadian Bishops embody much of the diversity of opinion on these matters that is found in the Canadian church as a whole. None of us takes these questions, lightly. General Synod was painfully conscious of the different voices from within Canada, and outside of it, calling for diverse and incompatible responses. Yet our loyalties in Christ remain common - to our sisters and brothers throughout the Communion, both now and across time, and to our ecumenical partners and within our own dioceses.
Our diocese is further along, than some in the study and conversations concerning this issue, but we are committed to continuing this and to care pastorally for all, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters. I, as a Bishop, commit myself to provide episcopal and pastoral care, as I am able, and to the extent that it will be received, to all members of the diocese, including those who are distressed by positions taken.
If we are faithful to our Lord's call to the costly love that alone can sustain us in our common life, then the world, whatever else it sees, will see the love of Jesus at work in our frailty and imperfection and find hope for the future.
Peace and grace in Jesus our Lord.
Bishop of Ottawa