Niagara’s experience of equal marriage

 on April 23, 2019

“Even though we already knew that God blessed our relationship, … we wanted the blessing also of our fellow people in faith,” said Donna Clark, about why being married was so important to her and her late spouse, Donna Evans.

Donna was one of several same-sex spouses who shared their experiences, along with a number of priests who have presided at equal marriage services, during a video filming session at Cathedral Place Hamilton last fall.

Niagara’s video response to the amendment to the national marriage canon was shared with members of the Council of General Synod (COGS) at their recent meeting. Several submissions from other dioceses across the Anglican Church of Canada were also presented.

The Reverend Mike Deed reflected on providing pastoral support to a parishioner’s gay grandchild seeking to be married at Church of the Resurrection Hamilton. “It was a big question about whether the faith community which held this family for generations, in every grief and every joy … would we be there for that family?” 

When equal marriage was authorized by the bishop, it “was a huge source of joy not only for the congregation but also for that couple, that they were equal with their whole family, they belonged in their family, which is a family of the church,” Mike reiterated.

Niagara’s experience is unique in Canada, having undertaken ministry with episcopal authorization for equal marriage since 2016. “We decided that what might be most helpful — and faithful — would be to communicate what our lived reality of this change has been,” said Bishop Susan Bell.

After the proposed changes to the marriage canon passed first reading at General Synod 2016, the canonical amendment was referred to dioceses and ecclesiastical provinces for consideration. If passed, the proposal would broaden the applicability of the canon to all persons duly qualified by civil law to enter into marriage, and not simply to heterosexual partners.

“The experience of same-sex committed partnerships in our midst, clearly manifesting God’s blessing and the fruit of the Spirit, is a powerful indication that God’s view of marriage may be more inclusive than ours,” says Bishop Susan in the video.

The second reading of the amendment to the marriage canon will take place when the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada meets this July in Vancouver.

Bishop Susan says that the marriage canon change is a decision the “whole church will have to reach, not by arguments alone, but by the prayerful discernment of the movement of the Spirit in our midst”.

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