Same-sex report ready for debate

By Candace Wilson

After nearly a year of planning, a task group at St. John the Evangelist Church on Somerset Street West is releasing a report that will help the Ottawa Anglican Diocese take a stance on same-sex unions.

The Task Group on the Implications of Blessing Same-Sex Unions is expected to submit its first official report to the Anglican Diocese at its annual Synod meeting, to be held in Cornwall this week.

According to group member Ron Chaplin, the report will outline the group’s discussions, but will not make any official recommendations as to whether the church should bless same-sex unions. Chaplin says this motion will not be made any time soon.

“The earliest motion that might come would be in a year’s time,” says Chaplin. “We are basically giving a progress report next weekend and not making any motions.”

However, Chaplin says the report will include recommendations for creating “a process” for parishes to use when discussing homosexuality.

“It was decided we would try to find a process that would facilitate discussion within our group and see if that would be an appropriate model to recommend for other parishes throughout the diocese,” says Chaplin.

“We are also hoping to invite representatives from various parishes of the diocese to a meeting in November to train facilitators in leading a dialogue process.”

Homosexuality has been a controversial issue for St. John church after Rev. Garth Bulmer performed a commitment ceremony in the church seven years ago.

Bulmer has since stopped blessing same-sex unions after almost being fired by the bishop of Ottawa.

At the last Synod meeting in 2002, Bulmer asked to have a task group created to deal with the implications of blessing same-sex unions.

(Church)Bulmer’s motion gave rise to a harsh division of opinions. Rev. George Sinclair of St. Alban the Martyr Church wrote to the Synod asking that Bulmer’s motion be ignored because blessing same sex-unions goes against the word of God.

“The Bible, God’s written word and public revelation-speaks very clearly and coherently,” writes Sinclair in his motion to the Synod in 2002. “Same-sex sexual acts are contrary to God’s will. Therefore we cannot bless same-sex unions.”

But Bulmer’s motion ultimately passed and a subcommittee was created to form the task group.

The 12 group members are from all over Ottawa and have been meeting monthly since May 2003.

The meetings of the group aren’t open to the public, but the group is putting together a “resource” that will be available to the public in early 2004.

“I’m not sure what they [the resources] are going to look like or how they will be put together,” says Archdeacon Pat Johnston of the Anglican Diocese. “But when it’s ready, there will be lots of room for participation and broad-based consultation.”

According to Rev. Bill Prentice, director of programming at Ottawa’s Anglican Diocese, the resource will likely include a library of information including a list of books, web sites and other relevant information to the issue of homosexuality.