Anglicans await bishop’s final say on gay marriage

By Veronica Miles

Even as he welcomed a decision by Ottawa Anglicans approving the blessing of same-sex marriage, Bishop John Chapman says the last word rests with him and he expects to take his time before he makes his decision known.

In a historic synod held Oct.12 and 13, in Cornwall, the Ottawa Anglican Diocese voted to approve same-sex marriage by 177 to 97, becoming the first diocese in Canada to do so.

The vote however, does not compel Anglican priests in Ottawa to marry gay couples, but gives them the right to seek approval from the bishop to do so. The vote also allows priests who are not comfortable with same-sex marriages to refrain from conducting them.

Chapman has not stated when he will announce his decision on the matter, pending consultations with other Anglican dioceses in Canada and internationally.

Rev. Garth Bulmer, rector of St. John the Evangelist Church on Elgin and Somerset streets first introduced the motion five years ago.

He calls the decision “a very clear signal” to society.

“These things tend to gain momentum. Over the course of the next year, there may be any number of dioceses that may decide to take the same approach.”

Bulmer says he is hopeful that the 29 other Anglican dioceses in Canada will also decide to support the blessing of same-sex unions.

An outspoken proponent of same-sex marriage, Bulmer has in the past threatened not to conduct heterosexual marriages in his church if same-sex marriage isn’t allowed in the Anglican Church.

The decision reached by the synod was simply a suggestion that delegates have decided to give to Chapman, says Bulmer. Chapman can approve or reject the motion, and will then bring the information to the other Canadian bishops.

Bulmer says the decision may also be significant for Anglican doctrine outside of Canada where bishops from the developing world are opposed to same-sex marriage, However, he notes that Canada is at the forefront of social change and it may take many years for other Anglican countries to follow suit.

“There are many parts of the world where this issue is very deeply buried in the closet. There’s always a lot of fear about things that have to do with sexuality.”

Ricky Barnes, the Gay Men’s Health and Wellness HIV/AIDS Prevention Coordinator at Ottawa’s Pink Triangle Services, an agency and charity for gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, two-spirit and queer persons in the city, says he is glad to hear about the synod’s decision.