A Historical Overview of the Diocese of Huron's Conversations and Consultations on Queer and Trans* People in the Church

From 2020 back to 1995

Some bonus pictures of our Proud Anglicans contingent marching in the London Pride Parade over the last several years...

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Equal Marriage in the Diocese of Huron
June 29, 2020

Dear Clergy and People of the Diocese of Huron,

Ever since my ordination to the diaconate, and before, the Anglican Church in our Diocese has been on a journey to listen to the stories of members of the LGBTQ2+ communities.  Many of us have come to understand that all persons are wholly made in the image of God.  We have welcomed LGBTQ2+ persons into our parishes, they have become our deacons and priests and within the last year have been able to be married in churches that have been given permission to hold same-sex weddings.  After thought and prayer, I have decided to remove the requirement that special permission be required by priests or parishes before a same sex wedding can be held in a parish.  All priests in the diocese may marry any two persons who meet the requirements found in our Marriage in the Church Guidelines which is available here.

I know that some of you will disagree with this decision.  The Anglican church is a large tent of diverse theologies and the Diocese of Huron is no different.  Priests have always been able to determine whether or not they are comfortable performing a particular wedding ceremony and this has not changed.  I do ask that a priest who does not wish to do a same-sex wedding refer the couple to another priest or to my office.

The marriage rite that I am authorizing for same-sex weddings and also  for opposite-sex weddings is that from the Episcopal Church which may be found here. It has been slightly amended to ensure that the marriage laws of Ontario are being followed. As the marriage rites in the BCP and BAS are authorized by General Synod only for opposite-sex marriages, they may not be used for same-sex marriages.

I pray that we may continue to reveal the love of God in all our relationships.

Yours in Christ,
+Todd
The Right Reverend Todd Townshend
Bishop of Huron

Same-Sex Marriages Permitted in Huron
July 18th, 2019

Dear friends in Christ,

At the recent General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada members from across Canada gathered to worship, pray, listen, discern and decide how our life will proceed. The work of this Synod included many significant decisions. With joy, the first steps towards a self-determining Indigenous Church were passed, including the appointment of the National Indigenous Bishop as a metropolitan and official membership in General Synod by representatives of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples. We heard a deep and profound apology from Primate Fred Hiltz for spiritual harm to indigenous peoples. We approved liturgical revisions and additions to broaden our worship. We approved a new collect for reconciliation with the Jewish people. We affirmed our commitment to addressing issues around climate change. We set in motion a strategic review of the work of General Synod to meet our changing context and needs. And the Synod elected me as the next Primate for the Church - a humbling honour and challenge.

We also returned to the question of the proposed change to Canon XXI on Marriage to permit the marriage of same-sex partners which has been discussed extensively in the Church since 2013. It narrowly passed the required majorities at General Synod 2016 and was considered in each Provincial Synod and Diocese over the last three years. It has been clear for some time that the Church is divided on this issue with deeply held convictions for reasons of theology priorities; scriptural interpretation; or community needs. Knowing how deeply the pain would be felt by either decision in 2019 the Council of General Synod offered to General Synod ‘A Word to the Church’ of affirmations of how we can live together whatever the outcome. This statement was affirmed by General Synod with a very strong majority.

However, the amendment itself failed at its second reading. It reached the 2/3’s majority required in the clergy and laity but not in the House of Bishops. If the vote had been assessed on the basis of the members of General Synod as a whole the overall majority was 75%.

I know that our diocese is not of one mind on this issue. However I am aware that the majority strongly supported the blessing of same-sex civil marriages (over 72% of clergy and laity) and have indicated to me their strong support for equal marriage in the church. The pain of the failure of the amendment has been deeply felt and heard. In ‘A Word to the Church’ the General Synod affirmed the possibility of ‘local option’ for those dioceses where affirming equal marriage has been discerned as consistent with the current Canon XXI. The House of Bishops issued a statement that affirmed, “We are walking together in a way that leaves room for individual dioceses and jurisdictions of our church to proceed with same-sex marriage according to their contexts and convictions, sometimes described as ‘local option’.”

Given the strong support in Huron for this possibility, as of August 1, 2019, I am authorizing the availability of marriage to same-sex couples as a pastoral local option under the following guidelines:

1. Same-sex marriages will be permitted in parishes where the priest and the Parish Council have considered this matter and agreed that the parish will do so.
2. Any parish desiring to do so will write a letter to the Bishop requesting permission - signed by the priest (rector/incumbent) and the Wardens and including a description of the consideration taken by the Parish Council.
3. No parish is required to offer same-sex marriage in their location.
4. Clergy already have provision by canon to refuse to perform a marriage for reasons of conscience.

As this is a pastoral local option it is at the discretion of the diocesan bishop. It is an option that I believe is appropriate for the Diocese of Huron at this time and is supported by many, though not all, in the diocese. I am however aware that I will be the Bishop of Huron for only a short time longer. This may be a consideration in the discernment of the next Bishop of Huron. I pray that the diocese will recognize that the work of the bishop is much broader than this issue.

Our Church has a wonderful diversity in so many areas of its life. That diversity also leads to tensions but I can promise you that the bishops, clergy and laity of our church are committed to living together with love and grace as we continue to learn from one another and seek a path that honours God.

With deep gratitude for the Diocese of Huron and our witness to living together with differences in love and mutual support,

The Most Rev. Linda Nicholls
Bishop of Huron 

Report to 2018 Diocesan Synod

The Marriage Canon Task Force reported, at Synod 2018, on issues and concerns heard at the deanery gatherings and asked synod members for feedback. A large majority of synod members, both in favour of and opposed to the proposed changes, felt that their views were reflected in the report.

Following Synod 2018 the Marriage Canon Task Force created an addendum to the report to reflect the discussions at Synod 2018 and then submitted the final report to the Council of General Synod.

Also at Synod 2018, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and our Diocesan Bishop Linda Nicholls responded to some of the common questions raised in our deanery gatherings. The majority of synod members expressed their deep appreciation of this dialogue. For example, they noted, “the understanding, compassion, and leadership evidenced by our primate and diocesan bishop in their responses to difficult questions and scenarios and their guidance and leadership is greatly appreciated” and that “this presentation has given me a lot to take back my congregation and I will be able to encourage more discussions through the next 18 months. Thank you for all the resources”.

These resources are available by clicking on "Marriage Canon Task Force", at: https://diohuron.org/resources/

It is our hope and prayer that in your parish conversations you too will be able to listen well to each other, use the resources to learn more about the conversation in the wider church, and to pray for our church and members of General Synod 2019.

Deanery Conversations on Proposed Changes to the Marriage Canon
Questions for Individual Reflection and Response:

1) What questions do you have about the proposed changes to the Marriage Canon?

2) a. How will the outcome of the vote at General Synod 2019 affect you?

b. What resources will you need from the Diocese of Huron if the motion passes or if it does not pass?

3) Based on what you have heard from each other, what do you most want General Synod to hear from the Diocese of Huron about the proposed changes to the Marriage Canon?

Conversations on the Marriage Canon

2017

The Bishop of Huron has appointed a task force (the Ven. Greg Jenkins, Canon Marilyn Malton, and the Rev’d Dr. Stephen McClatchie) to provide advice and assistance to the diocese in considering the proposed change to the
Marriage Canon. A workshop was held at the Diocese of Huron Synod in May 2017 at which break-out groups shared their initial thoughts about the proposed change.

The next step in the process is for the proposed changes to be discussed in each Deanery during Fall 2017. Based on the feedback from these gatherings, there will be a report at the Diocese of Huron Synod in May 2018. There will not be a vote on these proposed changes by the Diocese.

Full Blessing of Same-Sex Couples

2013

On July 6, the Bishop of Huron approved the blessing of same-sex couples. A revision of the 2009 Rite which includes public vows, the blessing of rings, and a nuptial blessing, is approved and released. It may be used for the blessing of any civilly married couple, regardless of sex.
http://diohuron.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/HuronBlessing-of-Civil-Marriage-with-Eucharist.pdf

While the Rite is written without reference to the sex of the couple, if it is to be used to bless a same-sex marriage, the permission of the Diocesan Bishop is required; see http://diohuron.org/wpcontent/uploads/2016/12/1.13-The-Blessing-of-a-Same-Sex-CivilMarriage.pdf

Partial Blessing of Same-Sex Unions

2010

In December, the Bishop of Huron indicated to clergy that, while he had a “desire to move toward same sex blessings when the time is right,” at present, he deemed that the time was not yet right. In his estimation, the protocol of November 2009 provided a sufficient pastoral response to same-sex couples in our communities and will remain in place. 

2009

The Bishop of Huron approved a liturgical resource on 26 November for the celebration of “the love, mutual fidelity and support that gay and lesbian Anglicans model every day for the church and wider community.” It provided prayers for a civilly married same-sex couple within the context of the celebration of the Eucharist (following the Rite for the Celebration of Civil Marriage). In conformity with the 2007 Statement of the House of Bishops, there are no vows, no blessing of rings, and no nuptial blessing. A protocol issued along with the Rite indicates that the prior permission of the Bishop is required for its use. 

2008

Diocesan Synod passed a motion (by 72.92% in House of Clergy and 72.29% in the House of Laity) to request that the Bishop grant permission to clergy to bless the civil marriages of same-sex couples. The motion also requested that the Bishop authorize an appropriate rite and make regulations for its use in supportive parishes. Following the passing of the motion, the Bishop of Huron announced to the House that he gave concurrence to the motion and would seek guidance from the House of Bishops and the Lambeth Conference on future action. No action was taken to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions in Huron at that time.

Initial Stages and Conversations

2006

A motion that Diocesan Synod should “memorialize the 2007 General Synod to receive the St. Michael Report and adopt its view that the blessing of same-sex unions is closely analogous to marriage and adopt its conclusion that the blessing of same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine (not core doctrine)” was defeated. 

1995

After considering a report from Family Ministries, Hearing Diverse Voices: Seeking Common Ground, the Diocesan Synod passed a motion condemning the mistreatment of homosexual people and endorsing the 1979 Statement of the House of Bishops. Specifically, the motion urged that no change be made to the “practice of the Church with respect to same-sex marriage or the ordination of sexually active homosexual persons”. A second motion encouraged General Synod to postpone “any decisions that might change established policies pertaining to matters of human sexuality until a thorough process of education and understanding has been carried out at the parish level."