Monday, July 8, 2013

Joint Assembly - Days Five and Six

Sidetracked by late nights and general weariness, here is my delayed report on the last two days of the Canadian General Synod and our Joint Assembly with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

The Anglican Journal story on the Anglican Covenant debate came out including a quote from me as the No Anglican Covenant Coalition's Moderator.  I had several fruitful discussions about the Covenant which only served to confirm my opinion that the project is fundamentally at odds with Anglican ecclesiology and that the Canadian church would almost certainly never be prepared to sign.

Following a presentation from First Nations elders and others from Northern Ontario, General Synod approved a process to establish a new Indigenous Diocese in the area. The new diocese, as yet unnamed, would effectively replace the existing diocese of Keewatin. The remaining bits of Keewatin will be reallocated to other dioceses - mostly Brandon and Rupert's Land.  It was a joyful climax to the decision making business of the General Synod.

Or at least, it should have been. We had earlier dealt with a motion directing the Council of General Synod to initiate a process leading to a draft canon permitting Anglican clergy to solemnize same sex marriages. Several things went or nearly went sideways during the debate. Very conservative bishop Stephen Andrews and very liberal dean Peter Elliott combined to propose an amendment that outlined the consultative and theological work required. A brilliant bit of drafting, it offered some assurance to conservatives that their concerns would be heard. Unfortunately the original mover and seconded did not immediately understand what was being proposed and offered up a subamendment that would have cut the guts out of the very eirenic amendment. The subamendment, fortunately, was defeated.

After a very rational debate, the amendment passed. Then things decided to go sideways again.  A very few people called for question after almost no debate at all on the resolution as amended, the Primate called for the vote and off we went for a break.  When we returned, the Primate acknowledged this error, and also that he'd missed a valid request for a vote by orders. So, instead of ending on a high note with the Cree diocese, instead we took all the air out of the room and returned to the marriage resolution. Because we were now almost an hour behind schedule - the reception before the banquet was already started - there was no appetite to re-open the debate. The vote by orders passed in every house (with a two-thirds majority even though only a simple majority was required).

The way the debate played out left a bad taste in the mouths of many conservatives. At the final session of Joint Assembly, the Bishop of the Arctic gave voice to those frustrations. I spoke to him afterwards to say that there were many progressives who were also unhappy with how the debate concluded so abruptly. A productive and occasionally emotional conversation ended with the mutual assurance that, at the end of the day, we both want to be at the same table.


Tim Chesterton said...

Thank you for this, Malcolm (and I'm glad to see you commenting on something other than the Covenant!). Your behind the scenes view of the marriage canon debate was very enlightening.

Malcolm+ said...

Thanks Tim. In many years of political activism, convention floor fights and compromise resolutions, I have never seen anything so deft as the amendment from Andrews and Elliott. It is regrettable that this wasn't the overall memory.