Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Toronto episcopal nominees back gay marriage canon

Victoria Matthews flips on gay marriage

Questions on the Marriage Canon

The Nominations Committee has asked two further questions of each nominee on the subject of the proposed change to the Marriage Canon, the second reading of which will be voted on at General Synod in 2019. These questions were not posted in the Facebook group.

If General Synod were held today, how would you vote on the Marriage Canon amendments?

The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Andison

I have been asked these questions during the course of our Diocesan discernment process and have consistently shared the following.

I understand that the laity and clergy of the Diocese of Toronto will feel supported or disappointed by how their Bishop votes at General Synod 2019 and that how the Bishop votes matters. However, there are a number of reasons why I don’t think it is pastorally helpful to answer this first question, today, with a simple Yes or No.

First, in our Anglican polity, Bishops vote “in Synod.” Synod is where Bishops, along with laity and other clergy, make such decisions. I want to be part of what the Holy Spirit is doing in General Synod 2019, and I am not prepared to pre-judge how I will vote then, and am not “in Synod” now. As a Bishop, I take spiritual discernment seriously. At General Synod in 2019, I intend to cast my vote after completing a process of prayer, scriptural discernment, and deep listening to laity, deacons, priests and other bishops, as well as those outside of the Church. I intend to seek the mind of Christ for the Church on this issue, whether I am voting in my current capacity as Area Bishop for York-Credit Valley or as Bishop of Toronto. The Bishop of Toronto also needs to be mindful that she or he serves on a national stage, both participating in the wider discernment of the Anglican Church of Canada and also acting as a witness of Christ’s love to our culture.

Second, the current wording of the proposed amendment is increasingly unlikely to represent what will be voted on in 2019. As our Primate, Fred Hiltz, has recently made clear, there very well may be amendments to the currently proposed canon change. Some other path may also emerge before 2019 as an alternative to a Yes/No vote, a binary and legislative approach that inevitably creates winners and losers, doesn’t account for culturally different ways of making decisions across our diverse Church, and risks oversimplifying the issue at hand. Although I would not abstain from a vote in 2019, locking episcopal candidates into such binary declarations at this stage is premature and potentially divisive.

The Very Rev. Andrew Asbil

I would vote in favour of the motion.

The Rev. Canon David Harrison

I would vote in favour of the change, as I did as a member of General Synod in 2016.

The Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews

If the General Synod was being held this week and if I had a vote as the Diocesan Bishop of Toronto, I would vote YES to affirm the amendments to the Marriage Canon. I would do so believing that every Christian is called to interpret Holy Scripture in light of all of Holy Scripture, and I believe the weight of Scripture calls to care for every human person and give special attention and love to the marginalised. Secondly, I believe there are times when the church recognises a teaching in Scripture that has always been there but which has been undervalued. It is the work of the prophet to call the church to read Scripture with fresh eyes. In Luke 2.21-40, Simeon and Anna recognise the Christ in the Temple when everyone fails to recognise the Son of God. May our beloved church have eyes to see and ears to hear.

The Rt. Rev. Kevin Robertson

Unequivocally, I would vote “Yes” to amend the Marriage Canon, just as I did in 2016.

The Rt. Rev. Riscylla Shaw


How will you respond to this issue as Diocesan Bishop in the event that the Marriage Canon amendments are either adopted or rejected at General Synod?

The Rt. Rev. Jennifer Andison

As I said at the Town Halls, I believe it is critical that the Bishop of Toronto be a focus of unity, and in my episcopal ministry I have demonstrated a consistent capacity to hold the centre. If elected as the Bishop of Toronto, I would take seriously my calling to be Chief Pastor to all, and so this second question is particularly important.

As I stated in my video, if the Marriage Canon does change in 2019, I will uphold it and then meet with those who believe that Christian marriage is between a man and a woman, to pray with them and seek ways to enable their continued flourishing in mission and ministry. If the Marriage Canon does not change in 2019, I will continue the pastoral provisions begun by Archbishop Johnson for same-sex marriage and then meet with those who support same-sex marriage, to pray with them and seek ways to enable their continued flourishing in mission and ministry.

In all of this, the Bishop needs to be the most generous and gracious person in every conversation, and while we (not just Anglicans in Toronto, but Christians around the world) discern the mind of Christ on this issue – which may take longer than any of us like – we must treat each other with the greatest love, compassion and grace.

I believe that the next Bishop of Toronto will need to exercise every bit of her or his humility, creativity and intelligence as they prayerfully lead our Diocese forward over the next few years in a way that honours God, cares for each of the children that God dearly loves, and shines as a beacon of grace and hope to a hungry world.

The Very Rev. Andrew Asbil

I would respond in a truly pastoral way, knowing that there is the potential for deep hurt and disappointment on both sides of the question and that the decision, whichever way it goes, will have implications not only in this diocese and across the land but also around the Anglican Communion. In proceeding after the vote it will be important to align our way forward with the guidance of both the Primate and the Chancellor of General Synod, to consult with provincial dioceses, the house of Bishops and to spend as much time with clergy and community members that feel the greatest sense of loss and betrayal. A healing presence and a way forward will be crucial.  Pastoral provisions for parishes, clergy and laity who feel alienated by the vote will need to be developed prayerfully.

The synod in the fall of 2018 will hopefully provide some insight and wisdom for us as we proceed to General Synod.

The Rev. Canon David Harrison

With prayer and, I trust, grace. I am committed to diversity in the Diocese of Toronto of all kinds, including theological and liturgical diversity. I believe that diversity makes any community stronger and that living with diversity and difference, even when it creates tension and conflict, is an invitation into deeper relationship with God and with one another. If the Marriage Canon is changed at General Synod 2019, I will allow but not compel clergy in the Diocese of Toronto to marry same-sex couples. If the Marriage Canon is not changed at General Synod 2019, I will keep in place the pastoral provisions introduced by Archbishop Johnson which allow particular parishes and clergy to be given permission to marry same-sex couples.

The Rt. Rev. Victoria Matthews

If the Marriage Canon amendments are passed again and affirmed in July 2019 at the Anglican Church of Canada General Synod, I would continue to allow the practice presently followed with respect to same-sex marriage in the Diocese of Toronto. This would be done in concert with careful and in-depth conversations with the Anglican Communion, specifically the Archbishop of Canterbury; the Secretary General, and selected representatives of the other Instruments of Communion.

If the Marriage Canon failed its second reading, after careful consultation with Chancellors, the Metropolitan of Ontario and the Primate of Canada, I would hope and expect to continue the practice presently followed by the Diocese of Toronto. I simply do not think this Diocese can reverse what it has committed to do and is indeed doing.

The Rt. Rev. Kevin Robertson

If the Marriage Canon is amended at General Synod 2019, I would move swiftly to allow same-sex couples in the Diocese of Toronto to be married in the same way as opposite-sex couples, and I would continue to engage in gracious dialogue with parishes and clergy who were not supportive of the change. I would also ensure the provision of pastoral and sacramental care for same-sex couples in parishes where the conscience of their priest or congregation was an issue. I would create a transparent process with the highest degree of generosity for those who disagree with the change. Finally, I would work to develop an appropriate marriage rite for same-sex couples that was Biblically grounded, consistent with our liturgical tradition, and guided by the theological principles set out in the Report on the Commission of the Marriage Canon of the Anglican Church of Canada, “This Holy Estate”.

If not amended, I would continue the pastoral provisions that are currently in place, and would engage with other bishops, priests, deacons and lay people to continue the work of changing the Marriage Canon at a future General Synod. For me, it would not be enough to simply be satisfied with same-sex marriage provisions here in Toronto. Rather, I would work for this change beyond our Diocese. When I was speaking at a conference in Jamaica last fall on the Church’s role in the decriminalization of same-sex relations in Commonwealth countries, I heard firsthand the painful stories of LGBTQ+ youth who faced daily discrimination and fear, not only in society and by the police, but also by the Church. These youth need to know that we, in the Diocese of Toronto, are not merely content with justice for ourselves. Rather, if we believe that the Holy Spirit is calling us into a new understanding of Christian marriage, we need to continue that work for the sake of the Gospel everywhere.

The Rt. Rev. Riscylla Shaw

We will continue to fully welcome LGBTQ2S people as full members of our church.

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