Anglican church 'erred grievously' in gay marriage vote, say northern bishops

A group of bishops, including several northerners, are publicly dissenting from the dramatic results of last week's vote on same-sex unions from the Anglican Church of Canada.

Longtime northerner and gay activist Maureen Doherty 'very disappointed' with dissent

Worshippers arrive at St. Jude's Cathedral in Iqaluit. Several Northern bishops are 'publicly dissenting' from last week's vote to allow same-sex marriage through the Anglican Church of Canada. (Vincent Desrosiers/CBC)

A group of bishops, including two from the Diocese of the Arctic, are "publicly dissenting" from the results of a vote to allow members of the Anglican Church of Canada to perform same-sex marriages. 

Last week, initial results showed the resolution failed by a single vote, but a subsequent recount showed a dramatic reversal.

Seven bishops from Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, Yukon, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario say they are concerned the result is "a fundamental departure from the faith and teaching held by the majority of the Anglican communion." 

"We believe that our General Synod has erred grievously," the bishops wrote in a statement.

They criticized the process, saying it "has been flawed and has inflicted terrible hurt and damage on all involved." 

Won't happen overnight

For Maureen Doherty, a longtime Iqaluit resident, the controversy isn't a surprise — but it is a disappointment.

"For a lot of people, [the vote result] was a wonderful thing," she said. "For many others, it was devastating." 

Elders attend a special church service at St. Jude's Anglican Cathedral in Iqaluit in honour of the royal visitors in 2012. (Emily Ridlington/CBC)

Doherty has been involved in the city's gay community for many years and is also a lifelong Anglican.

She said this step toward tolerance has also brought forward negativity and "hurtful bullying" which has no place in the church.

With so many gay young people struggling to find acceptance, Doherty hoped the church might use this as an opportunity to become a safe haven.

"Instead, what we're hearing are words like 'abomination,' words like 'we need protection,' and that's really upsetting for me — because I know these young people and they're lovely and they're wonderful and they want to live full lives."

Still, Doherty holds out hope that change, while it won't happen overnight, is coming. 

"It's not people dancing from the rooftops, but for a lot of people, it's a terribly important step to know that they will have a place of acceptance in a church that's been their church for all these years."

The resolution will have to pass a second vote at an assembly of clergy, bishops and lay representatives in 2019, before it can become church law.

With files from Salome Awa