Nova Scotia

'It was a lament': Anglicans in N.S. react to church decision on same-sex marriage

Many Nova Scotian Anglicans are reacting to their national church body's decision not to recognize same-sex marriage with dismay and anger, following a vote at the church's general meeting in Vancouver on Friday. 

Majority of church-goers, clergy in support of same-sex marriage

Some delegates were visibly upset when the motion to change the Anglican Church of Canada's marriage canon wasn't passed on Friday night. (Anglican Church of Canada)

Many Nova Scotian Anglicans are reacting with dismay and anger to their national church body's decision not to recognize same-sex marriage.

The reaction follows a vote at the church's general meeting in Vancouver on Friday. 

The motion was to change the church's marriage canon to remove references to a union between a man and a woman. This would have effectively rewritten the church's marriage ceremony to include same-sex couples.

"The mood after the vote was very sombre, it was a lament," said Kyle Wagner, the rector of Christ Church in Dartmouth and a delegate to the Anglican Church of Canada's general synod.

"Immediately we heard cries, really wailing. People were so hurt."

The decision falls at the same time as LGBT communities in many parts of Nova Scotia are marking Pride celebrations. 

Parishioners at some churches were informed of the decision at Sunday service. Some parishioners leaving church Sunday said they were distressed by the news and believe the move would decrease the church's relevance to Canadian society. 

The Anglican Church of Canada voted on Friday night to not pass a motion that would effictively allow same-sex marriage. (Anglican Church of Canada)

The general synod of the Anglican Church of Canada is held once every three years.

According to the church's customs, three groups of delegates at the general synod had to vote more than two-thirds, or 66 per cent, in favour of the motion for it to pass. The groups were the laity or regular church members, the clergy and the bishops. 

The laity voted 81 per cent in favour of the motion, and clergy voted 75 per cent in favour. 

However, only 63 per cent of the bishops voted in favour of the motion, which sent it to a narrow defeat.

Twenty-three bishops voted in favour and 14 against, which meant that the motion hung on the vote of two bishops. 

Jody Clarke, an associate professor at the Atlantic School of Theology, said he believes the bishops should reconsider.

"I think they've got to wrestle with their own conscience about it," he said. "If your people are so overwhelmingly in favour of it, and your clergy are so overwhelmingly in favour of it, that you need to really wrestle with it."

Clarke isn't sure whether church procedures allow the bishops to change their vote, but he believes they are under pressure to reconsider. 

Nine more years? 

He said Anglican church votes are designed to pass by two-thirds in order to prevent a divisive situation where 51 per cent of members disagree with the other 49 per cent. 

However, he thinks enough members have given enough proof that they want same-sex marriage that the church needs to move on the issue. 

"I don't know what they want to hear, what more they want to hear," he said, adding that he and his Dartmouth church members are an affirming congregation and welcome LGBT members. Many of his friends and community members were shaken by the decision. 
 
Clarke said he's also upset and angry because, according to church procedures, the issue will have to be discussed in three successive general synods in order to pass. 

Since the meetings are held once every three years, he said the next opportunity to make this change will come nine years from now. 

Kyle Wagner said he has spoken to members of his home church and they are trying to come together around their LGBT members.

"We as a community at Christ Church are hurting, and we're wondering how did we get to this point, because we were hopeful," he said.

Wagner said he is still hopeful that the bishops will change their mind before the meetings end on Tuesday.

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Shaina Luck

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Shaina Luck covers everything from court to city council. Her favourite stories are about ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. Email: shaina.luck@cbc.ca

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