Anglican bishop for P.E.I. withholds permission for same-sex marriage for now

The bishop for the Anglican diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island is withholding permission for clergy to perform same-sex marriages until further discussion takes place.

Bishop Ron Cutler wants to consult with leaders in the diocese this summer

Clergy at the Island's Anglican churches, including St. Paul's Anglican Church in Charlottetown, will not be allowed to perform same-sex marriages until permission by the bishop is granted. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

The bishop for the Anglican diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island is withholding permission for his clergy to perform same-sex marriages until further discussion takes place.

Bishop Ron Cutler writes, in a pastoral statement posted on Facebook, that he will be consulting with leaders in the diocese over the summer and will offer an update in the fall.

"With the bruises of this highly divisive debate still fresh, I am hoping that we can take the time to speak and listen to one another, together shaping a diocesan response." 

Bishop Ron Cutler wants more discussion in the diocese before he decides whether to give permission to his clergy to officiate same-sex marriages in Anglican churches in P.E.I. and Nova Scotia. (Facebook )

Eight members of the diocese attended the General Synod in Ontario last week where the same-sex resolution was voted on, and all supported changing the description of marriage from between "husband and wife" to "partner," according to Cutler.  

"I realize that not every member of our diocese will support this change … However, the vast majority of people and parishes which wrote to me before the General Synod were in favour of this change." 

'Bit disappointed' over time it is taking 

Rob Thompson is a member of the congregation of St. Paul's Church in Charlottetown. He doesn't see the step from blessing same-sex civil marriages to performing a formal wedding as that big a leap. Blessings have been performed in Anglican churches in Canada for years. 

"I'm a bit disappointed that it has taken the Anglican church so long to come to a conclusion, and there'll now be a further three years before confirming it," Thompson wrote CBC News in an email. 

But he also knows allowing same-sex marriages in the church may be hurtful to some members. Thompson said it could be a good strategic decision on the bishop's part to engage in discussion first.

"Give people a chance to talk about the Synod's vote, and let the dust settle a bit." 

Local church leaders support the bishop

The archdeacon of the Anglican church on P.E.I., John Clarke, who is also rector of St. Paul's, believes the majority of his congregants support allowing same-sex marriages in the church, but he said it's not unanimous support. That's why he believes taking time to discuss the decision further is a good idea. 

Archdeacon of P.E.I., John Clarke, understands people's frustration with the time it's taking for a decision, but he supports the bishop's call for more consultation. (Laura Chapin/CBC )

"I think that given the nature of our diocese and our bishop it just seems natural for consultation," said Clarke.

"The way I kind of look at it would be if the bishop made an arbitrary decision that I disagree with I would have said 'Why didn't he consult with me.' So this is an opportunity for people to be consulted and for the bishop to listen to that."

The rector of St. Peter's Cathedral in Charlottetown, David Garrett, also supports the bishop's decision. 

"We need to be careful and caring about this," said Garrett. 

"Taking time for discussion is a good idea."

Time for consultation, not ratification 

However, the Anglican Church of Canada resolution includes a clause that bishops must give permission for same-sex marriages to be allowed in a diocese. Some Canadian Anglican bishops gave permission immediately, according to Cutler, but he wrote he isn't willing to do that at this time.

Resolutions that change the doctrine of the church must be passed at two consecutive meetings of the General Synod, so a second vote will be held in 2019. In the meantime, Cutler views this as a time for consultation, not ratification. 

"This process has been wrenching for our whole church, especially the members of the LGBTQ2+ community," wrote Cutler. But he is thankful the church has "a process, imperfect as it is, to have this conversation." 

He wrote he intends to hold formal consultations in the diocese before a Diocesan Synod in May 2017. 

Cutler reminded parishioners that, in the meantime, the diocese will continue to offer blessings to same-sex couples who have been married civilly.