Anglican Church leaders in the Arctic have condemned homosexuality and same-sex marriage. "Marriage is between a man and a woman," said Haydn Schofield, archdeacon of the western Arctic. "For there to be a relationship, even common-law, is un-biblical. Any union outside of marriage is un-biblical."
A unanimous vote of 70 lay people, priests and bishops with the Anglican Diocese of the Arctic was cast to condemn homosexual relationships and to insist that all members of staff do the same.
A charter of beliefs called the Montreal Declaration, written in Montreal in 1994, was adopted by the leaders in the Arctic. "Adultery, fornication and homosexual unions are intimacies contrary to God's design," states the document, which was written by Anglican Church members.
The recent vote clashes with the wider Anglican Church of Canada which has been called on by top Church leaders in England to condemn same-sex marriage. But the decision to do so has been postponed until 2007 by the Anglican Church.
During the meeting of the Arctic Diocese, delegates made clear that only those with similar beliefs to the Montreal Declaration can work at their churches. They also signalled their intent towards conditions of employment, saying that they will not employ anyone having sex outside marriage or who are in homosexual relationships. A rule has been set not to employ anyone who "promotes and supports" that kind of sexual behaviour, and will apply from clergy to receptionists.
Ben Arreak, the church’s bishop for Nunavik said, Inuit traditional values about relationships between men and women will form the base of their beliefs and that the Church’s stance will keep out non-conservative views and practices.
"That's tradition," Arreak said. "In order to survive, the man and woman have to help each other, for family and for hunting...If you want to have a healthy body, you can only have a relationship man to woman, woman to man."
However, not all have agreed with the decision.
"I do believe in the blessing and inclusion of gays and lesbians within the Anglican church," said Maureen Doherty, the daughter of an Anglican minister in Iqaluit. "I think it's very important that the doors remain open."
She referred to an upcoming gay event in her community. "If I think of 'What would Jesus do?' I think Jesus Christ would probably come out and break bread at the Pride picnic."
Pamela Dickey Young, head of the religious studies department at Queen's University, said that clergy had the right to refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the proposed federal legislation to legalise gay marriage, Bill C-38.
"I think the freedom of religion arguments are red herrings," said Dickey Young. She said churches should look to the example of divorce issues in Canada, where the Catholic Church was not forced to re-marry divorced individuals.
The Anglican Diocese of the Arctic has a membership of 30,000 throughout Nunavut, the Northwest Territories, and the 14 Inuit communities of northern Quebec.
There is a growing conservative Christian movement in the Arctic as preachers have been called to return to more literal interpretations of the Bible. Churches carry a heavy political weight. Recently, Christian revivals have been attended by mayors, legislature members and other politicians in Nunavut and northern Quebec.