Anglican delegates of the Church of Canada rejected the blessing of same-sex unions on Sunday after voting on the hotly debated issue was deferred for a day.
The resolution that would have enabled priests to conduct blessing ceremonies for gay couples who already married in civil ceremonies was defeated by a narrow vote. Lay and clergy delegates voted in favor while the House of Bishops voted against it. Majority rule is required in all three orders – laity, clergy, and bishops.
The vote came a day after some 300 delegates at the national meeting of the General Synod – the Anglican Church of Canada's highest governing body – agreed that same-sex blessings do not conflict with the "core doctrines" of the church.
Both supporters and opponents call the decisions confusing, according to Winnipeg Free Press.
During the June 19-25 meeting, a full day of debate began on Saturday over the Canadian Anglicans' view on the issue of homosexuality. Delegates were torn on the issue as some called for full acceptance and others for aligning with Scripture.
"I have come to accept that some people are ordered toward the same gender. The church needs to adjust its views. It has excluded them for too long,” said Dorothy Davies-Flindall of the diocese of Ontario, according to the church's Anglican Journal.
Expressing opposition to homosexual practice, Bishop Larry Robertson of the Arctic said, "Homosexual behavior is not in line with Scripture of my prayer book. We can call it sin. My desire is for people to be whole and come back into line with God’s will."
Much of the debate went into procedural issues including whether the vote should be decided by a greater margin than the usual 50 percent. The General Synod eventually rejected motions that would have required a two-thirds majority in two successive synods or a 60 percent majority for approval.
Those supporting a larger majority for approval recognized the impact the decision could have on the church and its relation with the global Anglican Communion and called for a "higher standard" when voting on the issue of homosexuality.
"This is an issue that may rend us asunder," said Sheila Vanderputten of Calgary, according to Anglican Journal. "We need to give this full weight."
Some delegates called for more time even after a decision on the issue was deferred by General Synod 2004 to the next national meeting in 2007.
"I think when we move too quickly ... we may fail, we may cause more problems than we solve," said Steve Hampton.
The Anglican Church of Canada, however, has had plenty of meetings and reports on the issue already, according to Archdeacon Bruce Byrant-Scott.
"We're not going to be any wiser by waiting, although we may have more information," he said.
The decision was already clear to others.
“Sin is still sin, and to bless sin would be a disaster to our church," the Rev. David Parsons stated.
Delegates continued to debate until 9 p.m. when they declined to extend the session and deferred the vote until Sunday when they ultimately rejected the resolution of allowing priests to perform blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples already “married.” The resolution would not have allowed priests to actually “marry” same-sex couples. Civil marriage for gay couples has been legal in Canada since 2004.
Earlier, Fred Hiltz was elected as the new primate to succeed Archbishop Andrew Hutchison. He has declined to state his position on the blessing of same-sex unions and stated that the conversation on the issue "must go forward in the way that the church has decided it should go forward."