Anglicans in Canada are in the midst of discussion to clarify recent decisions on same-sex unions that many have found confusing.
While some bishops in the Anglican Church of Canada say that the church still does not permit same-sex blessings, others believe the decision may be left to a local church or diocese of priest.
The conflicting opinions are interpretations of the latest decision by the General Synod – the Anglican Church of Canada's highest governing body – to reject a resolution that would have allowed dioceses to decide for themselves whether or not to bless same-sex unions. Although the motion was defeated in June, the General Synod also agreed that same-sex blessings do not conflict with the "core doctrines" of the church.
Canadian Anglicans have called the two decisions confusing.
The Rev. Alan Perry, an expert on canon law from the Diocese of Montreal, said the motion that blessings are not in conflict with the church's core doctrine is a "declarative" but not an "enabling" motion, "which would contain some mechanism or permission to act in a certain way."
It does, however, "clear the decks for future action on blessing of same-sex unions by some body or other," he said, according to the Anglican Journal.
He further observed that the General Synod has not stated who, if anyone, has the authority to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions, noting that while the General Synod is granted jurisdiction over the definition of the doctrines of the church, the governing body does not have "exclusive control over any and all actions having to do with doctrine," said Perry, citing the church's Declaration of Principles.
His comments come as conservative Anglicans have indicated a loss of hope in the Anglican Church of Canada and most notably The Episcopal Church – the U.S. branch of Anglicanism – in getting back in line with Anglican tradition and scriptural authority.
"Their intention is clear; they have chosen to walk away from the biblically-based path we once all walked together," said Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria the Most Rev. Peter Akinola in his latest statement.
Meanwhile, supporters and opponents of same-sex blessings continue to ask what the recent decisions by the General Synod mean, if clergy can conduct same-sex blessings, and if priests can be disciplined if they do bless same-sex unions considering the Canadian church's stance that blessing of same-sex unions is not in conflict with their doctrine.
Bishop James Cowan of British Columbia indicated in his opinion that the General Synod was clear in its decision against allowing dioceses to decide on blessing same-sex unions.
"There are those who argue that because General Synod did not pass a motion claiming its authority on the matter, it may be left to a local church (diocese, parish, or parish priest) to make decisions about moving forward with same-sex union blessings. I am not of that opinion, nor will I authorize such action or concur with it," he wrote in a pastoral letter, according to Anglican Journal.
The General Synod has not abrogated its right to make decisions around same-sex blessings, Cowan added.
In contrast, Perry said there is nothing in the church's canons or constitution that prevents a diocese from going forward with same-sex blessings now that General Synod has said it would not be against core doctrine.
As debate over homosexuality continues, the Anglican Church of Canada recently released new resources to help its members study more on same-sex blessings and other topics of human sexuality.
"At General Synod 2007, one of the critical calls that we heard over and over again was that people wanted more time to study. I wanted to make sure that this material was readily accessible," said the Rev. Canon Dr. Linda Nicholls, Coordinator for Dialogue, who organized the material and wrote the introductions.