TORONTO — Questions about the integrity of the voting process in which Anglicans narrowly rejected a resolution to allow same-sex marriage emerged Tuesday, leading to a stunning reversal of the result.
Some members stood up to say their votes had not been recorded during voting late Monday — when passage of the resolution failed by a single vote.
"That is an issue of concern," said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the church. "We cannot leave this synod with this kind of confusion."
To pass, the resolution required two-thirds of each of three orders — lay, clergy and bishops. The clergy failed to reach that threshold by one vote that was apparently not counted because it was counted in the lay order.
St. James Cathedral in Toronto. (Photo: Toronto Star via Getty Images)
The error was discovered after delegates requested a detailed hard copy of the electronic voting records.
Hiltz then declared the resolution in favour of same-sex marriage passed.
The apparent failure on Monday night — which followed a bitter and divisive debate — stunned those on hand into silence. Some wept openly, others embraced. Some were clearly in anguish.
On Tuesday, several bishops said they planned to go ahead with same-sex marriages regardless of the vote. In a series of statements, they expressed dismay at the defeat. At the same time, they leaned on a statement from the chancellor of the General Synod, who said the current marriage canon does not specifically ban solemnizing same-sex marriages.
"We cannot leave this synod with this kind of confusion."
In a statement, Bishop John Chapman of Ottawa said he planned to proceed immediately with such unions in his diocese — although no one would be forced to officiate at such a ceremony.
"It is time my friends," Chapman said. "It is past time."
"Take heart," said Rev. Melissa Skelton, bishop of New Westminster, B.C. "This is not over."
The resolution still needs affirmation by the next synod in 2019 before it becomes church law.
Northern representatives complained about feeling bullied, while Larry Robertson, Yukon bishop, left the floor in protest, saying he was angered at what he called the adversarial process.
Hiltz acknowledged the "deep differences" that exist around the issue.
"Our work on this matter is not done. It's not sufficient for us to simply say we dealt with the resolution."
"We sometimes find ourselves very much being pulled apart," Hiltz told delegates on Tuesday. "Our work on this matter is not done. It's not sufficient for us to simply say we dealt with the resolution."
While some fretted that the failure of the resolution would cause a rupture in the church and spark an exodus of members, others said they believed the church would hold together despite the bruising nature of the debate in which some used terms such as "abomination" in reference to the LBGT community.
"It was painful process, it was a difficult process, but at the end of the day, we've ended up moving forward," British Columbia Bishop Logan McMenamie said Tuesday.
A logical step in the evolution of church
Synod delegates did approve a motion affirming the sanctity of same-sex relationships — a position the church adopted in 2004.
Toronto Archbishop Colin Johnson called same-sex marriages — at the discretion of the bishop and with agreement of local clergy — a logical step in the evolution of the church that he said he would be considering in the coming weeks.
"I am advised that this option would not contravene the marriage canon," Johnson said. "I am confident it would be supported by the majority — even if not all — of our bishops, clergy, laity and the wider community."
About 1.6 million Canadians identify themselves as Anglican, according to Statistics Canada, and church figures indicate more than 500,000 of them are part of about 2,800 congregations across the country.
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