Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Same as it ever was: reflections on General Synod

As you may have heard, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada recently passed a pretty momentous vote.  We voted in favour of changing our canons to allow for same-sex marriage.

Ok, you could accuse us of being a few years behind the time, but given the relative speed with which the most religions embrace change (which borders on inertia), this is actually not a bad lapse of time for the church to catch up with.

I should explain a couple of things about this whole process, because it was actually a pretty exciting Synod.  For those of you who have ever attended a Synod or the equivalent of your church or workplace, I realize this isn't much, but this was actually a nail-biter with some pretty profound implications for the Anglican Church in the future.

Briefly, Synod is like the annual general meeting for the church.  Synods are held yearly on a Diocesan level (a diocese is kind of like provincial politics), but every 3 years, we have what is called General Synod, and that is a meeting on a national level (kind of like federal politics).  In other words, at GS we discuss things that affect the entire Canadian church.

Arguable the most important topic of discussion at this Synod was one which has been festering literally for decades: whether or not to change our canons (church laws) to allow for same-sex marriage in our churches.

I will spare you the details, but suffice to say the motion was at first defeated by a narrow margin, then it was found after a recount to have passed by an equally narrow margin.

I should add that this does not mean that the Canadian Anglican Church is immediately going to start doing same-sex marriages.  This vote bought a second reading at our next GS in 2019, where it still runs a chance of being defeated.  If it passes a second time, THEN we will have to look at making some changes.

Almost immediately after the vote, myself and many of my colleagues had to respond to a number of concerns from our parishioners: What does this mean for our church?  What happens now?  Will our church be different?  What is going to change?

The short answer is: absolutely nothing.

Come to church next Sunday.  The building will still be the same.  The liturgy will still be the same.  The hymns will still be the same.  The prayers will still be the same.  Your neighbour next to you in the pew will probably be the same.  The sacraments will still be the same.  God will still be the same.  Christ will still be the same.  The Holy Spirit will still be the same.

We worship communally: we get together, we pray together, we sing songs of praise, we share the sacraments and fellowship, and in that sense, absolutely nothing has changed.  But we also have personal and individual relationships with God and Christ, and I honestly don't think these relationships have changed because of this vote, either.

Don't get me wrong, the vote is momentous, and I'll be honest, I am happy about the vote.  I think this is a victory for human rights and for the church.  Although I would never claim to know the thoughts and will of God, I also personally think that this decision that is in keeping with the will of the Holy Spirit moving in the world today.

I am aware that not everyone agrees with me, and that is OK.

We don't actually have to agree, and that is something that some church folk seem to forget.  We don't have to have the same thoughts, share the same heart or mind on every single topic.  I would argue that conflict and the successful navigation thereof is actually the only place we as people and Christians can possibly experience growth.

We have actually disagreed on a lot of stuff in the past few decades: women's ordination and the new prayer book spring immediately to mind.  And if we look back, we survived that.  We felt the Holy Spirit was leading us down those paths, and we learned and changed and grew together.  We did not give up on each other, God or the church.

Let us learn and change and grow together still.

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