Response to the Statement from the House of Bishops
My Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Undoubtedly you have now heard about the House of Bishops statement, which is to be presented at the upcoming Council of General Synod (CoGS) - a body which functions as General Synod between General Synods, not unlike our Diocesan Council.
The House of Bishop's statement recognizes the near impossibility of attaining a two-thirds majority that would support revising the marriage canon to allow for same gendered couples to be married in our churches. A two-thirds majority is canonical requirement to change or alter doctrine. The bishops felt that CoGS ought to be notified of this apparent reality rather than be caught by surprise. I agree - the more transparent we are the better it is for the communities of faith we serve. I think it would be disrespectful to keep this knowledge hidden. However, please know that the motion will be placed before General Synod. The bishop's statement was not an attempt to thwart due process but an attempt to be forthright and honest. The motion will be placed before General Synod assembly.
You can well imagine that I was one of those present who was "mortified". One judges the fullness of a decision, activity or sacrament in the name of Jesus by its fruit. If a same gendered marriage is rooted in self giving love; if this marriage is an exclusive loving commitment one to the other in good times and bad until death; if this marriage is joining of families together as one, and if this same gendered marriage is embraced as a sacred covenant between two individuals and God; then it is a holy marriage before God. Needless to say, this is not shared by two-thirds of the House of Bishops. Yet, my assumption is that a very significant majority of people in the Diocese of Ottawa would affirm same gendered holy marriage solemnized through the liturgies of our Church.
I want to extend my deep apology to all those who are feeling discouraged, angry, betrayed, and hurt. I especially want to apologize to the LGTBQ community. Many of us did our very best to ensure that your voice was heard, understood, respected, and honoured at the recent House meeting. We were unsuccessful, and for that I am so sorry!
The mystery of the Incarnate Christ is indeed that - a mystery. We wrestle and struggle with what it means for us to be faithful to Jesus. The Church is naturally not a tidy place. While I too am deeply unhappy with the House of Bishop's lack of clarity on this matter, I will continue on in prayer, debate, and witness to what I believe to be an appropriate position. That is, all people regardless of gender are welcome to share in the sacrament of holy matrimony. I encourage all those who share my disappointment, as well as those who are pleased with the statement, to also continue in prayer, debate, and witness.
The Diocese of Ottawa has typically extended an inclusive hand to all people. We were among the first dioceses to openly support the right of divorced persons to remarry in the church, to welcome women to the sacred office of deacon, priest and bishop in Christ's Church, and to extend the courtesy to all gay and lesbian peoples to have their civil marriages blessed in the church. May I suggest that we continue down this path of hospitality and inclusion and, even in the midst of our disappointment, go forward to our upcoming General Synod advocating for a revised marriage canon that would allow for same gendered marriage in our Church. This is what we do! We do not walk away discouraged and leave others behind to carry on. We witness together accepting the differences that exist between us and pray for God's constant presence, guidance, and comfort.
Please pray for all who are affected by this statement and please pray for our upcoming General Synod and the Diocese of Ottawa.
Yours in Christ,
The Rt. Rev. John H. Chapman, 9th Bishop of Ottawa