Same-Sex Rite Authorized by Bishop Michael Ingham
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Wed May 28 22:37:00 EDT 2003
Same-Sex Rite authorized in Diocese of New Westminster parish
Ingham acts in disregard to Primates Pastoral Letter
By David W. Virtue
The ink is barely dry on the Pastoral Letter out of Gramado, Brazil; a
number of the Primates are still airborne heading home to their
respective countries, and last night Michael Ingham Bishop of New
Westminster authorized a "Rite of Blessing" to take place at St.
Margaret's parish in East Vancouver.
This in your face act is in total defiance of both the 1998 Lambeth
resolution on human sexuality and the recent Primates Pastoral Letter
out of Gramado, Brazil which said no to such actions.
Now clergy in six parishes within the Diocese of New Westminster have
been authorized to perform a rite of blessing of committed same sex
unions. They have, according to a press release, fulfilled all the
provisions of the motion passed by Diocesan Synod in June, 2002.
That motion (Motion 7) requested that Bishop Michael Ingham authorize a
rite of blessing of homosexual couples.
It was the third time the synod had by majority vote requested the rite.
The bishop did not consent to the request in 1998 and 2001, but did
consent last year.
According to the news release, parishes authorized to use the rite are
the following: St. Margaret's, St. Mark's, St. Paul's, and Christ Church
Cathedral, all in Vancouver; St. Agnes, North Vancouver; and St.
Laurence, Coquitlam. The bishop issued the rite of blessing to the
parishes on Friday, May 23, in advance of the Diocesan Synod, May 30-31.
In a letter accompanying the rite, Bishop Ingham distinguished between
the blessing of gays and lesbians, and marriage, which in the church is
a sacrament for heterosexual couples.
"This is not a marriage ceremony, but a blessing of permanent and
faithful commitments between persons of the same sex in order that they
may have the support and encouragement of the church in their lives
together under God."
He stated that couples who seek the blessing must receive preparation
and instruction, and be supported and sustained by the parish throughout
their lives together.
"The church recognizes that homosexual couples face the same challenges
and share the same responsibilities as other people in living out the
costly demands of love," said the bishop in his letter.
"Our purpose is to encourage and strengthen fidelity and mutual
supportiveness in family life on which the stability of our wider
The synod's motion last year required that blessings will take place
only after a favourable vote of the parish Vestry, and the agreement of
the priests involved.
To date, the six parishes (of 80 in the diocese) are the only ones to
have held Vestry meetings and requested that their churches become a
place where same sex blessings occur. In each case, the priests involved
are willing to perform the rite. When the blessing take place is a
pastoral matter to be determined by the priest in each parish.
The bishop noted that two days after he had issued the rite of blessing,
a statement by the Primates of the Anglican Communion meeting in Brazil
stated that "as a body" the Primates could not support a blessing of
same sex unions.
He said he was not surprised that the Primates could not agree on the
matter, since divisions within the Communion have been in evidence since
the last Lambeth Conference in 1998.
"The Primates are faithfully reflecting the lack of theological
consensus in the Communion," he said, "and yet they are also recognizing
that gay and lesbian Christians are part of the church and are not going
Bishop Ingham said that he and his diocese agreed with the Primates that
there is a "duty of pastoral care that is laid upon all Christians to
respond with love and understanding to people of all sexual orientations."
The rite of blessing of homosexual couples is the pastoral response
which the Synod of the Diocese of New Westminster had requested three
times - in 1998, 2001, and 2002 - and to which he gave his consent last
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