Bishops issue pastoral statement ahead of marriage canon vote

Posted on July 4, 2019

Pastoral Statement from the College of Bishops

Dearly beloved in Christ,

Next week, the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod will gather in Vancouver, British Columbia for seven days of worship, learning, deliberations and listening for the leading of the Spirit in making some important decisions. 

In early June we asked for your prayers for our General Synod members, and we renew that call to prayer today. Please uphold your 21 members of General Synod from the Diocese of Toronto – bishops, clergy, lay and youth – as well as all of the delegates from across Canada. Pray that we may be faithful to the Gospel in all our conversations and decisions, and fruitful in good works and in acts of love.

Of all the items of business on the General Synod agenda, a lot of attention has been given to the second reading of the motion to revise Canon XXI – On Marriage in the Church to include same-sex marriage.

We do not know, nor do we wish to anticipate, how that vote will go at General Synod. We hope and pray that the Holy Spirit will infuse the conversation with holiness and will guide the results of the balloting. We are all approaching General Synod in a spirit of openness to ongoing discernment. 

The College of Bishops, embodying as we do a breadth of theological views ourselves, is committed to remaining united regardless of the outcome. Whether the motion passes or fails, we will not be divided. We will stand together through the grace of God and by faith in our Saviour Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit. We call upon the Diocese of Toronto to stand together with us, unified in all our glorious diversity under the banner of Christ. 

We do recognize that, no matter the result, there will be heartbroken Christians who will feel that the Church has erred. These heartbroken Christians are our siblings in Christ. After the vote, there will be no winners or losers, only family.

When the results have become known, we urge you to reach out to your neighbours who will be hurting. Please call or write to those you care for, even if you disagree on this issue, to remind them that you believe them to be valued brothers and sisters in Christ and that there is safe space in the Diocese of Toronto for them and for their faithful understanding of scripture. Please encourage them to reach out to us, their bishops, for reassurance that they continue to be an integral part of the Body of Christ in this Church.

We read in scripture that Jesus was present with the disciples in their boat when a great storm arose, and their vessel began to be swamped. We serve a Saviour who speaks in the midst of tumult, rebuking winds and calming waves. May Christ be present in this ship, the Church, guiding us through this sea, and may God grant that we land safely on the other side, pulling together on the oars.

Again, we ask your prayers.

Yours faithfully,

The Rt. Rev. Andrew Asbil
The Rt. Rev. Peter Fenty
The Rt. Rev. Riscylla Shaw
The Rt. Rev. Kevin Robertson
The Rt. Rev. Jenny Andison