OTTAWA (Reuters) - There seems little chance that all Canadian Anglican clergy will honor the moratorium on blessing same-sex unions requested by the worldwide Anglican communion.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, leader of the global Anglican church, warned on Sunday that the 80-million-member church would be “in grave peril” if the U.S. and Canadian branches did not agree to moratoriums on same-sex blessings and on the ordination of gay bishops.
But the head of the Canadian church, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, told Reuters in a phone interview on Wednesday it would be especially tough for Bishop Michael Ingham of the British Columbia diocese of New Westminster to halt the homosexual blessings altogether.
Ingham caused an outcry among conservative Anglicans around the world in 2003 when he started authorizing some parishes to bless gay unions.
Hiltz pointed out that the decision-making synods of four more Canadian dioceses have in the past year asked their bishops to authorize same-sex blessings.
A quarter of the world’s Anglican bishops, principally from Africa, Latin America and Asia, boycotted the decennial Lambeth (England) Conference of Anglican leaders, which ended on Sunday, because of the liberal stance on homosexuality taken by the U.S. Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada.
Canada is one of the few countries in the world that has legalized gay marriage, although churches are not compelled to perform the gay wedding ceremonies.
A report midway through the Lambeth conference urged that the moratoriums be “retrospective.” That means that bishops that have allowed same-sex blessings should now stop doing so.
The final Lambeth document did not use “retrospective” but said there was widespread support for the moratoriums on gay bishop ordinations and same-sex blessings, as well as on cross-border interventions from conservative bishops.
It appears unlikely anything will be decided in Canada before a meeting of Canadian bishops in late October. In June 2007, Canada’s national general synod narrowly defeated a proposal to give churches the option of blessing same-sex unions but did nothing to stop the practice in Ingham’s British Columbia diocese.
Hiltz expressed his frustration that Latin American and African bishops have been offering support to disaffected conservative Canadian churches, and said this caused more havoc than the discussion over homosexuality itself.
“It’s not welcome,” he said. “Nobody seems to be able to say to these primates, ‘Stop’.”
Eighteen Canadian churches, 10 of them formerly from the Anglican Church of Canada, have put themselves under the authority of Buenos Aires-based Archbishop Greg Venables, and a further group are under the care of African archbishops.
Venables’ deputy in Canada, Bishop Don Harvey, rejected the idea of lumping cross-border interventions -- which he termed an administrative matter -- with what he called the ethical and theological questions of gay ordinations and blessings.
He could not see such interventions ending without direct evidence of a change of heart by the mainline Canadian church, and dismissed the idea of a moratorium on new parishes offering same-sex blessings while existing ones are able to continue.
“That will be completely unacceptable to us. That will not be an answer,” he said. “I think the communion is already in grave peril....It’s in even greater peril if the same-sex blessings continue.”
Editing by Peter Galloway