St Peter’s, Winnipeg: Blessing of same sex unions: Respectfully making an informed decision

During the past few months the Parish of St Peter, Winnipeg, prepared to make a decision at our AGM in February on the blessing of same-sex unions.

This began with a study series that was designed with a twofold purpose to:

  • provide information that would allow people to make an informed decision, and
  • recognize and respect the diversity that exists within Anglicanism: locally in our midst and beyond.

Our discussions each week were experienced as open and mutually respectful.

In order to maximize attendance, each session was held twice, once on Tuesday evening and once after worship on Sunday. Each session began with a covenant in which those who were present agreed to engage in this topic in ways that were respectful toward others. Our discussions each week were experienced as open and mutually respectful. There were four sessions in total:

Session 1: Biblical Interpretation

emphasized the integral role of Scripture as the foundation for all decisions made by Anglican Christians. The challenge, of course, is in understanding how human reason and Church tradition are employed through interpreting Scripture. To this end, we focused on a couple of particular texts that are often referenced when discerning matters pertaining to homosexuality. (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26-28) Once these texts were identified we reflected upon two different – yet respected – interpretations: one that supports the blessing of same sex unions and another that does not.

Session 2: Parables

focused on the parables as stories which often identify Jesus as the One who challenges and overturns societal norms; One who views those who have been traditionally seen as marginalized and despised as those who are to be embraced, included and blessed. Throughout our discussion we spent some time wondering if these parables may offer some wisdom as we discern the church’s role in blessing same sex unions.

Session 3: Anglican Doctrine

reviewed key documents in order to discuss what may be perceived as core beliefs within the Anglican Communion.

Session 4: Liturgy for Same-Sex Blessings

reviewed the Diocesan Guidelines in order to imagine what a liturgy may look like.

Three weeks before our AGM, we had a final session over a soup lunch after Sunday morning worship. The purpose was to offer a summary of what occurred throughout the sessions and allow everyone present an opportunity to speak. Again, this gathering began with a covenant to participate in ways that were respectful toward others. Topics discussed included biblical reflections; positive comments regarding the experience of attending the sessions; personal stories; personal views regarding the blessing of same sex unions.

The motion to endorse the blessing of same-sex couples was approved by 90% of those attending the AGM.

The following resolution was moved and seconded at our AGM: “… that this Parish of St. Peter endorse the Blessing of same-sex couples whose union has been duly solemnized and civilly registered, and where at least one party is baptized. An appropriate Rite for same-sex blessings following diocesan guidelines will be established and offered to couples seeking such a Blessing at St Peter’s.” Written ballots indicated that this motion was approved by 90% of those attending the AGM. As a pastoral measure toward the 10% whose conscience prevented them from voting in favour of this motion, people were encouraged to refrain from visible signs of approval and/or celebration. A spirit of respect was maintained throughout.

it seems that we successfully achieved our goal to provide information that allowed individuals to make an informed decision, and recognize and respect the diversity that exists within Anglicanism

Based on numerous comments made throughout this process and since the AGM, it seems that we successfully achieved our goal to provide information that allowed individuals to make an informed decision, and recognize and respect the diversity that exists within Anglicanism: locally in our midst and beyond.

Study Sessions available

The process that was followed along with material covered throughout the Study Sessions is available if any parishes would like to use it as a resource. For further information please contact our church office and/or speak with our rector, The Reverend Canon Donna Joy.

By Donna Joy