- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 1, 2004

ST. CATHARINES, Ontario — Anglican Church of Canada delegates chose the most liberal of four candidates as their new national leader, and turned to a disputed proposal that would give dioceses the go-ahead to perform church blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples.

Montreal’s Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, selected Monday for the post of primate, favors same-sex blessings — though not homosexual “marriages” in church. He told reporters he won’t try to impose his thinking on the church and is actually uncertain how he will vote on the same-sex issue.

There were to be two hours of debate yesterday followed by voting today. Asked whether his church will eventually accept blessings across the nation, Archbishop Hutchison responded, “I suspect that’s true.” But he is not sure he could support homosexual “marriage” in church, even though Canada’s secular law has moved in that direction.

The homosexual question has divided not only Anglicans in Canada but the 77 million members in the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Until now, the major flash point was last year’s consecration of an openly homosexual bishop, V. Gene Robinson, in the Episcopal Church, the U.S. branch of Anglicanism. The 2002 decision of Canada’s Vancouver-area diocese to approve same-sex blessings also provoked fury overseas.

The proposal here would “affirm the authority and jurisdiction” of any diocese and its bishop “to authorize the blessing of committed same-sex unions.” A companion bill would order preparation of denominational resources on same-sex blessings.

Some officials argue that these “local option” bills do not set new church policy on homosexuals. But conservatives say facts will do just that, effectively altering the church’s view of sexual morality and the authority of the Bible.

In the U.S. Episcopal Church, some bishops are not only allowing but participating in same-sex rituals as the result of a more ambiguous resolution approved at last year’s church convention.

In the leadership voting Monday, Archbishop Hutchison scored a fourth-ballot victory over Bishop Ronald Ferris of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, who had joined a third of the divided hierarchy in declaring that the Bible forbids acceptance of same-sex behavior.

Archbishop Hutchison styled himself as an option for electors seeking an interim leader, because — at age 65 — he likely will serve only one three-year term. Retiring primate Archbishop Michael Peers and his predecessor, Edward Scott, both identified with the church’s liberal wing, held office for 18 and 15 years, respectively.

A special commission on the issue is expected to report on ways to keep world Anglicanism together. The London-based secretary of the commission, Canon Gregory Cameron, warned delegates that their decision today will be momentous.

A “no” vote might disappoint thousands of homosexual Anglicans, Canon Cameron said, but a “yes” would make his commission’s work “horribly complicated,” because 22 of the 38 national Anglican branches already have denounced the actions taken in the United States and Vancouver.

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