The Anglican Church of Canada has voted against allowing same-sex marriages by the thinnest of margins after nearly a week of passionate debate about blessing the unions.
More than 200 delegates attending the six-day General Synod 2016 north of Toronto rejected the resolution after 60-plus speakers made their points, with most supporting the resolution.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005 and yesterday’s vote puts the Anglican Church – the third largest in Canada – out of step with most Canadians, including prime minister Justin Trudeau, who recently took part in a gay pride parade in Toronto.
The resolution required two-thirds support from each of three orders – the lay, clergy and bishops – to pass.
The bishops voted 68.42% in favour of the resolution and the lay delegates 72.22% in favour.
But the clergy voted 66.23%, missing the percentage needed by a single vote.
The vote sparked bitter disappointment among some members.
“It is breaking my heart that there are people who see gay marriage as a separation from God and from love,” said Eliot Waddingham, 24, a transgender person from Ottawa, who was an observer at the conference and worried that the vote was tantamount to a “death sentence” for the church.
“Woah. One vote,” said the Rev Jeremy Smith in a tweet. “Prayers for all those wounded by the anti-LGBTQ vote.”
The electronic voting was conducted secretly at the request of delegates as a privacy measure.
Earlier, Archbishop Colin Johnson of Toronto cited his own decades of marriage in arguing for the motion.
“I want my gay and lesbian colleagues to have the same joy,” he said. “I believe it’s the right thing to do.”
Some speakers urged delegates to reject the resolution, with one saying it would cause “ghettos of resentment” if allowed, while several aboriginal delegates denounced it as condoning an “abomination” and disobedience of God.
The General Synod is held every three years and the vote was the culmination of work that began when the last General Synod, the church’s legislative body, asked a panel to come up with a draft motion.
Even if it had passed, the decision would have needed to be affirmed by the next General Synod in 2019, which could have made its own amendments.
If the resolution passed it would have changed the denomination’s definition of marriage and would have permitted clergy to conduct gay marriages.
The vote followed complaints about bullying during weekend discussions on the resolution in smaller working groups. In remarks ahead of the vote, Archbishop Fred Hiltz urged respectful discussions on a topic that has proven bitterly divisive.
“Some members of our synod are deeply hurt. Some of them are deeply offended. Some are feeling unsafe to continue to speak lest they be reprimanded,” he told the gathering.
“This kind of behaviour is not appropriate. It’s unacceptable.”
About 1.6 million Canadians identify themselves as Anglican, according to Statistics Canada.
The US Episcopal Church, the Anglican body in the United States, is alone among Anglican bodies in approving gay marriage and has faced a backlash for its support of same-sex unions.
Earlier this year Anglican leaders temporarily restricted the role of the US Episcopal Church in their global fellowship as a sanction over the American church’s acceptance of gay marriage.
Other Anglican national churches in Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand and Scotland have taken steps towards accepting same-sex relationships.