Pastoral letter from the Bishop – July 28, 2016

Greetings to you all:

By now many of you have heard the news that the resolution to change the marriage canon to allow same-sex couples to marry in the Anglican Church of Canada did, indeed, pass in all three houses of the General Synod (bishops, clergy and laity). As you can imagine, this reversal has left many in our diocese and in the broader church feeling relieved and elated. Others feel stunned and sad.

In that that the resolution is a canonical change, it must be passed again by the General Synod in 2019, and, should it pass, would only come into effect on January 1, 2020.

The question many have asked is what we as a diocese will do in the three-plus-year period prior to the potential enactment of the resolution. Here is what I and others have thought through so far:

In a word, my approach is going to be collaborative in discerning what we as a diocese will do in this interim time. This comes from my strong belief that we are gifts one to another and that, while certain decisions have been given to me as your bishop, I do my best work when I hear others’ perspectives before making decisions. This is nothing new. I’ve made it clear to all the Archdeacons that their roles (and the perspectives they bring) share in the Episcopal ministry of oversight. Likewise, I’ve made it clear to the Regional Deans that their roles (and the perspectives they bring) share in the Episcopal ministry of pastoral care. I’m also reminded of the words I say to each new incumbent at that incumbent’s induction: that the incumbent’s ministry is one that I as bishop share in. We collaborate in that parish ministry.

What this means, then, is that I will engage in an expeditious process of consultation within the diocese and with selected others outside the diocese to explore what we might do to move toward greater equity among all couples who wish to make baptismally-grounded, community-supported, lifelong, monogamous commitments to each other within the Anglican Church of Canada here in this diocese. At the same time I will be having conversations with those clergy in our diocese who might be feeling uncertain or find themselves in disagreement with the outcome of General Synod. I want to hear and address not only their concerns about their options in officiating at marriages but also about their relationships with others in the diocese.

Some (only some) of those I will be consulting are: Archbishop John Privett and the Provincial Chancellor, our own Chancellor, the lay and clergy delegates to General Synod 2016 to include Peter Elliott (the Dean of the Diocese), the Archdeacons, the Regional Deans and the clergy of the Diocese. This process of consultation will then be followed by sessions open to anyone in the Diocese to share where we are in the process, hear questions and comments, and talk about what to expect going forward. Information about these open sessions will come your way as soon as we finalize our plans.

I want to thank all of you who sent the other delegates and me messages of your support for us in this process. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide us in these conversations and may the Holy Spirit continue to inspire and strengthen us for the mission entrusted to us here in this part of the Anglican Church of Canada.

In Christ,

Bishop Melissa Skelton