Last week, parishioners at the Anglican Christ Church Cathedral voted to allow the blessing of same-sex marriages, an unusually progressive move for a mainstream faith.
The Anglican Church, and this congregation in particular, understand the value of embracing people equally, and to a certain degree, rejecting arbitrary and antiquated doctrines that install bigotry as part of faith.
Whether this will help or further erode support for the Anglican Church in the Capital Region remains to be seen. In past years, the Victoria diocese has struggled to keep an audience. In January 2010 Anglican Diocese of B.C. announced it would close 19 of its churches in Greater Victoria largely due to declining membership,
And notably in 2008, Anglican parishioners in Metchosin kicked up an angry fuss – and eventually separated from the church – when the Anglican Church of Canada started sending signals that it would bless same-sex unions, as indeed it does now.
Allowing same-sex blessings – which is strictly symbolic, as opposed to a legal church wedding ceremony – cracks open the door for progressive equality within the church. But James Cowan, the outgoing bishop of the Anglican Diocese of B.C., says the church should get out of the marriage business altogether and leave all legal aspects of marriage in the hands of the state.
This is all fine and well, but Anglicans need to tread carefully about the messaging behind ditching legal marriage ceremonies.
Marrying and burying, so to speak, are two traditional tenets of churches the world over. Even more than that, bailing on legal marriage ceremonies, especially around the same time as adopting same-sex blessings, could open the door to bigotry and accusations that same-sex rights led to the downfall of marriage in church.
Allowing church blessings for all people is the right thing to do, but the Anglican Church needs to be mindful of unintended consequences of trying to level the playing field for marriage ceremonies.