From the Anglican Journal: Legal experts tackle same-sex questions
So the dust has settled and General Synod has, at the end of the day, declined to pass a resolution affirming diocesan authority to permit the blessing of same-sex unions. But the fight's not over. No one is really happy: "liberals" don't get their SSBs (yet) and the "conservatives" are going to lose in 2010 (they won only by two votes in the House of Bishops).
Part of the confusions stems from the fact the resolution would not have "authorised" dioceses to allow SSBs, but rather would have "affirmed" their authority. This to some reads like an acknowledgment of existing jurisdiction, so that the resoluion's narrow defeat is in fact a moot point. I'm not sure I buy this interpretation, but certainly the lack of clarity is unfortunate. The Rt. Rev. James Cowan, Bishop of British Columbia, writes “There are those who argue that because General Synod did not pass a motion claiming its authority on the matter, it may be left to a local church (diocese, parish, or parish priest) to make decisions about moving forward with same-sex union blessings. I am not of that opinion...". Certainly "that opinion" may or may not be accurate, but wouldn't it have been easier on everyone if General Synod had made that clear one way or the other? Am I the only the one who thinks we need a Clarity Act like the one that sets the ground rules in Canadian law for any future secession of Quebec?
This ambiguity, combined with the resolution declaring that there is nothing in creedal doctrine preventing the blessing of same-sex unions, makes it unclear what in fact the consequences will be for anyone who blesses such a union. Fr Eric Beresford poses the question of “whether or not it is lawful to require obedience from a priest on something the General Synod of the church has declared to be matter indifferent.” Are we going to end up like the the Lutherans of Eastern Synod (Ontario, Quebec, Maritimes), where Bishop Michael Pryse has pledged to impose "the least severe forms of discipline" (http://solid-ground.ca/a-pastortodefy.htm) on pastors who bless or even marry same-sex couples? Already, the Dean of Niagara and a retired Archbishop of Toronto have been given slaps on the wrists for doing just that.
So what about the good news? It's threefold, as far as I can tell. 1) Priests can now offer Mass for civilly married same-sex couples, with intercessions for their union, providing that no exchange of vows or nuptial blessing takes place. 2) Any similar motion is sure to pass in Halifax in 2010. 3) and most importantly, a resolution asking Council of General Synod to study the possibility of allowing "all legally qualified persons" to marry in the Church has passed. So chin up, and keep praying.