Fri, Jun 04, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Canada's Anglicans postpone vote on same-sex unions


Canada's Anglican church stepped back on Wednesday from a controversial decision on whether to bless same-sex unions, deferring a vote until 2007 in a bid to prevent a split among the world's 70 million Anglicans.

Anglican church leaders meeting in St. Catharines, Ontario, voted to send the issue to a theological commission to report on by early 2006. Church leaders would address the issue again the following year.

The decision put off a vote on a motion to give the country's 30 dioceses the right to "authorize the blessing of committed same-sex unions."

The church has been deeply divided over homosexuality. The crisis erupted last year when the US Episcopal Church, the US branch of the Anglican church, voted to appoint an openly gay man, Gene Robinson, as a bishop.

The appointment outraged conservative Anglicans, particularly in Africa, where some church leaders cut all ties with the US church.

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison of Montreal, who was elected spiritual head of the Canadian church on Monday, said he was pleased with the decision because it would not fuel further division with churches abroad.

He said he wanted to avoid "a major schism in the life of the church, either here or in relationships with our sister churches."

But the issue may not have been put entirely to rest. Yesterday, church leaders were set to vote on a motion to "affirm the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships."

The Canadian church says it has about 800,000 worshipers, though the 2001 census says 2 million consider themselves Anglican.

The controversial issue of blessing same-sex unions came to the fore in Canada in 2002 when Michael Ingham, an Anglican bishop for the diocese of New Westminster, British Columbia, agreed to authorize a rite for the blessings.

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