Received via email

October 5, 2016

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury
Lambeth Palace, London
SE1 7JU

Your Grace,

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On September 17, 2016, the Diocese of Toronto voted on a slate of episcopal candidates that included a candidate in an active same-sex relationship.

We write to protest the election itself and to dissent publicly from the diocesan and provincial concurrence with its results.

We hold that the election is out of order insofar as its slate included a candidate whose lifestyle is contrary to the teaching of the historic and universal church on chastity and marriage, and contrary to the present doctrine and discipline of the Anglican Church of Canada. According to the Constitution and Canons governing episcopal elections this candidate is, therefore, not duly qualified for the office of bishop and the election as a whole was irregular.

We protested in writing to the Nominations Committee, Chancellor and Archbishop of Toronto before the electoral Synod. We protested publicly on the floor of Synod before the election began. We protested again after the Synod, asking the House of Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario to withhold concurrence (letter attached). In every case the explanation offered was inadequate and the protest was dismissed.

We note that the Marriage Canon of the Anglican Church of Canada, which understands Christian marriage to be between one man and one woman, still stands. We wish to uphold it in our lives, in our teaching and in our churches. These developments create an unconscionable situation for many of the clergy and people.

Therefore we register our dissent and ask for your intervention. We ask for your prayers and the prayers of the wider Communion as we seek to move forward faithfully.

Yours, in Christ,

The Rev. Canon Dr. Murray Henderson
The Rev. Canon Dr. Dean Mercer
The Rev. Dr. Catherine Sider-Hamilton

♦ ♦ ♦

September 22, 2016

To the College of Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario

We write in protest against the electoral Synod held this past Saturday, September 17, in the Diocese of Toronto. We charge that the three episcopal elections were out of order and we request the Ontario College of Bishops to withhold their concurrence of all three elections.

We do so for two reasons.

First, a candidate in an active same-sex relationship contradicts, by word and example, the doctrine and discipline of the Church.

According to the constitution and canons governing nominations, this candidate was not “duly qualified” to stand for the office of bishop and ought not to have been approved by the Nominations Committee. The slate put forward by the Nominations Committee was therefore out of order.

A protest was made on the floor of Synod against the Nominations Committee’s approval of a slate of candidates that included a candidate whose lifestyle is contrary to the doctrine and discipline of the Anglican Church of Canada. We made a similar protest in writing on July 6, and again on September 8 and September 14, to the Nominations Committee, the Chancellor and the Archbishop.

The reasons eventually offered by the Archbishop in explanation of the slate thus constituted are tendentious and contested. We note further that this explanation came a full two months after our initial letter and just days before the electoral synod.

The Archbishop’s explanation was threefold. The Anglican Church of Canada had recognized the “sanctity and integrity” of same-sex relations at General Synod, 2004. No mention was made that this motion was passed by a show of hands, and was explicitly declared to be non-doctrinal and pastoral the day after a decision on the blessing of same-sex unions had been deferred for another three years.

Secondly, the Archbishop stated that in his judgement and the judgement of the Chancellor of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Marriage Canon was underdetermined and therefore did not rule out same sex marriage. We replied that it was an astonishing claim that there is no settled definition of marriage in the church and further astonishing that this tendentious and undemonstrated claim should serve as the basis for proceeding without any chance for a critical response.

Thirdly, the Archbishop pointed to the first-reading approval of a change to the doctrine of marriage at General Synod. We noted that this had no bearing on the vetting of a candidate in June. Further, until the second reading the existing Canon stands.

The explanation offered—belatedly—for the Nominations Committee’s approval of a slate of candidates including a candidate in a same sex relationship is in every point unconvincing.

Secondly, in addition to the reasons for which we object to the action, in fairness to the Synod of the Diocese of Toronto the exceptional circumstances of the candidate ought to have been publicly noted. There is no way to measure the degree to which voting was skewed across the three elections by his presence or the degree to which delegates were aware of the significance of their voting. In fairness, the explanation we received in the last few days before the election ought to have been made public well before the election was called and open to review and response.

We protest the timing of the response (a two-month delay, with the Archbishop’s final response arriving the evening before the opening of the synod). We protest the failure of the Bishops to make any public explanation available to the people of the diocese. And we repeat our objection to the slate. We hold it to be invalid and the elections to be out of order. We ask the House of Bishops of the Province of Ontario to withhold concurrence.

The Rev. Canon Dr. Murray Henderson
The Rev. Canon Dr. Dean Mercer
The Rev. Dr. Catherine Sider-Hamilton

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