By Kirk Petersen
Declaring “a state of impaired communion” over the issue of same-sex marriage, the bishops of the Diocese of the Arctic have moved to distance themselves from the actions of other dioceses in the Anglican Church of Canada.
“We are grateful that the vote to change the marriage canon failed but saving the marriage canon did not save the biblical understanding of marriage. We are saddened that so many bishops have defied General Synod and have announced an independent decision to approve same-sex marriage,” the bishops said, in a letter to the diocese. The letter was signed by Diocesan Bishop David W. Parsons and the three suffragan bishops of the diocese: Joey Royal, Annie Ittoshat, and Lucy Netser.
A resolution that would have paved the way to allowing same-sex marriage with the permission of diocesan bishops failed by two votes to get the necessary two-thirds majority in the order of bishops at the Church’s triennial General Synod, which concluded July 16. The resolution easily surpassed two-thirds in the order of clergy and order of the laity.
Within a day after the July 12 vote, primate-elect Linda Nicholls, in her role as outgoing Bishop of Huron, and the bishops of Ottawa, Niagara, Rupert’s Land, and Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island announced they would continue the practice of allowing priests in their dioceses to perform or bless same-sex marriages.
The letter from the Arctic bishops was first reported by the Anglican Ink blog, which ran it under an inaccurate headline: “Diocese of the Arctic withdraws from the Anglican Church of Canada.” Bishop Royal told TLC that “we haven’t left anything.”
“We’re still in the Anglican Church of Canada, but we need to distance ourselves from those who are violating the marriage canon,” said Royal, who in advance of General Synod published an essay arguing against same-sex marriage in TLC’s Covenant blog. “The synod voted to grant self-determination to Indigenous people and dioceses, so we are going to do what’s best for our diocese and our people. But we haven’t left anything. We don’t view ourselves as having left anything at all.”
The letter from the four bishops said: “We choose now to walk as the self-determining Anglican Church of Canada in the Arctic.”
The Diocese of the Arctic is geographically huge, encompassing about one-third of the country, but sparsely populated. Royal said “the vast majority” of parishioners in the diocese are Indigenous. The letter was issued simultaneously in English and in Inuktitut, a language of the Inuit people of northern Canada.