No church seems safe from the debate concerning the matters of family, marriage, and sexuality.
In Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church refused to allow its churches to bless same-sex relationships, but by a very narrow margin. At the church’s annual meeting in June, 52.5 percent of delegates of the 175,000-member church voted against allowing local congregations to offer the rites of blessing to same-gender couples.
Canadian Anglicans also narrowly defeated a similar motion at their annual synod in June. The church’s lay and clergy delegates voted to allow same-sex blessings, but the church bishops defeated the measure 21-19. Majorities in all three groups would have been needed to approve it. Earlier in the day, delegates approved a statement that said the blessing of same-sex unions is “not in conflict with the core doctrine” of the Anglican Church of Canada.
The decision not to bless same-sex relationships is likely to spare the Canadian church some of the ire overseas Anglicans have directed south of the border at the Episcopal Church in the United States after it ordained an openly gay priest as bishop in New Hampshire in 2003.
After that decision, three parishes in Newport Beach, Long Beach, and North Hollywood, Calif., left the Episcopal Church in 2004 and sought to place themselves within the Anglican Church of Uganda. They have now lost all their property.
A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal overturned a lower court’s rulings and found that the Diocese of Los Angeles and the national Episcopal Church essentially own the buildings and property.
In June the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego also filed property suits against three parishes that have split from the Episcopal Church.
And also in the U.S., the United Methodist bishops decided to keep intact the current church policy, adopted in 1972, that calls homosexual activity “incompatible with Christian teaching.” A subcommittee had proposed language loosening that restriction, but the issue was tabled and will not be presented to the church’s General Conference meeting, set for summer 2008 in Fort Worth, Texas.