The Bishop of Quebec has authorized his clergy to perform rites for the blessing of same-sex unions. In his presidential address to the 2-4 Nov 2012 diocesan synod held in Quebec City, Bishop Dennis Drainville said he would “like to proceed in the Diocese of Quebec, as several other Canadian dioceses have done, to provide both a rite of blessing and pastoral support for persons living in committed, same-gender relationships.”
The bishop’s call for gay blessings was put to debate and a motion adopted that read: “This Synod supports the bishop’s wish in his charge to Synod to permit the blessing of same-gender unions in the Diocese of Quebec and requests that he establish a working group to advise him on the implementation guidelines by the beginning of June 2013.”
Opponents of the motion argued the adoption of rites for the blessing of same-sex unions was un-Scriptural and placed the diocese at odds with the mind of the larger Anglican Communion. However, opponents were able to must only 10 votes out of the approximately 70 delegates present.
Over the past three years the Diocese of Quebec has been in merger talks with the Diocese of Montreal due to a sharp decline in members. In a 2009 speech to the Canadian House of Bishops Bishop Drainville said his diocese was “teetering on the verge of extinction” as of the diocese’s 82 congregations, 50 were childless and 35 congregations had an average age of 75.
A number of congregations had an average Sunday attendance of less than 10 people. “The critical mass isn’t there, there’s no money anymore,” the bishop said.
In his presidential address Bishop Drainville said the issue of same-sex blessings had been addressed several times by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. The General Synod had “affirmed the place and the welcome that this church offers to all people—including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in Christ—while also recognizing that in the Church, both locally and globally there is no common mind about how to respond to their committed partnerships.”
He noted the General Synod “with regret” could not come to a “common mind” and had declined to legislate on the issue. However, it also “recognized that there are and will be a variety of practises across Canada and in other parts of the Anglican Communion, and because this is so we must continue to talk and pray together as we seek to discern a way forward in accordance of God’s mission in the world.”
This call to conversation and study, the bishop explained, was his mandate for adopting “pastoral” same-sex blessings. Such blessings would not have the force of ecclesial or civil law, he noted, writing in the December 2012 issue of the Gazette: “This act of blessing is not the performing of a marriage but rather the blessing of civil union that has already taken place.”
However, the bishop assured the traditionalists in the diocese they would not be compelled to perform gay blessings. “Whatever guidelines emerge, no cleric or congregation will be obligated to perform same-gender blessings. It will simply become an option for those open and desirous to offer this ministry, which is being offered in an increasing number of parts of the Anglican Church of Canada,” Bishop Drainville said.