LBGTTQ+ members of the Anglican Diocese of Rupert’s Land should not feel let down or abandoned by the church, says Bishop Geoff Woodcroft.
"They are vibrant parts of the body of Christ," he said, speaking for the first time to the media Tuesday in Vancouver from the ongoing General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada.
"I am listening to the diocese, and I want to state clearly my care and inclusion for members of the LGBTTQ+ community in the church," he said, adding the diocese will employ what the Anglican Church calls the "local option" to move in the direction of permitting same-sex weddings by January.
Woodcroft’s response followed a vote by the Synod last week, where two of the three "houses" required to change the church’s marriage canon — lay members and clergy — voted in favour of permitting same-sex weddings, but it was narrowly defeated in the house of bishops.
The bishops’ move "saddened" Woodcroft. "I believe we have wronged the Synod, and owe it an apology."
For Woodcroft, it is important "all disciples may partake in all of the sacraments of the church, including marriage."
At the same time, however, he said he wants those who don’t feel they can support same-sex marriage to know they are still valuable members of the diocese. They are also needed at the church worships and in outreach, he said, noting: "We need each other in this part of the body of Christ."
Some are blaming Indigenous bishops for the defeat — there is a widespread assumption they are opposed to same-sex marriage — Woodcroft said: "They are not the reason the motion failed."
Of those who voted against it, "more than half are not Indigenous," he said. "They are not to be blamed. As a church, we cannot afford to hold that view."
While many are framing the vote as a defeat, Woodcroft said he sees it as a "sign of progress, a profound expression of the church working it out."
Although the vote to amend the wording of the marriage canon failed, previous discussions and motions make it possible for dioceses such as Rupert’s Land to go its own way in celebrating same-sex marriage.
In this, the Diocese of Rupert’s Land — stretching across southern Manitoba and northwestern Ontario — will not be alone; other dioceses across the country are expected to do the same thing.
(Although Woodcroft was unwilling to guess how many might also perform same-sex weddings, another bishop speculated as many as half of the 30 dioceses in the Anglican Church of Canada could follow suit.)
"I am excited by the possibilities" for the future, Woodcroft stated, adding he is "proud" of priests in the diocese who have stepped up to perform same-sex weddings in the past. He is also looking forward to "celebrating and honouring these incredible LGBTTQ+ people" in the diocese who want to be married in the church.
"There are no winners, no losers, just the church in its beautiful diversity," he said, adding: "We will need to move with great care to respect the broad theological spectrum, committed traditions, and liturgical practices across the diocese... Our diversity is one of our richest blessings, especially as we support the world around us.
"We are all needed on the voyage."
John Longhurst has been writing for Winnipeg's faith pages since 2003. He also writes for Religion News Service in the U.S., and blogs about the media, marketing and communications at Making the News.