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Diocese of Huron priests, parishes no longer required to obtain permission to perform same-sex weddings

Global News logo Global News 2020-06-30 Matthew Trevithick
a man wearing a suit and tie © Orbon Alija via Getty Images

Priests and parishes within the Diocese of Huron will no longer have to seek special permission from the bishop to hold a same-sex wedding.

The news was announced Tuesday by Bishop Todd Townshend in an online message addressed to the Clergy and others in the diocese.

"Ever since my ordination to the diaconate, and before, the Anglican Church in our Diocese has been on a journey to listen to the stories of members of the LGBTQ2+ communities," Townshend wrote.

"I know that some of you will disagree with this decision. The Anglican Church is a large tent of diverse theologies and the Diocese of Huron is no different."

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The announcement comes as people across Canada and around the world mark the end of Pride month.

It also comes nearly a year after the diocese, which spans all of southwestern Ontario, announced it would allow priests to perform same-sex marriages in its parishes.

The decision last July by then-Bishop Linda Nicholls came days after the Anglican Church of Canada narrowly voted down a proposal to bless same-sex marriage across the denomination at its General Synod — a triennial meeting held by the church to decide issues of policy and doctrine.

Following the vote, Nicholls wrote on Facebook that the Huron Diocese would continue to bless "civil same-sex marriage, recognizing the intention to live in fidelity, mutual love and comfort in a lifelong union."

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The Anglican Church doesn't prohibit same-sex marriage outright, and leadership at the provincial level can decide whether to allow it in their jurisdictions.

Within the Diocese of Huron, priests and parishes could perform a same-sex union, but only if they had been given permission to do so by the bishop -- a requirement that Townshend says he chose to scrap after thought and prayer.

London Rev. Kevin George of St. Aidan's Anglican Church praised the decision by Townshend to drop that requirement, noting the move was notable given his short time in the role.

"He's just six months in, he just began in January, and he's had a hell of a time with everything he's had to face," George said Tuesday in an interview with 980 CFPL's Jess Brady.

"We can say to the people in the LGBTQ2+ community that, yes, you belong. Yes, we see you. Yes, we want to offer the sacraments to you entirely as we would to anyone else without any restriction or need for special permission," he continued.

"That is big. And I'm so grateful to him for taking this action."

Read more: London Anglican priest backs same-sex marriage despite governing body decision

George was highly critical of the outcome of the 2019 General Synod vote, telling 980 CFPL at the time that he was "saddened to tears."

Following the change by Townshend, George says he's grateful to those in the LGBTQ2+ community who have stayed with the church.

"They've stuck in and they've they've hung with us and they've waited. And now, finally, for those people, this is a very big thing," he said.

"The Anglican Church is finally doing the right thing and embracing the justice to know that all of God's children are beloved and deserve equal treatment and love and respect and equal access to the sacraments of the church."

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In his online message, Townshend wrote that "all priests in the diocese may marry any two persons who meet the requirements found in our Marriage in the Church Guidelines."

Same-sex couples, he noted, will be wed using amended marriage rites from the Episcopal Church as the rites in the Book of Alternative Services and Book of Common Prayer are authorized by General Synod only for opposite-sex marriages.

Priests uncomfortable performing a same-sex marriage are being asked to refer the couple involved to another priest or to Townshend's office.

"Priests have always been able to determine whether or not they are comfortable performing a particular wedding ceremony and this has not changed," Townshend said.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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