At national gathering, Arctic Anglicans say no to same-sex marriage

Church embraces reconciliation, Indigenous self-determination

Anglican Bishop Joey Royal, director of the Arthur Turner Training School for ministers at St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit, speaks on July 12 at the Anglican Church of Canada’s 2019 synod in Vancouver, saying he opposes changing canon law to allow same-sex marriage. (Screen shot)

By Jim Bell

Anglican bishops representing the Arctic and other Indigenous and northern regions played a crucial role earlier this month in blocking a resolution that would have amended the Anglican Church of Canada’s canon law to permit the solemnization of same-sex marriage.

Anglican delegates from every corner of the country took part in a passionate debate on the issue this past July 12, during the church’s triennial synod, or national assembly, in Vancouver.

The resolution would have replaced the words “man and woman” and “husband and wife” with “the parties to the marriage” and would have extended the marriage sacrament to all persons able to get married under civil law.

One of many supporters of the resolution, lay reader Robert MacMillan of Nova Scotia, said he and his partner waited 20 years to get married. But to do that, they had to go to the United Church of Canada—because his local Anglican rector refused to marry them.

“I don’t want your children and our fellow LGBTQ to have to wait and suffer and be considered second-class citizens, or worse, you’re not worthy to be a Christian,” MacMillan said.

When the resolution failed on July 12, some of its stunned supporters cried out or broke into tears.

Under the church’s rules, the resolution needed a two-thirds majority among each of three groups: lay persons, clergy and bishops.

It won more than two-thirds support from lay people and clergy. But within the bishops’ group, 23 voted yes, 14 voted no and two abstained, a majority of only 62.2 per cent, if you do not include the abstentions, short of the required two-thirds.

That means it likely failed by a margin of two votes.

According to Statistics Canada surveys, between 50 and 60 per cent of Nunavut’s population identify as Anglicans, making it the largest religious denomination in the territory.

Arctic, Indigenous delegates say no

Bishop David Parsons, head of the Anglican diocese of the Arctic, at the 2012 consecration of the rebuilt St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit. (File photo)

Bishop David Parsons, head of the Anglican diocese of the Arctic, which includes Nunavut and Nunavik, was one of the bishops who voted no.

“That’s our position. We are in line with the doctrines and teachings of our church throughout the centuries,” Parsons told Nunatsiaq News in an interview.

At the same time, Parsons said the Anglican church in the Arctic does not exclude anyone and treats everyone with “a love that is unconditional.”

“We do not bar anybody. Everybody is welcome. That which we have experienced, we offer to everyone. That’s why in our mission statement we say we witness to all people regardless of race, colour, age, gender, or any other factor,” he said.

Parsons also set out the Arctic diocese position in detail last June, in an open letter.

“I see in many Anglicans a loving passion for all, and a desire to eradicate the injustices people have inflicted upon one another. I also share this passion and I realize that the hatred, isolation and prejudices experienced by so many people because of how they identify themselves sexually is both tragic and heart breaking,” Parsons wrote.

So although he feels sad to say it, “I must call the promotion, teaching, and endorsing of same-sex marriage false teaching and heresy,” he wrote in the letter.

Joey Royal, a suffragan bishop in the Arctic diocese who is director of the revived version of the Arthur Turner Training School for ministers at St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit, said on the floor of the synod that his love extends to LGBT people in the church—but he can’t support the resolution and would vote against it.

“This discussion is not about who is loved and who is accepted. Everybody is loved and accepted. Everyone is loved, everyone is accepted. It’s about the meaning of marriage,” Royal said.

Royal was consecrated as a bishop this past March 31, along with Annie Ittoshat of Kuujjuarapik and Lucy Netser of Arviat.

Rev. Caleb Sangoya, an Anglican priest and regional dean at St. Timothy’s church in Pond Inlet, also opposed the resolution, saying he fears that adoption of the same-sex marriage resolution could lead to declining membership in Arctic churches.

“I’m looking after five parishes and they want to keep their tradition,” he said during the synod debate.

At the same time, like other delegates who voted no, his words and body language expressed the emotional complexity of the issue, and he said he recognizes LGBTQ people who are “fully committed to Christianity.”

“It’s hard. I love you all,” Sangoya said.

Rev. Caleb Sangoya of Pond Inlet speaks July 12 at the Anglican Church of Canada’s national synod in Vancouver.

Anglicans embrace Indigenous self-determination

Other Indigenous delegates also spoke out against the resolution

For example, Lydia Mamakwa, bishop of Mishamikoweesh, read a statement from elders in her diocese, which covers 25 Cree and Ojibway communities in northwestern Ontario and northern Manitoba.

Created in 2014, the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh is the first self-determining Indigenous diocese within the Anglican Church of Canada.

“We commit to follow what God has ordained marriage to be: one man, one woman, together in spiritual union,” Mamakwa said, quoting from the elders’ statement.

“We strongly believe this alone is what marriage is. God has not changed marriage,” she said.

“This has nothing to do with hating anyone. As brothers and sisters in Christ, we are the total of one another,” she said.

Warnings against scapegoating Indigenous people

However, the anger and grief generated by the same-sex marriage resolution’s defeat led two observers— in a recent article in the Anglican Journal—to warn their fellow Anglicans against scapegoating Indigenous people.

Mark MacDonald, the Anglican Church of Canada’s new national Indigenous archbishop, said that attacking Indigenous people for their opposition to the same-sex marriage resolution represents “misjudgment and mischaracterizations of Indigenous people as a whole.”

“We are concerned about the implications of that kind of scapegoating, and we’re trying to deal with it as gently and serenely as possible,” he’s quoted as saying.

MacDonald is also quoted in the article as suggesting that those who express those kinds of hostile and negative opinions are less than consistent in their support for Indigenous self-determination.

Another participant, Melanie Delva, the church’s “reconciliation animator,” is quoted by the Anglican Journal as saying that the vote on the marriage canon is a reconciliation issue.

Self-determination, she says, “means that for some, abstention is the right choice. For some, a no vote is the right choice. For some, a yes vote is the right choice,” Delva said in the Anglican Journal article.

In that spirit, delegates passed an “affirmation” that recognizes the right of Indigenous persons and communities to make their own decisions on same-sex marriage.

“Whatever the action of the church at this general synod, we affirm the right of Indigenous persons and communities to spiritual self-determination in their discernment and decisions regarding same sex marriage,” the affirmation said.

A vote on same-sex marriage narrowly passed at the Anglican Church of Canada’s 2016 national gathering. But under the rules of the church, a second reading was required in 2019.

Many churches in southern urban centres like Ottawa and Toronto have been performing same-sex marriages since 2016, and the Diocese of Huron, which includes the cities of London and Windsor, will begin offering the marriage sacrament to same-sex couples.

At the 2019 synod, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the moderator of the church in Canada, apologized to Indigenous people for the cultural and spiritual harms that the church inflicted on Indigenous peoples in the past.

And delegates also voted to create a national Indigenous ministry.

You can view a full video record of the national synod here.

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(27) Comments:

  1. Posted by Northern Guy on

    It always impressed me that so many Inuit were quite religious compared to people in the South. Interesting that the Church is so determined to make sure that trend will be ending shortly.

    • Posted by Petty Backwards People on

      Too bad it wasn’t the Buddhists who were our colonizers.

      • Posted by Observer on

        Note that it’s not all denominations. The United Church of Canada was in favour of same-sex marriage beginning in 1992, before the idea had general acceptance in the population. When civil unions and then full marriage was allowed, UCC churches were all over it.

  2. Posted by Observer on

    Well, that’s all right then. We’ll call bigotry “self-determination” and pretend that it wasn’t motivated by small-minded men unable to accept the world has changed. Because of “tradition” or whatever excuse they want to make to justify their own moral failure.

    • Posted by Cb on


  3. Posted by Choices on

    Let people do as they wish to do as long as it is legal to do so.
    If God ( not the church ) , finds people to be offensive he
    will let them know.
    I have met a lot of hypocrites in organized religion, with all
    IN GOD I TRUST, not the rest.

  4. Posted by Qanuguuq on

    I’m not surprised. To add to this in the 1970’s to late 1970’s there was an Anglican minister in Frobisher Bay who refused to baptize infants/young kids if their parents were not married. And that same minister would tell other clergy that a funeral service for those who committed suicide would be shorter than those who died of natural causes. Luckily that minister left Frobisher Bay.

  5. Posted by Red Bear on

    Just another example why so many younger people are leaving organized religion in droves, leaving only the most extreme members behind. Unfortunately for the Anglicans, there is no turning back the clock on social progress. The progressive views of my generation and those younger than me will outlive theirs – whether they like it or not.

    • Posted by Disappointed in the bishops on

      Agree with you Red Bear! Tradition in this case was rooted in many 1950’s misconceptions about what is right and wrong, imposed by man not God. I’m sad to say organized religion is outdated and offers my soul nothing but pain!

      I was very disappointed that despite the overwhelmingly supportive voices of the lay ministers and clergy in favour of supporting same sex unions, the bishops denied it mainly due to two bishops who abstained, since they were either too lazy or too afraid to do their job and make a vote. I hope those two bishops feel shame for not having done their job as reps of the people in their dioceses! There is no excuse for them.

      The churches claim they were afraid of reduced attendance but they are looking very short sighted at that. Sure old conservatives will stick around, but I am confident the attendance of open minded youth in these churches will continue to die out as a result of the old fashioned tradition the bishop is trying to maintain. Heartbroken!

  6. Posted by No Moniker on

    All these people pretending to know what “God” thinks. It’s well past time that we as a society moved beyond this primitive cosmology. If you can do that, you will see how inconsequential, even absurd, this “debate” is.

  7. Posted by Snow Snake on

    Persecution of Christians in full colour. Mind you we don’t have unlimited rights. We can only do so much and …

  8. Posted by Bi Nunavummiuq on

    It is so hypocritical to say in one moment ‘everyone is welcome’ but then say you don’t offer the same services and welcome to everyone. I wish David Parsons, and all the others who voted no, healing so they can set aside the hate in their hearts.

    To all my fellow 2SLGBTQQIA Nunavummiut, I love you and you are deserving of love, acceptance and family.

    • Posted by Cb on


  9. Posted by Petty Backwards People on

    Churches have lost their way and become the most evil places on earth. These people know nothing about God.

  10. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    Are you kidding in this day and age?

  11. Posted by Tommy on

    Christian persecution obviously will show when human desire rules the day.

  12. Posted by A Man on

    Remember when our educators had different opinions about everything? They put into our developing minds many issues & sometimes some teachers were atheists saying there are many gods. Young minds were also being manipulated to “consent” to having sex hiding in different places. I remember one social aid worker tickling a young boy so hard and the boy had no defense when the (predator) social aid worker eventually abused the boy. Then a generation later sex education was developed making students curious about themselves and their own sexuality or gender vulnerable to open attack by predators. Promoting homosexual lifestyle was called ok and even encouraged by sexual orientation tests at school and ….the world is spiraling to a society of unlimited quest for … Our spiritual leaders are being persecuted from all sides. Please don’t go with the flow just because the majority is saying otherwise to your faith.

    • Posted by josywales on

      ” A MAN” you should take your blinders off.

  13. Posted by Sometimes the most Christian thing to do… on

    Sometimes, the most Christian thing to do is leave the Church. Bye bye

  14. Posted by Brent on

    I attended and participated faithfully for 57 years. When the time came for my daughter to be married after having been baptized, and confirmed by the Anglican church, she was unable to be accepted for a marriage ceremony.

    I love my daughter more than the bureaucracy of any church. I have not attended my former community church for these last 3 years. I have prayed for change in the future for the Canadian Anglican church that all people will someday be welcomed as I believe my God accepts everyone.

  15. Posted by B Aglukark on

    You folks need to understand, the Creator of the universe, The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is not sitting on His throne panicking or attempting to make a deal with you. He is saying “This is the deal”. Sin is sin. What sin was 3000 years ago is still sin today. The Holy Bible clearly states same sex is sin today [you shall not lie with a male as with a women. It is an abomination -Leviticus 18:22], and will still be sin 1000 years from now  [Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever -Hebrews 13:8]. What you think and believe in or don’t believe in has absolutely no barring in this matter. Let it be known. He will not bend the rules for you or political correctness. Otherwise, His Son Yeshua (Jesus Christ) died on the cross in vain.

    • Posted by T Rauhala on

      It’s true, Brian, the bible is filled with bigotry (Romans 1:27 or Leviticus 18:22), sexism (1 Timothy 2:12 “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, she must be silent.”), and even condones slavery (1 Peter 2:18 “Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters…”). The biblical god even commands genocide (1 Samuel 15:3 Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants…).

      The true wonder is why people in the modern world continue to look to this horrifying book as some kind of moral guide. An even greater marvel is why so many Inuit remain so devout to such a subversive force to their culture. What could be more a powerful tool in the arsenal of colonialism than Romans 13: 1-7; “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established…. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted.” Indeed, the bible conditioned Inuit to be obedient to a foreign power.

      One wonders if when choosing the Biblical canon the Council of Nicaea, under the watchful eye of Constantine, selected these doctrines to further the power of the Roman Empire. Either way it was the echoes of Rome that visited Nunavut when the first colonial powers established themselves here, and it is their echoes that run through your comment. What a sad spectacle.

      • Posted by B Aglukark on

        T Rauhala, in most media influenced sensitive issues (though I don’t perceive them to be sensitive). ‘Gay rights’ or ‘homosexuality’ being one of them, comes another ‘label’ to those that oppose it, ‘bigots’. Just as a person disagrees with or is opposed to a liberal- he or is labelled a ‘racist’, or if he or she opposes abortion, that person is labelled ‘ignorant’ to the “rights of a woman”. I guess the most favoured label is a ‘hater’. Anyway, from your perspective T Rauhala, is God a bigot-or-are those that believe and support the Holy word of God -bigots. The answer if one opposes a ‘gay lifestyle’, Yes’, but, so do those living a ‘gay lifestyle’. It goes both ways. The question that is more important is, does HE love you as a gay person…of course HE does, just as HE loves the drunkard, the adulter, the thief, the murderer. He provides an out, an opportunity to set it right, to fix it. You see, what you believe in or what ever lifestyle you live doesn’t change one fact- In His eyes-you got it wrong or fall short. Further, you and any media outlet can label the God of Heaven any name that suites your liking. It doesn’t change this fact…
        “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” [1 Cor. 6:9]. If Heaven is your target after this life. You best set things right with the creator of the Universe.

        • Posted by T Rauhala on

          I agree Brian, screaming ‘racist’ or ‘bigot’ or ‘ignorant’ any time someone disagrees with you is a nauseating tactic for sure. On the other hand, I think we could also agree that racists, bigots and ignorance are all things that exist in the world, and that we can determine where they exist based on actions and the use of language. Would you agree to this as a definition of bigotry: “one who regards or treats the members of a group (such as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance?” In this case I want to let the litmus test to be intolerance, I also think we could add sexual orientation to the parenthesis.

          As for your questions, I don’t believe in god so, asking how I imagine gods character to be is a non-starter. You ask if I think that people who believe in god are, by default, bigots? No, not by necessity. If you asked does the bible promote bigotry, I would say yes (I cited two passages above that show that). Let me ask you a question; beyond your biblical beliefs, what reason can you give that two gay people shouldn’t be allowed the same right to marry that heterosexual people enjoy? If you can’t separate that judgement from your Christian beliefs, doesn’t it follow that those beliefs have served to promote bigotry in you? Bigotry here referring to an intolerance of gay marriage.

  16. Posted by B Aglukark on

    This is the crux of the problem T Rauhala, the Creator of the universe – who made you and I knew you before you were in your mother’s womb, He also knows you better than you know yourself, and knows what is best for you [Jer. 1:5]. Sex is not a right, it is a gift from Him, He designed it as a gift for man and woman through marriage [Genesis 2:24]. “We walk away from that design we will seek pleasure in different ways and crave more of it until we have consumed ourselves and those around us. Defying God’s design for sex will always leave one unfulfilled and drives a person to seek pleasure and fulfillment by other means.”
    2nd 3rd question…It is evident you and I defer in our values and belief systems. My ground zero- the starting line is believe and obey God first as a foundation, everything else flows from that. He is defined out of the words of the Holy Bible, became flesh and walked among us, Yeshua -Jesus Christ. The essence of the principles we follow and believe in. They contradict what the “world” espouses, what you embrace- freedom of choice or self-will. We are opposites in how we think and see freedom. Mine is defined through the Word not through self-will. My life , my decision making process, my personality, beliefs, principles and values grow from these principles. Outside of that is -of a system you believe in. You see, we as humans outside of His umbrella -our thoughts, our ways of thinking, what ‘we humans’ conjecture or ‘put to life’ always falls short. Liken it to a marriage relationship between a husband and wife. You can’t go outside of that, it falls apart. So to answer your question. I do not separate my beliefs to be inline with what a populous system (of this world) sees as acceptable or right. If that system under “your” standards is ‘bigotry’ or ‘promotes bigotry’ because of intolerance to ‘gay marriage’, it is to God, the creator of the Universe you accuse, not me. I am a mere servant/follower of to His Word. I prefer to be “right” and “acceptable” to Him than to mere man-or “you”. One more point, It is more of an offence to ‘people’ promoting human rights based on their desires and behaviours. We are all connected humanly-not sexually. If I were to define you to your sexuality, I reduce you to your sexuality -lesser than a human being. One would think you are much more than that. There is more to us as human beings than our sexuality.
    My question to you, under my “standards” through “my” beliefs, does your intolerance to my belief system, way of thinking, obedience to God that gay marriage is not acceptable serve to promote bigotry in you. Under what standards or who’s standards are my beliefs wrong and yours right?

    • Posted by T Rauhala on

      Brian, it seems the chances of us communicating in the same kind of language (metaphorically, and philosophically speaking) on these issues is not likely to happen. But since you asked I’ll give you my thoughts, though I’m fairly sure they won’t resonate given the framework you’re applying. But since you asked, I’ll give it a go. What makes either perspective right or wrong? I wouldn’t frame it that way; I would ask what makes one perspective more likely, more valid, or more reasonable? An opinion about the objective truths of the universe that is grounded in appeal to the will of a being that is not objectively verifiable in and of himself makes no sense to me; it begs questions such as, “but where does this god come from?” How do you know god’s will?” and, probably a few others. For a position like that to be meaningful would take a lot more evidence and reasoning than is possible, and of course that is why we are asked to take it all on ‘faith’. Faith is the only possible route to follow here because it doesn’t require any evidence at all. That’s the upside of it, the downside of faith means you just believe in something because someone else told you too and you agree that you don’t have any real evidence. Ultimately it’s a very flimsy position. I don’t wish to get into a debate about that because those discussions are typically predictable and in the end never lead anywhere beyond the faith claim. So, what makes my position a more reasonable one then? We know humans are capable of moral reasoning, we do it all the time and we are doing it right now. The most sensible approach then is to ask what kind of morality increases human happiness and flourishing and decreases human suffering. Disallowing gay people to marry does nothing to increase happiness or flourishing, but allowing gay people to marry increases both. Also, allowing gay people to marry does not decrease human happiness or flourishing, therefore it should be allowed. We can deduce all this with reasoning, no appeals to questionable sources of authority required.
      Thanks for the interesting discussion! All the best.

  17. Posted by Dale Skylight on

    I’m not buying that these bishops “love” gay people. If they ‘loved” gay people they would not discriminate against them. Discrimination and second-class citizenship are acts of hatred. Let’s call it what it is.

    It’s always disheartening to see when minority groups, including First Nations, who have for so long been the subject of 2nd – class citizenship, themselves and Gage in marginalizing Others. If there is any benefit, in the benefits of you, of being discriminated against, it is being able to see through the rhetoric but the majority uses to marginalize the minority. Sadly, many, but of course not all, abused indigenous people fallen into that trap.

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