Report from Canada: The sanctity of common (Anglican) words

o_canadaI found an interesting commentary out there online about a major victory for the Anglican left in the sexuality wars in Canada.

The piece is called “Parting thoughts from your American guest” and it’s written by a veteran reporer named Douglas LeBlanc. Fine writer, this guy.

First, here’s the start of an actual news report from the Anglican Journal about this rather tricky event, in which it seemed like action had been delayed. Then the Anglican establishment managed to arrange a last-minute action that some will call merely symbolic.

It’s much more than that, really, because of the presence of the word “sanctity.”

One day after delaying a decision on whether to bless gay relationships, Canadian Anglicans approved a statement that “affirms the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships.”

Delegates meeting here at the triennial General Synod governing convention said the statement was intended to send gay and lesbian Anglicans a message after yesterday’s vote.

“Our church has always had gay couples and they have been welcome. This would affirm we recognize them as children of God,” said delegate Cassandra McCollum of the Yukon, who identified herself as bisexual.

LeBlanc notes that this is one of those stories in which words have meaning and that it is hard to tear them away from their common definitions, especially when that context is common prayer. In this case, the use of the word “sanctity” will have a global impact.

Once again, journalists covering the story must face this reality — this is not a Canadian story or an American story. It is a global story, as also shown in the basic Associated Press report. LeBlanc continues:

Attempting to separate the word “sanctity” from its theological content may work in the hothouse environment of Synod. But it will cause moral and theological confusion among Christians who still think, with good biblical and logical bases, that specific words mean specific things, and that honoring those meanings is a matter of integrity and stewardship.

General Synod has, in its more self-effacing and civil way, chosen to join the Episcopal Church in pressuring global Anglicanism toward accepting the sexual standards of the prosperous West. As the Rev. Canon Gregory Cameron said on Saturday, this decision will cause distressing questions for Anglicans in other nations. These brothers and sisters in Christ will soon ask valid questions about whether being part of the Anglican Communion means anything more than welcoming the occasional Global South bishop to a diocesan synod, or sending a youth group out on a short missions trip.

The global conversation is just beginning. It almost certainly will grow more tense in the months ahead, and still more strained as Anglicans look at gathering for Lambeth 2008 in South Africa.

Note, for example, that South Africa is not in Great Britain. Things will get even more interesting if that turns into southern Africa instead of South Africa. Stay tuned.

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About tmatt

Terry Mattingly directs the Washington Journalism Center at the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities. He writes a weekly column for the Universal Syndicate.

  • Joe Perez

    Doug wrote:


    I understand Doug is writing in this capacity as an interested party, not a reporter, so I see no reason to fault him for bias. But I can’t resist the opportunity to note that Doug’s concern seems, in these paragraphes, to lie exclusively with the poor traditionalists, who as a result of gay relationships being called worthy of “sanctity” must now suffer the unbearable hardship of “moral and theological confusion.” Never mind the hardship caused by gay youth. How can one compare a few thousand suicides of years in psychotherapy to repair religion-inflicted wounds to the “moral and theological confusion” suffered by the poor traditionalists. In compassion for the plight of Doug’s traditionalists, I will donate a new Webster’s dictionary to these old timers the next time “marriage” is updated to “union of two persons.” That should spare one poor soul hours of frustrating confusion.

  • Wooderson

    You haven’t been paying attention if you think poor traditionalists thought they’d win this battle. No way, Jose. True, they almost had what looked like a draw – until a last minute exercise in spin and double-think produced the inevitable.

    Joe, it’s a bit disingenuous to frame this as a battle between traditionalists and the gay and lesbian community. Let’s be clear that the only gays and lesbians who will be threatened by traditionalists are those who have placed their desires outside of the traditional and scriptural understanding of sin. In the same way, the greedy (that’s me!), the gluttonous (that’s me,too!) and the stupidly sinful (that’s especially me!) are also threatened by diabolical traditionalists: any call to holiness that doesn’t put every part of us on the table isn’t a call to holiness at all. This moral and theological confusion which you mock hurts gays and lesbians especially.

    That’s why the real losers and heroes all week have been that valiant, lonely band of Christians who have, by God’s grace, come out of a lifestyle of pain and psychotherapy into holiness, obedience and grace. They have been ignored, mocked, and dismissed as kooks, and in the end the ACC has decided that their struggle against the flesh was meaningless and maybe wrong.

    And for what? Can we really expect gays and lesbians to be thankful to a church that asks nothing of them except their attendance and tithes? What authority does a church have when picking up a cross is dismissed with the passing of a motion? Can a church that continues to redefine sin as sanctity really be relevant to anyone, including gays and lesbians? Is a motion passed in procedural manouverings at the last second – one that the proposer himself regards as a churchy bit of PR – really going to keep gays and lesbians out of psychotherapy?

    I’m sure the gay and lesbian community is very grateful. But I’m not sure actual gays and lesbians should be.

  • carl

    well then, try this blog on for size:

    talk about religion gone amuck

  • JM

    You can rewrite the dictionary any time you like, subject only to copyright laws. You cannot remake the structure of God’s creation nor rewrite the Word of God. Those who refuse to acknowledge those distinctions will be very happy with Canadian and US forms of “Anglicanism.” Those who are looking for serious religion will have to seek it elsewhere.

  • Douglas LeBlanc

    Dear Joe,

    I did cover General Synod as an interested party, but also as a reporter. Andrew S. Hutchison, the new primate, publicly praised my reporting on his election for its fairness. The difference in this piece is that it was commentary rather than reporting.

    When I refer to moral and theological confusion, my focus is not merely on my fellow traditionalists. I’m also thinking of a tragic young woman who confuses gnosticism with Christianity when she says the church’s teaching is that the soul is eternal and the body is temporal.

  • Joe Perez


    If by “morally and theologically confused” you meant, essentially, people LIKE YOURSELF, then why didn’t you just say so? I understand perfectly now. ;-)


  • Ken

    I don’t usually engage homosexualists such as Mr. Perez, but it does seem precious to link the dysfunctions of homosexuality to the Christian religion, which offers hope and healing in Christ.

    Might the sufferings of homosexual youth be related directly to the homosexual condition itself? If not, why not? If religion went away, would the suicides stop? Would the depression stop? What evidence might Mr. Perez provide that they would?

  • Joe Perez

    I’ve never been called a “homosexualist” before. Cool. Can I have a button?

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