The diocesan bishop is the chief liturgical officer of the diocese and responsible for worship, pastoral care and oversight. The bishop will permit incumbents/priests in charge to preside in their parish at the marriage of a same-sex couple provided that the incumbent/priest in charge and churchwardens concur that a consensus has been reached in the parish/congregation in which this ministry will be offered.
The diocesan bishop will make that determination based on the following criteria:
- The Parish will have demonstrated a process of prayer, education, consultation, discernment and consensus development that widely engages the parish community.
- When the incumbent/priest in charge and churchwardens in consultation with the parish advisory council feel that consensus has been reached, the incumbent/priest in charge and churchwardens will submit a Request for Authorization to the diocesan bishop (download form at bottom of page).
- If either the incumbent/priest in charge or churchwardens do not concur that a consensus has been reached then the process ceases.
- The diocesan bishop, at his discretion, may grant permission to the incumbent/priest in charge in the context of the parish or congregations within the parish in which s/he has pastoral responsibility.
- Permission is granted for the clergy/parish relationship at that time. When a cleric leaves a designated parish the designation will be revisited with the diocesan bishop upon the appointment of a new cleric in the same way that the licences for lay readers, deacons, honourary associates, etc. are also revisited at that time.
These provisions parallel the provisions contained in the bishop’s guidelines “When Persons in a Same-Sex Relationship who have entered into Civil Marriage seek Reception and Recognition of their Marriage by the Church” issued in 2013. The continuing provision of the 2013 guidelines will provide a possible pastoral response in cases where couples have been civilly married. The 2013 guidelines will be amended to include reference to utilizing the order for the Blessing of a Civil Marriage in the Book of Occasional Services as the basis for the liturgy with the appropriate amendment of pronouns.
This pastoral response is extended to same-sex couples in our midst who seek to live in mutual love and faithfulness in a stable, life-long, committed monogamous relationship.
- The blessing or marriage of any same-sex couple is expected to be part of an existing pastoral relationship with an incumbent/priest in charge and the local congregation.
- At least one of the couple must be baptized.
- All requirements of civil law must be followed, including proper legal documentation.
- The marriage must be registered with the government and recorded in the proper parochial registers.
- The same theological and moral values, pastoral care, liturgical and other parish policies and practices apply equally to both heterosexual and homosexual couples. This includes, but is not limited to, expectations and provisions for:
• Who may be married in the church
• Premarital preparation
• Requirements regarding remarriage after divorce
• Signing of the marriage licenses by the officiating minister
• Entry of the marriage in the parish register
• Parish policies with regard to use and availability of facilities.
- The marriage liturgy will normally take place in the Church building. The permission of the diocesan bishop will be sought should the proposed marriage location be other than in the Church building.
- Clergy whose conscience will not allow them to preside at these Celebrations may decline to do so and any decision to perform or not perform the liturgy authorized for a same sex marriage will not be used as the basis for any adverse personnel action.
Same-Sex Couples in Parishes not Designated
- It is expected that no one will be excluded from receiving the eucharist or baptism in any parish on the basis of their sexual orientation or their views on the issue of same-sex blessings or marriage, whether in favour or opposed.
- Same-sex couples in a parish/congregation not designated to perform marriages may approach the bishop to seek an alternative.
- A cleric who serves in a parish/congregation not designated but who wishes to assist in a same-sex marriage in a designated parish must consult with the diocesan bishop.
The Episcopal Church’s trial liturgy “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Marriage,” authorized for use by the 78th General Convention in 2015, will be the only liturgy authorized for the marriage of same-sex couples until the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario authorizes a liturgy for use within the dioceses of the province.
The rites “Solemnization of Holy Matrimony” in the Book of Common Prayer (1962) and "The Celebration and Blessing of a Marriage" in the Book of Alternative Services (1985) are NOT permitted for use for the marriage of same-sex couples until explicitly authorized by General Synod.
The Diocese of Ontario honours and appreciates the diversity represented in its parishes and clergy. This diversity will continue to be reflected in the selection and appointment of clergy, and in the membership of committees and councils of the diocese. We recognize there are theological and cultural differences across our diocese and within parishes which are strained by both the limits and permission represented in authorizing same sex marriages.
- All congregations and individual Anglicans are called to exercise pastoral generosity one to another.
- Permission to participate in marriage of same sex couples will be extended only to those parishes and clergy who fulfill the requirements noted above and are granted permission by the diocesan bishop.
- No clergy nor parishes will be required to participate in the marriage of same-sex couples.
While there is one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism, there remains deep and painful differences about marriage in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. We continue to hold one another in tender regard as we gently and respectfully move forward as a Church.
(With acknowledgement of the policy regarding same sex marriages produced by the Diocese of Toronto which was relied upon as a source document for this policy)