Anglicans won't bless same-sex marriages for 2 years

Windsor, Canada - Bishops from the Anglican Church of Canada have decided to place a moratorium on the blessing of same-sex marriages for the next two years.

More than 70 bishops meeting in Windsor, Ont., this week made the decision unanimously.

"There [will] be no new initiatives, no new parishes, no new dioceses participating in such blessings until the year 2007, and that's when the whole Anglican Church of Canada gathers from across the country," said Primate Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, the head of the Anglican Church in Canada.

The Canadian branch of the church has been facing criticism over its liberal stand on homosexual marriages, and has been asked to withdraw delegates from a worldwide Anglican meeting this summer.

The issue began to generate debate among Anglicans here and abroad when the British Columbia diocese of New Westminster decided to bless same-sex marriages, starting in 2003.

Archdeacon Paul Feheley said the moratorium is not a step backwards, but simply a chance for church officials to consider the issue more deeply.

"Sometimes what you need to do is take that step back, to give yourselves a little breathing room, that walk around the block or whatever it might be, to create a new level of conversation, a new level of talking," he said.

"So the moratorium, I think, is a breathing space as opposed to a step backward."

During that breathing space, the Canadian bishops say they hope Anglicans in other parts of the world will reassess their opposition to the blessing of same-sex marriages.

The bishops' statement announcing the moratorium was a call for understanding on all sides.

It cited Romans 12:18, a passage in the Bible's New Testament that advises Christians: "If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all."