Canadian Anglican leaders promote same-sex blessings

Ottawa, Canada - No core Anglican doctrines should prevent the blessing of same-sex unions, Canadian Anglican leaders said in a decision that could set their church on a collision course with the global Anglican Communion.

The decision on Sunday strengthens the alignment of the Anglican Church of Canada with the U.S. Episcopal Church against attempts by the broader Anglican Communion to fight same-sex marriage and the ordination of homosexual clergy.

The worldwide church has asked the Anglican Church of Canada to put a moratorium on blessing homosexual unions, but the Canadian church's Council of General Synod agreed on Sunday to present a resolution that said "the blessing of same-sex unions is consistent with the core doctrine of the Anglican Church of Canada."

The resolution will be submitted to this June's triennial General Synod, the Canadian Anglicans' highest decision-making body. The council that decided on this on the weekend runs ecclesiastical policy in between synod meetings.

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, head of the Canadian church and one who favors same-sex blessings, said he recognized the possibility of an Anglican schism.

"Of course I do," he told Reuters on Monday. "It's a real risk."

He said his church faced the difficulty of balancing its role within broader Canadian society "where homosexuality is part of the human landscape," as well as trying to be sensitive to the many branches of the Anglican church opposed to it.

Canada's Parliament legalized gay marriage last year, though churches are not obliged to conduct same-sex ceremonies.

For the past several years the Anglican Communion has taken the U.S. and Canadian branches to task over their practices, with the conservative Anglican churches -- notably in Africa, Asia and Latin America -- threatening to sever ties.

Meeting in Tanzania last month, Anglican leaders gave the U.S. Episcopal Church a September deadline to stop blessing same-sex unions.

The British Columbia diocese of New Westminster has also been blessing same-sex unions, but the Tanzania meeting did not single out the Anglican Church of Canada this time because it was still in the process of deciding its national position.

"The primates (archbishops globally) have made it quite clear that they're not going to tolerate this," said retired Canadian Bishop Donald Harvey, head of the Anglican Network in Canada, which is seeking a return to orthodoxy.

"We would be extremely concerned as to what the future would be," he said of any synodical decision to endorse same-sex blessings.