New Anglican row emerges with gay blessing request

Ottawa, Canada - The Ottawa branch of the Anglican Church of Canada has thrown a challenge to the worldwide Anglican movement by asking the Ottawa bishop to authorize the blessing of homosexual marriages.

In a weekend vote, the Ottawa diocese voted 177 to 97 to ask Bishop John Chapman to allow clergy "to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples, where at least one party is baptized."

If Chapman, an advocate of such blessings, approves the request, it will be a red flag to the conservative branches of the church in Africa, Latin America and Asia, and could hasten a split in the global Anglican church.

Chapman told a news conference it could take anywhere between a day to 10 years to make his decision and that he would consult Canada's bishops later this month.

A group of conservative Canadian Anglicans, the Anglican Network in Canada, said they were deeply saddened by the vote of the Ottawa synod.

"Unfortunately, the synod has chosen to reject the pleas of the global Anglican Communion and 'walk apart' from the vast majority of Anglicans worldwide," the network said in a statement.

The global Anglican church has urged the Canadian church and the U.S. Episcopal Church not to authorize same-sex blessings, saying unless there is compliance, such a move could fracture the church.

If Chapman authorizes such blessings, he would contradict a decision in June by Canada's national Anglican synod. That meeting narrowly rejected a proposal to give churches the option of blessing gay couples.

But it also declared that such blessings were not a matter of core doctrine, a decision that has emboldened liberals in the church to try to press ahead with them.

The Montreal diocese of the Canadian church will debate a similar motion asking its bishop to allow the blessing of gay marriages.