Question 2: Equal Marriage

Posted February 14, 2018

What is your view with regards to equal marriage and will you, as Niagara’s bishop, continue to authorize the current permissive pastoral practice in the lead up to General Synod 2019?


David Burrows: ‘In the modern world it seems so difficult to walk with absolute certainty in the narrow way of ecclesiastical obedience and yet remain in the broad open spaces of the universal love of Christ, of the patience, mercy and “philanthropy” of the love of God … yet somehow or other we must combine the two.’ Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship (1948)

‘I am beginning to discover how fear is a terrible motivating force in all our lives. We are frightened of those who are different. Fear is at the root of all forms of exclusion, just as trust is at the root of all forms of inclusion.’ Vanier Becoming Human, 1998.

`Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?’

‘Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?’

I will, with God’s help. Book of Alternative Services, 1985.

These quotes help me to solidify my affirmation with regard to marriage equality within the Anglican Church of Canada. Issues of human dignity, love, fear and trust pervade, and challenge the decision making of all levels of the church. If chosen to lead Niagara, I would uphold the current provision of permissive pastoral practice. I would bear all responsibility, and any censure or discipline. I would engage the Synod in autumn of 2018 to affirm current practice, even within the diversity of the Canadian Church and the Anglican Communion, knowing that this may strain national and international relations.


Robert Hurkmans: For many years the church’s anti-gay teaching caused massive spiritual alienation and psychological damage within the gay community especially among believing gay Christians who struggled to conform to the church’s teaching. In Niagara we have come a long way toward healing these hurts. I personally believe that the Bible shows us how marriage and sexuality are meant to nurture people’s growth into the image of God and that the Gospel shows us how giving our life to another person in a relationship of mutual love and commitment reflects Christ’s own self-giving love. I believe that the often-cited biblical prohibitions against same-sex behaviour are generally directed toward other types of activity: violent and exploitative behaviour. I believe therefore that the commandments relating to love, marriage, and sexuality, can be equally fulfilled in same-sex relationships or heterosexual ones. As always, we need to make room for differences of opinion and healthy dialogue in our diocese, but for me the biblical and ethical case in support of gay marriage is overwhelming. When I think of all the alienated LGBTQ2 children of God, I find myself praying for the day when the clear voice of the gospel will bring healing and redemption. The gospel is FOR them; Christ’s love is FOR them; Marriage is FOR them. And the church needs to be FOR them too. As bishop, I would gladly reissue the Pastoral Provision for Equal Marriage in the Diocese of Niagara and I would gladly speak on behalf our diocese at General Synod in 2019.


Robert Fead: It absolutely would be my intention to continue the current pastoral practice of providing for equal marriage within the diocese. Many other dioceses within the Anglican Church of Canada have also adopted this pastoral practice leading up to General Synod 2019 so there is more than enough support within the church to continue providing marriage to all regardless of sexual orientation.


Stuart Pike: I am fully supportive of equal marriage and would continue to authorize its practice here in Niagara before the next General Synod. One main reason for this is that I believe that the masculine and feminine language in the current marriage canon is merely descriptive, and not definitive nor proscriptive. Our changing the marriage canon will simply remove ambiguity. Furthermore, as bishop, I would champion the cause of equal marriage in the house of bishops in advance of General Synod. I know that not everyone in the diocese is in the same place on this issue, but I would expect that any clergy who would not feel able to perform a same-sex marriage would notify me to enable another cleric to have the pastoral care of the couple. I do think equal marriage is a justice issue, and we need to have the courage to be prophetic and to continue to move forward. Equal marriage is about celebrating faithfulness and exercising love, and all love (fraternal, compassionate, romantic, etc.) is a holy gift of God given to us to exercise in the world.


Martha Tatarnic: I grew up in a small town in rural Ontario where, at the time, it was not considered safe for LGBTQ individuals to be “out.”  It was through the teachings of the church that I was challenged to seek justice for our LGBTQ community and to name the dignity and blessedness of their relationships. The conversation that I hear currently in Niagara, even including some who struggle with equal marriage, is that our embrace of equal marriage is now part of the fabric of our diocese, it is a piece of discernment that we have done together, and it is vital that our next bishop continue to authorize equal marriage. I also hear a strong desire for a robust theology of marriage to accompany our practice. Should I be Niagara’s next bishop, it would be with joy and conviction that I would continue this authorization while also seeking avenues to more fully articulate our theological framework for doing so and reflecting on our experience theologically as we go forward. Niagara has been a leader in our national church in adopting this practice; we need to be willing to be a leader in sharing our experience and reflecting on it theologically for the wider church.


David Anderson: I fully support equal marriage for all and the practice of the solemnization and blessings of such unions within the church. My views are informed by biblical and theological refection on the doctrine of marriage. At this time, equal marriage is available to the people of the Diocese of Niagara by special provision made under the pastoral authority of the Bishop of Niagara. If I were elected that practice would not change.

I regret the sense of uncertainty that remains as to whether the practice will continue in Niagara. I think that it is also important to assure all members of our community that whatever the outcome of the proposed changes to the marriage canon at the next meeting of General Synod, I would not support a change to the practice of equal marriage in Niagara. Our position has been that since the present marriage canon does not prohibit equal marriage, it may be permitted. Should the proposed amendments to the marriage canon fail at General Synod, our understanding of the permission we currently enjoy would not be changed.

I am hopeful that our diocesan synod will deal with the matter of equal marriage within a discussion of the doctrine of marriage as soon as possible, so that our pastoral provisions are supported and upheld by the diocesan synod. I feel that it is important that we stand together as a diocese on this matter.


Susan Bell: My opinion remains unchanged from what I said on the floor of General Synod 2016:   that I would be voting in favour of a change in the marriage canon. I have taken a long journey which has included much study, prayer, many conversations and a deep investment in relationships until I arrived at a place of peace on this issue. 

I would preserve the status quo in the lead up to General Synod 2019 and would be proud to cast my vote in favour of equal marriage in the Anglican Church of Canada. 


In the lead up to the election, the Electoral Synod Nominations and Planning Committee is asking candidates to respond to a final series of questions. We’ll post the responses to two questions each week on our electoral synod webpage and share those responses on Facebook and Twitter too.