By Robert Hamilton
Robert Hamilton is an atheist and Lead Administrator and Moderator of Atheist Republic Ottawa Consulate, member of the Board of Directors of the Humanist Association of Ottawa, and member of the Centre For Inquiry Canada — Ottawa Chapter and amateur Street Epistemologist.
Meet John Chapman.
John is Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa who recently issued a public statement affirming the practice of his diocese to continue to marry same-sex couples in spite of the shocking decision of the Anglican church’s General Synod against changing their marriage canon to accept gay marriage.
This past July, when church leaders gathered together in the swanky Sheraton Vancouver Wall Center, everyone knew what was at stake. The vote on gay marriage would be the culmination of more than a decade of studies, commissions, reports and consultations. The church had danced around the issue long enough. It was time for a final decision.
So on a fateful July 12th evening in Vancouver, of the 229 voting General Synod members in the room, 75 percent tapped YES into the electronic voting system to update the church’s marriage canon to include same-sex marriage — a convincing majority.
But based on that vote, the motion failed to pass.
How? By dividing General Synod members into three orders (laity, clergy, bishops) and requiring a two-thirds majority vote by each order, it took just 14 of 39 Bishops to say no, and quash a decision that took so long to come to a head. In fact, all along the deck was stacked. Using these voting rules, even if 100% of the laity and clergy had voted in favor of marriage equality, 14 Bishops could still have produced the same cancelling outcome.
When the voting results were revealed, the stunned shock and cries of dismay led to a crisis of leadership. The Bishops hastily gathered and, on the following day, released a message of anguish and apology. They expressed no responsibility for the actions of their order, choosing instead to voice a tone of victimhood as though the voting result had been foisted on them along with everyone else. The Bishops, presumably including the very 14 who triggered the crisis, pointed members to a loophole that would allow dioceses a “local option” to freely disregard the vote.
Which brings us back to the Right Reverend John Chapman. Like his Bishop colleagues, John could immediately foresee how news of this General Synod vote would be poorly received at home. His written pastoral response was delicately worded to offer a business-as-usual message that his diocese would continue to solemnize legal gay marriages.
This then is a clear example of institutional drive by church leaders to maintain control over credulous people, using doctrine, scriptural dogma and convoluted procedures, confronting the inherent sense of justice, morality, empathy, respect for others and emotional expression of community values that’s part of all of us. There’s great strength in that.
So when faced with a cliff edge, the Bishops could see an enormous chasm between themselves and the direction that their community was inexorably headed; well, so much for hard doctrine. Time to find some wiggle room.
Was John motivated on ethical grounds to recognize the hard-fought struggle of the LGBTQ+ community? Hard to tell; maybe so and maybe not. But one thing is easy to tell: the basis on which church power over people rests does not come from any transcendental deity. Our sense of moral justice comes from each of us. Religious leaders know this all too well.
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists,American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.