January 08, 2004
Anglican Journal News: Mixed Reaction Follows Same-sex Wedding
SOLANGE DE SANTIS
Some of the callers and writers were viciously, personally abusive,
others were supportive, others disappointed and still others were
That was the range of reaction reported by Bishop Ralph Spence and
Dean Peter Wall of the diocese of Niagara after Dean Wall married a
lesbian couple last August at Christ's Church Cathedral in Hamilton,
Reflecting their different positions in the diocese Bishop
Spence is Dean Wall's supervisor and their different roles in the
event, Bishop Spence's mail was more critical than Dean Wall's.
"It was exactly as I predicted. There have been two reactions. Some
were indifferent and some were furious both clergy and
laypeople," said Bishop Spence, referring to the dozens of letters, e-
mails and phone calls he has received since a story about the wedding
appeared in the Anglican Journal last December.
"A clear majority" of the messages he received were critical and
opposed to gay marriage, he said. "Even people in favour of blessing
same-sex unions were against jumping the process," he said, referring
to the fact that all bishops except Michael Ingham of New Westminster
have agreed not to permit blessing rites until General Synod
considers the matter later this year. The diocese of New Westminster
in 2002 approved offering blessings to gay couples.
However, he added, "some who were supportive of the issue were
pleased that someone had the courage to do it." Others felt he should
have been tougher in his disciplining of Dean Wall, whose licence to
perform marriages was suspended by Bishop Spence for three months.
Dean Wall said in an interview that he has received about 125
communications and that the "overwhelming majority were very positive
and very moving." The positive responses said "we're proud of you and
we're pleased someone in the church is doing this," he said. People
from other denominations also wrote to say that they are "proud of
the Anglican church for struggling with (this issue)," he said.
"Some people are calling me a prophet and a hero, neither of which is
true. They said that sometimes it takes somebody to step out in front
(of an issue)," said Dean Wall.
The critical responses generally fell into two categories, he
said. "Some were very critical I would involve the church with a
homosexual relationship. I would characterize (those responses) as
homophobic. Some felt I broke the rules and embarrassed my church and
my bishop," he said. Some of the correspondence was personal and
abusive, he added.
In December, Dean Wall said, he held a "town hall" meeting to allow
cathedral parishioners to express opinions on the issue. A total of
40 people attended two sessions. "People expressed dismay or anger,
but there was a balance of voices. I think the people most dismayed
with me just wanted to tell me that and I encouraged that, and I
think at the end of it there was a sense that it's okay for us to
walk together even if we disagree. We can have unity without
uniformity," Dean Wall said.
Some people have suggested, both in letters to the Journal and to
Bishop Spence, that the dean should lose his job and resign other
positions he holds. He is a member of the national church's faith,
worship and ministry committee and chair of the worship committee for
General Synod 2004. He also holds the position of diocesan liturgical
officer and is on the board of the Anglican Foundation. He is also
chair of Liturgy Canada, a national organization that researches and
publishes material concerning liturgy.
"I have offered to the groups I'm involved with to withdraw or resign
and in no case has it been taken up," said Dean Wall. Bishop Spence,
who did not know of the wedding beforehand and has said he
felt "blindsided" by the his friend and colleague's action,
commented, "It's history now. I am so keen to go on with life at the
cathedral and the diocese. I have worked hard in the last four weeks
to put this behind us and get our act together as we go to General
Synod. Niagara is hosting this event, we will have a new primate and
there is a lot to look forward to."
His relationship with Mr. Wall "has continued in a positive sense,"
but emotionally, he said, "I certainly went through the washing
machine spin cycle on this."
Dean who married same-sex couple prayed he could 'welcome all people'
Source: The Anglican Church of Canada, http://anglican.ca/news