Report from Canada: The sanctity of common (Anglican) words

I found an interesting commentary out there online about a major victory for the Anglican left in the sexuality wars in Canada. The piece is called "Parting thoughts from your American guest" and it's written by a veteran reporer named Douglas LeBlanc. Fine writer, this guy.

First, here's the start of an actual news report from the Anglican Journal about this rather tricky event, in which it seemed like action had been delayed. Then the Anglican establishment managed to arrange a last-minute action that some will call merely symbolic.

It's much more than that, really, because of the presence of the word "sanctity."

One day after delaying a decision on whether to bless gay relationships, Canadian Anglicans approved a statement that "affirms the integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships."

Delegates meeting here at the triennial General Synod governing convention said the statement was intended to send gay and lesbian Anglicans a message after yesterday's vote.

"Our church has always had gay couples and they have been welcome. This would affirm we recognize them as children of God," said delegate Cassandra McCollum of the Yukon, who identified herself as bisexual.

LeBlanc notes that this is one of those stories in which words have meaning and that it is hard to tear them away from their common definitions, especially when that context is common prayer. In this case, the use of the word "sanctity" will have a global impact.

Once again, journalists covering the story must face this reality -- this is not a Canadian story or an American story. It is a global story, as also shown in the basic Associated Press report. LeBlanc continues:

Attempting to separate the word "sanctity" from its theological content may work in the hothouse environment of Synod. But it will cause moral and theological confusion among Christians who still think, with good biblical and logical bases, that specific words mean specific things, and that honoring those meanings is a matter of integrity and stewardship.

General Synod has, in its more self-effacing and civil way, chosen to join the Episcopal Church in pressuring global Anglicanism toward accepting the sexual standards of the prosperous West. As the Rev. Canon Gregory Cameron said on Saturday, this decision will cause distressing questions for Anglicans in other nations. These brothers and sisters in Christ will soon ask valid questions about whether being part of the Anglican Communion means anything more than welcoming the occasional Global South bishop to a diocesan synod, or sending a youth group out on a short missions trip.

The global conversation is just beginning. It almost certainly will grow more tense in the months ahead, and still more strained as Anglicans look at gathering for Lambeth 2008 in South Africa.

Note, for example, that South Africa is not in Great Britain. Things will get even more interesting if that turns into southern Africa instead of South Africa. Stay tuned.

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