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March, 2009: Patrick Yu 

Bishop Patrick Yu. Photo: Sue CarelessPatrick Yu, the area bishop for York-Scarborough, discusses the Toronto bishops’ proposal for same-sex blessings in an email exchange with Sue Careless.

TAP: At General Synod in 2007 you voted against a local option (by diocese) for same-sex blessings (SSBs). Today you are supporting a local option for SSBs in parishes in the Diocese of Toronto. What has changed?

Patrick Yu: I have struggled with the issue since the 70's. Looking back, it has been a mixture of resistance and support. I did resist a hasty, non-reflective revisionism but I also resisted a narrow and non-reflective conservatism as well. Recently I find myself resisting schism, particularly wholesale condemnations of the kind Jesus warns against which often violate the ninth commandment! [Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.] Perhaps less known is my support for a public place for gays and lesbians which is distinct from marriage. I also work hard to secure a place for those people, priests and parishes who, in conscience, cannot pronounce same-sex relationships blessed as marriages. If you look at my voting record at GS2007, and more importantly, my activity in the House of Bishops around that time, you will see this combination, which often feels like tension. That has not changed. What has changed is a growing conviction that God is calling the Diocese of Toronto to a renewed sense of mission, particularly in the area of owning and sharing our faith in Jesus with others, and growing churches. I see our effort as a way to break the logjam around sex which threatens to paralyse us in our mission, particularly in public discussions like Synod.

TAP: Do you feel that it is ironic that your motion at General Synod which was later adopted by the House of Bishops for "the most generous pastoral response possible within the current teachings of the church" on same-sex blessings should lead directly to same-sex blessings? Is that what you intended with your original motion?

PY: I did contribute the phrase "the most generous pastoral response possible within the current teaching of the church." I said that to the Toronto Synod in 1995. My ongoing discernment about this issue involves many factors. Even in the scriptures, I have to consider the nature of marriage in Genesis, the proscription on homosexuality in Leviticus and Paul, and God's generous love towards all of us so radically shown in

Jesus. Tradition loses its authority when a lot of people no longer see the issues clearly. I don't think we have clarity now, not in Canada, and not in the Communion. The Toronto bishops got it right when we identified the many conversations on the subject: What is homosexuality? What is marriage? What is a blessing? Rather than assuming some kind of prophetic inspiration, we admit, as the House of Bishops said in 2006, that we have no consensus. The action that is contemplated is intended to be an appropriate pastoral response for us in the middle of this confusion. You will not find any theological preamble for our action even though, I admit, all actions have an implied theology.

TAP: Why can something that is morally wrong (or socially unjust) in one parish be morally right (or socially just) in another? (We are not talking merely liturgical styles such as for or against incense.)

PY: If you look carefully at what is being proposed, and measure them against the alternatives that are proposed or currently available in other jurisdictions, you will find them quite cautious, even restrictive. What is contemplated in a few parishes are celebrations of commitment. I am resigned that they will be called blessings or even

marriages. I fail to see a moral inconsistency. The framework which governs all parishes in the Diocese of Toronto is pastoral generosity which is not confused with marriage. Paul's treatment of eating idol meat (1 Corinthians 8) is relevant. There are very important theologies that this practice touches on: the power of other gods, doctrinal

knowledge, Christian freedom, is it from rules or from idolatry? Paul got into those issues but at the end of the day instructed the Corinthians to put their conscience and theologies aside and act in a way that will help their brothers and sisters. I very much like people from all sides to consider that in how they react.

TAP: Doesn’t the Toronto plan defy the moratorium asked for by General Synod 2007, Lambeth 2008, the House of Bishops last November and the last three Primates’ Meetings?

PY: I, with a large number of Canadian bishops, would very much like the moratorium to hold. But it is already broken, on the one hand, by our immediate neighbouring dioceses [Niagara, Huron] who made public announcements to proceed; on the other hand, by a very determined effort from the Primate of the Southern Cone to continue to accept breakaway dioceses and parishes. The Lambeth bishops made it very clear that the only way a moratorium would work is when all three clauses are adhered to. It becomes clear only weeks after the conference that it will not happen. It is hard to ask one party to hold to a moratorium if the other party is not even willing to talk about it.

I think you have lumped the requests of the bodies you mentioned into one. General Synod did not authorise the option by local diocese to bless, Lambeth made a theological determination, the House of Bishops statement said that 'a change of canon is not appropriate at this time.' We are not changing any canons and finally, the authority claimed by some primates about the Primates’ Meeting is not consistent with their stated purpose and is disputed by many, I would think a majority, of primates.

TAP: The Diocese of Toronto will be the first Canadian jurisdiction to allow SSBs without a synodical vote. Do you feel this is right?

PY: You will remember that there was a synod in 2004 and that decision was postponed until after 2007. A synod motion is still possible but the bishops do not believe it is wise to go that route for the following reasons:

* The model motion from Niagara, Montreal, Huron and Ottawa made civil marriage a condition, and we want to stay very clear of marriage, which is a General Synod jurisdiction.

* They ask the bishop to do something. The bishop can do it or not, the result is no different from a simple pastoral action.

I also believe the motion will pass. The debate, however, will detract from the bishops' agenda, which is mission and evangelism.

Reader Comments (9)

This is very sad. Truly Bishop Patrick has crossed the line.

March 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterClaus

Now that Patrick and his fellow bishops have crossed the line, they will have no moral argument against parishes that choose to make a "pastoral decision" to join ANiC or ACiC in light of the bishops' unilateral actions.

March 3, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterArchie

Bishop Patrick says that, "The framework which governs all parishes in the Diocese of Toronto is pastoral generosity ..."; and goes on to say that " at the end of the day (Paul) instructed the Corinthians to put their conscience and theologies aside and act in a way that will help their brothers and sisters." My reading of that passage in Corinthians does not lead me to the same conclusion. I think this passage along with Paul's letter to the Thessalonians lead us to a different conclusion - that is, that within the context of our conscience and theologies we should "act in a way that will help our brothers and sisters". Does the Bishop's interpretation give us an insight into the real problem and the nature of the line the Bishop has crossed? If we put aside our conscience and theologies, are we not walking in the way of the world, the very thing the Bible warns us against?

March 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRichard

The universe is unfolding as it should....perhaps, God's creation on the other hand (man's) is "going down the tubes" (as it should?) perhaps. It is unequivocally clear that our Father's intention in the creation of sex was severely limiting and simplistic. In marriage only, with only one man and one woman, Till death. Correct me if I am wrong. If I'm not, than everything to do with (Human) sexuality today outside those parameters is of human origin. By all means celebrate, marry, bless, do cartwheels but not, I repeat and pray NOT IN THE NAME OF GOD.

March 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGary

Amen to all of the above/previous comments. They are excellent and I couldn't have said them any better! I'm really troubled by Bishop Patrick's response. He also seems to have made the issue much more complicated and confusing. Rob

March 11, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterRob

Canadian Anglicans are divided on several issues including the uniqueness of Jesus, interpretation of the Bible and the nature of inclusiveness. In March 2008, the Rev. Dr. Paul Gibson's excellent article seemed to favour schisms in the church. Most people don't believe in schisms, but many will leave the Anglican Church of Canada when a future General Synod changes the Marriage Canon to include gay people.

March 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterMichael

I was impressed how Bishop Patrick Yu has come to support the pastoral support for same sex Blessings.He is known as the most conservative of all the College of Bishops.
I guess this what we are getting in the diocese of Toronto.I feel it is a tiny little step in the right direction. I've always felt that the parishes which want ss blessings should be allowed to have them and the ones that don't shouldn't have it forced on them.This puny little effort of the diocese of Toronto has yet to be evaluated by diocesan Synod in May.
i really don't see why those people who are so opposed have to pull out of the Anglican Church of Canada.

March 12, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Iveson

Dear Brother Peter; With regard and respect for your lack of understanding "i really don't see why those people who are so opposed have to pull out of the Anglican Church of Canada. " Please let me lend perspective. It is possible that it is what you don't know that keeps you from understanding. For instance' do you know;
1. There is an evil referred to as "the prince of this world" ?
2. That he is angry and jelous and seeks to destroy the church?
3. That sometime in the past our Church made a mistake. Call it the thin edge of the wedge, but satan was allowed entry?
4. That with that tiny scratch satan has manipulated until this point in our history regarding decisions about SSB's were those people, you don't understand, see satan's hand not as a thin edge but a gaping chasm.
5. That what I have commented on takes us completely away from the Red Herring question of SSB's and places us squarely in the center of the real issue......Whose church is it?

March 13, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterGary

Gary, you're rhetoric seems a bit steep. You demonize individuals with such statements. Jesus didn’t do that… unless we’re talking religious/cultural elites… even he seemed to hold these in contempt. Peter, begging your pardon, your question about not knowing why some feel so opposed as to leave, seems naive. Many very good people are opposed (in most cases this would be too strong a word) for sound reasons or at least personal convictions (regarding tradition, scripture and reason), regardless of their feelings towards “brothers” and “sisters”, fellow Anglicans, who are gay or lesbian. I think both your statements show at least and underlying cause for the sometimes desperate feelings present in our Anglican churches… an unwillingness to see the other side.
I suspect that if we open ourselves up to each other’s arguments that we would at least understand one another… albeit, we still may not find consensus, and have to learn to live within the tension of all these arguments.

May 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterJohn
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