March, 2009: Patrick Yu 
Sunday, March 1, 2009 at 09:35PM

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.

Article originally appeared on The Anglican Planet (
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