Debate on same-sex marriage causes rift among Christian churches in Canada

The same-sex marriage debate has caused a rift in the ecumenical movement in southwestern Ontario.

The Catholic Diocese of Hamilton pulled out of the annual ecumenical service with Anglicans and Lutherans, after the Anglican Diocese of Niagara approved blessings for same-sex couples by a vote of 213-106 at a November synod, reported RNS.

Niagara’s Anglican Bishop Ralph Spence declined to endorse the vote, saying the diocese needed to discuss the issue further.

Hamilton’s Catholics, Anglicans and Lutherans have gathered for the past four years during the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January to renew and reaffirm recognition of one another’s baptismal vows.

However, Catholic Bishop Anthony Tonnos withdrew from this year’s service at a meeting with his Anglican and Lutheran colleagues Dec. 3. The renewal of baptismal vows will go ahead between the Anglicans and the Lutherans.

Niagara is the second Canadian Anglican diocese to approve blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples. The first was the Diocese of New Westminster in British Columbia in 2002.  Last month, Canada’s largest Anglican diocese, Toronto, decided to defer a decision on the issue.

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