The St Michael’s Report

In all the brouhaha about blessing of same-sex relationships, one document that doesn’t seem to have had much international attention is the St. Michael’s Report. (There is also a Study guide.)

In 2004 the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada requested the Primate to ask his Theological Commission to “review, consider, and report” on “whether the blessing of committed same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine” The Commission called its June 2005 report called the St. Michael’s report. It’s worth a look, not so much from the point of view of same-sex relationships (on which is says nothing new) but for the way it defines ‘doctrine’ and the processes of doctrinal formation. This is the Report’s own summary:

  1. The Commission has concluded that the blessing of committed same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine.
  2. The Commission understands the term ‘committed same-sex unions’ to mean committed, adult, monogamous, intended lifelong, same-sex relationships which include sexual intimacy.
  3. The Commission is particularly concerned to call the whole Church to engage in furthering the discussion of this issue in a sustained, prayerful, respectful, and non-polemical manner.
  4. The Commission recognizes that there is a range of interpretations given to the term ‘doctrine’, and that doctrines develop and change over time. We agree that the blessing of committed same-sex unions is not a matter of what is often referred to as a ‘core’ doctrine, in the sense of being credal doctrine.
  5. The Commission does not believe that this should be a communion-breaking issue.
  6. The Commission, recognizes ‘the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation (Book of Alternative Services p. 645). We acknowledge that the interpretation of Scripture is a central and complex matter and that, at times in the Church’s history, ‘faithful’ readings have led to mutually contradictory understandings, requiring ongoing dialogue and prayer towards discernment of the one voice of the gospel.
  7. The doctrine of the Church has always been definitively expressed in its liturgies; such a liturgy of blessing is no exception since in it the Church declares the activity of God towards the object of the blessing.
  8. It is the view of the Commission that any proposed blessing of a same-sex relationship would be analogous to a marriage to such a degree as to require the Church to understand it coherently in relation to the doctrine of marriage.
  9. Culture is the context in which Christians live out their faith and formulate doctrine. The challenge facing the Church is to see our cultural norms through the eyes of Christ and then, out of allegiance to him, to promote those norms that honour him and renounce those that do not.
  10. Several doctrines are integral to the theological consideration of the blessing of committed same-sex union salvation, incarnation, the person and work of the Holy Spirit, theological anthropology, sanctification, and holy matrimony.
  11. We recommend that any doctrinal discussion of the blessing of same-sex unions should seek a broader consensus on the relationship of sexuality to our full humanity in Christ.
  12. The pastoral importance of this issue deserves a careful consideration of its doctrinal implications in a manner that is deeply respectful of the dignity and integrity of the gay and lesbian members of our church.