Skip to main content

Anglican church leaders in the Arctic have put themselves at odds with their national counterparts by condemning homosexuality and same-sex marriage.

"Marriage is between a man and a woman," said Ven. Haydn Schofield, archdeacon of the Western Arctic.

"For there to be a relationship, even common-law, is unbiblical.

"Any union outside of marriage is unbiblical."

Archdeacon Schofield said he initiated the vote this week by 70 lay members, priests and bishops with the Anglican Diocese of the Arctic.

They voted unanimously to condemn homosexual relationships and to demand all employees do the same, and adopted a charter of beliefs called the Montreal Declaration. The document, written in Montreal in 1994 by conservative Anglican church members, states "adultery, fornication and homosexual unions are intimacies contrary to God's design."

The decision is a break with the wider Anglican Church of Canada, which is under fire from top leaders in England to condemn same-sex marriage. The Canadian church has postponed its decision until 2007.

Jim Boyles, general secretary for the national body, was not available for comment.

The Arctic diocese made clear at the meeting that only people with beliefs similar to the Montreal Declaration can work at its churches.

Delegates passed a separate motion outlining conditions of employment, and the church says it will not employ anyone who is having sex outside marriage or is in a homosexual relationship.

The church will also refuse to employ anyone who "promotes and supports" that sexual behaviour. The rule applies to clergy as well as other positions such as receptionists.

Ben Arreak, the church's bishop for Nunavik, Que., said their stand will keep out non-conservative views and practices, and instead, Inuit traditional values about relationships between men and women will form the base of their beliefs.

"That's tradition," Bishop Arreak said. "In order to survive, the man and woman have to help each other, for family and for hunting. . . . If you want to have a healthy body, you can only have a relationship man to woman, woman to man."

Not all northern Anglicans supported the decision.

Iqaluit resident Maureen Doherty, the daughter of an Anglican minister, said she was withdrawing all financial support for her local church in protest.

"I do believe in the blessing and inclusion of gays and lesbians within the Anglican church," Ms. Doherty said.

"I think it's very important that the doors remain open.

"If I think of 'What would Jesus do?' I think Jesus Christ would probably come out and break bread at the Pride picnic," she said, referring to a coming event supporting the local gay community.

Pamela Dickey Young, head of the religious studies department at Queen's University, said fears that the church will be forced to perform same-sex marriage are unfounded.

Prof. Young said the clergy has the right to refuse to do such ceremonies under both the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and Bill C-38, the proposed federal legislation to legalize gay marriage.

She added that churches should look to the example of divorce in Canada, where the Roman Catholic Church has not been forced to re-marry divorced persons.

"I think the freedom of religion arguments are red herrings," she said.