St. Nicholas Birch Cliff

Anglican Church

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Online Voting Has Now Ended - Please vote in person from April 21 until April 28 at 12 noon

Should we, as the people of St. Nicholas, Birch Cliff request permission from the Diocesan Bishop to perform same-sex Marriages at St. Nicholas?

"Register Your Opinion" = "Vote Your Opinion"         Should we, as the people of St. Nicholas, Birch Cliff request permission from the Diocesan Bishop to perform same-sex Marriage at St. Nicholas?

Background to the Question & Parish Discernment Process


Following the July 2016 vote at General Synod in favour of changing the Marriage Canon to include same-sex marriage, Archbishop Colin Johnson stated that he would consider the option to “permit same-sex marriages in the Church at the pastoral discretion of the Bishop and with the agreement of local clergy."

On Nov. 10, 2016, Archbishop Johnson issued Pastoral Guidelines for Same-Sex Marriages. Since that time, certain parishes within the Diocese of Toronto have been authorized to perform same-sex marriages. For this to be happen, the members of a parish need to reach a consensus independent of the views of the Incumbent. The Incumbent would need to be in agreement, and concur, with the decision for permission to be grant

At our 2016 Annual Vestry Meeting (held on Sunday, February 26, 2017) Suzanne Lehtinen "moved that the congregation of St. Nicholas, Birch Cliff enter into the discernment process as outlined in the Pastoral Guidelines for same-sex marriages, as issued by Archbishop Johnson. This was seconded by Doug Goss." The motion was carried with 3 abstentions. (There were  44 people in attendance.)

The Pastoral Guidelines for same-sex marriages were made available. Since then, members of St. Nicholas were invited to share their "Comments, Questions, Concerns and Hopes in Respect to Same-Sex Marriages" and these were compiled and made available in a booklet form on October 15, 2017.

In 2019, members of each worship community* at St. Nicholas were given the opportunity to meet in small groups and share how they felt, as individuals, about same-sex marriage at St. Nicholas. The comments may be found below.  

Throughout this time, members of the Prayer Chain have been upholding "The Parish Discernment Process."

* each worship community at St. Nicholas refers to the  8:30 a.m. Sunday Service community, the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Service community, the 10 a.m. Wednesday Service community and The Family Friendly Fellowship community.

Opinions that were expressed in our small groups included

  • I have relatives (two women who married at city hall) that do not feel that the church will welcome them.  They do not feel like they can be a part of a faith community.  I want them, and others, welcome in church in all ways.
  • I have grown/changed.  If two people love and are committed to each other, they should be able to get married here.  Those that don’t agree, are always welcome to find their way back, if they can not stay because of our decision.
  • I would not come to a same sex marriage. I don’t believe in it.  I admit that I don’t know enough about it.  I will still come to church.
  • I agree with same sex marriage.  People have a choice.  There are other churches that folk can go to if they don’t like it.  We should respect others choices.
  • I did not realize that it wasn’t an option here, when I started coming here.  I support  the process, and marriage for same and opposite sex people.
  • I don’t know why its a big deal.  Young people are wanting to accept everyone.  This seams to be a generational question.  Gender identity and equality, love, peace, compassion are qualities that I believe in.  People should be kind and let people identify and express themselves as they are. 
  • Just get on with it.  Why is it taking so long?  Why is this even a conversation we need to have?  I can’t tell my friends that I go to a church where they can not get married. 
  • Didn’t realize that it couldn’t happen.  What’s the problem/hold up?
  • Both of us (couple) work with, and have same gendered couple friends.  We are horrified by the discrimination they experience. 
  • Support the motion.
  • I support same sex marriage.  My friend - who isn’t here now - does too. You could call her.  I will vote to support this if I am able to.
  • On many subjects my husband and I are in the same book.  On this we are on the same word - in complete agreement with moving forward to approving the motion.
  • I supported this motion at Vestry.  I still support it.
  • Should have happened a long time ago
  • It is the next logical decision
  • Loving relationships want to be sanctified – I am all for same-gender marriage
  • We have talked enough about it. Let’s move along.
  • The Bible says “judge not lest you be judged.” Who are we to say no to marriage in the Church?
  • Some of my best friends are in same-gender relationships and display better relationships than those in heterosexual relationships.
  • We have waited too long
  • We will face any disagreements the way we always face them by accepting different points of view and by putting out the hand of friendship.
  • Recognition of diversity is good
  • Discussion will be needed after the decision. I do not want anyone to feel excluded.
  • I think there is a difference between blessing of same-gender unions and same-gender marriage and feel marriage is between a man and a woman.
  • Fears around differing values, losing parishioners, disrespectful or hurtful thoughts and actions.
  • God’s love does not choose and God’s love conquers all.
  • It is a miracle that we have arrived
  • There are no guidelines for love – who loves who or how we love.
  • Blessed by God, accepted not cursed by all.
  • We need to treat others the way we want to be treated.
  • Need to think about how we are the same rather than how we are different.
  • There are many ways to interpret and follow Scripture and it needs to be remembered that Scripture comes out of a historical context.
  • Miracle that we have arrived at this point.
  • Marriage is a committed, loving relationship between two men, two women or a man and a woman.
  • There have been a lot of changes in the Church – women priests, women laypeople, a different view of divorce and this is a growth. Many opposed the changes.
  • “With you I am well pleased”  With me / us / all people , I am well pleased.
  • A great deal of thought was put into this issue.
  • Jesus taught against divorce and yet we forgive the divorced. Jesus never spoke against homosexuality.
  • God loves us all regardless of nationality, religion, gender, physical and mental ability.
  • When [an openly homosexual] Bishop was elected he was vilified online – this was wrong.
  • Hopeful that the discernment process results in same-sex marriage at St. Nicholas.
  • We believe that God made people the way they are
  • Concerned for those that don’t agree and potential for division at St. Nick’s.
  • Want St. Nicholas to be welcoming to everyone – this aligns with marrying same-sex couples.
  • We have a consensus among us that this congregation should support same-sex marriage.
  • Everyone should have equal rights under the law of the Church.
  • At a previous parish they are already doing same-sex marriages and more gay people began to attend. We were all family showing love and inclusion.
  • Acceptance leads to church renewal, brings in people who now don’t want to come.
  • 100% in favour of same-gender unions but have reservations as to whether we should call it marriage.
  • Marriage is between a man and a woman
  • Not calling it marriage will make some same-gender people feel unwelcome
  • Our mandate as Christians is to “love one another.” Isn’t love accepting.
  • Everyone is God’s beloved child
  • We must love and accept everyone as they are.
  • Our fears are that some people might leave and we would have a divided parish
  • “Draw the circle wide…draw it wider still…”
  • What would Jesus do?
  • The Great Commandment is “Love thy neighbour as thyself.”
  • Feel same-sex marriage at St. Nick’s is inevitable.
  • Love is love – God’s first commandment
  • Need a spirit of inclusion vs. exclusion
  • Different people will experience joy and hurt for different reasons. Need to make sure it is a majority opinion and hear from each community (8:30 congregation/ Wed congregation)
  • A family member had a same-gender marriage ceremony and it was beautiful and very moving.
  • We accept differences and diversity in our Church life – having women priests, moving the Altar, the new prayer book…
  • Pain and exclusion is felt by being unable to have same-sex marriage in the Church.

Register Your Opinion

It is almost time to “Register your Opinion” in respect to our Parish Discernment Process – Should we, as the people of  St. Nicholas, Birch Cliff request permission from the Diocesan Bishop to perform same-sex marriages at St. Nicholas? There needs to be consensus for us as a community and we want individuals to share their opinions safely.

The Executive, along with Suzanne Lehtinen (who moved the Motion), has decided on the following:

  • For there to be consensus within the Parish the opinion must be greater than 66%
  • We will use the guidelines for compiling a Vestry List to determine who may Register their Opinion (the three guidelines are:  #1) I have been a member of the Anglican Church of Canada and of this congregation for at least three (3) months, #2)  I have attended regularly scheduled services of worship with this congregation at least three (3) times in the past year and #3) I am of the full age of sixteen (16) )
  • The question  being presented is: “Should we, as the people of  St. Nicholas, Birch Cliff request permission from the Diocesan Bishop to perform same-sex marriages at St. Nicholas?” and there will be three possible opinions: Yes, No, Abstain.

There will be two ways to “Register Your Opinion” both of which are time sensitive.

The first option will be online from Wednesday, April 17th until the evening of Saturday, April 20th . To participate online, you will need to be a part of Parish Email Group.  You will need to provide your name and email to participate online but this information will be removed from the "Opinion Slip" you submit before the tally.

The second option will be to “Register Your Opinion” in person, and anonymously, from Sunday, April 21st until Sunday, April 28th at 12 noon. Please pick up an "Opinion Slip" from Andrew Reeves (or his representative) who will then check your name on the “Vestry” List and provide you with a slip. The "Opinion Slips" are numbered to ensure quantity control but there will be no tracking and every physical "Opinion Slip" will remain anonymous. There will be a secure box for the collection of the slips.

On Sunday, April 28th at our Parish Council meeting, the Parish Council will be asked to work together to tally all of the responses.  The Churchwardens will share the outcome of the discernment on Sunday, May 5th