February 24, 2005 20:09 ET

United Church Moderator Hosts Parliamentary Breakfast On Marriage

“The debate over same-sex marriage is not a competition between human rights and religious freedoms," says the Moderator of The United Church of Canada Attention: Assignment Editor, City Editor, News Editor, Government/Political Affairs Editor OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Feb. 24, 2005) - "I came to Ottawa today, not to tell Members of Parliament that everyone in The United Church of Canada agrees with and supports same-sex marriage. That is not the case. God knows, we have struggled over the years whenever sexuality issues surface and the diversity of opinion within our own church challenges us as a community of believers in Jesus Christ," says the Moderator of The United Church of Canada, the Right Rev. Dr. Peter Short.

Short says he believes that as a country Canada faces similar challenges.

In a letter he wrote to MPs in January, he commented, "In some ways, The United Church of Canada is tracking a common path with the courts and the federal government. While our General Council indicated its welcome of equal marriage, our polity upholds the freedom of each of our congregations to follow its conscience. In the year and a half since the Council's decision, many of our 3,000 congregations have been engaged in the same discussion that is about to take place in the House: whether or not to proceed with equal marriage. We know this conversation is difficult for many of our congregations, just as it has been difficult in the public sphere."

The Moderator delivered this message at a news conference this morning in Ottawa following a parliamentary breakfast that he hosted for MPs who were invited to share in a dialogue about marriage. Also present at the news conference was the United Church's General Secretary of the General Council, the Rev. Dr. Jim Sinclair.

The Moderator says he is very aware of the strain this debate has had on many MPs. "I hear that e-mail addresses and fax machines have been flooded with messages from constituents hoping that their views will sway their member's vote," comments Short.

Clearly, he says, there is a wide range of views on same-sex marriage amongst Canadians, and therein lies the greatest challenge.

"The test of true leadership is being able to weigh everything that one hears, balancing all the various interests, and then having the courage to make a decision based on that inner voice that tells you what is right and just," comments Short.

"This is tough work. There is great risk for politicians who choose not to be swayed by the clamour of the crowd, or the results of the latest opinion poll," says Short. "My encouragement to parliamentarians would be to listen well and to remember why you were elected to office-to answer the call to serve and to care for the interests of all Canadians, regardless of their faith, regardless of their gender, regardless of their sexual orientation."

He adds, "This is not a competition between human rights and religious freedoms, but rather an opportunity to deepen an understanding of marriage that honours life-long relationships between two people that are mutual, just, and loving."

Short concludes, "My hope is that the contribution The United Church of Canada has offered in this debate is a window for politicians to see the possibility of balancing human rights, tradition, faithfulness, and religious freedoms by voting in favour of civil same-sex marriage."

Speaking notes from the Moderator's presentation to MPs are posted on The United Church of Canada's website at IN: JUSTICE, POLITICS, RELIGION

Contact Information

  • Mary-Frances Denis, Communications Officer, The United Church of Canada
    Primary Phone: 416-231-7680 ext. 2016
    Secondary Phone: 416-885-7478