TORONTO – The Anglican Church of Canada narrowly voted against authorizing same-sex marriages Monday after nearly a week of passionate debates about blessing such unions at the church's triennial conference.
More than 200 delegates attending the six-day General Synod 2016 north of Toronto narrowly rejected the resolution after more than 60 speakers made their points, with most speaking in support of the resolution.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Canada since 2005, and Monday's vote puts the Anglican Church — the third largest in Canada — out of step with most Canadians, including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who recently took part in a gay pride parade in Toronto.
In order for the resolution to have passed, it required two-thirds support from each of three orders — the lay, clergy and bishops.
The bishops voted 68.42 percent in favor of the resolution, and the lay delegates voted 72.22 percent in favor. However, the clergy voted 66.23 percent, just missing the percentage needed by a single vote.
The vote sparked bitter disappointment among some members.
"It is breaking my heart that there are people who see gay marriage as a separation from God and from love," said Eliot Waddingham, 24, a transgender person from Ottawa, who was an observer at the conference.
The vote, Waddingham worried, was tantamount to a "death sentence" for the church.
"Woah. One vote," said Rev. Jeremy Smith in a tweet. "Prayers for all those wounded by the anti-LGBTQ vote."
The electronic voting was conducted secretly at the request of delegates as a privacy measure.
Earlier, Archbishop Colin Johnson of Toronto cited his own decades of marriage in arguing in support of the motion.
"I want my gay and lesbian colleagues to have the same joy," Johnson said. "I believe it's the right thing to do."
Some speakers urged delegates to reject the resolution, with one saying it would cause "ghettos of resentment" if allowed, while several aboriginal delegates denounced it as condoning an "abomination" and disobedience of God.
The General Synod is held every three years, and the vote was the culmination of work that began when the last General Synod, the church's legislative body, asked a panel to come up with a draft motion. Even if it had passed, the decision would have needed to be affirmed by the next General Synod in 2019, which could have made its own amendments.
If the resolution passed, it would have changed the denomination's definition of marriage, and would have permitted clergy to officiate gay marriages.
The vote followed complaints about bullying during weekend discussions on the resolution in smaller working groups. In remarks ahead of the vote, Archbishop Fred Hiltz urged respectful discussions on a topic that has proven bitterly divisive.
"Some members of our synod are deeply hurt. Some of them are deeply offended. Some are feeling unsafe to continue to speak lest they be reprimanded," Hiltz told the gathering. "This kind of behavior is not appropriate. It's unacceptable."
About 1.6 million Canadians identify themselves as Anglican, according to Statistics Canada.
The U.S. Episcopal Church, the Anglican body in the United States, is alone among Anglican bodies in approving gay marriage and has faced a backlash for its support of same-sex unions. Earlier this year, Anglican leaders temporarily restricted the role of the U.S. Episcopal Church in their global fellowship as a sanction over the American church's acceptance of gay marriage.
Other Anglican national churches in Brazil, South Africa, New Zealand and Scotland have taken steps toward accepting same-sex relationships.