Canada’s Anglicans narrowly voted Sunday to defeat a resolution to allow their churches to conduct blessing ceremonies for gay couples.
The resolution would have enabled priests to bless same-sex couples who had married in civil ceremonies, but would not have allowed priests to marry such couples. Civil marriage for gay couples has been legal in Canada since 2005.
The resolution required a majority rule in three orders: the laity, clergy and bishops. It failed only in the order of bishops. Lay delegates voted 78 to 59 in favor and clergy voted 63 to 53 in favor, but the House of Bishops voted 21 to 19 against.
The Anglican Church of Canada previously agreed that same-sex blessings do not conflict with its core doctrine. But delegates rejected the idea of allowing individual dioceses the right to decide whether their priests could perform such rites.
“Folks who did not want to see the resolution pass can take some measure of pleasure,” said Bishop Fred Hiltz, who was elected Friday to lead the Anglican Church of Canada and voted for the resolution.
Divisions over the Bible and homosexuality have torn at the world Anglican Communion, a 77-million-member fellowship of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England.
Even before this week’s Canadian meeting, the world Anglican Communion was in an uproar over the U.S. Episcopal Church’s 2003 consecration of the first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. The Episcopal Church is the Anglican body in the United States.
Anglican leaders have given the U.S. denomination until Sept. 30 to unequivocally pledge not to consecrate another openly gay bishop or authorize official prayers for same-sex couples. If Episcopalians fail to agree, they risk losing full membership in the communion.