MARRIAGE DIGEST: Canadian Anglicans vote against blessing same-sex unions; ...

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--In a move that left the Anglican Church of Canada standing alongside the wider Anglican Communion rather than the U.S. Episcopal Church, bishops voted 21-19 against a resolution to allow churches to conduct blessing ceremonies for homosexual couples.

At the same time, the Canadian bishops at the General Synod meeting in Winnipeg, Manitoba, June 24 agreed that the blessing of same-sex unions is not in conflict with the church's core doctrine in the sense of being creedal, according to the denomination's news service.

The bishops also affirmed a statement urging the church to show pastoral understanding and sensitivity to all same-sex couples, and they committed to developing pastoral strategies to make homosexuals feel accepted, ACC-News reported.

Bishop Patrick Yu of Toronto, one of the authors of the pastoral care statement, told the news service that the bishops represent a diverse group and there was "no consensus" regarding the topic.

"It's a fragile situation," Yu said.

Reuters explained that the blessing is not a marriage ceremony but is a ritual performed by a priest recognizing the relationship, and it is sometimes offered to heterosexual couples to pray for the couple's future. "Gay marriage" is legal in Canada.

Homosexual members of the Episcopal Church apparently were hoping their counterparts to the north would vote to bless same-sex couples so that the practice would become more accepted. But the bishops' refusal to approve the measure could heighten the tension between Episcopalians and the larger communion, experts say.

"The action of the Canadian Anglican Church will further isolate the leadership of the U.S. Episcopal Church within the worldwide Anglican Communion," John Green, senior fellow in religion and American politics at the Pew Forum, told Reuters. "This is likely to make it more difficult to reach some kind of accommodation between the U.S. church and the rest of the Anglican Communion."

Anglican primates have given U.S. bishops until Sept. 30 to pledge not to authorize official prayers for homosexual couples or consecrate another homosexual bishop, or they may be expelled from the 77-million-member communion. Episcopal leaders have said they have no intention of changing their policies.

ORTHODOX JEWS WARN N.Y. ASSEMBLY –- Several organizations of Orthodox Jews made their views known as the New York Assembly moved toward voting to legalize what the group termed "alternative lifestyle" marriage in the state.

"We oppose the redefinition of the bedrock relationship of the human family," the National Council of Young Israel, the Rabbinical Council of America, the Orthodox Union and Agudath Israel of America said in a joint statement before the vote.

"... The institution of marriage is central to the formation of a healthy society and the raising of children," the Jewish leaders wrote. "It is our sincere conviction that discarding the historical definition of marriage would pose a severe danger to society in a variety of ways."

The New York Assembly voted 85-61 June 19 to legalize "gay marriage," but the bill is not expected to pass the state's Republican-led Senate.

"Society's mores may shift and crumble but eternal verities exist," the Jewish leaders said. "One is marriage. Its sanctity must be recognized and its integrity preserved."

LIBERAL DECRIES 'GAY MARRIAGE' -- David Blankenhorn, a self-described liberal Democrat, told The New York Times he opposes "gay marriage" because it will only damage the already weakening institution of marriage. He also believes the current debate over "gay marriage" is harmful to society.

Blankenhorn, author of the book "The Future of Marriage," said the problem with the debate has been the emphasis on "gay" rather than "marriage."

"Mr. Blankenhorn cites what he calls the 'wafer-thin' definitions of marriage that increasingly turn up in court decisions and polemical articles about same-sex ties: 'a unique expression of a private bond and profound love'; 'a private arrangement between parties committed to love'; 'the exclusive commitment of two individuals to each other,'" religion writer Peter Steinfels wrote in The Times June 23.

With those weak definitions, of course plenty of people favor granting those opportunities to homosexuals, Blankenhorn said. Instead, he defines marriage as a social institution with a set of shared understandings and public meanings that shape expectations and conduct, The Times reported. Marriage, he said, involves sexual intercourse and the emotional, practical and legal affiliation between any child created and both parents.

Blankenhorn refers in his book to something Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote to a young couple: "It is not your love that sustains the marriage, but from now on, the marriage that sustains your love."

Furthermore, the redefinition of marriage in the United States has been growing for decades even among heterosexuals, Blankenhorn said, beginning with an emphasis on individualism and the search for self-fulfillment. "Gay marriage," he said, is just another erosion of marriage as a pro-child institution.

"To the degree that it makes sense to oppose gay marriage, it makes sense only if one also opposes with equal clarity and intensity the other main trends pushing our society toward post-institutional marriage," Blankenhorn writes, according to The Times.