An emotional debate opened here Saturday as delegates to the Anglican Church of Canada's national meeting try to decide whether to approve the blessing of same sex partnerships.
About 300 Anglican bishops, priests and laity will vote this weekend on a matter that has deeply divided the church at home and also in the global Anglican Communion.
Feelings are raw on both sides of the issue, which may be decided either Saturday night or on Sunday.
"We see our church as being so open, so welcoming," said one priest from Quebec, speaking to fellow delegates inside a Winnipeg conference hall.
"We must open the door and we must allow our brothers and sisters who are gay and lesbian to be with us and share with us in this church."
A delegate from the Anglican Diocese of the Arctic, who is opposed to the blessing of same-sex unions, said: "I am one of the biggest sinners I know. (But) to bless sin would be a disaster to our church."
Other delegates asked the church to postpone the vote, as it did at its previous national meeting in 2004.
"We are a divided house," said a delegate from Fredericton. "We don't agree how to interpret tradition and scripture, and what the Holy Spirit is saying to us as a church. Therefore, we need to wait."
No matter what Anglicans choose, there are fears that dozens of Canadian congregations will leave their dioceses in the months to come, prompting years of acrimony and litigation over church buildings and assets across the country.
If the Canadian church endorses same-sex blessings, it may also alienate itself from Anglican branches in other countries, particularly in Africa, whose conservative bishops have threatened to walk away from North American Anglicans who reverse hundreds of years of traditional church teaching.
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