The Anglican Church of Canada has voted to approve same-sex marriage after all after church leaders confessed to an embarrassing error when counting the votes.
The General Synod, meeting in Ottawa, had appeared on Tuesday to reject by one vote in the house of clergy a resolution to allow gay marriage.
After delegates complained that they believed their votes had not been counted accurately, the Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the church, demanded the "confusion" be cleared up.
A hard copy of the electronic voting records was ordered and it emerged that the vote in favour by synod general secretary Ven Michael Thompson had been counted for the House of Laity instead of the House of Clergy. When it was reassigned to the correct house, the resolution then passed – by one vote.
Archbishop Hiltz told 200 surprised delegates: "That is our reality, that the motion is in fact carried in all three orders."
Thompson then released a statement and YouTube video explaining the mix-up: "Today we discovered that the electronic voting system we were using miscoded my electronic file. I was listed, and my vote was counted, as a lay person instead of a priest. This one vote changed the outcome of resolution A051-R2—the resolution to amend the marriage canon.
"This vote has been difficult for many, and no outcome can address all of our church's need to live and work together. We have a long road ahead to restore our common life. In the meantime, the whole church has three years to consider and comment on this matter. In 2019, the resolution will come to the General Synod for second reading."
The resolution will need to be passed at its second reading when the synod next meets in 2019 before it becomes law.
Quebec Bishop Dennis Drainville said there was "no great slapping of backs" when the news broke. Instead, some people were feeling shaken.
"I've been in favour of for years, but there's no joy in Mudville today. Everybody is upset," he told CBC.
The church tweeted an apology:
General Secretary has apologized to #GS2016 about the error: "the confusion wasn't just about a matter."— Anglican Church—ACC (@generalsynod) July 12, 2016
The result let to wide celebrations and congratulations from outside as well as in the church.
Green Party leader Elizabeth May tweeted:
Winnipeg chaplain Allison Courey tweeted:
Some months ago, I made a commitment not to participate in any sacraments until I could participate in all of them. Today I can. #GS2016— Allison Courey (@AllisonRev) July 12, 2016
There was also praise for the leadership of Archbishop Hiltz: