Canadian Anglican troubles intensify

MISSISSAUGA, ON-Some last-minute resolutions passed by the Anglican House of Bishops are unlikely to prevent the imminent break-up of the Anglican Church of Canada.

The House of Bishops (HOB) is the key decision-making body for the Canadian churches.

During October meetings the HOB agreed to set up a task force to look into episcopal oversight, the practice of providing a new bishop for churches in serious opposition of their own, following months of controversy over leadership in the B.C. Diocese of New Westminster and Bishop Michael Ingham's approval of same-sex blessings.

Discussion was heated as bishops debated the issue.

William Anderson, Bishop of Caledonia, was blunt. Approving same-sex marriage "is sinful, heretical and schismatic." He told Ingham, "Our souls are compromised if we go down the road you demand."

In one of the most emotional moments, Don Harvey, Bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, told the House, "Some of us, who feel very, very deeply, are not able to accept under any circumstances, gay and lesbian blessings. As much as I like unity, it's not at any cost."

However, setting up a task force to discuss episcopal oversight for congregations at odds with bishops endorsing opposing views may be too late.

Earlier in the month, David Crawley, Metropolitan of British Columbia and the Yukon, brought charges against Terry Buckle, Bishop of the Yukon, for exercising "episcopal authority" over 11 parishes in the New Westminster diocese. The parishes felt they could no longer in good conscience remain under the authority of Ingham, and voted to accept instead the leadership of Buckle who, like them, upholds a traditional view of Christian sexuality.

Days later Ingham brought his own charges against seven of the 11 parishes for refusing to submit to his leadership.

David Short, rector of St. John's, Shaughnessy; Barclay Mayo of St. Andrew's, Pender Harbour; Trevor Walters of St. Matthews, Abbotsford; Ed Hird of St. Simon's, North Vancouver; Stephen Leung of Church of the Good Shepherd; Simon Chin of St. Matthias and St. Luke and Silas Ng of the Church of Emmanuel, Richmond stand charged. The last three lead Chinese congregations.

During the HOB meeting, Ingham said the Asian congregations were "first-generation Canadians who were quite isolated from Canadian society and found the issues of homosexuality and pluralism extremely difficult to understand."

Priests charged

All priests were charged with disobedience to the bishop, contemptuous or disrespectful conduct towards the bishop, conduct causing scandal and "other offences against the lawful authority of the bishop."

The charges will be investigated first by a commission of inquiry which could lead to an ecclesiastical trial. If found guilty, they could suffer penalties ranging from a reprimand to the loss of their priestly licences or, at worst, excommunication.

Charges remain

Although the House passed a motion requesting Crawley stay disciplinary proceedings against Buckle and asked Ingham to drop charges against seven priests, both say they will continue on because Buckle will not commit to the House's first request that he "refrain from exercising episcopal ministry in the Diocese of New Westminster."

"If the House had found a workable solution acceptable to both sides, I would have withdrawn," says Buckle, if that is what the dissenting congregations known as the Anglican Communion in New Westminster (ACiNW) wished, and if they were cared for in an agreeable way.

But Buckle says the ACiNW "no longer had confidence" in the House. Instead, Buckle says the ACiNW wrote directly to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, appealing for his "protection" and for him to authorize Buckle to exercise "alternative epsicopal oversight."

The House's task force is to "consult through the Primate with the Archbishop of Canterbury" and report to the April 2004 meeting of the House of Bishops.

But April may be too late. Major realignments in the national and international Anglican Church are expected in the wake of the November 2 consecration of Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, at a ceremony in New Hampshire.

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