To the point
Bishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee gives details of a discussion on non-stipendiary ministry at the spring house of bishops meeting. Much of that meeting also focused on the issue of same-sex blessings in the diocese of New Westminster.
At their spring meeting, bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada voted to support Bishop Michael Ingham’s appointment of Bishop William Hockin as an episcopal liaison with parishes in Bishop Ingham’s diocese of New Westminster that cannot accept the blessing of homosexual relationships.
The bishops, in a statement, also called upon seven conservative New West parishes to explore “the possibility of finding their own best interests” in working with Bishop Hockin. However, the parishes rejected the offer (see related story).
At their regular spring meeting, the bishops also voted to urge Bishop Terrence Buckle, of the Yukon, to withdraw his offer of episcopal oversight to the seven parishes – an offer that was not approved by Bishop Ingham and is contrary to church law.
The New Westminster situation dominated the five-day meeting, which also heard an update on the residential schools settlement fund, engaged in a day-long discussion on spotting potential problem behaviour among clergy and other church leaders and continued discussions concerning non-stipendiary, or unpaid, clergy.
Bishop Hockin, who retires as diocesan bishop of Fredericton Oct. 31, will begin work on Nov. 1 with the Vancouver parish of St. Clement’s, which had requested an episcopal visitor.
“It is my hope that I will be accepted as one who seeks to be a sign of peace and unity within a very seriously polarized situation,” Bishop Hockin told his colleagues. Known as a theological conservative, he said that he does not approve of same-sex blessings, but stands as “a bishop who represents care of both the local bishop and the wider church.”
Bishop Ingham said he retains jurisdiction over all parishes in his diocese. However, Bishop Hockin may preach and preside at worship, give pastoral care to clergy and lay persons, preside at confirmations and advise Bishop Ingham on the appointment of clergy, according to a letter from Bishop Ingham to the house of bishops. Last June, New Westminster’s diocesan synod voted to allow the blessing of homosexual unions and to allow Bishop Ingham, who endorsed the decision, to appoint an “episcopal visitor” to conservative parishes.
Several bishops said that while they support Bishop Hockin, the move does not address the seven parishes’ call for a conservative bishop with full jurisdiction within New Westminster. It “appears to be enabling an unconstitutional move and is the grossest violation of our discipline that I’ve experienced,” said Bishop Ron Ferris of Algoma. However, Bishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee, who supported the appointment, said, “there has been a genuine working of God’s spirit in this part of the church.”
Bishop Buckle, who acknowledged that he was “really struggling” with the issue, said his motive was to help the dissident parishes stay in the Anglican Church of Canada. Four bishops voted against the motion: Bishop Ferris, William Anderson of Caledonia, Anthony Burton of Saskatchewan and Larry Robertson of the Arctic.
Thirty-one voted in favor.
Bishop Burton termed the motion urging Bishop Buckle to withdraw from New Westminster “the most shocking, pointless and polarizing motion I have ever seen.” He added that “humiliating and isolating people is not the Christian way. I would be greatly ashamed of this house if we passed this motion.” Archbishop David Crawley, metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and the Yukon, and Bishop Buckle’s supervisor, noted that Bishop Buckle’s offer “is illegal.”
The motion was passed by a vote of 29 to six. Bishop Buckle said he would “seriously consider” withdrawing his involvement, but the following week said he would not do so.
In other news:
General Secretary Jim Boyles told the bishops that $4.8 million has been contributed to the residential schools settlement fund since the agreement creating it was signed on March 11. “Three or four claims have been paid for a total of $26,000,” he said. The Anglican Church of Canada and the federal government signed an accord that limited the church’s liability in lawsuits concerning the native residential schools to $25 million. “The dioceses have been prompt in their payments in the first quarter,” Archdeacon Boyles said.
The bishops spent a day with Minneapolis-based psychologist John Gonsiorek, who has done a number of evaluations of clergy, health-care workers and others who have been accused of misconduct. They discussed ways to prevent misconduct, warning signs that clergy are under stress and the importance of having misconduct policies in place.
The bishops continued discussing the issue of non-stipendiary, or unpaid, clergy, most of whom are natives in dioceses with thin financial resources. A committee, chaired by Bishop David Ashdown of Keewatin, recommended that the 11 northern dioceses proceed with a planned compensation review. Table group discussions suggested that dioceses find local resources to pay clergy, but others urged that there be national church involvement.