Bishops delay oversight decision

Published May 1, 2004


Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, at their regular spring meeting, shelved the concept of alternate episcopal oversight (AEO), deferring further discussion until their fall meeting. In several divided votes, the bishops demonstrated deep unease with the concept, which would allow individual parishes unhappy with church decisions to seek an alternative to their diocesan bishops.

One of the authors of the report expressed disappointment with the decision.

“Two things happened. (One,) we have chosen not to have a safety net in place as we go into the debate (on blessing same-sex relationships) and voting at General Synod. Two, everyone (among the bishops) was so concerned about their own needs, there was an inability to look at the larger picture,” said Bishop Victoria Matthews of Edmonton, chair of the task force that produced the report. The report was released last March at the meeting of the Council of General Synod.

Bishop Michael Ingham, of the troubled diocese of New Westminster which permits same-sex blessings, spoke against AEO. “If the jurisdiction of bishops can be divided up along theological lines, we are no longer shepherds of the flock but leaders of theological parties,” said Bishop Ingham, who said there was a feeling in his diocese that the task force listened only to conservative parishes in New Westminster and ignored the majority who were not calling for change.

Bishop Ingham also suggested that a decision on AEO now could be premature before General Synod debates same-sex blessings. The bishops could reconsider the report in the fall.

A second member of the task force, Bishop Donald Young of the diocese of Central Newfoundland, said he felt “sadly let down” by the inaction of the house of bishops. “This church is going to be in real peril and I think we need to do something about it,” said Bishop Young.

Meanwhile, in an interview prior to the bishops’ decision, New Westminster Chancellor George Cadman said that while he respected the work of the task force, he had questions about the issue of ceding authority.

“The General Synod canons on episcopal jurisdiction are clear and certainly, the traditions of the church have been to respect the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop,” he said. “I don’t believe firmly that any diocesan bishop would have the ability to cede jurisdiction.”

The Anglican Communion in New Westminster (ACiNW), a coalition of dissenting parishes and clergy seeking AEO said the coalition was grateful that the task force took the time to listen to the ACiNW.

“That’s a first in the Canadian church,” said ACiNW spokesperson Chris Hawley. “Clearly the bishops have taken seriously the issues here and the depth of division. We were grateful for the call for a generosity of spirit on the part of bishops, as this is something we’ve been appealing for all along.”

With files from Marites N. Sison


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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