Bishops meet with clergy to discuss network

Published December 22, 2007

Since the Anglican Network in Canada held a conference in late November to announce a new church structure for parishes conservative on the subject of homosexuality, several bishops have called clergy in for clarification of their intentions, but no priests have been disciplined.Three dioceses – Ottawa, Montreal and Hamilton, Ont.-based Niagara – last fall voted to permit church blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples, moves that some Anglicans oppose.At the conference, held Nov. 22-23, leaders of the network announced that the Anglican church in South America, called the Province of the Southern Cone, would accept as members parishes that wish to leave the Anglican Church of Canada. The network moderator, Bishop Don Harvey, announced that Canon Charles Masters had been named archdeacon of the network and Rev. George Sinclair prolocutor.Bishop Ralph Spence of Niagara, in whose diocese the Burlington, Ont. conference was held, said he met with Mr. Masters to ask “how could he hold that position and be rector of St. George’s, Lowville?”Mr. Masters explained that, despite the announcement, he had not accepted the position. Although both Bishop Spence and Mr. Masters had legal counsel at the meeting, “in the end, we asked the lawyers to leave the room and had the conversation,” Bishop Spence said. Subsequently, however, a U.S. group called Common Cause, which is bringing conservative Anglican/Episcopalian groups under one umbrella, at a meeting Dec.17-18 in Orlando, Fla., announced that Mr. Masters had been named general secretary of its leadership council. Bishop Spence said he intended to have another meeting with Mr. Masters in the new year. Bishop Spence also said he and his successor, Bishop Michael Bird, met separately with a half dozen clergy who had been present at the network conference in Burlington. “We told them their ministry was highly valued. They have a prophetic voice. It may not be the majority, but it is an opinion we respect and we want them to be part of the family.”One priest who was at the meeting, Canon Mark McDermott, said it was “a very friendly talk.” The bishops are “well aware of our conservative stance. He just wanted to make sure that nothing untoward was going to happen and called us (to the meeting) to assure us that he valued our ministry. It was a very good pastoral response on (Bishop Spence’s) part.” He declined to comment on moves parishes in Niagara might take, saying the group assured the bishops “that within the next 90 days, we were not about to do anything.”In Ottawa, Bishop John Chapman met with Mr. Sinclair, who also told his bishop that he had not accepted the position with the network. “There was no discipline. At this point, technically, there is nothing to discipline,” said Bishop Chapman.Mr. Sinclair’s church, St. Alban the Martyr, is listed as a member of the network, but as of late December, no active Canadian Anglican church had voted to secede and join the Province of the Southern Cone. (Two churches with former connections to the Anglican Church of Canada decided to join the South American province.) The diocese of Ottawa’s position is that its churches cannot leave, said Bishop Chapman. “Individuals can elect to go to another church, but parishes are part of the diocese of Ottawa. Vestries are not allowed to consider (seceding) as a corporate body,” he said. If a vestry were to pass such a motion, “it would be ruled out of order,” he added. “St. Alban’s will always be part of the diocese of Ottawa,” he said. In Montreal, Bishop Barry Clarke said there has been no discipline of priests, but several parishes have enquired about alternate episcopal oversight should he acquiesce with synod’s decision on same-sex blessings. “I plan in the new year to meet with them,” he said. As far as the blessings decision, “I am not under any pressure to go either way at the moment,” he said.


  • Solange DeSantis

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

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