While questions of alternate episcopal oversight – bishops ministering to disgruntled parishes in dioceses that are not their own – continue to plague the church, a conservative Canadian bishop has been invited to oversee a parish in Alaska that disagrees with the election of a gay bishop in the U.S. church.
The Canadian bishop involved – Terrence Buckle of the Yukon – was recently involved in another alternate episcopal oversight controversy, but the Alaska situation has so far been marked by an absence of open conflict.
On May 2, Bishop Buckle performed a confirmation and an ordination at All Saints’ church, Anchorage, with the permission of Bishop Mark MacDonald of Alaska.
Last November, Rev. James Basinger, rector of All Saints’, met with Bishop MacDonald. Three months before, the bishop and the Alaskan delegation had voted at the Episcopal Church of the United States’ General Convention to approve the election of Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire. A poll of All Saints’ leaders showed most were in favour of seeking out another bishop, said Mr. Basinger.
Bishop MacDonald, who is on sabbatical, was agreeable, said the parish priest. “He recommended Bishop Buckle and gave him written permission (to officiate). It surprised me a little bit that not only did he approve of it but assisted us in doing it. But we have a good relationship with him,” said Mr. Basinger.
However, the parish has, as a protest, redirected funds it would normally pay to the diocesan operating fund toward “what we could identify as gospel ministries,” such as ministry to native people, Mr. Basinger said. The parish normally sends about $20,000 per year to the diocese of Alaska; that amount was cut to $2,500. The parish is also financing Bishop Buckle’s visits.
Last year, Bishop Buckle faced potential disciplinary action when he accepted an invitation to minister to several parishes in the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster, where the diocesan synod voted to allow the blessing of gay unions. In that case, the diocesan bishop, Michael Ingham, forbade Bishop Buckle from officiating in New Westminster.
“I’ve always said that if we want something to work, we can make it work,” Bishop Buckle said.