Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has asked South American archbishop Gregory Venables to cancel a scheduled visit to Canada this week and “stop interfering in the life of this province.”
In a letter dated April 21, Archbishop Hiltz noted that Archbishop Venables, primate of the Province of the Southern Cone (the southern part of South America) is to participate in an Anglican Network in Canada conference in Vancouver April 25 to 26.
The network is a group of 15 churches that have decided to leave the Canadian church over theological differences including attitudes toward homosexuality.
Archbishop Hiltz wrote that “your visit to Canada is without any reference to or consent from my office or that of the bishop of the diocese of New Westminster. This represents a breach in what is considered normative in protocol among primates and bishops throughout the (Anglican) Communion.”
Archbishop Venables, reached by telephone in Buenos Aires, where the province is based, said he did not intend to cancel his visit. “I don’t see any reason to call off the trip. I was invited to share with people who have already separated from the Canadian church. I wouldn’t have done anything had they not already separated,” he said.
Contacting Archbishop Hiltz or diocesan bishop Michael Ingham was unnecessary, he said, since he is “not meeting with people who are members of the Anglican Church of Canada.” He added, “I didn’t encourage them to separate; I simply received their request (to join the Southern Cone).” He said his activities at the conference, called “Compelled by Christ’s Love” would be “to be with them, to talk and share and listen.”
“This (visit) emphasizes the strained relations (between the Anglican Church of Canada and the network) as opposed to offering any kind of help or assistance,” said Archdeacon Feheley, speaking for Archbishop Hiltz, who was out of town.
Mr. Feheley pointed out that Archbishop Hiltz’ letter referred to the Windsor Report on communion which asked archbishops and bishops who believe it is their conscientious duty to intervene in other provinces “to seek an accommodation with the bishops of the diocese whose parishes they have taken into their own care.”
According to a media advisory from the network about the conference, “Archbishop Venables will celebrate and worship with us, as will a number of other global Anglican Communion leaders. Our time together will culminate … in a special service of celebration, commissioning and communion.” Archbishop Hiltz said in the letter that “your visit at this time will further harm the strained relations between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Network in Canada.”Archbishop Hiltz said his request came “with strong support from the house of bishops,” which just concluded its spring meeting in Niagara Falls, Ont. The bishops’ discussion about Archbishop Venables’ visit was closed to the public.
Mr. Feheley said the primate introduced the issue and although there was no vote, there was a “sense of consensus” in the meeting that the letter should be sent.
Mr. Feheley said Archbishop Hiltz noted that on April 10, the bishops of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil strongly criticized a visit by Archbishop Venables to the city of Recife. A statement issued by the Brazilian bishops said that Archbishop Venables “took part in and celebrated at official occasions outside his province without the knowledge and consent of the archbishop of the Province of Brazil and this house of bishops.” In 2004, then-diocesan bishop Robinson Cavalcanti tried to take the diocese of Recife out of the Brazilian church. Bishop Cavalcanti was deposed, or removed from office, after an investigation and ecclesiastical court process.
Archbishop Hiltz’ letter also noted that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, earlier stated that “I do not endorse any cross-provincial transfers of allegiance and that this office and that of the Anglican Communion recognize one ecclesial body in Canada as a constitutive member of the communion, the Anglican Church of Canada.”
The letter said that Canadian bishops have made provision for those “who find themselves in conscientious disagreement with the view of their bishop and synod over matters of human sexuality.” The process, called shared episcopal ministry, provides for diocesan bishops to invite another bishop to minister to disaffected parishes.