Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey merely added to the problem of disunity in the Anglican Communion by criticizing a Canadian diocese?s decision to bless same-sex unions, says Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster.
In his last presidential address at the Anglican Consultative Council meeting in Hong Kong in September, Archbishop Carey singled out Bishop Ingham and his diocese for a decision last June to allow the blessing of same-sex unions ?without regard for the rest of us and against the clear statement of Lambeth ?98.?
In a strongly worded reply, Bishop Ingham later said that Archbishop Carey?s remarks might actually help accomplish what the retiring Archbishop said he feared would happen.
?I think he sincerely believes his remarks? will further our unity,? Bishop Ingham said. ?My expectation is that they will do the opposite.
Bishop Ingham went on: ?Is it appropriate use of the presidential office to comment on complex matters in individual dioceses in highly selective ways? Is it ethical to name individuals and personal situations in a primatial address of this nature?
?It is not correct to say that New Westminster has acted ?without regard to the rest of us?,? he added. ?In fact, the position of the bishops at Lambeth ?98 has constantly been before the diocese and its synod members. I have twice withheld my consent to same-sex blessings in part because of the potential impact on other areas of the communion.?
Bishop Ingham, who was also Canada?s bishop-delegate to the ACC, said that Archbishop Carey?s remarks failed ?to honour the careful way both the synod and I have made decisions about the blessing.?
In a separate statement to the Anglican Journal, Archbishop Michael Peers, the Canadian primate, said the Canadian church still has a lot of work to do on the issue of blessing same-sex unions, and added: ?I do not believe that the Anglican Consultative Council of other bodies or leaders within the communion can do that work for us.?
Archbishop Peers said that the Canadian house of bishops and General Synod have not moved beyond their 1997 guidelines, which say that the house of bishops ?does not authorize the blessing of relationships between persons of the same sex.?
In his address, Archbishop Carey also scolded Bishop Charles Bennison of Pennsylvania for defrocking a conservative priest and the diocese of Sydney, Australia for its decision to allow lay presiders at communion.
Archbishop Carey then introduced a resolution calling upon all dioceses ?that are considering matters of faith and order that could affect the unity of the communion to consult widely in their provinces, and beyond, before final decisions are made or action is taken.?
The ACC members affirmed the resolution with only one abstention by Bishop Catherine Roskin, suffragan bishop of New York.
Bishop Ingham supported the motion and voted for it, but added in an interview with Australian Anglican media that the resolution did not appear to recognize the rights of local churches to determine priorities for mission in their own context.
?It is important to balance the need for coherence and credibility with freedom for change,? he said, ?and change always begins locally.?
Members of the Canadian contingent at the meeting later held an hour-long information session about the same-sex blessing issue, which almost all members of the ACC attended.
Archbishop Robin Eames of Armagh chaired the session. The Canadian panel included the Archbishop Peers, Archbishop David Crawley metropolitan of British Columbia and Yukon, New Westminster chancellor George Cadman. Stephen Toope, a member of General Synod?s task force on jurisdiction and Bishop Ingham.
Bishop Ingham said that every council member was given a printed chronology of events leading up the 2002 synod decision, a copy of the proposal agreed to by synod in June, and summaries of the legal and canonical findings of both the diocesan commission and the General Synod task force.
He outlined the history of discussion in the diocese, explained the proposal adopted by synod and the conscience clause, the episocopal visitor and the use of a rite of blessing by parishes requesting it.
Archbishop Crawley described the structure of the Anglican Church of Canada and the distribution of jurisdiction and authority in the church.
Bishop Ingham said that Mr. Cadman explained the absence of legal and canonical challenges to date. ?He also explained the current state of civil law in Canada on same-sex rights and equality, pointing out that the secular state is far advanced on these matters and that the diocese is not discussing ?marriage,? Bishop Ingham wrote.
Bishop Ingham said the talk was ?well received. There is a better awareness or our process, our care and our regard for the rest of the Communion.?