Anglican Church of Canada leaders are appealing to the Archbishop of Canterbury to address moves by dissidents to join a South American church and minister illegitimately in Canada.In a pastoral statement dated Nov. 29, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate, or national bishop, of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he and the church’s four metropolitans, or regional archbishops, “deplore recent actions on the part of the primate and General Synod of the Province of the Southern Cone to extend its jurisdiction in Canada through the Essentials Network Conference.”
(The statement was signed by Archbishop Hiltz and archbishops Terry Buckle (diocese of Yukon), John Clarke (Athabasca), Caleb Lawrence (Moosonee) and Bruce Stavert (Quebec).)At a conference held Nov. 22-23 in Burlington, Ont., leaders of a group called the Anglican Network in Canada announced that the Southern Cone, based in Buenos Aires, would receive any Canadian churches who were in “serious theological” disagreement with their dioceses or the national church. Such disagreement has arisen in recent years over the national church’s liberalization of views about homosexuality.
In addition, two retired Canadian bishops said they had relinquished ministry in Canada; they said they were now part of the Southern Cone and would minister to disaffected churches in Canada. Such ministry is “inappropriate, unwelcome and invalid,” wrote the Canadian archbishops.
Two local churches, St. John’s, Richmond, B.C. and Church of the Resurrection, Hope, B.C., said they had joined the South American province. Neither was previously affiliated with the Anglican Church of Canada.
St. John’s began as a Bible study group with members from St. John’s Shaughnessy, a church in the diocese of New Westminster that is opposed to gay marriage or blessing ceremonies for gay couples. Church of the Resurrection is an offshoot of another existing Anglican parish, Christ Church, in Hope.The archbishops’ pastoral statement said the Southern Cone’s reception of the churches “breaks fellowship within the Anglican Church of Canada and the (worldwide) Anglican Communion.” Such actions, they said, are not necessary. “Our bishops have made adequate and appropriate provision for the pastoral care and episcopal support of all members … including those who find themselves in conscientious disagreement with the view of their bishop and synod over the blessing of same-sex unions.”
Meetings of the Canadian church’s national governing convention, General Synod, “have consistently strived to honour every voice as the church works through contentious and difficult issues before it. This is particularly true in the way the church has endeavoured to address matters of human sexuality,” wrote the archbishops.
Actions by the primate of the Southern Cone, Archbishop Gregory Venables, are “inappropriate” and “contravene ancient canons (laws) of the church going as far back as the fourth century,” said the statement; they also violate a Canadian canon (church law) that states no clergy member should exercise ministry in a diocese without the diocesan bishop’s permission.
The statement urged all Anglicans “to a renewed emphasis on mission and prayer for faithful witness in the service of the gospel.”
In other developments, the Essentials Network has revealed it has “a substantial commitment for a legal fund in the amount of $1 million,” which it could use to defend congregations that want to leave the Canadian church and retain their buildings and property; the information is contained in a document posted on the Network’s Web site.
“There is a group of people in Vancouver who have committed to underwrite a fund of $1 million, but it is my belief that we may need to raise a lot more than that if we need to defend this up to the Supreme Court of Canada,” said Cheryl Chang, a Vancouver-based lawyer who is a Network director and a volunteer member of its legal team. She said she did not know who the donors are.
In the U.S., the Episcopal Church, some dioceses and local churches have gone to court to argue about who owns church property should a congregation or diocese decide to leave the wider church. In Canada, there has been no court decision concerning church ownership of property. The full text of the statement can be found at www.anglican.ca