Council expresses sadness over bishop’s departure

Published November 17, 2007

Mississauga,Ont.The Council of General Synod (CoGS) has described as “a source of sadness” the decision by a retired bishop to leave the Anglican Church of Canada over the issue of same-sex blessings, but also said an “appropriate provision for pastoral care and episcopal support” exists for all Canadian Anglicans. Earlier, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate (national archbishop) of the Anglican Church of Canada, informed CoGS that the retired bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, Don Harvey, was “relinquishing his ministry” to the Canadian Anglican church and was “to be received into the jurisdiction of the primate of the Southern Cone.” In a statement, CoGS, the church’s governing body between General Synods, underscored that it would not tolerate any incursions into the jurisdiction of the Canadian Anglican church by another province. “We wish to make clear that interventions in the life of our church, such as ordinations or other Episcopal acts by any other jurisdictions, are inappropriate and unwelcome,” said the statement. “In particular, we cannot recognize the legitimacy of recent actions by the Province of the Southern Cone in purporting to extend its jurisdiction beyond its own borders.” The statement also urged the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, “to make clear that such actions are not a valid expression of Anglicanism and are in contravention of the ancient and continuing traditions of the Church. They aggravate the current tensions in the Anglican Communion.”Archbishop Hiltz has acknowledged that Bishop Harvey’s decision could pose “complications” for the delicate unity within the local church and the worldwide Anglican Communion, which has been at odds over the ordination of a gay bishop in the United States and the approval in 2002 of same-sex blessings in the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster. Archbishop Hiltz said that problems would arise if Bishop Harvey, who may no longer function as a cleric in the Anglican Church of Canada since he’s now in the jurisdiction of another province, chooses to exercise his ministry in Canada. (Bishop Harvey is moderator of the Anglican Network in Canada, which describes itself as “a national fellowship of Canadian Anglicans who share a commitment to biblically-faithful, historically-authentic Anglicanism.”)The primate said he was aware of Bishop Harvey’s plan to ordain two candidates in the diocese of New Westminster who “are not known” to the diocesan bishop, Michael Ingham. “No bishop can do (such action) without the licence or approval of the diocesan bishop,” said Archbishop Hiltz. CoGS issued a statement on Nov. 16 regarding Bishop Harvey’s actions at the suggestion of the primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz. “We need to say something because there will be some confusion in the street about what this (Bishop Harvey’s departure) means,” said Archbishop Hiltz. “We need to be clear about what we stand for … not that it’s a race to the public, but it’s an obligation to the church.” Archbishop Hiltz also noted that Bishop Harvey has been “one of the primary architects” of a gathering of conservative Anglicans in Burlington, Ont., scheduled for Nov. 22-23. Bishop Ingham said it would be “irresponsible” for the church not to issue any statement. The diocesan bishop of Toronto, Colin Johnson, also underscored the need to respond. “I can confirm that the archbishop of the Southern Cone (Archbishop Gregory Venables) has said that he was coming to Canada to provide appropriate pastoral oversight to parishes who are finding it difficult to function with their bishop,” he told CoGS. “I responded that it was inappropriate, nothing has happened (regarding the issue of same-sex blessings) in my diocese.” Bishop Johnson added that there would be no problem if Bishop Harvey functions in the Southern Cone (a church province that covers dioceses in South America, except Brazil). But if Bishop Harvey chooses to stay and function in Canada it “puts him in direct competition as an Anglican bishop; the Anglican Church (of Canada) has exclusive jurisdiction within Canada,” said Bishop Johnson. In its statement, CoGS said it had received the news of Bishop Harvey’s departure “with concern,” adding that he “has been a valued member of our church.”The statement, which was sent to members of the house of bishops for distribution to all members of the church, said that the Anglican Church of Canada “welcomes and respects freedom of individual conscience and the theological convictions of its diverse membership.” It added: “Our General Synods have consistently sought to honour every voice as we work patiently through contentious and difficult issues before our church … We value and respect the diversity of the worldwide Anglican Communion and have expressed our commitment to its ongoing life, even as we also ask for respect and understanding of our own.”During a discussion prior to the approval of the statement, some CoGS members called for a stronger language, while others cautioned against “adding to the provocation.” Canon James Robinson, of the diocese of Calgary, said he supported the statement but was “troubled by some aspects” of it. “I disagree with the interventions (of jurisdiction) but we are not without blame,” he said, noting that the decision in 2002 by the diocese of New Westminster to allow same-sex blessings had helped trigger the fracture in the Canadian church and the Anglican Communion. “I support this with great sadness.”Bishop Harvey meanwhile, in an interview with the Anglican Journal, was mum about where he would serve, saying it would depend on the outcome of the Network meeting in Burlington. Bishop Harvey said he arrived at the decision to leave the church, where he had been a priest for 44 years, at General Synod held last June in Winnipeg. “I was sitting, listening to various debates and realized this was no longer the church I was ordained into. It wasn’t just the issue of same-sex blessings but a host of other issues. I felt I couldn’t stay until there was a radical change,” he said. He added that the approval in October by the diocesan synods of Ottawa and Montreal of motions asking their respective bishops to allow clergy to bless same-sex unions and what he described as “the very positive comments” of Archbishop Hiltz about the decisions crystallized his resolve to leave. (Archbishop Hiltz had said that the diocese of Ottawa followed due process in deciding the motion at their synod.) Bishop Harvey said that he felt “sadness and relief” at his decision. “I feel very sad that after 44 years I have to go out this way. But there’s a sense of relief that I have cast off what has burdened me for months.” In an earlier interview with a secular newspaper, Bishop Harvey hinted at the possibility that some Canadian parishes could follow like-minded American parishes which have left their dioceses in the Episcopal Church in the United States. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion have been in turmoil over the consecration in 2003 of an openly gay man, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire. In its statement, CoGS also expressed strong support for Archbishop Hiltz’ view that “the church in Canada and throughout the world should make Christ and his mission its central focus.” It urged Canadian Anglicans “to commit themselves to this priority, and to respect the structures and authority of the Church.”It also asked for prayers “for our continued fellowship in the Spirit and our unity in the bond of peace.”


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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