Talks may resume between the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster and four dissenting parishes opposed to a more liberal stance on human sexuality after the diocesan council recently voted to extend the provision of payroll services to their clergy until April 30, 2008.
The decision by the council, which acts on behalf of the diocese between meetings of synod, allows the clergy of St. John’s Shaughnessy, Good Shepherd, St. Matthias and St. Luke, and St. Matthew, Abbotsford to remain in the pension and benefits plan of the Anglican Church of Canada. Clergy and laity from these parishes were among those who walked out of the 2002 synod when a majority voted to ask the bishop to allow the blessing of same-sex unions in the diocese. Since then, all four parishes have stopped paying their diocesan assessments. A diocesan regulation states that a parish will receive payroll services only if it pays its diocesan assessments. The parishes decided to set up their own payroll system.
But the pension office of the Anglican Church of Canada ruled that diocesan clergy who wish to remain on the national church’s pension and benefits plan must go through a diocesan payroll system.
The council agreed in November 2006 to suspend the regulation until the end of 2007 “while the status of the protesting parishes was sorted out,” the diocesan Web site reported.
The rector of one of the parishes, Rev. David Short of St. John’s, has agreed to a proposal from Bishop Michael Ingham that a small working group be set up to clarify the parishes’ relationship with the diocese. Mr. Short asked for an extension of the payroll arrangements until next spring.
The working group will be composed of three representatives from the diocese and three from the dissenting parishes.