Divisions over same-sex blessings deepen over ‘illegal’ actions

Published October 1, 2003

The split between conservative parishes in the diocese of New Westminster and diocesan leaders widened in September as a bishop from outside the diocese was “commissioned” by two foreign primates and diocesan bishop Michael Ingham moved to exert authority over one dissenting church. The commissioning took place Sept. 7 at a gathering at South Delta Baptist Church in Delta, B.C. In a four-hour service featuring singing, prayers and speeches, about 1,600 people gathered to support the nine parishes calling themselves the Anglican Communion in New Westminster, according to Chris Hawley, a spokesman for the parishes. The parishes broke with the diocese last year, refusing to pay their assessments, after the diocesan synod voted to approve offering blessings to gay couples. Primates Bernard Malango of Central Africa and Kunnumpurathu Samuel of South India commissioned Bishop Terrence Buckle of the Yukon “to provide pastoral oversight to those parishes,” according to Mr. Hawley. Anglican bishops do not have jurisdiction in other dioceses and Bishop Ingham has served notice that Bishop Buckle is inhibited from performing priestly duties in New Westminster, which is based in Vancouver. Bishop Buckle is currently facing disciplinary action from Archbishop David Crawley, metropolitan, or senior bishop, of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and the Yukon. “ I have requested of him as a matter of obedience that he withdraw his offer of jurisdiction over those parishes in New Westminster. He has refused to do so,” Archbishop Crawley said in an interview. The archbishop added that he was not clear as to the intention of the commissioning ceremony, but saw it as “clearly another step along the road in (Bishop Buckle’s) claim to exercise episcopal jurisdiction over those churches.” Also attending the gathering were seven other Canadian bishops, two American bishops and other conservative leaders. On the same weekend, Bishop Ingham invoked a diocesan canon, or church law, and dismissed the wardens, youth minister, trustees and church committee of St. Martin’s church in North Vancouver, one of the dissenting parishes. The church had been without a priest since last January, when Rev. Timothy Cooke resigned to protest the same-sex blessing decision. Some members of the parish were unwilling “to search for (a priest) through the normal diocesan process,” Bishop Ingham said in a statement. Also, in July, the congregation voted by a 59.8 per cent majority to accept Bishop Buckle as “their alternative bishop,” according to the parish Web site. Bishop Ingham appointed three parishioners, two of whom were existing wardens, as bishop’s wardens to bring “stability and normalcy” to the parish. A letter detailing his actions was sent to the church and parishioners on Sept. 5. On Saturday, Sept. 6, the diocese’s business administrator, Mike Wellwood, went to St. Martin’s with a locksmith. “We went there to change the locks so we could have access control after the Sunday announcement,” he said in an interview. However, a group of about 20 parishioners at the church “disputed the right to do that,” said Mr. Wellwood, who elected to leave the current locks in place. The following day, New Westminster executive archdeacon Ronald Harrison visited the church to read, at the two morning services, Bishop Ingham’s notice of action. St. Martin’s priest-in-charge, Rev. Don Willis will remain until further notice, the letter said. Parishioner Jim Burns, one of the church’s two dismissed trustees, called Bishop Ingham’s action “pretty nervy.” About 90 parishioners met with Bishop Buckle after the weekend and circulated a petition that asks Mr. Willis and the wardens to call a vestry meeting within two weeks, he said. Mr. Burns noted the July vestry vote and added, “We have a situation where people who represent 40 per cent, at most, of our parish are controlling the church.” St. Martin’s refused to co-operate with the diocese in the search for a new priest because the parish does not recognize Bishop Ingham’s authority, since he approved the same-sex blessing vote at last year’s synod, said Mr. Burns. The ACiNW parishes have engaged legal counsel and “in the opinion of the lawyers, it’s arguable that (Bishop) Ingham had grounds to do what he did,” said Mr. Burns. Another dissenting parish, St. Andrew’s in Pender Harbour, B.C., published a notice in its Aug. 3 church bulletin that “Bishop Terry Buckle has asked for candidates for confirmation to the Anglican faith and has indicated that he intends to visit our parish for confirmation at a date to be determined in late October or early November.” However, Archbishop Crawley said that if Bishop Buckle performs confirmations in New Westminster, “he will be acting illegally. He will be doing something he has no right to do.” Elsewhere, Dean Peter Williams of the Yukon, who opposes same-sex blessings, said in an interview that his three lay ministers at Christ Church Cathedral disagree with him. He suggested they might take a leave of absence or consider resigning if they can’t be “morally supportive of the rector” and uphold the doctrine of the Anglican Church of Canada, he said.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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