Eight U.S. dioceses ask for ‘commissary’

By on December 1, 2006

Eight conservative dioceses of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America (ECUSA) have told the Archbishop of Canterbury that they are no longer seeking alternate primatial oversight but would like a “commissary” from Canterbury to supervise them.

(A commissary is appointed to act on behalf of a bishop in the bishop’s absence.)

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has informed the bishops of those dioceses opposed to the election of a gay bishop in New Hampshire that the issue would be discussed during the primates’ meeting scheduled Feb. 14-19 in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, reported The Living Church magazine. The petitioning dioceses named Archbishop Drexel Gomez, primate of the West Indies, as an acceptable commissary.

The primates of four Anglican provinces also planned to meet with the bishops of the petitioning dioceses. Archbishops Peter Akinola (Nigeria), Benjamin Nzimbi (Kenya), Justice Akrofi (West Africa), and Gomez were to meet Nov 15 at The Falls, Va. The four primates said the meeting was not meant to pre-empt the primates’ meeting, but was only intended to “allow the American dioceses to express their needs directly to Global South leaders.”

Meanwhile, conservative Can-adian Anglicans said the recommendations made recently by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference “fall short” of providing “adequate protection” to dissenting parishes. The London-based panel recommended on Oct. 13 that dissenting parishes in the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster be granted alternative episcopal oversight but should also “regularize their connections with the diocese,” including attendance at synod and payment of assessments.

The panel also suggested that the diocese grant the visiting bishop delegated authority to conduct visitations and confirmations and that the licences of newly-ordained clergy should be signed by the visitor and the diocesan bishop.

Dean Peter Elliott, who is acting bishop until Bishop Michael Ingham returns from a sabbatical this month, said that the diocese saw no difficulty with the panel’s recommendations. Archbishop Terrence Buckle, metropolitan (senior bishop) of the province of British Columbia and Yukon, said he would respond “willing and fully” to any request for help in implementing panel recommendations.

Several parishes in the diocese have protested its 2002 decision to permit blessing ceremonies for gay couples.

The panel did not approve the dissidents’ call for an outside bishop with full jurisdiction.

“We are grateful that the Panel Report twice quotes section 151 of the Windsor Report which makes clear that ‘adequacy’ is defined by those who are vulnerable,” said the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) in a statement. “However, it is unfortunate that despite this recognition in the report, the recommendations fall short of providing such adequate protection.” (ANiC was formed in 2005 and includes Canadian Anglicans “in a state of serious theological dispute and impaired or broken communion” with the national church or their diocesan bishop.)

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