Eleven members of the clergy in the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster on April 21 resigned due to theological conflicts with the diocese and Bishop Michael Ingham, but said they intend to continue their parish ministry under the jurisdiction of an Anglican province in South America.
The nine priests and two deacons, in a letter to Bishop Ingham, said “it is our intention to remain members of the Anglican church” but “we cannot continue the Anglican ministry to which we were ordained under your jurisdiction.”
In 2002, New Westminster voted to allow blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples and the statement said the diocese “has departed from historic, orthodox Anglican teaching and practice.”
The clergy said they “hereby relinquish the licences (to minister) we hold from the bishop of New Westminster. Each of us will receive a licence to continue our present parish ministries from Bishop Donald Harvey, who … is under the jurisdiction of the primate (senior archbishop) of the Southern Cone.” The clergy served at four diocese of New Westminster parishes and two Anglican Network in Canada parishes.
Bishop Harvey, who relinquished his ministry from the Canadian church last November, joined the province of the Southern Cone (which consists of the southern part of South America) under Archbishop Gregory Venables.
“In this way, we will be able to continue our Anglican ministry within the Anglican church, under the jurisdiction of and in communion with those who remain faithful to historic, orthodox Anglicanism and as part of the Anglican Communion worldwide,” the statement said.
The clergy were responding to a letter sent them in February by Bishop Ingham, stating that they had abandoned their ministry within the Anglican Church of Canada; the letter gave them 60 days to respond. The deadline was April 21. Bishop Ingham was on retreat and not available for comment.
The six parishes in February joined the Anglican Network in Canada, a theologically-conservative group of churches led by Bishop Harvey.
A network spokesperson, Cheryl Chang, confirmed that the New Westminster clergy intend to remain in their parish buildings, along with their congregations – a move that may prompt legal action from the diocese. Ms. Chang and diocesan communications officer Neale Adams said no lawsuit has been filed. The dioceses of Niagara and British Columbia have been involved in civil court cases concerning property ownership issues and access to parishes that have voted to break away.
In 2002, eight of the 80 parishes in New Westminster left the synod, or governing convention, that approved same-sex blessings; they also stopped paying assessments to the diocese and began processing their own payroll for clergy and staff. A year ago, due to a technical computer system issue at the national pension office in Toronto, the diocese agreed to process their payroll again, but the arrangement ends at the end of April and the churches “will be paying (their) own clergy,” said Ms. Chang.
(Editor’s note: The fourth paragraph of this story has revised for clarity.)