Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said that he is not alarmed about the decision by Essentials to form a network and federation which would provide alternative episcopal oversight to disaffected conservative parishes and embrace parishes that have declared impaired communion either with their diocese or the national church.
“I don’t read any great rush to leave the church or develop a parallel church,” said Archbishop Hutchison in an interview after meeting with leaders of Essentials — Canon Charlie Masters and Peter Mason, the retired bishop of Ontario — on Sept. 23.
The one-and-a-half hour meeting, held at the primate’s office in Toronto, was at the initiative of Mr. Masters, who said he wanted to brief the primate about the Essentials gathering in Ottawa last August, where the formation of these groups was announced. Essentials, a coalition of Canadian Anglicans supporting conservative views on homosexuality and traditional Christianity, had also announced the appointment of Don Harvey, bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, as network moderator. The network and federation were formed in response to General Synod’s decision last June to affirm the “integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships.”
“I think the most important thing I can say about the meeting is that it had a very positive tone and there’s a shared goal amongst those of us who met, to maximize communion with the Canadian church and, indeed, within the Anglican Communion,” said Archbishop Hutchison.
Mr. Masters said the meeting, while held in confidence, was an “amiable” one. “The primate was very grateful to receive it and he shared his reflections as well.” Mr. Masters said that he had explained that his group was trying to establish “a platform for orthodoxy.”
Archbishop Hutchison also said that he viewed “with interest, not alarm” the plan by Bishop Harvey, in his role as network moderator, to provide alternative episcopal oversight to conservative parishes unwilling to accept the authority of their diocesan bishop on the issue of sexuality.
Archbishop Hutchison agreed when asked if he thought the network plan jumped the gun on recommendations made by a house of bishops task force to provide adequate episcopal oversight to dissenting parishes. (The bishops have not yet acted upon the recommendation. The issue of episcopal oversight will be discussed at the house of bishops meeting scheduled for Oct. 31 to Nov. 4.)
Bishop Harvey, in an interview, said that the plan to have him minister to disaffected Anglicans would depend on the outcome of the Lambeth Report. “But that doesn’t preclude us looking at the situation and having plans in mind and putting it into effect if things go the wrong way,” he said. Bishop Harvey, who will retire at the end of the month, said that if his group deems the Lambeth recommendations unfavourable, he is prepared to provide pastoral care to congregations who request it, regardless of whether he has the permission of the diocesan bishop.
“I will be a retired bishop,” said Bishop Harvey. “I guess I will still come under some discipline but it will be in a different category. I’m hoping no one will have to (raise the issue of discipline).”