Essentials forms new groups

Published September 1, 2005

Conservative Canadian Anglicans, who met in Toronto June 16-18, were urged to join two new groups, one of them working towards becoming the official replacement for the Anglican Church of Canada in anticipation that it may be “suspended or removed from the Anglican Communion” or may decide to “walk apart” over the thorny issue of sexuality.

Anglican Essentials Canada (formerly called the Essentials movement) launched the Essentials Federation and the Anglican Network in Canada before 750 delegates, most of them Canadian Anglicans, during a gathering dubbed the “Open Door Conference.” There were also visitors from the U.S. and abroad.

The Federation is aimed at Canadian Anglicans disappointed or frustrated at the crisis plaguing their church but reluctant to cut ties. Organizers said it is for individuals and parishes who “believe they are not in impaired or broken communion” with the national church and “are able in conscience to participate in their diocese and the Anglican Church of Canada.”

The Network, on the other hand, is for those “in a state of serious theological dispute and impaired or broken communion” with the national church or their diocesan bishop. It is also for those who may “desire adequate episcopal oversight from a network bishop,” and who feel they can no longer contribute financially or “participate fully in their diocese” or the Anglican Church of Canada.

The network is also “building an ecclesial body” in the event the Anglican Church of Canada “walks apart from the global Communion, and such a structure is required by the primates as necessary to become fully recognized members of the Anglican Communion,” according to an explanatory document distributed to delegates.

Both the Federation and the Network will, however, establish relationships with primates of the Communion. In the event that the Anglican Church of Canada is suspended, organizers said, the Federation – like the Network – will “seek to be recognized by the global Anglican Communion as full continuing members of the Anglican Communion and work in submission to the primates and other instruments of unity.”

Organizers denied that they are attempting to subvert the national church or are leaving it by forming the two groups. “We’re not setting up a parallel church at this time. We’re setting up structures so that if the Anglican Communion says the Anglican Church of Canada is out, we have a lifeboat,” Cheryl Chang, executive director of the Network, told delegates. “In the event of a global schism, the Network will align with orthodox Anglicans.”

In a press conference, Ms. Chang, a lawyer, acknowledged that the Network was looking at the possibility of seeking a legal right to the name Anglican Church of Canada. “We’re certainly looking at that issue and we anticipate that it will be an issue at some point,” she said in response to a question on whether the Network was prepared to take the issue to the Supreme Court if the need arises. (Discussions on legal strategies and financial implications were closed to the public.)

During the conference, speaker after speaker strongly urged conservative Canadian Anglicans to “stand firm,” to “speak up” and to initiate a “grassroots movement” that could begin by organizing “house meetings” that would work for a church rooted in the Bible and missionary work. The goal is to set up local chapters of the Network and Federation, said Rev. George Sinclair, Network chair.

“Others say, ‘don’t stir the pot, give it time.’ But it would be sad to see the day when the Anglican Church of Canada separates itself from the authority of God and even more tragic if there were none who spoke out against it,” said Don Harvey, retired bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador and now Network moderator. “We are going to be the loyal Anglicans who will follow the standards of Holy Scripture.”

Archbishop Gregory Venables, primate of the Southern Cone (of South America), urged delegates not to believe that a compromise between conservative and liberal views on sexuality was possible. “You can’t hold those two positions together,” he said. “What you’ve got in Western society is a new culturally adaptive Christianity which follows philosophy and human thinking rather than what Scripture has taught.”


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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