Few dioceses are uniform in all their beliefs

Published February 1, 2005

The executive committee of the diocese of the Arctic recently affirmed the Montreal Declaration and will bring it to their synod this spring. In its magazine, the diocese also said that if passed by synod, affirmation of the Montreal Declaration “would be one of the conditions of employment in this diocese.”

That declaration – not a creed or accepted article of the Anglican faith – is a statement of traditional belief written in 1994 at a Montreal meeting of three conservative Anglican groups. It affirms the authority of the Bible as “God’s Word written,” and in a section about sexuality it states that while, “Homophobia and all forms of sexual hypocrisy and abuse are evils against which Christians must ever be on their guard,” adultery, fornication, and homosexual unions are considered to be “intimacies contrary to God’s design.”

While the diocese of the Arctic’s idea of requiring the signing of the declaration as a condition of employment has not yet been discussed at the diocesan synod level, it is a sad and dangerous indicator of the level of one group’s fear of the “other.” One might ask if it is wise or even practical for a diocese to create a bubble around itself, secure in the knowledge that everyone within it has agreed to sign the same statement.

Some observers have pointed out that while the idea may not necessarily contravene employment law, it seems to go against the spirit of the church’s human rights principles, which were enshrined in 2001 in a document entitled A Statement of Principles for the ACC on Dignity, Inclusion and Fair Treatment.

Stepford Wives-style homogeneity is not a noble goal in a denomination like the Anglican Church of Canada. A policy like this one flies in the face of the church’s proud tradition of unity in diversity. Few, if any, dioceses are uniform in all their beliefs, particularly on issues of sexuality. Indeed, Essentials, the conservative coalition that originally drafted the Montreal Declaration, and Integrity, an international organization of gay and lesbian Anglicans and friends, simultaneously operate chapters in many Canadian dioceses. Similarly, a glance at the Web site featuring signatories to a statement by the Claiming the Blessing group – which advocates that the church move forward with the authorization of the blessing of same-sex unions – shows that there are supporters of the blessings even in dioceses that are widely considered conservative, or whose bishops are unapologetically from that side of the Anglican spectrum.

The Arctic plan calls to mind a motion proposed last fall at the synod of the diocese of Fredericton. The resolution, which did not reach the floor, would have had all potential delegates to the 2004 national gathering of General Synod stand and declare their position on the issue of same-sex blessings. No, not on any of the other 88 resolutions that General Synod was to discuss, only sex. The intention of the motion was so that the diocesan synod could ensure that the diocese’s position on the blessings would be represented.

If the diocese were truly of one mind about sexuality or any other issue on the General Synod agenda, surely a poll of delegates’ views would not be needed, would it?

Only five years ago, a shortage of clergy in the Arctic led the diocese to advertise in the Journal and in church newspapers in England. According to a March 2000 Journal news story, the diocese then showed some openness to whatever the Holy Spirit sent its way.

Certainly that spirit is more in keeping with church tradition than this proposal.

Opposite this editorial are letters from a member of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) board and from the directors of PWRDF and the partnerships department of the church’s national office. They point to a question that some readers (and other national office staff) have raised, sometimes in confusion, sometimes in protest.

At issue is why Anglican Journal would accept advertising from groups whose development philosophies and/or advertising practices are arguably different from those of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Some readers, including some national church staff, object to Anglican church organizations and appeals having to “compete” for donations with development organizations (with large advertising budgets) from outside the Anglican fold.

Anglican Journal‘s advertising policy, which is set by the newspaper’s board of directors, dictates (in part), “We accept no advertising for tobacco, small loans or lotteries. All advertising in Anglican Journal must meet the standards of good taste. Anglican Journal abides by the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, to which all major advertisers, associations, large corporations, business and retail companies subscribe as the standard for advertising.” While the Journal is the national newspaper of the Anglican Church of Canada, we operate under a policy of editorial independence (a point which is clearly stated in our masthead, on this page, every issue). We are not an official church organ, so any item that you might read in the Journal, whether it is a news story, an op/ed article, an editorial or an advertisement does not imply the “support” of the Anglican Church of Canada.

That said, some directors at the national office have expressed their concerns to the Journal about this issue. Any discussion of changing the advertising policy will have to examine the financial and legal implications of allowing ‘in-house’ appeals for donations while refusing to accept advertisements for others. Those concerned will likely be invited to make a presentation to the Journal board at its next meeting this spring.


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