Parishioners at St. Matthew’s Church in Abbottsford, B.C. are feeling “pain and anger” that their chosen speaker for century celebrations has been banned from participating by their bishop.
St. Matthew’s had invited Most Rev. Moses Tay, primate of Southeast Asia, to speak at 100th anniversary celebrations Oct. 28, 2000.
However, when the parish sought permission on behalf of Archbishop Tay for his participation, Bishop Michael Ingham refused, because he would “not be a unifying force in this diocese.” (Clergy visiting another diocese require the permission of the bishop to function in that diocese.)
In a June 3 letter to the rector of St. Matthew’s, Rev. Trevor Walters explaining his decision, Bishop Ingham said that he did not “want to see any episcopal ministry exercised here which might disturb my efforts to create a climate of dialogue and mutual listening among members of the diocese.”
In a telephone interview with the Journal, Bishop Ingham said his two main concerns about Archbishop Tay were his “aggressively anti-homosexual stance” and comments he made during his last visit to British Columbia 10 years ago about totem poles in Stanley Park.
Archbishop Tay was one of the most outspoken conservative bishops at the Lambeth Conference last year. He opposed a Lambeth motion saying all parts of the church should discuss the issue because, he said “we don’t want any polluting literature” in the church in Singapore.
On a previous visit to B.C., Archbishop Tay said totem poles represented evil spirits and he invited people to pray for exorcism.
These actions and others prompted the rejection, said Bishop Ingham. “Both our relationships with aboriginals and our discussions around gay and lesbian spirituality would make his presence difficult,” he said. Bishop Ingham denied the decision was a sign of liberal intolerance.
“We’ve never denied anyone the right to speak on the basis of being conservative. I am open to theological diversity and welcome it,” he said, pointing out that conservative John Stott and others have spoken in the diocese. The banning of Archbishop Tay, said Bishop Ingham, is “really a question of a particular person at a particular time whose actions would be considered more inappropriate than helpful.”
Mr. Walters said the church wanted Archbishop Tay because he is knowledgeable about church planting and the parish plans to plant a church in the coming year. He also has a personal connection with Archbishop Tay. A number of years ago Mr. Walters’ wife was ill and sought prayer from Archbishop Tay at a service in Edmonton. He prayed for Mrs. Walters and prophesied that she would get well, though slowly, and that her story would circle the globe.
Subsequently, several other people gave this prophecy to the Walters. Since then, Mrs. Walters has recuperated and her story has been sent around the world on cassette tape.
“We have accepted this decision with great sadness and frustration but we’re not fighting it,” said Mr. Walters of the ban. St. Matthew’s has already confirmed two other speakers for the celebration: Charles Alexander, rector of St. Luke’s in Calgary, and Rita Bennett, who is involved in charismatic renewal. Bishop Ingham has approved both.
While Archbishop Tay has been refused permission to visit New Westminster, he himself refused to visit Scotland in September because he said the Scottish primate, Richard Holloway is a heretic. Bishop Holloway was expected to lead the annual clergy retreat in New Westminster in mid-October. Bishop Holloway had been directed not to address homosexuality at the clergy conference. Marianne Meed Ward is a freelance writer, editor and broadcaster in Toronto.