Bishop Michael Bird expresses his disappointment after a court ruled that the diocese of Niagara could not hold services for “faithful members” in two churches that voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada.
An Ontario Superior Court judge ruled on Feb. 29 that the diocese of Niagara could not send clergy into two area churches for two weeks to hold Sunday services for members of the congregations that remain loyal after most of their fellow parishioners voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada.
It was the first court decision since 10 Canadian Anglican parishes decided, at their regular vestries (annual meetings) in February, to separate. They now identify themselves as part of the Anglican Network in Canada.
“I am disappointed with the decision today, but we have to respect and abide by it. I feel for those faithful members of the parishes,” said Bishop Michael Bird. Clergy and lay people who supported separation were cheered by the ruling. “We are so thankful. We want to be able to worship together as a community uninterrupted. (Those loyal to the diocese) are more than welcome to attend any of our services,” said Rev. Ray David Glenn of St. George, Lowville.
In Niagara in February, St. George and St. Hilda in Oakville, Ont., at odds with the denomination over such theological differences as liberalizing attitudes towards homosexuality, decided to join a conservative South American Anglican church. A third church, Good Shepherd in St. Catharines, also voted to separate, but was not at issue in the court decision.
On Feb. 24, Bishop Bird went to St. George and sent Canon Brian Ruttan to St. Hilda. They conducted worship for loyalists and diocesan supporters and in the court filing were seeking to have the arrangement extended for two weeks until the issue of who owns the church property comes before the court.