New Westminster removes four clergy

Published October 1, 2008

The Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster, invoking a provision in its bylaws, announced on Aug. 26 the removal of clergy who have left the Anglican Church of Canada over theological differences over same-sex blessings but who continue to use diocesan parishes.

“Following the failure of the clergy in question to leave church premises in response to a late May request to do so, and an indication that the parish wardens supported such actions by these clergy, the diocese has invoked a provision that returns control of the parishes to the diocese,” said a press statement issued by the diocese.

“The action has been approved by the diocesan council.”

It identified the clergy involved as Trevor Walters, Michael Stewart, and Don Gardner of St. Matthew’s Abbotsford, and Simon Chin of St. Matthias and St. Luke in Vancouver.

On May 11, “each of them declared they had voluntarily left the ordained ministry of the Anglican Church of Canada. They claimed to have come under jurisdiction of a bishop reporting to the Anglican Church of the Southern Cone, which is based in six South American countries,” the statement said. “Such foreign jurisdiction is not recognized by the Anglican Church of Canada.”

The diocese said that on May 29, it had subsequently asked these clergy to cease using the property of their former parishes. The trustees of the churches in question said they are contesting the diocese’s decision in court.

Dean and Commissary (Acting Bishop) Peter Elliott said in a memorandum to clergy that no action has yet been taken at two other parishes — Good Shepherd and St. John’s Shaughnessy – whose clergy have also left the Anglican Church of Canada.

“Implementing this canon is a time-consuming process,” he said.

He added that parish properties “are entrusted to clergy, licensed by the diocesan bishop, to offer the ministry of the Anglican Church of Canada.” Therefore, he added, “loyalty to the bishop is a key part of the oaths that clergy make at ordinations and inductions.”

Since clergy no longer hold the bishop’s licence, the diocese is “legally required to ensure that the authorized ministry of the Anglican Church of Canada continues in those places.”

Anglican Network in Canada Chancellor Cheryl Chang insisted that “whether the diocese of New Westminster has the right to unilaterally replace these duly elected trustees and move to seize control of the parishes’ assets is in dispute.”


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