Newfoundland bishop sets rules for clergy

Published January 14, 2008

Bishop Cyrus Pitman

Bishop Cyrus Pitman, of the diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, said he expects clergy in his diocese who are involved in the Anglican Network in Canada and “working to the establishment of a parallel jurisdiction to the Anglican Church of Canada” would “do the honourable thing and resign their positions, relinquishing their licences to exercise ordained ministry in this church.”

In a letter to diocesan clergy dated Dec. 18, 2007 and entitled “Her House in Order,” Bishop Pitman also summoned clergy to a gathering at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St. John’s on Jan. 21 to renew their ordination vows and receive new licences.

Clergy in the diocese have annually renewed their vows, said Bishop Pitman in an interview. “In view of some of the tensions in the church and in the (worldwide Anglican) Communion, we can reconnect to some of the promises we’ve already made and get on with the mission of the church,” he said.

He added that he decided to issue new licences because, “I just felt I needed to have my name on them as the bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador.” The Anglican Church Directory 2007 lists 37 parishes in the diocese and 41 clergy members.

The issue is a sensitive one since his immediate predecessor, Donald Harvey, has left the Canadian church, joined the Anglican church in the southern part of South America, and ministered to disaffected congregations in Canada. Bishop Harvey, a conservative, has said he disagrees with the Canadian church over issues that include homosexuality.

Licences issued by any of Bishop Pitman’s predecessors would have remained valid, but Bishop Pitman said that “in view of the times, I would like all clergy to have my name on the licence.” Adding that “it’s not a power grab,” Bishop Pitman said he is “inviting people to work within the Anglican Church of Canada.”

In late November, the network, which says it represents Canadian Anglicans committed to “biblically-faithful, historically-authentic Anglicanism,” said the Anglican province of the Southern Cone would receive any Canadian parish that is disaffected with its diocese or national church. As of early January, no Newfoundland parishes were listed as members on the network’s Web site.

Bishop Pitman said a couple of his clergy are “involved” in the network, but none have indicated they intend to leave the Canadian church. “If they want to go down that road, I respect their wishes,” he said, but, as he noted in the letter, he would expect them to resign their current orders.

Bishop Harvey served the Canadian church well for more than 40 years, noted Bishop Pitman in his letter, but his decision “to renounce his licence rather than to seek a transfer to another province has implications” for the diocese, the national church and the wider Anglican community. Bishop Harvey, moderator of the network, is now a bishop in the Southern Cone, which includes Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.

Bishop Pitman told the Anglican Journal that no one, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, seems to have decided whether a bishop who renounces a licence in the Anglican Church of Canada also renounces that licence in the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

“The question is whether the Southern Cone has been given the green light to do work in the Anglican Church of Canada or any other jurisdiction,” said Bishop Pitman.

In his letter, Bishop Pitman reiterated church policy that “no one from another diocese or another province is to be asked to exercise any ministry in any of our parishes except by the direct invitation of the diocesan bishop.”

Bishop Harvey and other conservative bishops from outside Canada have visited conservative churches to perform consecrations, confirmations and hold services. This is against church protocol, which dictates that visiting bishops seek permission or an invitation before performing episcopal acts in another’s diocese.

Bishop Pitman also wrote that he is reconfiguring the “cathedral chapter,” which is a group of advisors to the bishop that have included people associated with his predecessor. Acknowledging that a couple of individuals in the group are associated with the network, Bishop Pitman said in the interview that “it is not a punitive thing,” that he wants the chapter to meet more often and intends to appoint membership that “will reflect the diversity of the diocese.”

The bishop is planning to call a special diocesan synod at a date and place to be announced after Easter, with the theme Setting the Course. “We will clarify and affirm our ministry plan and consider congregational development, setting the course for 2008 and beyond,” he wrote.

Observing that Jesus was “born into the weakness and disarray of our humanity and in its midst revealed the Father’s love for all His creation,” Bishop Pitman also said he pledged to “remain within the fold of the Anglican Church of Canada.”


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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