Overseas partnerships remain close

Published October 1, 2004

Ties between the Anglican Church of Canada and provinces of the Anglican Communion remain solid despite earlier statements made by two primates calling for the Canadian church’s expulsion from the Anglican Communion after General Synod passed a motion in June that affirmed the “integrity and sanctity of committed adult same-sex relationships.”

Churches and dioceses in Africa, Asia, South Pacific, the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean have continued to communicate with and accept modest grants and other forms of financial assistance from the Canadian church through its Partners in Mission (PIM) program, according to partnerships director Ellie Johnson.

In an interview, Ms. Johnson acknowledged that her department had been “apprehensive about whether our relationship with our partners would continue” after passage of the controversial resolution, which nine (out of 39) Canadian bishops said was “contrary to the teaching of Scripture.” Two primates of the global south — Archbishop Greg Venables of the Southern Cone of South America and Archbishop Drexel Gomez of the West Indies — called it “unacceptable to Bible-believing, orthodox Christians.” (Some African provinces earlier declared “impaired communion” with the diocese of New Westminster after its synod voted to allow same-sex blessings in 2002.)

A backlash similar to the one experienced by the Episcopal Church of the United States (ECUSA) — where some African provinces declared broken communion and refused to accept money following the consecration last year of Gene Robinson, a gay bishop in New Hampshire — was one of the feared scenarios.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” said Ms. Johnson. PIM staff sent letters and e-mails asking if overseas partners were still willing to continue previously planned activities following the controversial resolution and in general, the response was positive, she said. They were also “very understanding” when informed of cuts in grants early in the year due to financial problems that have befallen the national church following reduced donations due to debates on the issues of same-sex blessings and payments to the residential schools settlement fund. “They told us that our relationship is not just about money, that it’s a partnership,” said Ms. Johnson, adding that overseas partners stated that the national church could still help them by advocating for social justice issues. Some simply stated that they disagreed with the resolution but that their consultations and exchanges with PIM would continue.

“There hasn’t been a change in our communication and relationship with people,” added Jill Cruse, Africa co-ordinator, who is also in charge of the Volunteers in Mission program. “It’s still the same.”

Ms. Johnson said she “cannot second guess” why the reception towards the Canadian church has been different from that of ECUSA, whose attempts at reconciliation particularly with African bishops have been rebuffed. (Archbishops from Africa — except South Africa — have stated they would reject donations from any diocese that recognizes gay clergy. Some U.S. dioceses opposed to the ordination of Bishop Robinson have withheld funds from ECUSA and offered the money to these African provinces.)

This year PIM released a total of $282,500 in grants to Africa, $250,000 to Asia and South Pacific, $17,500 to the Middle East, and $230,000 to Latin America and the Caribbean. Total grants, however, have been reduced by $34,700 (and are expected to be reduced further in 2005) due to the national church’s financial crunch.

Canadian church grants fund a variety of projects including support for organizations such as the Conference of Anglican Provinces of Africa, theological education and block grants to provincial offices to offset administration, salaries, transport, meeting and other costs.


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