Panel advises New West on dissidents

By on November 1, 2006

Archbishop Rowan Williams greets Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria in 2005. The African primate is a critic of the U.S. church.

A London-based Anglican Communion panel recommended on Oct. 13 that dissenting parishes in the diocese of New Westminster be granted alternative episcopal oversight but should also resume contributing to the diocese and work toward reconciliation.

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The group, called the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference, suggested that the diocese grant the visiting bishop delegated authority to conduct visitations and confirmations and that the licences of newly-ordained clergy should be signed by the visitor and the diocesan bishop.

Several parishes in the Vancouver-based diocese have protested its 2002 decision to permit blessing ceremonies for gay couples.

The panel did not approve the dissidents’ call for an outside bishop with full jurisdiction. It also said “the congregations concerned should be willing to regularize their connections with the diocese,” including attendance at synod and payment of assessments.

It also said the diocese should end disciplinary action against clergy and not pursue civil legal action against the parishes.

In a statement, Dean Peter Elliott, who is acting bishop until Bishop Michael Ingham returns from a sabbatical in December, noted that the episcopal oversight plan supported by the panel was one developed by the Canadian house of bishops in 2004. He added that the diocese saw no difficulty with the panel’s recommendations.

In other news, a group of Global South primates (national Anglican leaders), meeting Sept. 19-22 in Kigali, Rwanda, criticized the Episcopal Church’s General Convention’s response to the Windsor Report and announced that “some of us will not be able to recognize” the U.S. church’s next presiding bishop “as a primate at the table with us” at the next meeting of all primates, set for February 2007 in Tanzania.

A communique expressed regret that the convention “gave no clear embrace of the minimal recommendations of the Windsor Report.” The Episcopal Church’s Presiding Bishop-elect, Katharine Jefferts Schori, will become the first woman to lead an Anglican province when she formally takes office on Nov. 4.

Referring to Anglicans who disagree with more-liberal attitudes toward homosexuality, the Kigali communique asserts that some churches in the Global South consider themselves in broken communion with the U.S. church. The statement added that Bishop Jefferts Schori “cannot represent those dioceses and congregations who are abiding by the teaching of the Communion” and proposed that another bishop, “chosen by these dioceses, be present at the meeting so that we might listen to their voices.”

The Global South steering committee is chaired by Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, a critic of recent actions taken by Anglican provinces that affirm the full inclusion of gay and lesbian people in the church.

Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane, primate of Southern Africa, distanced himself from the communique. The archbishop was present at the meeting but was not consulted on the document, which contained parts “not consonant with the position of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa.”

The Anglican Network in Canada called the Kigali statement a “dire warning” for the Canadian church. “If the Anglican Church of Canada chooses to follow the path of the U.S. Episcopal Church, they too will be deemed to be ‘walking apart’ from the global church and a new ecclesiastical structure will be required for Canada,” said spokesperson Cheryl Chang.

With files from ENS

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