While the Council of General Synod (CoGS) endorsed the house of bishops’ support for Bishop William Hockin of Fredericton as episcopal visitor to the diocese of New Westminster (see related story), seven conservative parishes in New Westminster rejected the appointment.
CoGS also voted to support a bishops’ motion that urged Bishop Terrence Buckle of the Yukon to withdraw an offer of episcopal oversight, “while appreciating his desire to be helpful.” New Westminster diocesan chancellor George Cadman has requested that Bishop Buckle be officially disciplined for interfering in New Westminster. Archbishop David Crawley, Bishop Buckle’s superior, said in an interview that it was his duty as metropolitan of the church province of British Columbia and the Yukon to proceed if Bishop Buckle did not withdraw his offer.
The diocese of Yukon’s synod, held in part at the same time CoGS met, issued a statement that it “voted overwhelmingly to support its bishop ? in his offer of alternative episcopal oversight to conservative parishes in the diocese of New Westminster orphaned by their diocese’s June 2002 decision to proceed with same-sex marriages.”
Bishop Buckle confirmed in an interview that he was not withdrawing his offer. “The offer still stands because those parishes have been left high and dry. They do not feel heard at all.”
The seven parishes, which call themselves the Anglican Communion in New Westminster (ACiNW), said, “An episcopal visitor, servicing only as a chaplain, coming to occasionally visit orphaned parishes in the diocese of New Westminster, is not the solution that can address such a crisis. Alternative episcopal oversight has been overwhelmingly requested by our parish vestries, and we continue to affirm it as the appropriate Canadian solution that conscience requires.”
The disaffected parishes say they want a bishop with full jurisdictional authority, although Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster has stated that no clergy would be compelled to perform same-sex blessings.
Lesley Bentley, spokesperson for the ACiNW, said the group was disappointed that the house of bishops did not take Bishop Buckle’s offer more seriously. “We were surprised Bishop Ingham named Bishop Hockin as visitor when he knew it was unacceptable to us.”
The ACiNW expressed disappointment with the bishops’ meeting, “at which the house failed to positively address the rejection of its own guidelines by a single bishop on a matter of critical theological and pastoral importance.
“This sends an alarming message to Anglicans across Canada, leaving them to speculate which of the house’s guidelines and teachings the church’s leaders will uphold and which ? they will not.”
Ms. Bentley added that the ACiNW was disappointed that “the house of bishops has never come to us to get our side of the story. Besides, how serious an offer could it be when the offer is (a bishop) who couldn’t have come from a further province in terms of geographical land mass?”
The disaffected parishes feel bullied by the diocese, she added. “It’s ‘our way or the highway’ and they are not willing to understand that this is a scriptural issue and a biblical issue.”