Archbishop Michael Peers, the Canadian primate, has announced the members of a task force mandated by the house of bishops that will consider alternate episcopal oversight for those who dissent from church decisions.
The members are: Bishop Victoria Matthews of Edmonton (chair), Bishop George Bruce of Ontario, Bishop Thomas Morgan of Saskatoon (who retires Dec. 31 from the diocese) and Bishop Donald Young of Central Newfoundland.
Under the terms of reference, the group will consult with bishops, clergy and lay leaders “in order to identify the range of possible circumstances in which alternative/adequate episcopal oversight might be called for.” The terms also direct the task force to meet with parishes in the diocese of New Westminster that no longer accept the ministry of the diocesan bishop and to meet with the bishop and other diocesan leaders.
The group scheduled a meeting with the New Westminster parishes on Dec. 7 to listen to clergy and lay leaders.
Eight parishes (out of 80) walked out of New Westminster ‘s diocesan synod in 2002, when the governing convention voted to allow the blessing of gay relationships in the diocese; the group formed a coalition called the Anglican Communion in New Westminster (ACiNW). One more parish and a mission church subsequently joined the group, plus a congregation led by a priest who is not licensed in the diocese. One of the original ACiNW parishes was also reclaimed by the diocese when the bishop appointed an interim rector and governing committee and wardens.
Stating that they had lost trust in diocesan bishop Michael Ingham, who supported the synod’s decision, the parishes sought out conservative bishop Terrence Buckle of the Yukon. Although Bishop Ingham formally stated that Bishop Buckle could not exercise authority in New Westminster, Bishop Buckle held services there and participated in a commissioning ceremony attended by conservative bishops and laypeople.
At its regular fall meeting, the Canadian house of bishops voted to form a task force to investigate the question of alternate episcopal oversight and Bishop Buckle agreed to withdraw from New Westminster.
The task force will report back to the senior bishops, or metropolitans, of the Canadian church by the end of February and present a recommendation to the house of bishops at its April meeting. It will also appoint a mediator “to assist in the identification of possible parameters of alternative/adequate episcopal oversight for the particular situation in New Westminster.”
However, the ACiNW parishes in mid-November wrote to Archbishop Peers asking that conservative bishop William Anderson of the diocese of Caledonia be appointed to “provide true episcopal oversight on an interim basis.”
Bishop Ingham, in a statement, said the attitude of the leaders of the disaffected parishes is making reconciliation “almost impossible.” He added that the parishes’ demand for the appointment of Bishop Anderson, “after the house of bishops has repeatedly urged the withdrawal of Bishop Buckle, illustrates a continuing lack of understanding not only of the mind, role, and powers of the house, but also of the process of episcopal appointment within the Canadian church. Bishops are elected in the Canadian Anglican church, not appointed. What they propose is not possible in our system, and neither is it desirable.”
The “intransigence” of the ACiNW leaders “may force our negotiations to focus on structural separation rather than reconciliation,” said Bishop Ingham.