Second Essentials conference draws 600

Published September 1, 2001

Keynote speaker Archbishop Yong Ping Chung of the Province of South Asia.

Langley, B.C.

More than 600 delegates to the second national Essentials conference this summer got a mix of orthodox Christian teaching from overseas bishops, a chastising greeting from the local bishop, and a call to political action from the keynote speaker.

The six-day conference, under the theme “Lift High the Cross: Global Anglicanism and the Anglican Church in Canada” was held at Trinity Western University outside Vancouver. There were major addresses by conservative Anglican theologians, workshops and daily worship. Seven Canadian bishops attended.

The Essentials Council set the conference in the diocese of New Westminster, where a second synod vote in three years on blessing same-sex unions was held two weeks earlier. (The motion passed narrowly, but Bishop Michael Ingham withheld consent.)

Essentials supporters, who dub themselves “conservative Anglicans” generally frown on same-sex blessings and hope to encourage Anglicans to remain faithful to traditional Christianity.

Bishop Ingham told the conference that “most people in the diocese disagree with Essentials on some issues and regard the timing of this conference so close to our synod as unfortunate. There is a level of suspicion and mistrust in our church which is a serious concern to me, a drawing apart of Christians which is weakening our work of evangelism and social justice.”

He added “sometimes we act out of our fear instead of out of our love?. but what we have seen of you is more your fear than your love.”

Bishop Ingham said that no single group should become the whole church. “We need more dialogue and fewer rallies, more charity and less suspicion.”

Later, delegates viewed a video taped for the occasion by Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey who told the conference that “often holding to Christ as centre will require from us a prophetic message as we set forth a gospel which is sometimes unfashionable but always relevant.” Sometimes, he added, people are called to be a “loyal dissent – in church and in the world as we remind others of truths that must be obeyed.”

Archbishop Carey also attended the first Essentials conference in Montreal in 1994.

The Essentials Council consists of Anglican Renewal Ministries, Barnabas Anglican Ministries and the Prayer Book Society of Canada. Organizers say they believe that Essentials followers stand within the mainstream of global Anglicanism.

Keynote speaker Archbishop Maurice Sinclair of the Southern Cone (of South America) said: “The Anglican Communion does undoubtedly need a more robust lead from its primates in guarding its doctrinal and ethical inheritance. It does urgently need an appropriate mechanism of international decision making, not subject to distorting influences, and not leaving us at the mercy of culture-driven innovations.”

Speaking of his own province, Archbishop Sinclair said, “Anglicanism, which retains the full substance of essential Christian faith, is undoubtedly relevant to the challenges, the longings and the heartbreak of Latin America today.

“By contrast,” he added, “an Anglicanism which sits light on biblical and historic tradition and brings in an alternative sexual ethic, causes scandal and has no place in the republics where we serve.”

However, conference chair George Sinclair (no relation) said that the future of Essentials would lie in conferences, not in political action. “As we are thinking about the next four or five years, political action doesn’t figure in it.” Instead, he said, the council is planning four or five conferences over the next five years, and will hire a part-time staff person to organize them.

As well, the group is planning partnerships with Anglican parishes in Canada that ask for it.

Gerry Taunton, a parishioner in St. Martin’s, North Vancouver, said that he was at the conference “primarily to learn.” Although he has attended St. Martin’s for 10 years, he said, he has just recently been confirmed.

“I was held back by things going on in the Anglican church that seemed to have more to do with people’s political agendas?sometimes I wonder if I’m in the Council of Canadians, or the Anglican Church of Canada.” This kind of conference, he added, “gets back to the basics.”

Heather Searle, 38, a parishioner from St. John (Shaughnessy), Vancouver, also attending her first Essentials conference, said it was “an opportunity to hear people from all across the country and all around the world. ?The strength of this conference is that it starts with the truth of God as revealed in scripture. From that basis we can look at our role as Christian people in the world.”

Rev. Joy Vernon of Duncan, B.C., said that the outside perception of Essentials people troubles her. “It’s very sad that Essentials is perceived in a box and that some people would link gay-bashing with our focus. It is not even discussed, and is not on the agenda. I have no patience with any Christian, anywhere, who gay- bash. It saddens me.”

Doris Mills, 79, of Mission, B.C., said the conference was “a real triumph for Anglicanism. It’s God’s church and He won’t let it go where He doesn’t want it to go.”

Ms. Mills, who sat through plenary sessions on the seat of her walker, and also attended workshops on medical ethics and on prayer, added that she dislikes intolerance. “A closed mind is intellectual suicide,” she said with a smile. Asked about comments made from the podium on same-sex unions, Ms. Mills said, “I’m not vicious about it. I don’t condone the sin, but I can still love the sinner. I think the blessings are very personal, between Christ and the persons involved. I don’t feel I have the right to judge.”

The conference had an abundance of news from the Third World. Bishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon riveted 1,000 people at a Sunday evening worship service at the university conference centre with stories of violence against Christians in his home country of Nigeria where Muslim Sharia law is practised in the north.

Conversion to Christianity, he said, is punishable by death.

At the end of the Sunday evening service, clergy from the diocese of New Westminster were invited to the front for a blessing by another keynote speaker, Archbishop Yong Ping Chung, of the Province of South Asia. The 26 men and women wrapped their arms around each other as they stood in a semicircle in front of the podium.


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