Senior bishops warn off those ‘dividing’ church

Published November 1, 2003

In an unusual open message about the same-sex blessing issue in New Westminster, the primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, and the four metropolitans, or senior bishops, of the Anglican Church of Canada, criticized Bishop Terrence Buckle of the Yukon and “those … who wish to divide our church.” However, the letter was termed “terribly one-sided” by Bishop Donald Harvey of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, who responded, also in an open letter, that he intended to continue to support Bishop Buckle in his actions in New Westminster. It is uncommon for diocesan bishops to publicly rebuke their superiors. Released in early October, the metropolitans’ “message to Canadian Anglicans” noted that “intervention of leaders from other parts of the Anglican Communion … and the intervention of one Canadian bishop in the life of another diocese, contrary to the order of the church, have not contributed to our common faithfulness.” The message was signed by archbishops Peers, David Crawley, Andrew Hutchison, John Clarke and Terence Finlay. Bishop Buckle’s involvement with disaffected parishes in New Westminster “is contrary to the canons of the church” and those who encourage him “have in fact counseled him to disobey the oaths of his episcopal ordination and to disregard the order of the church.” The letter also asked Anglicans to pray “rather than (seek) leverage for your point of view.” However, Bishop Harvey’s message asked why church leaders “castigate” Bishop Buckle while issuing “no reprimand to Bishop Michael Ingham for his actions which brought this whole matter to a head.” Bishop Harvey, who participated in the September “commissioning” of Bishop Buckle as bishop to the disaffected New Westminster parishes, said Bishop Ingham ignored “the collegiality of the house of bishops and the traditional teaching of the Anglican Communion.” At their regular fall meeting in October, 2002, Canadian bishops agreed to not to move on the same-sex blessing issue until General Synod 2004, however, Bishop Ingham abstained from the vote and a blessing took place in New Westminster several months later. Bishop Harvey said he is “not sure that there is a way out of this tragic mess,” but if there is, “it can only start when leadership makes some attempt to treat both sides in a fair and sensitive manner.” In June, bishops of the diocese of Toronto released a statement in response to the Ontario court ruling saying that “Marriage in the historic tradition of the Anglican church continues to be between a male and a female. This basic teaching has not changed and is not affected by recent court rulings or proposed legislation.”


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