Yukon bishop faces discipline

Published November 1, 2003

The controversy in the diocese of New Westminster over whether to bless gay relationships took a grave turn last month as Archbishop David Crawley moved to discipline the diocesan bishop of the Yukon, Terrence Buckle, for asserting “episcopal authority” over disaffected parishes in the Vancouver-based diocese. In a separate action, the bishop of New Westminster also struck a commission to investigate several of his clergy for alleged “disobedient and disrespectful conduct.” In the first development, Archbishop Crawley announced that disciplinary proceedings, as provided for by the church canons, had begun against the Yukon bishop. “Bishop Buckle is acting unlawfully,” stated his message to the Canadian church. Archbishop Crawley, as senior bishop in British Columbia and the Yukon, is Bishop Buckle?s supervisor. In his message, he noted that the bishop of New Westminster, Michael Ingham, had inhibited Bishop Buckle from functioning within the diocese of New Westminster and “I … have required Bishop Buckle to respect that inhibition.” He noted that any bishop who asserts authority within the bounds of another diocese “can be suspended, deprived of his or her position as bishop, or be deposed from the order of bishops.” Bishop Buckle’s lawyer, Stanley Martin, said that no formal charge has been filed against his client. Archbishop Crawley, in an interview, acknowledged that no written charge had yet been laid against Bishop Buckle but that “they know perfectly well what (the charges) are.” The procedural problem, he said, is that “General Synod canons and our provincial canons don’t exactly jibe on (the disciplining of a bishop).” Under the General Synod canons, he said, “we could proceed by me having a hearing and making a decision. It would no doubt be appealed and the appeal would have to be heard by the provincial court of appeal.” The provincial canon requires that a court of appeal contain a majority of the provincial house of bishops. Currently, there are only four bishops in the province, including Bishop Ingham and Bishop Buckle. The diocese of British Columbia elected Archdeacon James Cowan as bishop on Oct. 18 but he will not be installed until next January and the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior, the former diocese of Cariboo, expects to elect a bishop within a few months. Meanwhile, Peter Turner, a lay member of St. Simon church in Vancouver, one of the parishes critical of Bishop Ingham, said his reaction to Archbishop Crawley’s announcement was “outrage.” “When a bishop offers pastoral care, this is not something that should be disciplined; it should be lauded,” said Mr. Turner In June, 2002, a majority of New Westminster?s diocesan synod voted to allow parishes to offer blessings to gay couples. Eight parishes, out of 80 in the diocese, disagreed with the move and formed a coalition called the Anglican Communion in New Westminster (ACiNW). Three more parishes have since joined the coalition. The parishes, declaring they could no longer trust Bishop Ingham, sought episcopal oversight from Bishop Buckle. On Sept. 7, a service was held in Delta, B.C., attended by about 1,600 people, eight Canadian Anglican bishops and two primates (archbishops) from Africa and India. The bishops “commissioned” Bishop Buckle to provide oversight to the ACiNW parishes. Bishop Ingham has provided an “episcopal visitor,” retired Bishop William Hockin, to disaffected parishes, but the offer was rejected. Bishop Hockin has no authority to perform confirmations or appoint clergy and the parishes have said they want an outside bishop with full authority. However, the principle of episcopal jurisdiction is a very old one, noted Rev. David Neelands, a church historian and dean of faculty at the divinity school of Trinity College in Toronto. “The Council of Hertford, in 672 in England, at the time of Bishop Theodore of Tarsus, declared that no other bishop has jurisdiction in another bishop’s diocese. So although he is having a quarrel with his parishes, Michael Ingham is still the bishop of the diocese,” Mr. Neelands said. In a separate development, Bishop Ingham on Oct. 15 sent a letter to clergy saying that he has convened a commission to investigate several New Westminster clergy for alleged “disobedient and disrespectful conduct.” The commission will make recommendations to the bishop on further action. Bishop Ingham’s letter, which did not identify the clergy involved, said the allegations of misconduct have to do with “a repudiation of the authority of diocesan synod and of vows made to the diocesan bishop.”


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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