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The Anglican Church of Canada and homosexuality

Parishes leaving the Church: 2004-2007

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Background:

The two provinces of the Anglican Communion in North America -- The Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and the Episcopal Church, USA -- have been able to navigate many moral/theological conflicts in the past without a schism. Notable among these have been the rejection of human slavery and the acceptance of female ordination. Many conservative Anglicans still have great difficulty accepting female priests and particularly female bishops because it violates the former's concept of gender roles in society, the church and family.

A far more serious cultural change affecting the ACC has been the gradual movement in Canada towards equal acceptance of homosexuals. This change has placed a massive strain on the church. The main points of conflict appear to be whether gays and lesbians who are in loving, committed relationships can be considered for ordination, and whether same-sex unions should be formally blessed in a church ritual. The question of whether the church should somenize same-sex marriage is the obvious next matter; it has not surfaced yet.

A schism may be inevitable, either within the two denominations, or between the two denominations and the rest of the worldwide Anglican Communion over equal rights for gays and lesbians.

Anglicans have had a history of accommodating a wide diversity of opinion within the denomination. This is one of their strengths. The Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and the Episcopal Church, USA have been discussing equal acceptance of homosexuals for decades. However when the opinion of the majority becomes translated into action, some of those who disagree may decide to vote with their feet, and separate from their denomination.

The New Westminster synod in British Columbia Canada voted in favor of having the church bless same-sex relationships during 1998, 2001 and 2002. With each vote, the margin increased. Bishop Michael Ingham vetoed such blessings on the first two occasions. In 2002-JUN, he finally assented with the clear will of the majority of Anglicans in his diocese. This decision had negative world-wide repercussions throughout the Anglican Communion.

The election of Gene Robinson, an openly gay male in a committed same-sex relationship, as Bishop of New Jersey was confirmed by the Episcopal Church, USA during its 2003-AUG General Convention. By this time, many in the conservative wing of the Anglican Church of Canada talked openly about schism. There have been other gay bishops in the Communion in the past, but Robinson is the first bishop to have been "out of the closet."

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A possible schism in the Anglican Communion:

The worldwide Anglican Communion has divided the world geographically into 38 provinces, each under the control of a single primate. The provinces are divided into dioceses; each has historically been under the control of a single bishop. Each diocese is sub-divided into individual parishes. There are indications that this orderly structure is beginning to disintegrate in both the U.S. and Canada. Individual Canadian parishes are severing their relationship with their diocese and joining reform groups under the control of a foreign bishop who is located some considerable distance from the parish. A patchwork arrangement is developing: Anglicans in a given geographical area are divided. Some believers in a diocese are under the leadership of a bishop recognized by the Anglican Church of Canada; others in the same diocese are under another bishop recognized by a reform group.

If a permanent split were to occur, it will probably take the form of:

bulletA minority of Anglican parishes and members in Canada leaving the Anglican Church of Canada.
bulletThey would join a very conservative reform group.
bulletThat minority would find itself in close agreement with the policies and beliefs of African and Asian Anglicans who form the majority of Anglicans worldwide.
bulletThe Anglican Church of Canada would find itself in close agreement with the policies and beliefs of the Episcopal Church, USA, but far more liberal than most other Provinces.

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2004: Four parishes left the Anglican Church of Canada:

According to ChristianWeek on 2004-APR-24, the rectors of four parishes in the New Westminster diocese handed letters of resignation to their bishop, Michael Ingham. The four are: Barclay Mayo of St. Andrews in Pender Harbour, Silas Ng of the Church of Emmanuel in Richmond, Ed Hird of St. Simonís in North Vancouver and Paul Carter of Immanuel Westside in Vancouver. They are no longer priests in the diocese. The four parishes have joined the Anglican Communion in Canada (ACiC). 1 They are under the "Temporary Adequate Episcopal Oversight" offered by five Primates in Africa and southeast Asia: Congo, Central Africa, Kenya, Rwanda, and SE Asia. The primates have offered to grant oversight to any "clergy and congregation" in Canada. 2

The rectors describe their decision as being:

"...in response to the crisis of faith and order precipitated by the abandonment by the Diocese of New Westminster of the unambiguous teachings of the Anglican Communion with respect to the authority of Scripture and human sexuality."

They stated that by accepting the African and Asian Primates' offer, the ACiC remains "in communion"  with all faithful and orthodox Christians in the Anglican Church." The ChristianWeek article continues:

"In a statement accepting their resignations posted on the dioceseís Web site, Ingham said he was 'glad that they have finally clarified the situation and made it clear they are leaving the Anglican Church of Canada of their own volition'." 3,4

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Most parishioners abandon church in a fifth parish:

Most of the membership of St. Martins Anglican Church, about 80 members, walked away from their mortgage-free building and a $600,000 endowment fund and have started St. Timothy's Anglican Church -- a new congregation that meets in a warehouse. The group has also joined the Anglican Communion in Canada (ACiC).

St Timothy's web site states that:

"...the congregation at St. Timothyís have applied for affiliation with the Anglican Communion in Canada (ACiC) and will now exercise its ministry under the Temporary Adequate Episcopal Oversight offered by the Primates of Rwanda, Congo, SE Asia, Kenya and Central Africa. The ACiC affiliation will afford them fellowship and communion with other faithful Anglicans and Anglican Churches across Canada and North America who are facing similar challenges. Their new Bishop will be the Rt. Rev. Thomas (TJ) Johnston, an Anglican Mission in America Bishop from Little Rock Arkansas."

Paul Carter, an ACiC spokesperson, said:

"They could see no future within the Anglican Church of Canada and that's when some of them said, 'We want to stay Anglican, but we we're going to go the circuitous route to Canterbury via the ACiC and licensed priests from the Province of Rwanda'."

They chose "St. Timothy" as the name of their church because he was a companion of St. Paul during the first century CE and is remembered as a Defender of the Gospel." This is the role that they see themselves fulfilling in Canada. They plan to reach out to other conservative Anglicans and potential Anglicans in Greater Vancouver's North Shore area. Spokesperson Peter Haigh said:

"In planting a new church we wish to foster a growing vibrant congregation that brings and welcomes people of all ages, giving strong emphasis to youth and young families through our Youth and Church School programs. Our new church is to be purpose driven, deeply rooted in Biblical truth with historical Anglican faith and practice in its worship, supporting one another in growth to spiritual maturity, fellowship, ministering to each other and reaching out to the community in which we live." 5,6

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About the Anglican Coalition in Canada (ACiC):

The ACic was founded as the Anglican Communion in Canada in 2002-JUL. The Anglican Church of Canada's national office asked its legal counsel to research the legal title to the term "Anglican Communion" which forms part of the ACiC's full name. The national church has always regarded itself as representing the Anglican Communion in Canada. In 2005, Corporations Canada required ACiC to change its name. It has since been called the Anglican Coalition in Canada, with the same acronym ACiC.

The ACiC describes itself as:

"...a fellowship of ministries and local congregations who have accepted Temporary Adequate Episcopal Oversight (TAEO) as offered by a panel of International Archbishops (Primates) within the Anglican Communion, thereby maintaining communion with the majority of Anglicans world-wide while being distinct from the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC). This means pastoral care from bishops and archbishops who submit to the authority of Scripture, adhere to the Faith once delivered to the saints, and are committed to Jesus Christ and the expansion of His Kingdom." 7 

The implication is that the ACC no longer follows "Scripture" and the original "Faith."

By 2004-AUG-23, The ACiC's web site was in the very early stages of construction. They had three registered users and no articles posted to their Forum. Three of their home page's menu options -- their list of parishes, documents, and faith statements -- are blank. So were their E-mail directories, "What's New? section, events calendar, etc. By 2007-MAR, their website still lacked some functions. AS of 2008-FEB, they listed 13 congregations affiliated with the ACIC: nine in British Columbia, two in Saskatchewan one in Ontario, and one in Quebec.

It is not clear where the ACiC stands on female ordination: whether they would consider qualified female candidates for ordination or whether they will recognize existing ordinations from women priests who want to transfer to the ACiC, etc. We have been unable to find either an Email contact or a postal address on their website, so we are unable to determine their position on this and other matters. The ACiC is in close fellowship with the Anglican Mission of America which currently has a "moratorium on the ordination of women until a consensus emerges within the Anglican Communion that can be declared to be such by a Lambeth Conference." At this time, most Anglican Provinces ordain female priests, but this is far from a consensus. The Anglican Mission of America (AMiA) issued a report on female ordination in 2003-JUL. They have suggested eight "possible solutions" ranging from a complete denial to a complete acceptance of ordination for women as deacons, presbyters and bishops. 8

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The story continues beyond 2007

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Marites N. Sison, "Who owns the name 'Anglican'? Question is raised: 'what's in a name?," Episcopal News Service, 2004-MAY-26, at: http://www.ecusa.anglican.org/
  2. Most Rev. Datuk Yong Ping Chung, et al., "An offer of temporary adequate Episcopal oversight," at: http://www.acicanada.ca/
  3. Frank Stirk, "Anglican parishes form new orthodox network," Christian Week, 2004-APR-27, at: http://www.christianweek.org/
  4. The Orthodox Members of St. Martin's Have formed St. Timothy's Church, A member of the Anglican Communion in Canada," St. Martins, at: http://www.st-martins.cc/links/
  5. "Vancouver area church dismisses former Anglican Bishop and joins the ACiC," St Timothy's Anglican church, undated, at: http://www.st-timothy.com/
  6. "Dissenting Anglicans start new 'biblically-based' church; Ex-St. Martin's members put faith ahead of property," St. Timothy's Anglican Church, undated, at: http://www.st-timothy.com/
  7. The Anglican Communion in Canada's web site is at: http://www.acicanada.ca/ Their address is 1655 West 41st Ave., Vancouver, BC, V6M 1X9. Phone is: (604) 222-4486. They do not seem to list a Fax line or E-mail address.
  8. Rt. Rev. John H. Rodgers et al., "A report of the study concerning the ordination of women undertaken by the Anglican Mission in America," 2003-JUL-31, at: http://209.35.87.15/

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Copyright © 2004 & 2008 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2008-MAR-01
Author: B.A. Robinson

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