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The Anglican Church of Canada and homosexuality

Parishes leaving the
Anglican Church: 2008 to now


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Read background material and the story prior to 2008


Legal complexities:

One item that has not been clarified is the ownership of the parish churches and other property. Chief legal officer of the New Westminster Diocese George Cadman claims that it legally belongs to the diocese, not to the parish. 1 The parishes who have left probably disagree. After all, the individual congregations have probably all designed their churches, raised the down payment, obtained a mortgage, paid off the mortgage, funded the maintenance, taxes, salaries, etc. without any financial input from their diocese.

There has been a proliferation of websites in Canada which oppose equal treatment of gays and lesbians within the Church. Many including "Anglican" or "Anglican Communion" in their names. Sarah Lublink, a conservative Anglican in Toronto has registered three domain names: http://www.anglicancommunion.ca, http://www.anglicancommuniondioceses.ca, and http://www.anglicancommunionnetwork.ca. All were dormant in 2004 and continue in that state until our last check in 2008-FEB. 2


Events during 2008:

  • 2008-FEB-17: ON & BC: Six parishes leave the Anglican Church of Canada: Parishioners in six parishes in Ontario and British Columbia voted over the weekend of 2008-FEB-17 to leave the Anglican Church of Canada, and accept the episcopal oversight of Bishop Donald Harvey, Moderator of the Anglican Network in Canada, under under the Primatial authority of Archbishop Gregory Venables and the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone. This province includes six countries in South America: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay.
    • St. George's Campbellville, ON who voted 128 in favor, 3 opposed and 1 abstention.
    • St. Hilda's Oakville ON (86,0,1)
    • St, Chad's Toronto ON (12,10,2)
    • St Mary's, Victoria BC (105,14,3)
    • St. Alban's, Ottawa ON (77,1,1)
    • St. Matthew's, Abbotsford, BC (186,4,5)

    In addition, one congregation that was not part of the ACC voted to accept Bishop Harvey's oversight:

    • Holy Cross, Abbotsford, BC (23,0,0)

    Rev. Canon Charlie Maters is priest at St. George's -- one of the breakaway parishes -- and is national director of the Anglican Network in Canada. He has been suspended with pay. Diocese personnel have asked the breakaway Anglicans to turn over the keys to their church properties or face legal action. Reverend Dr. Richard Jones, secretary of synod for the Anglican church's Niagara Diocese told the Toronto Star newspaper: "If they don't turn in the keys, we are planning to go and physically try to take possession of the parishes by showing up and asking them for the keys." He said that under church law, local parishes hold their property in trust for the local diocese. If the parishes break with the national body, they can no longer remain trustees of its property. Cheryl Chang, lawyer for the ANiC said that the Anglican Church of Canada has become too liberal, has abandoned historical Christian teachings and thus has no claim to properties built in the name of traditional beliefs. 3,4

    A case could be made that the Anglican Church of Canada has abandoned a number of historical Christian beliefs down through the years. These include condoning human slavery and restricting the priesthood to male believers. By Ms. Chang's reasoning, the national body would have no claim to most Anglican land, church buildings, etc. because the ACC now repudiates slavery and sexism.

  • 2008-FEB-24: ON: Churches in Oakville & Lowville have two priests - temporarily: St. Hilda's Anglican Church in Oakville, ON voted unanimously to sever ties from their diocese. The Diocese of Niagara sent Rev. Brian Ruttan as a relief priest, apparently to preach to St. Hilda's parishioners. Unfortunately none showed up. Fearing a low turnout, the diocese had encouraged members of three other Anglican churches in the area to attend the service at St. Hilda's. About two dozen strangers turned up. A half hour after Ruttan left the building, a regular service was held by Rev. Paul Charbonneau. More than 100 members turned out for what they feared might be their last service. Parishioners Rosanne Kendall said:

"The church is the people and the most important part of St. Hilda's is our fellowship with each other, but we've grown quite attached to this place. ... The message of the church is not about bickering and lawyers. ... The message of the church is love."

About 150 members of the congregation of St. George's Church in Lowville, ON who want to stay in the Diocese turned out for an early morning service led by an imported bishop. Later, the regular service led by breakaway leader Rev. Charles Masters drew 180 members. Rev. Masters, who is also national director of the Anglican Network in Canada. He  said:

"We simply want to remain with the mainstream of the worldwide Anglican communion. All we want to do is be true Anglicans."

Parishioner Paula Valentine said:

"It's not for us to rationalize. The Solemn Declaration of 1893 puts the Anglican Church under the umbrella of the Church of England and says that it will not change holy script, it will deliver it to the people as it's written ... and the vows that this church took to be part of that. ... They've gone against that. But those vows are important. Those things matter to us. ... We are being penalized by the very church that has moved away from those fundamental beliefs." 5

  • 2008-FEB-26: ON: Letter to the editor by the Anglican Bishop of Toronto: The Right Rev. Colin R. Johnson, Bishop of Toronto wrote:

"Crisis in the Anglican Church of Canada? I think not! While it is always a matter of great regret when anyone chooses to leave, surely recent reports of schism in Canada need some context. Of the approximately 2,300 parishes in Canada, about 15 have voted to 'walk apart'."

"The Diocese of Toronto continues to welcome clergy and people of conservative and liberal persuasion, as well as people -- the majority -- for whom such labels make no sense. We are committed to building communities of hope and compassion. We continue to offer faithful worship of God, to nurture young and old, to help form moral lives, to comfort the sick and grieving, and to work with and advocate on behalf of the poor." 6

  • 2008-FEB-26: BC: Two congregations ask permission to offer same-sex blessings: Currently, only eight churches in the New Westminster Diocese in Vancouver, British Columbia are permitted to provide blessings to loving-committed same-sex couples. None are permitted to actually marry same-sex couples. The Church of the Holy Spirit in Whonnock and St. Mary in Kerrisdale passed motions at their vestries (annual meetings) asking permission to bless unions if and when their diocesan bishop Michael Ingham lifts the moratorium.
    • At St. Mary's, the votes were 86% in favor. Rev. Kevin Dixon said:

      "We feel a responsibility to ensure that what has been begun in the diocese is completed. We made a decision in 2002 to permit the blessing of same-sex relationships and we need to be sure it is enacted where appropriate."

    • Rev. David Findley-Priceof Holy Spirit church, wrote to a local newspaper that:
      "... as an Anglican Christian I am prepared to ask God to bless the union of people who love each other as a part of the natural order of creation. I personally feel blessed to be a part of the diocese that is courageous and willing to look at the revealed evidence of science in how we approach life and our relationship with God." 7

  • 2008-FEB-28: ON: Attempt to reach out-of-court settlement fails: Discussions between the Niagara Diocese and three dissenting congregations in Lowville, Oakville and St. Catharines failed. 8

  • 2008-FEB-29: ON: Niagara Diocese loses initial court skirmish: The Diocese and three congregations appeared in court before Justice James Ramsay.
    • The diocese asked that both the diocese and the Anglican Network be allowed to hold separate services on MAR-02, 09, and 16. They noted that between 25 and 40 parishioners at St. George's did not want to join the Anglican Network.
    • The Anglican Network asked for exclusive use of their church buildings, with the intent of banning any additional service by the Diocese.

    Justice Ramsay issued an interim injunction giving the Network control of the church buildings. Parishioners loyal to the Anglican Church will have to go elsewhere.

    Rev. Masters of St. George's Church in Lowville, ON said that the Network parishes would have walked away from their churches rather than share the property with the diocese. He said: "We need the separation in order to move ahead."

    Bishop Michael Bird said:

    "I am disappointed with the decision today, but we have to respect and abide by it. I feel for those faithful members of the parishes. We will try to make some arrangement for them if we possibly can."

    The principals return to the court on MAR-20 for what is expected to be a longer-term ruling. It will undoubtedly be appealed in a legal battle that will probably last for many years. 9

  • 2008-JUN-11: The synod of the diocese of the Arctic criticizes four dioceses: The synod passed a motion criticizing the dioceses of Ottawa, Montreal, Niagara, and Huron who have asked their bishops to give their clergy permission to bless homosexual marriages in a church ritual.

    The synod also passed a motion concerning the 15 parishes that have broken away from the Anglican Church of Canada to join the Anglican province of the Southern Cone. The latter province includes the southern part of South America. The Arctic synod noted that even though they have left the Canadian province, they remain within the Anglican Communion. 10

  • 2009: Supreme Court rules that church property stays with diocese: The Supreme Court of British Columbia ruled that the diocese of New Westminister should retain possession of four churches whose congregations have left the Anglican Church of Canada and joined the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC). They are St. John’s in Shaughnessy, St. Matthew’s in Abbotsford, Good Shepherd in Vancouver, and St. Matthias & St. Luke’s also in Vancouver. 11

    Justice Stephen Kelleher of the Supreme Court of B.C. ruled that the diocese should retain possession of all four properties of He also ruled that a $2.2 million bequest from a parishioner in the Good Shepherd parish should be held in trust for the building fund of the ANiC congregation.

  • 2010-NOV: Court of Appeal upholds Supreme Court ruling: The British Columbia Court of Appeal upheld the 2009 ruling of the Supreme Court of British Columbia. 11

  • 2011-JAN-17: Four congregations appeal to Supreme Court: According to the Anglican Journal News, the four B.C. congregations filed an application with the Supreme Court of Canada to review the 2010-NOV decision by the British Columbia Court of Appeal. Michael Ingham, the bishop of the diocese of New Westminster, said that he was saddened with the appeal, that the decision is "costly and divisive, [and that it would] consume even more of the time, energy and money that should be used for the mission of the Church." He said the dispute had forced the diocese to cut back on its ministry to patients of St. Paul’s and Vancouver hospitals, and its support for ministries involving churches in the north as well as overseas with its partners in the Anglican Communion.

    The appeal is expected to be heard in the Fall of 2011 or later. 11


References used:

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

  1. 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/
  2. 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/
  3. "More Anglican congregations decide their future," Anglican Coalition in Canada, 2008-FEB-17, at: http://www.acicanada.ca/
  4. Stuart Laidlaw, "Breakaway Anglicans asked to hand over keys," The Toronto Star, 2008-FEB-20, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  5. Jim Wilkes, "Preaching duel no contest; Competing services held at Oakville church as Anglican dispute heads to courtroom," Toronto Star, 2008-FEB-25, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  6. C.R. Johnson, "Anglican Church is doing just fine," Toronto Star, 2008-FEB-28, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  7. Slange de Santis, "Two churches ask to offer same-sex blessings. Moratorium still in place in New Westminster," Anglican Journal, 2008-FEB-26, at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com/
  8. "Talks with dissident Anglican parishes end," Canadian Press, 2008-FEB-28, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  9. Stuart Laidlaw, "Diocese loses use of churches. Court gives breakaway Anglicans exclusive right to hold services for next two Sundays," The Toronto Star, 2008-MAR-01, at: http://www.thestar.com/
  10. Marites N. Sison, "Arctic synod says recent same-sex blessing votes hurt church unit," ACC Web News, 2008-JUN-11.
  11. "Breakaway B.C. churches appeal to Supreme Court of Canada," Anglican Journal, 2011-JAN-17, at: http://www.anglicanjournal.com

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Copyright © 2008 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2011-JAN-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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