Diocese of New Westminster files cross-appeal

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The diocese of New Westminster has filed a cross-appeal of a November decision in the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The cross-appeal was filed in response to an appeal filed by the trustees of four Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) congregations in late December.The legal dispute arose after four congregations voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada to affiliate with the more theologically conservative ANiC. Churches in ANiC do not allow the blessing of same-sex relationships as the diocese of New Westminster has done for several years in a few parishes. Trustees for the congregation filed a lawsuit against the diocese to claim possession of the properties and assets for the congregations. But on Nov. 25, Justice Stephen Kelleher ruled that the diocese of New Westminster retains possession of all four properties. He did, however, decide that a $2.2 million bequest from a parishioner at one of the four churches should be held in trust for the building fund of the ANiC congregation.Justice Kelleher also ruled that Bishop Michael Ingham of the diocese of New Westminster did not have the authority, according to the diocesan canon, to replace the trustees for the congregations. After the congregations voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada, Bishop Ingham had moved to replace the trustees in two of the churches. The court decision stipulated, however, that the trustees were obliged to manage the church properties for the benefit of the diocese and the Anglican Church of Canada. ANiC issued a statement on Dec. 24 commenting on the trustees reasons for appealing that aspect of the decision: “This has left the parties in a difficult and unworkable position since both parties feel they are upholding the principles upon which the Anglican Church of Canada and the diocese were founded, but they have very different views about what that means.”Bishop Ingham invited the trustees of the four parishes to a meeting on Jan. 16 to discuss ways to move forward according to the court decision. He said one of the issues to be discussed would be the appointment of interim clergy for the churches. The congregations have not been asked to leave the churches they are worshipping in, he explained. But the clergy who are currently working there resigned their office and relinquished the exercise of their ministry in Canada nearly two years ago, he said. Now that the judge has ruled, Bishop Ingham said it is his responsibility “to appoint clergy for these parishes. And I want to do so in consultation with the congregational leadership, and hence my invitation to them to meet with me,” he said.Bishop Ingham said the diocese would not have appealed the court decision if the trustees had not. But now that they have, the diocese would like a review of the part of the judgment that awarded the bequest, known as the “Chun bequest,” to the ANiC congregation instead of the parish of Church of the Good Shepherd as a part of the diocese of New Westminster.

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Leigh Anne Williams
Leigh Anne Williams joined the Anglican Journal in 2008 as a part-time staff writer. She also works as the Canadian correspondent for Publishers Weekly, a New York-based trade magazine for the book publishing. Prior to this, Williams worked as a reporter for the Canadian bureau of TIME Magazine, news editor of Quill & Quire, and a copy editor at The Halifax Herald, The Globe and Mail and The Bay Street Bull.

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