Bishop Donald Harvey
The retired bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, Don Harvey, has left the Anglican Church of Canada to become a bishop in the South American province of the Southern Cone, a decision that the primate of the Canadian church acknowledged would pose “complications” for the already fragile unity within the local church and the worldwide Anglican Communion.
Bishop Harvey, who has been outspoken in his opposition to what he considers the Canadian Anglican church’s liberal stance on homosexuality, particularly the blessing of same-gender unions, announced his departure more than a week before he was to lead a meeting in Burlington, Ont. to discuss the future of conservative Anglicans in the church.
It also came in the wake of serious concerns raised by some members of the Canadian house of bishops about what they described as “schismatic” activity on the part of Bishop Harvey, who has participated in irregular consecrations abroad of bishops who vow to minister to conservative parishes in the U.S.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate (national archbishop) of the Anglican Church of Canada, told members of the Council of General Synod (CoGS) that Bishop Harvey had sent him a letter saying that he (Bishop Harvey) was “relinquishing his ministry to the Anglican Church of Canada and he was to be received into the jurisdiction of the primate of the Southern Cone.”
Bishop Harvey’s voluntary relinquishment was effective Nov. 15. “It’s saddening to think that he feels compelled to take this kind of action which obviously is a sad moment in the life of whole church when people feel they can no longer remain in the church that they’ve served for so many years,” Archbishop Hiltz told the Anglican Journal in an interview.
Archbishop Hiltz acknowledged that problems would arise if Bishop Harvey, who can no longer function as an ordained person in the Anglican Church of Canada since he’s now in the jurisdiction of another province, chooses to exercise his ministry in Canada. (Bishop Harvey has been moderator of the Anglican Network in Canada, which describes itself as “a national fellowship of Canadian Anglicans who share a commitment to biblically-faithful, historically-authentic Anglicanism.”)
“If he (Bishop Harvey) does anything in Canada or anywhere else in the world, or another province other than the province of the Southern Cone, that’s an extension of jurisdiction that’s not appropriate according to traditional understanding and statements as recent as Windsor and the primates’ communique in Dar Es Salaam,” said Archbishop Hiltz. “That’s where it’s difficult.” He said that such action would constitute “interference, if it happens in our province or in any other province for that matter.”
Archbishop Hiltz said that he had spoken to Bishop Harvey but that he (Bishop Harvey) did not say where he intended to exercise his ministry.
Bishop Harvey, in an interview with the Journal, declined to say where he would serve, saying it would depend on the outcome of the Network meeting in Burlington.
Bishop Harvey said he arrived at the decision to leave the church, where he had been a priest for 44 years, at General Synod held last June in Winnipeg. “I was sitting, listening to various debates and realized this was no longer the church I was ordained into. It wasn’t just the issue of same-sex blessings but a host of other issues. I felt I couldn’t stay until there was a radical change,” he said. (General Synod had agreed that the blessing of same-sex unions is “not in conflict” with the church’s core doctrine but defeated, by a slim margin, a motion affirming the diocese’s jurisdiction to offer it.)
He added that the approval by the diocesan synods of Ottawa and Montreal of motions asking their respective bishops to allow clergy to bless same-sex unions and what he described as “the very positive comments” of Archbishop Hiltz about the decisions crystallized his resolve to leave. (Archbishop Hiltz had said that the diocese of Ottawa followed due process in deciding the motion at their synod.)
Bishop Harvey said that he felt “sadness and relief” at his decision. “I feel very sad that after 44 years I have to go out this way. But there’s a sense of relief that I have cast off what has burdened me for months.”
In an earlier interview with another newspaper, Bishop Harvey had hinted at the possibility that some Canadian parishes could follow like-minded American parishes which have left their dioceses in the Episcopal Church in the United States. The Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion has been in turmoil over the consecration in 2003 of an openly gay man, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire.
Archbishop Hiltz told members of CoGS, the national church’s governing body in between General Synods, that he has informed Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams’ office about the recent development. “I felt an obligation to inform that office immediately; it will have consequences for the Communion,” he said.
Archbishop Hiltz also said that he intends to write a letter to the primates of the Anglican Communion, including the primate of the province of the Southern Cone, Archbishop Gregory Venables, informing them of Bishop Harvey’s decision.
Bishop Harvey retired as bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador in November, 2004. He was consecrated as bishop in 1993. He served as regional dean of Labrador from 1968 to 1973 and as regional dean of St. John’s, Nfld. from 1989 to 1992. He served as chair of the Council of the North from 1995 to 1998 and was a member of General Synod’s financial, management and development committee from 1993 to 2001. He was also a lecturer and chaplain at the Memorial University of Newfoundland. He received a master of divinity from Queen’s College in 1963, a master’s degree in 1986 from Memorial University, and an honourary doctorate from Huron College in 1996. He also served on the board of the Anglican Foundation.