Bishop Michael Ingham
Bishop Michael Ingham of the diocese of New Westminster said there is now a “full-blown schism” within the Anglican Church of Canada, following the departure from the church of a retired bishop opposed to same-sex blessings, who is leading a conference Nov. 22-23 that will offer a separate body for conservative Canadian Anglicans.
The retired bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, Donald Harvey, who relinquished his ministry with the Anglican Church of Canada and announced his defection to the South American province of the Southern Cone Nov. 15, is also planning to perform ordinations in the diocese of New Westminster, according to Bishop Ingham.
Bishop Ingham said he has written to Bishop Harvey, prohibiting him from performing the ordination of two deacons from St. Matthew’s, Abbotsford scheduled Dec. 2. (St. Matthew’s is one of four dissenting parishes that have withheld their contributions to the diocese after it allowed the blessing of same-gender unions in 2002.)
Bishop Ingham said that the church’s Canon 17, “explicitly requires the permission of the diocesan bishop for another bishop to perform episcopal acts” in his or her diocese.
“They’re (ordinands) not persons I know. They’re certainly not ordinations that I’m doing, and we learned that Bishop Harvey is intending to do these ordinations,” said Bishop Ingham in an interview. “I wrote him (Bishop Harvey) to say that he could not do this without my authority.”
Bishop Ingham said he has also written to the two candidates “to say that their ordinations, if they proceeded, would not be recognized within the Anglican Church of Canada or within the Anglican Communion.”
He has also warned 10 clergy in the diocese who belong to the four dissenting parishes – St. Matthew’s, Abbotsford, St. John’s Shaughnessy, St. Matthias & St. Luke, and Good Shepherd – that under the church’s canons, or laws, they may be subject to disciplinary action if they participate in these ordinations.
“This is a full-blown schism now within the Canadian church and it is a direct attack upon the catholicity of the church and the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Ingham. “It is one thing to hold differing opinions as many Anglicans obviously do on matters of sexual ethics. It’s quite another thing to establish alternative ecclesial bodies, which is schism.”
He added: “I believe our church and certainly the diocese of New Westminster has bent over backwards to accommodate mutual respect and tolerance of genuinely held theological convictions. What we cannot tolerate is schism and the setting up of bodies that compete with one another within the same jurisdiction. As Jesus said, a house divided against itself cannot stand.”
The Council of General Synod (CoGS), which met in Mississauga Nov. 16-18, responded to news of Bishop Harvey’s departure by issuing a statement that described his actions as “a source of sadness.” At the same time, CoGS said that “appropriate provision for pastoral care and episcopal support” exists for all Canadian Anglicans.
CoGS also emphasized that it would not tolerate any incursions into the jurisdiction of the Canadian Anglican church by another province. “We wish to make clear that interventions in the life of our church, such as ordinations or other episcopal acts by any other jurisdictions, are inappropriate and unwelcome,” said the statement. “In particular, we cannot recognize the legitimacy of recent actions by the province of the Southern Cone in purporting to extend its jurisdiction beyond its own borders.”
The statement also urged the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, “to make clear that such actions are not a valid expression of Anglicanism and are in contravention of the ancient and continuing traditions of the Church. They aggravate the current tensions in the Anglican Communion.”
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the Canadian primate (national archbishop), has acknowledged that Bishop Harvey’s decision could pose “complications” for the delicate unity within the local church and the worldwide Anglican Communion, which has been at odds over the ordination of a gay bishop in the United States and the approval of same-sex blessings in the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster.
Archbishop Hiltz said that problems would arise if Bishop Harvey, who may no longer function as a cleric in the Anglican Church of Canada since he’s now a bishop in the jurisdiction of another province, chooses to exercise his ministry in Canada.
Bishop Harvey is 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.”
The Network is meeting this week in Burlington, Ont., where it will unveil its plans for conservative Anglicans, unhappy with what they consider to the national church’s liberal views on homosexuality.
In a press statement, Bishop Harvey said, “Because of the unabated theological decay in the Anglican Church of Canada, many long-time Anglicans have already left their church and left Anglicanism. We want to provide a fully Anglican option for those who feel their church has abandoned them and who are contemplating taking the same action.”