The Rev. Jacob Worley, whose election as bishop of the diocese of Caledonia was not upheld by the provincial House of Bishops in May, has been fired from his position as a priest effective November 30, 2017.
The termination was made “without cause,” according to a statement released by diocesan administrator, the Rev. Gwen Andrews.
Andrews declined to make further comments, but wrote in the statement that the decision was made by Archbishop John Privett, metropolitan (senior bishop) of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon, “in consultation with those in leadership positions in the Diocese and in prayerful consideration of what is in the best interests of the Worley family and the future of the Diocese.”
Worley could not be reached for comment. But in an interview with The Anglican Planet, Worley said he received notice of his termination on Friday, November 10 in a letter and phone call from Privett. According to The Anglican Planet, Worley asked what the reason was for his termination, but Privett declined to give him one.
In a telephone interview with the Anglican Journal, Privett stated that he made the decision, as he has episcopal authority during a vacancy, but that he “did not act alone,” rather in consultation with the diocesan leadership. Privett declined to speak further about the reasons behind the termination, saying, “I don’t think it’s appropriate to speak about personnel matters. Those are confidential.
“What I can say, though, is that it was not precipitous. I thought about it carefully, I discussed it with others, and I do believe the decision was in the best interests of both the diocese and the Worley family.”
Privett says the diocese is “looking into” the details of Worley’s immigration status, as they were unaware of the details of his residency before making their decision.
“I can say, we don’t want to create hardship for the Worley family, so we’re trying to act as compassionately as possible.”
Worley’s termination “is accompanied with a generous severance package to assist Rev. Worley and his family in the transition,” the diocese’s official statement reads.
It also says that “the details surrounding the [Worleys] residence status in Canada were unknown but will now be considered.” Worley is American.
According to The Anglican Planet, Worley’s residency in Canada is contingent on his employment, and he and his family will have to leave the country within 10 days of the last day of his employment.
Worley, who until his termination was rector of the Parish of Bulkley Valley, was elected bishop of Caledonia earlier this year. However, he was not consecrated as bishop, after a ruling by the House of Bishops of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon. The bishops said their decision was based on Worley’s involvement with the Anglican Mission in America (AMiA), a grouping of theologically conservative churches that was originally a mission of the Anglican Province of Rwanda. According to the bishops, Worley’s involvement with a church plant in the geographical jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church was made without the permission of The Episcopal Church. This violates Resolution 72 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, according to the bishops, who objected to Worley’s election on the grounds that he “teaches or holds, or within five years previously taught or held, anything contrary to the Doctrine of Discipline of the Anglican Church of Canada.”
A new election was held in late October, and the Rev. David Lehmann was elected bishop.
When asked about the reaction to the news of Worley’s dismissal, Privett said he hasn’t heard much from the diocese, but knows there are “a few individuals who are annoyed and upset.”
The Anglican Communion Alliance (ACA), an organization of lay and clergy that according to its website “affirms classical Anglicanism within the Anglican Church of Canada,” has responded with a statement, which reads in part, “we are deeply concerned for both the wellbeing of Worley and his family, and the rebuilding of trust within that diocese.”
The statement was issued by Sharon Dewey Hetke, national director of the ACA and author of the interview with Worley published by The Anglican Planet.
“Last May, many Canadian Anglicans were dismayed by the sloppy procedural path that led to the Provincial [House of Bishops’] majority decision rejecting Caledonia’s choice of Worley for bishop,” the statement reads. It asserts that Worley “asked how he could be acceptable as a priest but not a bishop” and was told he was a priest in good standing. “This standing has not been revoked and so Worley and others have expressed shock at last week’s firing in the interim between local diocesan bishops.”
Hetke’s statement questions “the motivations behind” Worley’s dismissal and “whether or not traditionally-minded clergy can count on fair treatment.”
It expresses the hope that Privett “will be able to bring more clarity to this situation.”
Privett also said he was “somewhat surprised” to see an interview with Worley in The Anglican Planet. The Anglican Planet is not a publication of the Anglican Church of Canada.
In the interview with the The Anglican Planet, which reportedly took place in May but was published November 10, Worley said that the House of Bishops “couldn’t accept me as a bishop because I planted a church within the boundaries of the Episcopal Church in the diocese of the Rio Grande, and that I won’t say I’m sorry I did it,” adding that he felt he could not apologize for the church because “the Lord moved in a mighty way there.”
In response to these statements, Privett said, “That was news to me when I saw that article. I mean, he’s free to make his own statements, but our decision was made before that statement.”
Editor’s note: A quote from Archbishop John Privett should have read, “I don’t think it’s appropriate to speak about personnel matters. Those are confidential.” An earlier version of the story used the word “personal,” instead of “personnel.”