The diocese of Caledonia has decided to accept last month’s ruling by the provincial House of Bishops to block the consecration of the Rev. Jake Worley as bishop, its administrator says.
Worley was elected bishop of the diocese April 22, but on May 15 the House of Bishops of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon announced it was objecting to his election, citing ministry he had performed in the United States for the province of Rwanda. As specified in provincial canons, the bishops said, their decision was final.
On May 16, the Rev. Gwen Andrews, appointed to manage the diocese’s day-to-day affairs since the retirement of Bishop William Anderson last December, said she was “shocked and saddened” by the decision, adding the diocese’s clergy and executive committee would be meeting May 25-26 to discuss how to respond to it.
In an interview with the Anglican Journal Thursday, June 2, Andrews said both the clergy and executive council had decided to put the decision behind them and begin planning for a second election, to be held some time before October 31.
“Both meetings went extremely well,” she said. “At the end of the day, there was consensus as a diocese: we cannot change what’s past. We need to look forward, and we have decided to prepare for another [electoral] synod.”
The prayerful spirit that prevailed at the two meetings, as well as the presence at them of provincial metropolitan Archbishop John Privett, who took many questions, seemed to play an important role in the decision, she said.
“At both those meetings, there was as much time given to prayer and to worshipping God as there was to the discussion time,” Andrews said. This, she said, seemed to help delegates recognize that “this is God’s church, and God has a plan and a purpose for it. And we seek to do God’s will.”
The diocese wants to have the election before October 31, she said, because it is feeling some urgency about the need for a bishop.
“We need things in this diocese to return to some semblance of normalcy,” she said. “Our congregations need the stability of knowing that there is a head pastor in place.”
For many in the diocese, the bishops’ decision was difficult especially because they had felt God near them at his election, she said.
“Our biggest struggle was, we all believed that it was a very spiritual election,” she said. “I have never experienced an election where the power of God seemed to be so present.”
Added Andrews, “that being said, we know that often God allows things to happen for his greater purpose. And so in Caledonia we are waiting to see how God will move us forward.”
For his part, Privett said he was happy to have been able to answer the questions from those at both meetings, and to discuss some of the issues around the election and the bishops’ decision. He agreed that the question of how two different meetings, both believed to be Spirit-led, can reach different conclusions is a very difficult one.
“I think what I would say is that we understand the Holy Spirit works not just in individuals, and not just in specific groups, but in the whole body of the church. And so, the discernment of the church takes place at different levels,” he said.
It’s similar, he said, to the case of a would-be priest; first the individual must discern whether he or she feels called; but discernments about that person’s calling must also be made at parish, diocesan and provincial levels, and the decisions might not be the same.
Much concern, Privett said, was expressed at the meetings for the care of Worley himself. Privett said he had written an open letter, to be published in the diocese’s newspaper, confirming that despite the bishops’ decision, Worley remained a priest in good standing in the diocese.
Also discussed, Privett said, was the question of the expense of holding a second electoral synod. There’s concern in the diocese, he said, that some parishes won’t be able to afford sending delegates to it. The executive committee decided, he said, that the diocese would cover the full costs; meanwhile, Privett said, he would explore whether there might be additional funding available from other sources.
According to the bishops’ statement, ministry Worley once performed for the Anglican Mission in America, a grouping of theologically conservative churches, was “under license from the Province of Rwanda in the geographical jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church without permission of the Episcopal Church.”
For a priest to minister on behalf of one province of the Anglican Communion, in a church that falls under the jurisdiction of another province of the Communion and without that other province’s permission violates the discipline of the Anglican Church of Canada, the bishops said.