Ottawa churches settle dispute

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The bishop of the Anglican diocese of Ottawa, John Chapman. Photo: Marites N. Sison

A three-year dispute between the diocese of Ottawa and two historic churches that left the Anglican Church of Canada over the blessing of same-sex unions has ended. A negotiated settlement will divide assets between the two parties.

In 2008, the parishes of St. Alban the Martyr and St. George’s voted to join the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), saying the Anglican Church of Canada “no longer adhered to the clear teaching of Scripture.”

As part of the agreement, the diocese will disestablish the parish of St. George’s and sell the property to ANiC. Once the sale is completed by March 1, the property will be renamed St. Peter & St. Paul’s Anglican Church.

At St. Alban’s, ANiC clergy will leave the parish by July 1, “with the understanding that members of the congregation are welcome to stay and become part of a renewed parish” with the diocese. The ANiC congregation at St. Alban’s has chosen the new name, Church of the Messiah, and plans to begin meeting in the Ottawa Little Theatre building.

The settlement also includes “a further undisclosed division of assets” between the parishes and the diocese, said ANiC in a statement.

The agreement, approved Jan. 16 by diocesan council and the congregations of St. Alban’s and St. George’s in downtown Ottawa, is the first of its kind in the Anglican Church of Canada.

“We worked together in good faith, mindful that the people of God deserve nothing less,” said a statement by Bishop John Chapman of the diocese of Ottawa. “We now look forward to renewing our ministry at St. Alban’s and investing the money received from the sale of St. George’s in new ministry elsewhere in the diocese.”

The Rev. George Sinclair, rector of St. Alban’s, said, “…We are looking forward to not having to deal with this issue any longer. We see ourselves as giving up the building for the cause of Christ.”

The Rev. David Crawley, rector of St. George’s, said, “While each party had to compromise, we are grateful to have reached an agreed upon division of assets in order to avoid the further cost and acrimony of litigation.”

Established in 1865, St. Alban’s is the second oldest Anglican parish in Ottawa, and has had among its distinguished parishioners, Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald, and his wife, Lady Macdonald.

Between 1976 and 2000, St. Alban’s was also home to Centre 454-Anglican Social Services, a drop-in for homeless people. The plan is for the Centre, currently in leased quarters, to return to St. Alban’s.

St. George’s parish began in 1885, and among its early parishioners was Sir Charles Tupper, who later became the sixth prime minister of Canada.

The congregations of St. Alban’s and St. George’s voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada months after the synod of the diocese of Ottawa approved a motion requesting its bishop to allow clergy “whose conscience permits, to bless duly solemnized and registered civil marriages between same-sex couples” and to authorize rites for such blessings.

In 2009, Bishop Chapman announced that he had given permission to one church, St. John the Evangelist, “to begin offering a rite of blessing to those same-sex couples civilly married where at least one part is baptized…”

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Marites N. Sison
Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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