William Anderson, who retired as bishop of Caledonia at the end of 2016, has confirmed that he recently left the Anglican Church of Canada to join the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC), a breakaway grouping of theologically conservative churches.
“Last week, I transferred,” Anderson said Wednesday, November 22, adding that he had had “ongoing concerns for a long time about the direction things have been going in the Anglican Church of Canada,” but that the overturning of the Rev. Jacob Worley’s election as bishop last May, followed by his firing this November, together served as “the final straw.”
Worley, who until his termination was serving as rector of the Parish of Bulkley Valley, was elected bishop last April. But the House of Bishops of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon refused to consecrate him, citing work he had performed for the province of Rwanda in the geographical jurisdiction of The Episcopal Church (TEC).
In 2007, Worley planted a church in New Mexico as a missionary for the province of Rwanda. In a news release announcing their decision, the bishops said Worley believed it was acceptable for him to do this work without the permission of TEC. This belief, they said, was “contrary to the Doctrine or Discipline of the Anglican Church of Canada.” In early November, Worley said he received notice from Archbishop John Privett, metropolitan of the province, of his termination as priest effective November 30. The termination, according to the diocese, was without cause. (This term normally means an employee’s dismissal was not the result of misconduct on his or her part, and it requires from the employer either a minimum amount of advance notice or severance pay, or a combination of both.)
Anderson said he found the reasons the bishops gave for their decision not to consecrate Worley “extremely feeble” for a number of reasons, including that Worley, he said, was a properly ordained priest in the diocese of Caledonia when he was elected bishop.
In an Anglican Journal article last May, Privett said that before Worley’s election he had assumed Worley to be a priest in good standing according to the canons of the diocese, but that once he was elected it fell to the provincial bishops to then vet him as a potential bishop according to provincial canons, and that this vetting process led to their decision.
The ruling was also inconsistent, Anderson said, with decisions made elsewhere in the Anglican Church of Canada. For example, he said, provincial bishops have consecrated an openly gay man as suffragan bishop in the diocese of Toronto, even though Resolution 1.10, passed by the Lambeth Conference of Bishops in 1998, states that the bishops “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions.”
Kevin Robertson, an openly gay man who lives with a male partner, was consecrated suffragan or area bishop of York-Scarborough, in the diocese of Toronto, last January. (An official protest had been lodged against Robertson’s candidacy. But Archbishop Colin Johnson, diocesan bishop of Toronto, maintained that Robertson was a priest licensed by and in good standing in the diocese and his election proceeded.)
Anderson said he believed the real reason for Worley’s being blocked as bishop and then being fired lay with his views.
“I think the issue was much more, quite frankly, the fact that he represented a conservative stream of theological thought that was offensive to the extremely liberal drift of the bishops of the provincial house,” Anderson said. “The whole thing smacked of a kangaroo court.”
Anderson said that even before Worley’s election, he had been dissatisfied with the Anglican Church of Canada because he felt it did not allow theologically conservative voices to be heard.
“I would argue that there’s been a lack of respect and attention paid to those who are of a traditional or conservative mind within the Anglican church,” he said. “Lip service has been given to it, but time and again, things seem to move with little consideration for how a portion of our church moves forward.”
Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, declined to comment on Anderson’s switch to ANiC and his justification for it.
Privett could not be reached for comment. However, in a letter posted on the diocese of Caledonia website, dated November 23, 2017, Privett addressed both Worley’s termination and Anderson’s departure. Although he had been reluctant to discuss Worley’s termination because it was a personnel matter, Privett said, he now felt he should make an exception, as it was being widely discussed on social media. The firing, Privett said, “was not based on any particular theological point of view. Our church and this Diocese will always welcome clergy and parishioners from a wide range of faith perspectives and theological views that fall within the breadth of our Anglican tradition.”
Privett added that the diocese voluntarily provided a severance package to Worley that was larger than that required by law, which, he said, would leave him free to apply for other positions. He also said he believed there was now no immediate need for the Worleys to leave Canada.
According to an Anglican Planet story dated November 11, Worley and his family had 10 days to leave the country after his last day of employment.
Privett also said he was writing “with great sadness” to let members of the diocese know he had received a letter from Anderson relinquishing the exercise of his ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada. “With many of you, I feel a great loss, but respect his decision,” he said. Anderson told him, Privett said, that he would be holding a service for ANiC in the next few weeks.
Privett noted that although ANiC uses the name “Anglican,” “it is not a church with which we [the Anglican Church of Canada] is in communion nor is it part of the worldwide Anglican Communion.” But, he said, “we seek to have positive ecumenical relationships with them as brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Anderson said he joined ANiC despite the fact that the network has no parish in Terrace, B.C., where he lives.
“I don’t know what the future will look like, but I need to belong somewhere, and that’s important to me,” he said. “I look at the work that ANiC is doing, and ACNA is doing in the United States, and it lines up very much with what I was taught Anglicanism was about when I converted to the Anglican church back in the 1960s in terms of adherence to the classic principles of Anglicanism.”
For now at least, Anderson said, he was not recruiting for or working in any other capacity for ANiC, and was looking forward to a period of reflection following his retirement and the controversy surrounding Worley.
“When I retired, one of the things I said to people was, ‘I’m not going to be answering any requests to do anything for anybody for at least a year,’ ” he said. “I still haven’t had a chance to do that because of this business, and so I need to have that time. What I’m going to do in the months and years to come, I haven’t sorted that out yet.”
Established in 2005, ANiC became a diocese in the Anglican Church in North America, a grouping of theologically conservative Anglican churches in the United States and Canada, in 2009. According to its website, ANiC has more than 70 parishes, church plants and “forming congregations.”
Anderson becomes the fourth former bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada to have joined ANiC; Ronald Ferris, retired bishop of Algoma, joined in 2009; Malcolm Harding, former bishop of Brandon, and Donald Harvey, retired bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, both left the Anglican Church of Canada in 2007 to eventually join ANiC.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include details of a letter sent to members of the diocese of Caledonia by Archbishop John Privett, metropolitan (senior bishop) of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon. The letter addressed the termination of the Rev. Jacob Worley and the departure of Bishop (ret.) William Anderson. It has also been updated to include comments by Privett on the process whereby provincial bishops vetted Worley.