Three more churches vote to leave Canadian church

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Three more Anglican congregations voted on Feb. 24 to leave the Anglican Church of Canada over theological disagreements, including homosexuality, and request oversight from a South American Anglican church.

Church of the Good Shepherd in St. Catharines, Ont. (diocese of Niagara), Church of the Good Shepherd and the Church of St. Matthias and St. Luke (both in the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster), acted “because they are determined to stay biblically faithful and true to historic Christian orthodoxy while the Anglican Church of Canada has departed from mainstream Anglican teaching and doctrine, particularly in relation to the authority of the Bible,” said a statement from the Anglican Network in Canada, an organizing group for conservative churches.

The votes at the churches’ vestries, or annual meetings, were to join the Anglican church in the Province of the Southern Cone, which includes the southern portion of South America, and to accept the oversight in Canada of Bishop Donald Harvey, a retired bishop who left the Canadian church last year to join the South American church and its primate, Archbishop Gregory Venables.

According to a list posted Feb. 25 on the network Web site, 15 congregations in Canada have joined the South American church; five of those congregations were not previously members of the Anglican Church of Canada, although they may have had roots in the church. Four additional churches have affiliated with the network, but remain members of the Canadian church. There are about 2,800 congregations in the Anglican Church of Canada.

Since the first Canadian church voted to leave on Feb. 13, dioceses have had varying reactions.

In Hamilton, Ont.-based diocese of Niagara, Bishop Michael Bird led a special service on Feb. 24 at St. George’s, Lowville, for those members who wished to remain with the diocese and for supporters. “We are not here to make a point or to put on a show. We are here to do what the Anglican Church of Canada has done on this site for 150 years – to give a service of divine worship,” Bishop Bird said in his homily. He said that one of the Anglican church’s gifts is that members “benefit from the theological diversity that exists across this church.”

Later in the morning, St. George’s rector, Canon Charles Masters, led a service in the church’s basement. Both he and his assistant, Rev. Ray David Glenn, have been suspended with pay by the diocese, as has Rev. Paul Charbonneau of St. Hilda, the other Niagara church that voted to leave. Negotiations are continuing with the diocese over ownership of the buildings, with a court hearing scheduled for this week, said Cheryl Chang, legal counsel for the network, in an interview at St. George’s church.

In the diocese of Toronto, Rev. Barbara Richardson, part-time priest-in-charge at St. Chad, was suspended on Feb. 22 after St. Chad voted to put itself under the authority of Archbishop Venables. In a letter to clergy, diocesan bishop Colin Johnson said that the church has been under diocesan administration for several years and that he was appointing a priest to provide Sunday services. The area bishop, Philip Poole, “will be meeting with members of the parish in the coming week,” Bishop Johnson wrote.

In the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster, bishop Michael Ingham asked eight of the clergy in breakaway churches “to formally declare whether they’re in or out of the Anglican Church of Canada,” according to a media release.

On Feb. 22, Bishop Ingham sent clergy in the parishes “notice of presumption of abandonment of the exercise of ministry.” The chancellor (legal advisor), George Cadman, noted in the statement that the diocese hasn’t been formally notified by any of the clergy “as to their future intentions.” He added that the church has due process. “We can’t just rely on media reports,” he said.

In the diocese of Ottawa, where St. Alban the Martyr voted to leave, Archdeacon Ross Moulton, executive archdeacon to the bishop, said the bishop, John Chapman, has met with St. Alban’s rector, Rev. George Sinclair, but the diocese has not taken action.

In the diocese of British Columbia, Archdeacon Bruce Bryant-Scott, acting on behalf of Bishop James Cowan, who is out of the country, met last week with suspended clergy Archdeacon Sharon Hayton and Rev. Andrew Hewlett, of the parish of St. Mary, Metchosin in Victoria.

In a letter dated Feb. 21, Archdeacon Bryant-Scott said the two priests asked for, and were granted, “a 12-day period of grace in order to consult with others. During this time, I will not take any further disciplinary action against them, or use their actions … as further grounds for action against them.”

The purpose of the time is “to allow both sides to move from defending positions to considering interests, from emotional reaction to reasoned discussion and to explore a variety of options to resolve the issues. It is incumbent upon us as Christians to seek peaceful resolutions to these kinds of conflicts, if at all possible,” he said.

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Solange DeSantis

Solange DeSantis

Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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