Anglican Bishops Use Threats to Force Compliance with New Homosexuality Doctrines

Seven parishes vote to leave Canadian Anglican Church over the weekend with more to follow
Mon Feb 18, 2008 - 12:15 pm EST

By Hilary White

  VANCOUVER, February 18, 2008 ( - In the face of growing defection by traditionally minded Christian Anglican congregations, the Anglican bishop of British Columbia has told clergy and lay leaders that parishes attempting to seek oversight from other jurisdictions will face penalties, including loss of clerical licenses and properties.

  The bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada are overwhelmingly in support of homosexual activity and the "blessing" of same-sex relationships and ministers; however, bishops and laity who continue to adhere to the Christian doctrines on sexuality are seeking a way to remain within the Anglican Communion.

  The Rt. Rev. James Cowan wrote that such attempts by parishioners would be "schismatic" and a betrayal of a "fiduciary trust" to the diocese and would result in the "immediate termination of license or removal from office." Clergy "acquiescing in" or "actively promoting" the withdrawal of parishes would be dismissed from office without "notice or severance," he wrote.

  The problem, however, is growing, as more parishes in the Anglican Church of Canada seek oversight from sections of the Worldwide Anglican Communion that have retained their adherence to Christian doctrine on scriptural authority, homosexuality and the meaning of marriage. In the last week, a total of seven parishes of the Anglican Church of Canada have voted to seek jurisdiction elsewhere.

  Parishioners of St. Alban the Martyr in Ottawa voted this weekend to sever their associations with the Anglican Church of Canada and seek oversight from Bishop Don Harvey, who is overseeing the traditional Canadian churches in their realignment with Archbishop Gregory Venables and the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone in South America.

  Parishioners at Vancouver’s St. John’s Shaughnessy, the largest Anglican congregation in Canada, voted last Wednesday to sever ties with the Archbishop of New Westminster, Michael Ingham, over his support for same-sex blessings. This was followed by a decision to follow suit by parishioners at St. Matthew’s Anglican parish in Abbotsford, BC, St. Mary of the Incarnation in Metchosin on Vancouver Island, St. Chad’s parish in Toronto, St. Hilda’s, in Oakville and St. George’s, in Campbellville, Ontario, bringing the total to seven by the end of Sunday.

  Rev. Peter Elliott, spokesman for the Diocese of New Westminster told the Ottawa Citizen that there is broad acceptance of homosexuality in the Anglican Church in BC because homosexuality is "morally neutral".

  But Rev. Andrew Hewlett of St. Mary of the Incarnation, said that homosexuality is only a symptom of the larger problem. "The real issue underlying it is how we view the authority of the scriptures - and our concern about the [ACC’s] changing of theology, which is putting it outside of the official teaching of the global Anglican community."

  St. Mary’s rector, Rev. Sharon Hayton, and Rev. Hewlett, were informed on Friday that disciplinary action was being commenced against them. Bishop Cowan wrote that Hayton and Hewlett were "inhibited" from their clerical offices. "[Y]ou may not function as an ordained priest, and may not act as… priest of the parish of St. Mary of the Incarnation, Metchosin." He forbade them from discussing the situation with parishioners and from entering the parish premises.

  Rev. Simon Chin of St. Matthias & St. Luke Church in Vancouver told the National Post he expects his parish will also vote to separate on February 24.

"For the last six years we have been calling for help [from the ACC], but they’ve not done anything," he said. "Our people in our church are the ones pushing all of this because they feel we don’t have a home here."

  The letter from Bishop Cowan was followed by another from the Anglican Primate of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, who wrote Friday, "Individuals who choose to leave the church over contentious issues cannot take property or other assets with them."

"My hope is that no parish will take action that would compel parish or diocesan leaders to resolve property disputes in the civil courts," Hiltz continued.

  But a spokesman for St. John’s parish in Shaughnessy, a neighbourhood of Vancouver where real estate values are among the highest in the country, told media that the parish is willing to fight for their church, saying its building was independently incorporated and built with local members’ funds.

  The parish has collected $1 million in legal funding. "We would defend the building. We would continue our services. I suppose if we couldn’t get into the building, we would hold our services out on the grass or something like that," spokeswoman Lesley Bentley told the National Post.

  In 2002, the Diocese of New Westminster, British Columbia voted to permit the blessing of same-sex unions by parishes requesting authorization to do so. Since then the bishop of that diocese, Michael Ingham, has issued several warnings to his clergy attempting to force compliance, and has ordered the locks changed on buildings with "dissenting" parishioners.

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