By Hilary White
ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland, January 22, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The deep fissures in the Anglican Communion are increasing as the sides line up in the fight over the “blessings” of homosexual partnerings. A diocese of the Anglican Church of Canada in Newfoundland has announced it will attempt to force its clergy to assent to the blessings, even as the rest of the Worldwide Anglican Communion continues to fracture over the issue.
Clergy were called to a mandatory meeting in the cathedral of St. John’s and told that if they supported a breakaway movement that objects to the formal blessing of homosexual partnerings, they should “do the honourable thing and resign”.
The retired former bishop of the diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, Don Harvey as well as Malcolm Harding of Brandon, Manitoba, relinquished their licenses in November 2007 in the Anglican Church of Canada and transferred to the authority of Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of America a jurisdiction of the Anglican Church in South America.
Following Bishop Harvey’s defection from the ultra-liberal Canadian Anglican Church, the new bishop, the Right Reverend Cyrus Pitman, had them repeat their priestly vows and exacted a loyalty pledge of sorts from his diocesan clergy and re-issued their licences signed by himself rather than Bishop Harvey.
Bishop Pitman wrote, “I would expect any clergy involved in the network and working to the establishment of a parallel jurisdiction to the Anglican Church of Canada would do the honourable thing and resign their positions, relinquishing their licences to exercise ordained ministry in this church as their leader has done.”
The move follows decisions by other dioceses in the country. In October last year, the Anglican Diocese of Ottawa voted to recognize the blessing of marriage for same-sex partners who have been civilly “married” under Canadian law. The diocese of Montreal followed this with a decision to allow blessings for homosexual partners and the diocese of Niagara Falls followed suit in November.
A spokesman for the traditionally Christian group, Anglican Network in Canada, responded at the time, “We are grieved that the synod and bishops of Niagara have chosen to walk away from centuries of Christian teaching and defy the consensus within the Anglican Communion.”
The Right Reverend Donald Harvey, Moderator of the Anglican Network in Canada continued, “There is clearly a growing momentum within the Anglican Church of Canada to ignore biblical teaching, disregard the views of the global Church, and even ignore the principles upon which the Canadian Church was founded. These actions have ‘torn the fabric’ of the Communion at its deepest level just as the Primates warned in October 2003.”
In a letter to the Canadian Anglican Primate, the titular head of the Worldwide Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams chastised groups of Canadian Anglicans who have broken away from the ultra-liberal mainstream church, accusing them of poaching clergy. Nevertheless, he admitted he has no authority to prevent what he called “interventions and irregular ordinations” by such groups.
Meanwhile, Williams, has announced that the church’s dispute over sexual morality will be on the agenda for the next Lambeth Conference to be held in Kent this summer. “We will look at sexuality and the ministry of bishops. We will be reporting back from the listening process that came out of the previous Lambeth Conference.” William said.
To date, only 70 per cent of the world’s Anglican bishops invited to the ten-yearly Lambeth meeting have indicated they will attend.
A group of Anglican bishops who hold to the traditional Christian moral doctrines have announced they will be holding an alternate meeting in Jerusalem, a move not supported by the liberal Anglican bishop of that city. The week-long Global Anglican Futures or “Gafcon” conference is set for June, the same month as the Lambeth Conference, and will discuss “the future of mission and relationships within the churches of Anglican Communion”.
Conservative Anglican commentator, David W. Virtue, summed up the essential division in the Anglican Communion, writing, “Most of the orthodox will stay away from Lambeth thus saying, in so many words, ‘We have had enough and we will discuss what it means to fulfill the Great Commission’. The predominant voices at Lambeth will be liberals, not conservatives, with the loudest most strident left wing voices coming from the U.S., Canada, the UK, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.”
Virtue points out that some bishops have worried publicly that if the conservative bishops stay away from Lambeth, the liberals will use it as an opportunity to overthrow Resolution 1:10, the lynchpin resolution of Lambeth 1998 that says sexual behaviour is only appropriate between a husband and wife.
Read related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
The Split Widens: Anglican Bishops Call Global Conference for Traditional Anglicans
No Affirmation of Christian Sexual Morality from Anglican Mother Church at Synod
No Theological Opposition to Homosexual Unions, but No Same-Sex Blessings: Canadian Anglicans