Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Canada Feels the Pinch

The latest news from our Canadian Anglican siblings is about a bishop retired from the Anglican Church of Canada, and immediately taken up by the Province of the Southern Cone, who is now preparing to preside at ordinations within the Diocese of New Westminster. What makes this especially egregious is that the congregations are still ostensibly congregations of the Diocese of New Westminster. Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster has, of course, expressed his distress and disapproval (news and reviews here at Thinking Anglicans).

What hasn’t been mentioned so far is that this is an explicit rejection of the Windsor Process and the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury. That is certainly been implicit in other, similar events – ordinations for CANA, or for AMiA. However, this is different. What makes this explicit is that these parishes sought the guidance of the Panel of Reference to the Archbishop, created as a tool of the Windsor Process and intended to advise on questions about maintaining communion with Canterbury.

To remind everyone, the Panel issued their first report in October of last year. The topic was the inquiry of certain parishes within the Diocese of New Westminster as to whether the actions of Diocesan Convention and the Bishop had impaired their communion with Canterbury and the rest of the Anglican Communion. The critical paragraph in the Panels response is as follows:

The argument that in order to remain “in full communion with the Church of England throughout the world” it is necessary for dissenting clergy and parishes to separate themselves from the diocese of New Westminster, adopting a title for their organisation which implies that they represent the Anglican Communion in New Westminster, in addition to or instead of the diocese and Bishop Ingham, can not be sustained. The Church of England itself remains in full communion with the Diocese of New Westminster and Bishop Ingham, pending resolution of the presenting issue, and therefore with all of its clergy, members, and parishes, including those who dissent from its diocesan synod decision but remain in full fellowship with the Bishop and the diocese, together with the dissenting parishes unless they formally withdraw themselves from the Anglican Church in Canada. Even if this were not the case there is no evidence that communion with dissenting parishes would in fact be broken since such provinces which have declared impaired communion have made it clear that they remain in communion with those whom they regard as faithful.

The report went on to affirm efforts to resolve differences within the Anglican Church of Canada and the Shared Episcopal Ministry (SEM) program approved by the Canadian bishops. They rejected the claim of the applying congregations that only change in jurisdiction would allow them to remain in communion with Canterbury. Thus, while the applying clergy and parishes might have found themselves at odds with Bishop and diocesan synod, they remained in communion with Canterbury through the diocese in the first instance, and through the Anglican Church in Canada, “unless they formally withdraw themselves.” As St. Matthew’s, Abbotsford, the congregation where the ordinations are to take place, continues to be listed as a parish of the diocese, there had, presumably, been no withdrawal.

That is, until now. To have Bishop Harvey come without consultation and consent with Bishop Ingham, to have him ordain persons not recognized by Bishop Ingham, is to functionally and practically reject the jurisdiction of New Westminster, and of the Anglican Church of Canada, and so the recommendations of the Panel of Reference.

Now, I will allow I’m not surprised by this. The General Synod and House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada have not taken the conservative turn that might have made this easier. They have perhaps slowed change, but they haven’t reversed it. The applying congregations predicted this accurately.

On the other hand, neither has it changed that the Church of England remains in full communion with the Anglican Church of Canada and its Diocese of New Westminster. Nor has the tenor of counsel from Canterbury changed: reconciliation should be sought within existing provincial structures. In addition, the recent statement of the Joint Standing Committee of the Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Meeting explicitly pointed out that violations of provincial boundaries are explicitly counter to the Windsor Report and damaging to the Windsor Process.

However, these churches have given up. They have rejected communion with Canterbury through the Anglican Church of Canada. They have lost hope that they might see the movement in the Church that they wish. They have lost interest in reconciliation, whether through the SEM or through the Windsor Process. Let’s hope those still invested in the Windsor Process take note.

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