The Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) has followed through on its plans to set up an alternative Anglican structure for conservatives “who find themselves unable to stay in the Anglican Church of Canada but want to stay connected to the Anglican communion.”
At its conference last week in Burlington, Ontario, the ANiC made a formal offer to provide “alternative episcopal oversight” to Anglican parishes in Canada.
That oversight will be provided by retired Canadian bishop Donald Harvey, who is now a bishop with the Southern Cone (South American) province of the worldwide Anglican communion under the authority of Archbishop Gregory Venables.
At the conference, it was announced that a second retired bishop, Malcolm Harding, formerly of the Manitoba diocese of Brandon, has also become a bishop in the Southern Cone. He will assist Harvey, particularly in Western Canada.
The ANiC grew out of a movement that began in 2002 after the Diocese of New Westminster approved the blessing of same-sex unions. However, conservatives say the primary issue is not homosexuality but biblical faithfulness.
Outline of the new structure
At the conference, the ANiC established a seven-person executive and a budget of $130,000 to carry the organization until March 1, 2008, by which time a full denominational structure will be in place. That structure will start with an annual budget of $750,000, and its first General Synod will be held in November 2008. A celebratory event marking the beginning of the new structure will be held in the Vancouver area April 25 – 27, 2008.
The ANiC is asking the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) for 90 days of grace in which parishes can consider the issues and freely choose whether to move from the ACC to the ANiC without being pressured or harassed by the denominational hierarchy.
Two congregations have already formally joined the new structure. St. John’s in Richmond, BC is an 80-member congregation that started in 2005 and was never part of the ACC. Church of the Resurrection in Hope, BC was started after Archie Pell, rector of Christ Church in Hope, was dismissed by New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham. Most of the congregation chose to follow Pell in starting a new church.
Other parishes may take longer to decide. St. John’s Shaughnessy Church in Vancouver, one of four parishes still in the Diocese of New Westminster which have not paid dues to the ACC since 2002, has not yet made a decision on its future, though its rector David Short is a member of the ANiC executive. “It is a congregational decision. We need to do it in unity, carefully and prayerfully,” Short told CC.com.
One of the complicating factors is that most church buildings and other financial assets are held in the name of a diocese, and parishes which choose to accept the ANiC option may have to leave their buildings behind, as the dozen or so churches of the Anglican Coalition in Canada (ACiC), which left the ACC three years ago, had to do.
However, representatives of the ANiC said they have “a very good legal case to make.” They have assembled a volunteer legal team and a $1 million legal defence fund.
“Our view is that we haven’t moved anywhere, but that the Diocese of New Westminster and the ACC are moving away from the Anglican communion and biblical teaching,” Short told CC.com. On that basis, Short said parishes that choose to accept the ANiC option “are willing to defend our properties.” However, his “great hope” is that it will not come to that and that the parishes will be able to reach an “amicable agreement” with the ACC. “We don’t want to do anything that would harm the reputation of Christ,” he said.
Clergy who leave will also lose their pension plan and other benefits, although part of the pensions are protected, and the ANiC plans to have an alternative benefits package in place by March 1.
Short said there will be a cost for those choosing the ANiC option but it will be far less than the intangible costs of not making a decision, in terms of “the coherence of our witness, and the freedom to proclaim the gospel and be part of the Anglican communion.”
Bishop Ingham has said that the ACC can tolerate a wide variety of theological opinions but it cannot tolerate schism, the setting up an alternative church.
However, renowned theologian James I. Packer told the ANiC conference, “Schism is always a sin, but realignment may become a duty.”
“Those who are unfaithful to the heritage are the schismatics,” Packer told the National Post. “It is not we who are the schismatics.”
The Primates Council, composed of the archbishops who head the 38 Anglican provinces around the world, have been demanding that the ACC and the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA) cease their support for homosexual unions. However, since both the ACC and ECUSA have refused to change their positions, Anglican provinces in the southern have begun offering “alternative episcopal oversight” to conservative parishes in North America.
Short said the current development is “a temporary interim measure so we can move ahead with ministry while the global communion continues to deal with this issue.”
The ACiC is already under the jurisdiction of the African province of Rwanda and therefore is not likely to join the ANiC. However, both groups say they are “in full fellowship” with each other, and the ACiC had representatives at the ANiC conference.
The ACiC and the ANiC and eight other groups have joined together in the Common Cause Partnership, which met in Pittsburgh at the end of September and agreed to work toward some sort of joint organization over the next 15 months.
The partners hope to come together to form a “parallel province” recognized by the worldwide Anglican communion alongside the ACC and ECUSA. And if the ACC and ECUSA continue to defy the worldwide Anglican communion on issues such as same-sex blessings, the new province may become a “replacement province,” with the ACC and ECUSA expelled from the worldwide communion.
A parallel national Anglican church was launched on Thursday amid charges by a leading theologian that the Anglican Church of Canada has been poisoned by liberalism and is real the cause of the schism now underway. “Schism means unwarranted and unjustified separation from the rest of the Church (structure), causing an indefensible breach of unity,” said J.I. Packer, a Canadian who Time magazine called one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America. “Those who are unfaithful to the heritage are the schismatics. It is not we who are the schismatics.”
National Post, November 22
Also: National Post