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Episcopal oversight debated in New Westminster

Posted on: November 21, 2003 1:40 PM
Related Categories: Canada

by Matthew Davies

The Chairman of the Anglican Communion in New Westminster (ACiNW) - a coalition of 11 parishes that oppose the Diocese’s decision to bless same-sex unions - has written to the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada thanking the House of Bishops for their search “for a resolution of the problem we are experiencing in the Diocese of New Westminster”.

In his letter, which was copied to the Primates, the Revd Dr Trevor Walters has offered a number of considerations and proposals in relation to the Primates’ request for adequate “episcopal oversight”. The statement that emerged from the Primates’ Meeting at Lambeth Palace last month specified that “whilst we reaffirm the teaching of successive Lambeth Conferences that bishops must respect the autonomy and territorial integrity of dioceses and provinces other than their own, we call on the provinces concerned to make adequate provision for episcopal oversight of dissenting minorities within their own area of pastoral care….”

Notifying the Canadian House of Bishops that they “should be aware that the crisis in New Westminster has deepened as a result of the Bishop's participation in the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire”, Dr Walters has called for the appointment, within a month, of the Rt Revd Bill Anderson, Bishop of the Diocese of Caledonia, or another Bishop acceptable to the ACiNW, in order to “provide true episcopal oversight on an interim basis”. This comes nearly two weeks after the Rt Revd Terrence Buckle, Bishop of the Diocese of Yukon, withdrew his own offer of episcopal oversight.

Responding to the request the Bishop of New Westminster, the Rt Revd Michael Ingham, has said that the attitude of the leadership of the dissenting congregations in the Diocese of New Westminster is making reconciliation “almost impossible”.

“Their demand for the appointment of Bishop Anderson, after the House of Bishops has repeatedly urged the withdrawal of Bishop Buckle, illustrates a continuing lack of understanding not only of the mind, role, and powers of the House, but also of the process of episcopal appointment within the Canadian Church,” Bishop Ingham said in a statement. “Bishops are elected in the Canadian Anglican Church, not appointed. What they propose is not possible in our system, and neither is it desirable.”

A task force, set up on October 31 by the House of Bishops, will examine how to care for minorities who disagree with church policies. Bishop Ingham has said that he and the leadership of his diocese will co-operate with this task force to try to find a way to hold the church together.

“It is clear, however, that the intransigence of the leadership of the dissenting group may force our negotiations to focus on structural separation rather than reconciliation,” he said.

The ACiNW have requested that they be consulted in the nomination of the House of Bishops Task Force, to ensure “fair representation and good faith”.