September 16th, 2002
I recognize the Archbishop of Canterbury's concern for the unity of the Communion. Indeed I share it, along with all other bishops. I think he sincerely believes his remarks today will further our unity. My expectation is that they will do the opposite.
Is it an appropriate use of the Presidential office to comment on complex matters in individual dioceses in highly selective ways? Is it ethical to name individuals and personal situations in a primatial address of this nature? Bishop Bennison of Pennsylvania and a priest whom he has disciplined are both named today, yet neither the bishop nor the priest is here to respond, and the Council itself has no access to the facts of the case.
His remarks about the Diocese of New Westminster fail to honour the careful way both the synod and I have made decisions about the blessing of same-sex unions. The archbishop refers selectively only to those clergy in rebellion against their bishop and synod, and makes no mention of the pastoral provisions made by the bishop and synod for those same clergy. This oversimplification does a great disservice to truth, and to the great majority of clergy and parishes - including the traditionalist ones - who remain loyal to the bishop and synod.
It is not correct to say that New Westminster has acted "without regard to the rest of us." In fact, the position of the bishops at Lambeth '98 has constantly been before the diocese and its synod members. I have twice withheld my consent to same-sex blessings in part because of the potential impact on other areas of the Communion. However, bishops are responsible not only to the Communion but to their own dioceses. Bishops in our province, as in most, are elected by synods and are accountable to them, as well as to each other. Lambeth resolutions are not binding on diocesan synods.
It remains to be seen what the Council wishes to do with the archbishop's resolution on "deference to superior synods." The subordination of synods to higher bodies is, in fact, a matter for provincial authorities to determine. In any case, New Westminster has acted consistently within the legal and canonical authority of a diocese within the Canadian church and in deliberate consultation with its national House of Bishops and General Synod.
We are of course not dealing simply with matters of constitutionality. There are questions here about both unity and justice. Unity is not a matter of uniformity. Nor can members of the Communion be compelled to act against their conscience in matters of justice. The Diocese of New Westminster believes that Christ died for all humanity, and that the unity of the church cannot be built on unjust discrimination against minorities, such as homosexual Christians.
I regret the archbishop's remarks today will confirm and deepen the impression that he has not heard the cry of these, his own children in the church. Until all voices are heard, the unity we all seek will remain elusive.