A proposal to address pastoral needs within the diocese of New Westminster


Delegates to Diocesan Synod 2002 Members of Diocesan Council
From:  Bishop Michael Ingham
Date:  Thursday June 13, 2002
Subject: Alternative Proposal to Synod Motions

Dear Friends in Christ:

You will have received by now from the Resolutions Committee notices of motion which will be before us next week at Synod. You may also have received written material, unofficially circulated, in support of motions that effectively call for the partition of the diocese along theological lines.

You will not be surprised to know that the concerns behind these motions have occupied much of my time during the last year. Immediately following Synod 2001, when I withheld my consent to Motion 9 for a second time, I met with gay and lesbian members of our diocese and heard of their pain and frustration at the slowness of progress toward full inclusion in the church. In the last few months, I have met collectively and individually with many of our conservative clergy, as well as parishioners from our Chinese congregations, and heard of their dismay and sense of isolation from the wider church if Motion 9 were to go forward.

There are strong feelings on all sides, and many legitimate concerns. In the face of such divisions, it is tempting to wait a bit longer and do nothing for the moment. This is often wise, and the Anglican tradition has frequently been wise in this way. However, our continued lack of resolution on these matters is posing serious obstacles to our life together as a diocese. Our spiritual and emotional energies are becoming preoccupied, and thereby taken away from the more urgent tasks of Christian mission and ministry. While I had hoped my withholding of consent since 1998 would allow time for mutual reconciliation, it is now clear the status quo is not working.

Accordingly, I want to let you know of a proposal I have made to a group of conservative clergy and parishes to help us move forward together. It is attached for your information. I ask that you give it prayerful consideration during the next week as a possible alternative to some of the motions we will be asked to vote upon. My hope in putting this forward is to find a way to meet the pastoral needs of people on all sides in a way that allows them to remain within the folds of our diocesan family.

This Pastoral Proposal represents a significant development in the life of the Anglican Church of Canada. I have discussed it with both the Primate and the Metropolitan, and have their support in bringing it forward.

I wish to make it clear that I will participate in neither the balkanization of the diocese, nor the weakening of the episcopate in Canada. I do wish to find a way to respect the consciences and the legitimate pastoral needs of all persons who wish to remain part of this diocese and the Anglican Church of Canada. I offer this as one solution to preserve unity amidst diversity.

Please give this your careful thought.

Kindest regards,
The Right Reverend Michael Ingham

Presented by Bishop Michael Ingham
to an Ad Hoc Clergy Group
Thursday May 23rd 2002

Endorsed by Motion 7 at 2002 New Westminster diocesan synod; carried by 63 per cent vote in favour.

1. Context

After 25 years of discussion within the Canadian church, our Synod in 1998 and 2001 voted to proceed with the blessing of covenanted same-sex unions.

On both occasions, my episcopal consent was withheld. My hope has been to allow time for the development of greater consensus and mutual understanding.

In the 12 months since Synod 2001 it appears the issue remains contentious and far from resolution. Gay and lesbian members of our church feel their pastoral needs are being denied despite majority support from Synods. Other Anglicans express sincere commitment to the church but feel they would be pastorally isolated if I were to give my consent in the future.

2. A Proposal

In order to resolve the impasse, and to enable the highest level of communion to continue within the diocese, I offer the following proposal as a way forward.

A. Appointment of Episcopal Visitor

I will appoint a Canadian bishop from outside this diocese to offer pastoral care to those parishes and clergy who desire it. It is to be understood that this is a temporary measure, renewable annually by vestry vote and with my consent, while the diocese and the affected parishes continue to work toward mutual reconciliation.

The Diocesan Bishop shall retain canonical authority over all parishes and licensed clergy, including jurisdiction in all episcopal acts, while delegating pastoral oversight to the Visitor. The Visitor shall be accountable to the Diocesan. Costs shall be borne by the diocese for an initial period of three years, renewable. Parishes under the care of the Episcopal Visitor shall continue to meet their financial obligations to the diocese.

B. Conscience Clause

No member of the diocese, lay or ordained, shall be required to act against their conscience in the blessing of same-sex unions. There shall be no discrimination against any member of the diocese in respect of employment, appointment or advancement on grounds of conscience. No “sunset clause” is intended, although I cannot bind my successors in this matter.

Clergy holding or seeking the bishop’s license must honour the conscience of others (as on other matters such as the ordination of women), maintain collegiality including attendance at clergy events, and respect the decisions of Synod. The Bishop’s Expectations of Clergy, published in the Diocesan Procedures Manual, shall continue to apply to all diocesan clergy. Failure to comply may result in the termination of license.

C. Rite of Blessing

I shall approve a rite of blessing, subject to review by the Legal and Canonical Commission. Requests to use the rite must be made in writing indicating the consent of both the Incumbent and the congregation, by vestry vote. Only those parishes meeting these conditions shall be authorised to offer such pastoral services.

D. Episcopal Consent

In order to avoid further contentious and divisive debate on this matter, I shall give my episcopal consent to Motion 9 at Synod 2002 subject to the above conditions. I would like to see the withdrawal of all motions on the issue.

3. Conclusion

This proposal is an attempt to maintain the highest level of communion in our diocese where there is honest disagreement on Motion 9. It recognises the legitimate pastoral needs of different members of the church and seeks to resolve the current state of impasse, allowing everyone to remain in the diocesan family.

It is my hope that the energies and gifts of every member of the diocese can become focused more clearly on the mission of Christ instead of our political and theological deadlock. It will require a measure of tolerance, hospitality and mutual respect from all of us, and a period of continuing work at reconciliation.

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