An open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

NOTE: The following is a letter from the members of the eight parishes which left the diocesan synod in New Westminster following the announcement that synod had voted in favour of same-sex blessings. Links to some relevant documents are provided at the bottom.

The Right Honorable Dr. George Carey
Archbishop of Canterbury

Dear Archbishop Carey,

Thank you for your open letter of response to the situation in the diocese of New Westminster. We find much in what you have said to encourage us. We are grateful that you have once again affirmed your support for the Lambeth resolution on human sexuality and that you do not accept that “homosexual relationships can be treated as being on a par with the man-woman ideal portrayed in Holy Scripture.”

We are also encouraged that you regret that our diocese “should be following a course at odds with the Lambeth Conference resolution 1.10(e)” and that you view it as a “departure from the Anglican moral tradition” and that their action is in conflict with “the views of the majority of their fellow believers throughout the Anglican Communion.” We would note that this issue touches also on major Christian doctrines: creation, redemption, soteriology, Christology, as well as Christian ethics and pastoral care.

We also agree with your statement that “the unity of the Communion is threatened by your Synod’s decision.” We are concerned that the fault-lines evident in the New Westminster diocese have the potential of splitting not only the Anglican Church of Canada, but also the global communion. As you may know, some four primates and two retired primates have warned our synod in advance that its approval of the motion would “set in motion deliberations on breaking communion” with the diocese of New Westminster, and a fifth has indicated a similar concern. Under these circumstances we would again appeal to you to take all steps possible to keep the communion together and restrain those whose actions would tear it apart.

We append a statement issued on June 17, by some 13 Canadian bishops (linked below). These Canadian bishops also wrote: “We call on the diocese of New Westminster to withhold implementation.” We appeal to you for sympathetic understanding and reception of this statement and for you to call upon our diocesan bishop not to implement the motion.

In this same letter the Canadian bishops state: “Matters of moral teaching and Church order and discipline are beyond the jurisdiction of a single diocese acting alone.” We fully concur with these Canadian bishops and we will pursue every legal and canonical avenue to challenge the motion passed by our synod as we are fully convinced that the bishop in implementing the same would be acting beyond the powers of jurisdiction granted to a diocesan bishop by the canons of our diocese and those of our provincial synod, and our national church. (We also attach legal advice on this matter which we were given last week by a member of one of Vancouver’s leading law firms – this was also shown to the diocesan officials before last week’s vote.)

On the matter of our walking out of the meeting of synod last Saturday, we want to clarify that we withdrew in response to what we regarded as an illegal and schismatic action. We have not left the diocese of New Westminster.

The sort of episcopal oversight which the bishop has offered us does not, in our view, constitute “extended episcopal support” (your words) equivalent to the “flying bishops” operative in England. What we were offered was an episcopal “visitor” of Bishop Ingham’s choice, as a temporary measure, with no jurisdictional rights or authority, not even the right to confirm. We have met with Bishop Ingham and Archbishop Crawley to discuss the matter of an acceptable form of episcopal oversight, but to no avail. We would welcome external assistance in negotiating with our bishop effective extended episcopal oversight.

Under the provisions of the “conscience clause,” conservative clergy would not be required (for the time-being) to perform same-sex blessings, but the bishop indicated in our synod that he would expect them to refer same-sex couples to other clergy who would perform these. We believe that this would make these clergy complicit with these immoral acts. For these, and many other reasons, we view the “conscience clause” as unacceptable.

We are grateful that you will seek to ensure that this matter is brought up at the forthcoming Anglican Consultative Council and the Primates’ Standing Committee.

We close with the words of John Stott from an interview given in 1993 when he was asked about the issue of homosexuality:

I think that we have got to distinguish between the church’s official teaching on the one hand and the teaching of an eccentric minority on the other. What Bishop Spong teaches embarrasses me as an Episcopalian, but I am able to say, ‘Well, that’s an individual’s view. He may have a following, but it is not the official view of the church. If it ever became the official view of the Anglican church, I would find it difficult to stay in. But I’m confident it won’t.

Christianity Today, 8 Feb. 1993: 38.

Yours in Christ,
The Rev. Dr. Trevor Walters
cc. Primates of the Anglican Communion


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