Four breakaway congregations in the Vancouver area cannot keep their buildings, the British Columbia Court of Appeal ruled Nov. 15. The congregations left the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster over theological differences relating primarily to the blessing of same-sex relationships and have joined the more conservative Anglican Network in Canada (ANIC). This judgment upheld the original 2009 B.C. Supreme Court ruling that the disputed church buildings must be used for ministry within the diocese, part of the Anglican Church of Canada.
The dispute in the Diocese of New Westminster came to a head in 2002, when synod asked Bishop Michael Ingham to issue a rite of blessing for same-sex unions, to be used in churches where clergy’s conscience permitted. Since then, several clergy have resigned from the diocese and voluntarily left church buildings.
The four congregations that launched the lawsuit are still using church buildings. They are St. Matthew’s, Abbotsford, as well as Vancouver churches St. Matthias and St. Luke’s Church, Good Shepherd Church, and St. John’s Shaughnessy—the largest Anglican congregation in Canada.
Carol Chang, special counsel to ANIC, said that the congregations have not yet decided whether they will now appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.
“Obviously, we are deeply disappointed by this decision which is currently being reviewed by our legal counsel,” she said in a statement. “We are awaiting their advice before any discussion about an appeal can take place. The congregations have always said that if they are forced to choose between their buildings and their faith, they will choose their faith. That position remains unchanged.”
At least 24 churches have left the Anglican Church of Canada to join ANIC. The Network is part of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), which is seeking recognition as a province of the worldwide Anglican Communion. If accepted, ACNA will be the first province united by theological beliefs instead of geography.
Several similar court cases are pending across the country.
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