Diocesan group sees new vision of conservatism

While eight dissident parishes in New Westminster continue to court and receive national and world media attention in their campaign for another bishop, some Anglicans who also consider themselves conservative and orthodox are waging a separate, quiet campaign for the established structures of the church.

They are traditional, but they aren’t going anywhere.

Spearheaded by two New Westminster priests, Rev. Sarah Tweedale and Rev. John Oakes, the movement is decidedly not focused on numbers and memberships.

Consisting mainly of a Web site, http://www.churchinfoweb.com/newvision and an e-mail distribution list, New Vision is serving as a clearinghouse for information other than that distributed by the eight parishes that walked out of the diocese’s June synod in protest of a vote in favour of moving ahead with same-sex blessings. Those parishes now go by the name of the Anglican Communion in New Westminster.

Mr. Oakes, a former journalist and associate priest at St. Mark Ocean Park, writes many of the updates for New Vision subscribers. Since launching the site, both priests say they have heard from members of the eight dissident parishes who don’t agree with the leadership of their congregations.

“That group, the ACiNW, is not a uniform group,” said Mr. Oakes.

Ms. Tweedale and Mr. Oakes were both involved in the work of the conservative Essentials movement, but have distanced themselves from the dissident parishes (leading up to synod, the eight parishes called themselves the Essentials parishes or coalition).

Mr. Oakes worked on the first draft of the 1994 Essentials declaration and sent a letter to his colleagues before synod detailing why he thought Bishop Michael Ingham’s offer of a conscience clause and an episcopal visitor was sufficient.

Neither Mr. Oakes nor Ms. Tweedale has asked for an episcopal visitor.

“The church is not a group of people who think the same way on every issue,” said Ms. Tweedale, rector of St. Clement’s. “It is a covenant community – a community created and shaped by the covenant God has made with us in Jesus Christ; a covenant community established and maintained by God’s faithfulness to us, not constituted by our agreement of particular issues.”

Both Mr. Oakes and Ms. Tweedale, a regional dean whose area of responsibility includes two of the dissident parishes, were ordained in 1997 by Bishop Ingham. Ms. Tweedale said that she has been asked repeatedly why she did not walk out in protest of same-sex blessings.

“When I give my word, I live up to my word,” she said. “One of the reasons I stayed is that in my ordination, I swore obedience to those over me in the church, and Motion Seven protects my freedom to exercise ministry according to my conscience in this issue, under my bishop.”

(Motion Seven was the synod resolution voted on in June which endorsed Bishop Ingham’s plan to move ahead with same-sex blessings; the plan also provided a conscience clause and an episcopal visitor for those who could not support the blessings.)

Ms. Tweedale said she wishes more attention were paid to the good work in the diocese.

“Division and tension and pain are not what the church should be announcing to the world, or demonstrating to the world,” she said. “The real news in the church is the gospel. In response to this news people are coming to church, and joining the church. The church is growing, people are growing.”

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