July 16, 2002 –
- What exactly did Motion Seven do?
- What actually has happened?
- Will parishioners of parishes whose delegates walked out of Synod still be considered members in good standing of the Anglican Church of Canada?
- Must parishes send in their assessments to the Diocese?
- What happens to the property of parishes whose delegates walked out?
- What has happened to the priests who walked out?
- What are the next steps to be taken on the blessing of same sex unions?
- What duties will the bishop delegate to the episcopal visitor?
- What steps should a parish take to request the episcopal visitor?
- How soon is all this likely to take place?
- How is a Vestry meeting called?
- Having agreed to conduct blessings of same sex relationships, are we still in communion with the Anglican Church of Canada and the worldwide Anglican Communion?
- Must a priest who in conscience cannot perform the blessing of a same sex couple refer the couple to another priest who will?
- I have heard it said my parish might not be sending its apportionment into the Diocese? How can I continue to support the Diocese and its work?
- How can I be sure to receive a tax receipt for a donation to a parish?
- Is it true some clergy are being threatened with losing their jobs if they don’t agree to bless same-sex unions?
- The Archbishop of Canterbury disapproves of same-sex blessings. Why are we going ahead?
- What is the position of the Primate of Canada, Archbishop Michael Peers?
What exactly did Motion Seven do?
The motion endorsed a proposal made by Bishop Michael Ingham, introduced as an alternative to mutually irreconcilable motions brought by parishes in the diocese. In his role as the “chief priest and pastor” of the Diocese (see the Ordination of a Bishop, BAS, page 637), he will authorize a rite of blessing of covenanted same sex relationships, consistent with the request for such a blessing Synod made to him in 1998 and 2001.
The Bishop included three provisions in his proposal, which the motion also endorsed, namely
- A conscience clause so that no person would be compelled to perform or participate in blessing same sex unions if they believe it to be wrong.
- A process in which a parish would have to request by majority vote that it be a place where blessings are performed – otherwise blessings would not be allowed;
- And provision for an “episcopal visitor” – a bishop from outside the diocese to provide pastoral care for priests and parishes who wish it. Bishop Ingham however reserves all his authority as diocesan bishop.
The bishop stated that participation in the rite of blessing, or receiving pastoral care from the episcopal visitor, would be voluntary. At Synod he said:
“We have voted not to compel but to permit: to permit those parishes that wish to celebrate permanent, intimate, loving relationships between persons of the same sex to do so in recognition of the God-given goodness of their sacred mutual commitments; and to permit those parishes who stand in continuity with the historic practice of the church, and with biblical truth as they sincerely believe it, to do so without compulsion, with full protection of conscience, and with the pastoral support of episcopal ministry.”
What actually has happened?
The motion passed Synod, 215 to 129. The bishop assented to the motion. Following the vote (but before the assent) a statement was read at Synod and a number of clergy, lay delegates and visitors walked out of the meeting.
Will parishioners of parishes whose delegates walked out of Synod still be considered members in good standing of the Anglican Church of Canada?
While individuals can leave the Anglican Church of Canada, there is no process by which parishes or congregations leave. Until individuals leave a parish of the Diocese, they remain members of the Diocese and, accordingly, of the Anglican Church of Canada. This follows from the structure of the Anglicanism. The Anglican Church is a diocesan denomination, not a congregational one.
Must parishes send in their assessments to the Diocese?
Parishes in their annual Vestry meetings vote for budgets which include assessments, and one would expect a Parish Council to follow their budgets as approved.
In addition to receiving assessments, the Diocese pays each parish’s priests and other staff from funds each parish supplies. Under Diocesan Regulations (Regulation 12-3.5), if a parish had sent in money for its payroll, but was more than 30 days in arrears on its assessment, the Diocese is required to first apply the money received to the assessment (and other diocesan bills outstanding). Only funds remaining would then go toward the parish payroll.
What happens to the property of parishes whose delegates walked out?
Parishes have no separate corporate status, except as part of the Diocese. Any incorporated parish can only take action through the Diocese. Property can only be transferred or sold with the approval of the Diocesan Council and the Bishop. These are all clearly spelled out in the diocesan Act of Incorporation and under the Diocese’s Constitution and Canons.
What has happened to the priests who walked out?
The bishop continues to expect priests to “respect and be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of [their] bishop,” as they vowed at ordination (BAS, page 646). Unless they have resigned, they remain priests of the diocese. A letter has been sent to each priest who walked out asking whether each wishes to remain licensed in the Diocese of New Westminster under the Bishop’s jurisdiction and authority.
What are the next steps to be taken on the blessing of same sex unions?
A parish that wishes to be a place where the blessings of same sex unions occur, if the rector is agreeable, must hold a Vestry meeting and by majority vote request that the bishop authorize their parish as one within which such blessings are held. (Only one Vestry vote on the principle will be required; each blessing ceremony will not require a vote.)
The bishop is considering what form of blessing to authorize. (A previous attempt to write a blessing was rejected by a Legal and Canonical Commission reporting to the bishop, and by the bishop, as too similar in form to the marriage ceremony.) When a request is received from a parish that has held a Vestry meeting and voted to be a place where the blessing takes place, the bishop will authorize the form of the rite and make it available.
What duties will the bishop delegate to the episcopal visitor?
The episcopal visitor will perform pastoral visiting; offer encouragement, prayer and teaching; and lend support to clergy and the parish. The diocesan bishop will continue to perform all episcopal acts such as ordination, confirmation, appointment and licensing of clergy, inductions, special dedications etc.
What steps should a parish take to request the episcopal visitor?
A parish that wishes to receive pastoral care from an episcopal visitor must hold a Vestry meeting and by majority vote request the visitor. The bishop will then appoint the episcopal visitor. The rector must also request the visitor.
How soon is all this likely to take place?
The bishop will act in response to requests by parishes. The timing, then, is up to parishes.
How is a Vestry meeting called?
Vestry meetings (meetings of the membership of the parish) must be called in accordance with Canon 14. This means that either the Rector or a Warden can call the meeting on 14 days notice in writing. If either the Rector or the Wardens refuse to call a Vestry meeting, then there is the ability to appeal to the Bishop to convene such a meeting. For details see Canon 14 of the Constitution and Canons of the Diocese of New Westminster.
Having agreed to conduct blessings of same sex relationships, are we still in communion with the Anglican Church of Canada and the worldwide Anglican Communion?
The Diocese of New Westminster remains in the Anglican Communion just as other dioceses where the blessings of same sex unions take place remain in communion.
Must a priest who in conscience cannot perform the blessing of a same sex couple refer the couple to another priest who will?
The bishop has said that he would expect this would happen. However, referral will not be required, nor will any priest or other person be sanctioned if they believe in conscience they cannot refer.
I have heard it said my parish might not be sending its apportionment into the Diocese? How can I continue to support the Diocese and its work?
One should remain in communion with one’s own parish and support it. But if it becomes evident that the parish is not supporting the Diocese (or through it, the national Anglican Church), funds can be sent to the Synod Office, which can issue a tax receipt.
How can I be sure to receive a tax receipt for a donation to a parish?
Parishes of the diocese can issue tax receipts as parishes subsidiary to the Diocese of New Westminster, but only as they remain parishes of the Diocese of New Westminster. No group could sever relations with the Diocese and continue to issue receipts using the Diocesan registration number. Any receipt issued by them using the Diocesan number would not be valid.
Is it true some clergy are being threatened with losing their jobs if they don’t agree to bless same-sex unions?
No. The Conscience Clause is now in effect and every priest and deacon is free to act in accordance with it. The bishop has asked clergy to remain in collegial relationships with one another, including attendance at clergy retreats, conferences and diocesan events, and to respect the conscience of others in the diocese with whom they may disagree. Since Synod, the bishop has continued to make appointments to parishes, and to ordain clergy, without regard to a person’s viewpoint on same-sex blessings.
The Archbishop of Canterbury disapproves of same-sex blessings. Why are we going ahead?
The Archbishop of Canterbury has long been opposed to same-sex “marriages.” He has written to seek clarification of what our Synod approved, and whether his views and those of others in the Anglican Communion who share a similar viewpoint were fairly and adequately represented. In the meantime, he has asked for a period of calm while our decision is considered both across Canada and the Anglican Communion. The Archbishop of Canterbury cannot reverse the decision of a diocesan Synod. He has asked other Primates and bishops of the Communion not to intervene in New Westminster.
What is the position of the Primate of Canada, Archbishop Michael Peers?
In his role as a member of the Primates’ Standing Committee, Archbishop Peers has kept other Primates of the Communion informed about our decision and has told them “both the bishop and the synod have acted responsibly.” As president of the Canadian House of Bishops, he has placed the matter on the agenda of the next meeting in October. Archbishop Peers has expressed no personal opinion about the blessing of same-sex unions, but has supported the proposal by which our bishop sought to accommodate the pastoral needs of those in our diocese who disagree with it.
Interested in keeping up-to-date on news, opinion, events and resources from the Anglican Church of Canada? Sign up for our email alerts .