New West dissidents take case behind closed doors

The normally public dealings of a group of Anglicans opposed to same-sex blessings in New Westminster have moved behind closed doors on the say-so of a Texas priest.

From Aug. 30 through Sept. 3, the Anglican Communion in New Westminster, a coalition of eight parishes and 12 clergy who walked out of the June diocesan synod after hearing that same-sex blessings could go ahead in the diocese, will hold consultations with sympathetic foreign primates and bishops, but the meetings will be private.

Organizers say the only part of the gathering open to the press will be a Sept. 1 celebration at a Delta, B.C. Baptist church. They predict that more than 1,000 people, and not only members of their coalition, will attend.

Rev. Ed Hird, a spokesperson for the coalition, said in an interview that if it were up to him, the entire gathering would be open. Indeed, Mr. Hird’s coalition has made public much of its correspondence with primates and bishops of the Anglican Communion, even before the diocesan synod.

It was not the coalition that which declared the consultations closed, but Rev. Bill Atwood, a Texas priest and head of a conservative, international mission organization called Ekklesia.

Mr. Atwood, who is serving as a booking agent of sorts for the primates, wrote in an e-mail, “The archbishops have not made a final decision about whether or not to have any press briefing, but I would be surprised if they do. The archbishops I know do not like to comment to the press about ongoing conversations.”

Mr. Atwood, Mr. Hird, and the diocese all refused to name the primates who have confirmed that they will attend the gathering. New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham is in Brazil and has not said if he will meet with the primates, who have requested a meeting.

(Anglican protocol dictates that bishops and primates do not enter each other’s dioceses without an invitation or permission from the local bishop. That did not happen in this case.)

Mr. Atwood was enlisted by the coalition for his connections with bishops and archbishops across the Anglican Communion. Ekklesia membership is largely made up of conservative primates, archbishops and bishops – 100, by its own count on the organization’s Web site.

The publisher of the 2001 orthodox treatise To Mend the Net, Mr. Atwood and his organization also organized and co-sponsored the 1997 Anglican Life and Witness conference in Dallas, which intentionally preceded the 1998 Lambeth meeting of bishops. That conference produced the so-called Dallas Statement reaffirming orthodoxy on sexual ethics and also called for a “Christian moral stand” on international debt.


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