New West rally draws 1,500

Coalition members feel ‘listened to’

If any of the 1,500 people who turned up at a worship and rally for conservative Anglicans protesting the liberalization of their church expected any irregular episcopal consecration or offers of episcopal oversight, they went away disappointed.

Four foreign primates and diocesan bishops came to the diocese of New Westminster over Labour Day weekend to support and consult with dissident parishes which walked out of the diocese’s June synod in protest of a vote in favour of moving ahead with same-sex blessings. The weekend culminated in a service of celebration at a Baptist church in nearby Tsawwassen, which drew 1,500.

Although organizers had hinted that up to five primates would be coming to the consultations, they got only two: Southeast Asia’s primate Yong Ping Chung and Archbishop Bernard Malanga of the province of Central Africa.

Two bishops also attended: Bishop Andy Fairfield from North Dakota (representing the Anglican Council of Bishops, described at the gathering as the “American counterpart to Essentials”) and Bishop Peter Njenga of Mount Kenya South – representing outgoing Kenya primate David Gitari.

Educated at Newfoundland’s Memorial University and Queen’s College, Archbishop Yong served as a keynote speaker at the 2001 Essentials gathering of conservative Anglicans and is notorious in the Anglican Communion for illegally consecrating bishops in the Episcopal Church in the United States.

The visit was co-ordinated by Rev. Bill Atwood, a Texas priest and head of a conservative, international mission organization called Ekklesia.

A press release from the coalition of eight parishes, which call itself the Anglican Communion in New Westminster, said Archbishop Yong’s sermon emphasized the biblical basis for opposition to the blessing of same-sex relationships. He “praised ACiNW’s courageous defence of this traditional understanding in the face of unilateral action that many regard as a threat to the unity of the worldwide Anglican church,” the release said.

The Sept. 1 service was celebrated in English, Swahili and Cantonese. Three of the coalition parishes are Chinese congregations.

Steve Schuh, president of Integrity Vancouver, the church’s gay and lesbian group, attended the evening service and described it as an “upbeat” Evensong-type service with few surprises – “straight out of the Prayer Book.”

(Mr. Schuh is a member of the diocese’s largest parish, St. John’s Shaughnessy, one of parishes that walked out of synod. He continues to worship there because it satisfies his evangelical side.)

The service had a strong charismatic representation (charismatics typically raise their hands in song and worship), said Mr. Schuh, but he acknowledged it was difficult to say how many in attendance were coalition members and how many were onlookers. “I noticed a number of people did not respond to the service with clapping, as many did,” he said.

Mr. Schuh said that Mr. Walters, incumbent at St. Matthew’s Abbotsford, said the consultations with the visiting prelates were productive since coalition members finally felt they had been listened to.

Another member of St. John’s, Rev. Tom Anthony, also attended out of interest. He said he is not a member of the clergy team and does not support the actions of his parish’s clergy or its lay leadership.

Mr. Anthony was the national church’s director of World Program in the 1970s, when Yong Ping Chung was selected to study in Canada by his department’s Asia secretary. He said he finds it ironic that “Archbishop Yong knows better than the Canadian church what’s best for the Canadian church.” That, said Mr. Anthony, is a form of reverse neo-colonialism.

Organizers at the event read letters of support from several conservative Anglican groups, including the Essentials Council — Anglican Renewal Ministries (which donated $3,000 to the coalition’s cause), Barnabas Anglican Ministries and the Prayer Book Society of Canada, the latter whose website up until recently had been the online home for the eight parishes’ campaign. The Anglican Communion in New Westminster coalition only recently launched its own website for press releases and background on why it wants alternative episcopal oversight.

Even before synod met and voted on same-sex blessings, the coalition – which was then calling itself the Essentials coalition – was asking for another bishop to minister to them. Such an appointment is called alternative episcopal oversight. Synod, instead, voted 63 per cent in favour of a plan proposed by Bishop Michael Ingham, which provides for a conscience clause and an “episcopal visitor” for dissenting clergy and parishes; that bishop may provide pastoral support but does not function as a diocesan bishop.

Archbishop David Crawley, metropolitan (senior bishop) of British Columbia and Yukon, said in an interview that Bishop Ingham’s proposal of an episcopal visitor is fair and that he would not allow a foreign bishop to minister in his ecclesiastical province without permission. The primates and bishops were “behaving inappropriately”, said Archbishop Crawley.

The visiting primates and bishops, meanwhile, did meet with Bishop Ingham on Sept. 2. Bishop Ingham did not respond to an interview request and the visiting prelates would only say that the meeting was cordial.

Bishop Ingham had previously condemned any planned visit by foreign bishops and archbishops as inflammatory and unwelcome.

Anglican protocol dictates that bishops and primates do not enter each other’s dioceses without an invitation or permission from the local bishop.

The evening’s offerings, as announced during the service, raised about $14,000 for the coalition; the event reportedly cost $25,000.


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