Primates, bishops, to visit New West dissidents

The guest list is firmly under wraps, but later this month Anglicans opposed to same-sex blessings in the diocese of New Westminster are preparing to welcome like-minded bishops and primates from across the Anglican Communion.

The event, which is being co-ordinated by the head of a conservative, Texas-based international mission organization, is meant to be a show of support for the so-called Anglican Communion in New Westminster, a coalition of eight parishes and 12 clergy who walked out of their June diocesan synod after hearing that same-sex blessings could now go ahead in the diocese.

Rev. Ed Hird, incumbent of St. Simon’s, North Vancouver and a spokesperson for the parishes, expects attendance of more than 1,000 people and from beyond just the eight parishes of his group.

“There are many orthodox parishes which are not part of our coalition,” said Mr. Hird, who anticipates that other parishes will join the coalition when, not if, his group has alternative episcopal oversight.

(Even before synod met, Mr. Hird’s group had been asking for the appointment of 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 an “episcopal visitor” for dissenting clergy and parishes; that bishop may provide pastoral support but does not function as a diocesan bishop.)

The gathering will go ahead despite a warning last month from Bishop Ingham to clergy and church wardens that a visit from international prelates at this time is “provocative and inflammatory.”

Church protocol dictates that bishops visiting another diocese should have the approval of the local bishop.

Although the organizers have contacted the diocese to request a meeting between Bishop Ingham and the visiting bishops, they declined to name the visitors and no visit has yet been set.

Mr. Hird said the guest list cannot be revealed yet, as many bishops and primates are not confirmed.

Bishop Ingham is in Rio de Janeiro at an interfaith conference, but is scheduled to be back in the diocese at the time of the coalition’s gathering, from Aug. 30 through Sept. 3. A celebration with the archbishops and bishops is slated for Sunday, Sept. 1 at a Baptist church in nearby South Delta.

Meanwhile, a press release from the group notes that the gathering is being co-ordinated by Rev. Bill Atwood, general secretary of Ekklesia. Mr. Atwood, a Carrollton, Tex. priest, was tapped by the coalition for his connections with bishops and archbishops across the Anglican Communion.

Canadian and U.S. church observers suggest that Ekklesia – which is thought to be quite flush from support of wealthy dioceses like Fort Worth and Dallas – is likely helping with funding the travel of some of the international guests; Mr. Hird said he didn’t think that was the case. Mr. Atwood could not be reached at any of his Texas telephone numbers. 

In addition to funding projects like Christian-format radio stations in Kenya and cattle for clergy widows in Uganda, Ekklesia also published the orthodox treatise To Mend the Net.

Released in 2001, the book of essays was written by Ekklesia member bishops Drexel Gomez, primate of the West Indies and the Bahamas, and Maurice Sinclair, retired presiding bishop of the Southern Cone (South America). They warned that the “adoption of a new sexual ethic” could produce “unprecedented divisions in the Anglican Communion.”

The archbishops suggested an increased role for primates: to warn delinquent dioceses or provinces, demote them to observer status and, finally, to seek to suspend them from the communion. The proposals were referred to the Inter-Anglican Theological and Doctrinal Commission.

Archbishops Gomez and Sinclair were two of seven current and retired archbishops who wrote to the diocese of New Westminster before its June synod, warning that a positive vote for same-sex blessings by New Westminster “would be viewed not only as a grave affront but will also set in motion deliberations on breaking communion” with their dioceses.

Ekklesia 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.

An international Anglican mission agency, Ekklesia is largely made up of conservative primates, archbishops and bishops – 100, by its own count on the Ekklesia Web site. The site also claims that more than a third of the primates of the Anglican Communion are members but fewer than a dozen of the 38 primates are listed.

While most of its members come from the so-called two-thirds world (mission countries in what was formerly known as the Third World), Ekklesia does have member bishops from Australia and England and at least two of the 13 U.S. bishops who are current members helped found the organization.


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