Magazine article Anglican Journal

Task Force Queries All Sides in Troubled Diocese

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Task Force Queries All Sides in Troubled Diocese

Article excerpt

"How have recent events helped or hindered the ministry of Jesus Christ in this place?"

This was the key question asked recently by the task force mandated by the house of bishops to "identify the range of possible circumstances in which alternative/adequate episcopal oversight might be called for" in parishes which seriously disagree with church decisions.

The four-member task force headed by Bishop Victoria Matthews of Edmonton began its search for answers on Dec. 9-10 by meeting with the clergy and lay leaders of a diocese deeply divided: New Westminster.

By "recent events" the task force meant the ongoing conflict triggered by the 2002 diocesan synod resolution allowing the blessing of gay relationships by parishes. That resolution resulted in the walkout by eight (out of 80) parishes opposed to the decision, the formation of a coalition of dissenting parishes after Bishop Michael Ingham upheld the synod's motion, and the acceptance by the coalition of an offer of episcopal oversight from another bishop.

"People kept asking us, 'what's your advice?' We're saying we're not here to dispense advice, we're here to listen to your story," said Bishop Matthews in an interview with the Anglican Journal.

And listen the task force did--to parishes which have remained with the diocese despite their objections to same-sex blessings, to dissenting parishes which formed a coalition called the Anglican Communion in New Westminster (ACiNW), and to parishes which approve of the blessings.

The meetings, which all sides described as helpful, were emotional at times, according to some of those who were present.

"A couple of us spoke about the alienation of the Chinese and Japanese churches," said Rodney Andrews, incumbent at St. Alban, Richmond, and bishop-elect of the diocese of Saskatoon. His parish once shared its buildings with the Church of Emmanuel, a large and rapidly-growing Chinese Anglican church.

Bishop-elect Andrews said that "the atmosphere changed" shortly after the synod resolution. Church of Emmanuel--a member congregation of the AciNW--moved to new quarters, "leaving many members of St. Alban's confused and hurt," he said.

St. Alban's was one of the first parishes to be financially affected by the conflict. The Church of Emmanuel had paid St. Alban's $30,000 a year in rent, representing 14 per cent of its budget. …

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