Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, at their regular fall meeting, cited a new spirit of reconciliation and co-operation among themselves and approved a plan that allows bishops to cross diocesan boundaries when parishes do not agree with the issue of same-sex blessings.
"The house of bishops is saying to the Canadian church, 'We did something and we agreed.' And that is wonderful news," said Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, primate of the Canadian church and chair of the meeting.
A number of bishops commented on the change in the group, mentioning the release of the Windsor Report on unity in the Anglican Communion as a factor and complimenting the warm leadership of Archbishop Hutchison, chairing his first bishops' meeting as primate since his election last May. "There's a different feeling at this meeting," said Bishop George Bruce of Ontario.
The question of "alternate episcopal oversight," now called "shared episcopal ministry," had sharply divided the bishops at their spring meeting in Regina, where they were unable to reach a decision. This time, the gathering of 38 bishops, held Nov. 1-4, accepted a revised version of the plan rejected in the spring.
The major points:
* The metropolitans, or archbishops, of the Canadian church's four provinces may draw up a list of current and retired bishops, from various theological perspectives, who are willing to participate in shared episcopal ministry.
Bishops from outside Canada may be included, but they must abide by these terms. A bishop chosen from the list by the parish and diocesan bishop would be designated as episcopal assistant to the metropolitan.
* If a diocese agrees to permit the blessing of same-sex relationships, the synod should allow for a conscience clause and should consider shared episcopal ministry. The costs of a visiting bishop would be borne by the inviting diocese and parish.
* The dissenting parish and rector should first meet with their bishop in a spirit of reconciliation. A parish may elect to have a visiting bishop after a two-thirds majority vote at a meeting of full members of the parish who have the right to be present and to vote at its annual meeting.
* The parish retains its voice and vote at synod and must maintain its current and future financial commitments to the diocese.
* The decision will be reviewed at least every three years.
* The visiting bishop will not have jurisdiction in the diocese but would be part of the process on appointments, episcopal visits, confirmations, pastoral care of clergy, advice on potential ordinands, and may participate in ordinations.
* If the parish is in the diocese of the metropolitan, the senior bishop by consecration would fulfill the role given to the metropolitan.
* The arrangement is always to be understood as temporary. Changes in parish or diocesan leadership are appropriate times for renewed efforts toward the ultimate goal of full restoration of the relationship between the parish and the bishop.
Two bishops voted against the document, for different reasons. Larry Robertson, suffragan (assistant) bishop of the Arctic, told Anglican Journal he believes the document "assumes and promotes" the blessing of same-sex unions and "I can't accept it." Keewatin's David Ashdown said he is still uncomfortable with the concept of crossing diocesan lines.
Other bishops who voted for the agreement said it is clear, assumes maturity and generosity on all sides, refers to all theological points of view and is an excellent complement to the Windsor Report.
The bishops voted unanimously to recognize the Windsor Report as an important document, commend it to the Canadian church for study and urge Canadian Anglicans to respond to it.
However, while the group generally welcomed the report, written by a panel appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, it also came in for sharp criticism. …