Friday, November 23, 2007

The Anglican Church of Canada is splitting even as you read this post

The same sex marriage issue continues to roil the Anglican Church of Canada. A conference underway right now (Thursday and Friday, Nov. 22-23) is bringing about a formal split.

For the record, I am not an Anglican. But I am a Canadian, so it seems appropriate for me to alert readers outside of Canada to such a significant event.

I personally support same sex marriage. Nonetheless, it is heartbreaking to see congregations and denominations riven over this issue.

Here is some relevant background from the Globe and Mail:
The general synod, or governing body, of the Anglican Church of Canada voted earlier in the year not to "affirm" the authority of member dioceses to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions, but at the same time it voted not to declare the issue to be a matter of core Anglican doctrine.

What its decision meant is still being debated by church canon law experts, but the consensus seems to be that dioceses are not blocked from authorizing the blessings — and three have in the past few weeks:  the dioceses of Ottawa, Montreal and Niagara.

The bishop of Niagara has given his approval for the blessings to be implemented, but, to date, the bishops of Montreal and Ottawa haven't.
In response, two retired bishops have joined a different Anglican "province" located in another part of the world:
Bishop Malcolm Harding, retired Bishop of Brandon, has announced that he will minister under Archbishop Gregory Venables and the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of the Americas, effective immediately.

Bishop Harding is the second Canadian bishop to make this announcement in the past week. It was announced on Friday that the Right Reverend Donald Harvey had been received under the Primatial authority of Archbishop Venables and would be free to offer episcopal oversight to biblically faithful Canadian Anglicans. …

[Bishop Harding commented,] "I cannot in conscience travel the path that the Anglican Church of Canada is traveling, away from historic Christian teaching and established Anglican practice."

The Anglican Province of the Southern Cone (Iglesia Anglicana del Cono Sur de America) is one of 38 Provinces that make up the global Anglican Communion. It encompasses much of South America and includes Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay and Argentina.
Similarly, in the United States,
the dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, California, and Quincy, Illinois, as well as several Virginia parishes have indicated they plan to leave the Anglican Episcopal Church and affiliate with overseas churches.

Recently, the Virginia diocese began a court battle with its renegade parishes over title to church buildings.
Back to Canada. Bishop Harvey is the moderator of the Anglican Network in Canada, which describes itself as a national fellowship of Canadian Anglicans who share a commitment to "biblically-faithful, historically-authentic" Anglicanism.

The Network is holding a conference this week in Burlington, Ontario. The Network has received messages of support from Anglican churches in the USA, Africa, and Australia:
I know that as Canadian Anglicans you are beginning this new initiative only after much prayer and searching of the word of God. The issue on which you have taken a stand is absolutely correct. Your obedience to the word of God is a necessary witness both to the Church and to society about the way in which God has designed us to live. You have my admiration for your courage and my prayers for the Lord's richest blessing on this venture. I extend my warmest Christian greetings to Archbishop Venables and to Bishop Harvey.
Peter, from Calgary, Alberta, is live-blogging from the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) conference. It appears that the split is a fait accompli:
Rev Charlie Masters - ANiC is now a reality, it has been launched. We are open for business.

We are part of the Anglican Communion. We will be episcopally lead and synodically governed. We are incorporated and we are real. We are part of the common cause partnership. ANiC is a temporary provision with the hope that there will be a new N American province.

Commited to discern and raise up numbers of new people to be ordained. We understand there will be parishes transferring juristictions. There will be church plants. There will be housegroups thinking about becoming church plants but not at that stage yet. …

Eventually parishes will be part of the Southern Cone, ANiC affliliation for individuals only. Currently both 'types' can be members of both - this is transition (so a little up in the air).

Charlie - what we are trying to do is like trying to build an airplane while we are flying. …

A number of events coming up:

Church memberships 23rd November 2007.
Ordinations 2nd December 2007.
Celebration 25-27th April 2008 Vancouver.
Confirmations and Church plants - TBA.
First Synod - November 2008.
How sad that it has come to this.


Andrew Compton said...

Church splits are no fun . . . hardly anything is more out of accord with the "church as the body of Christ" metaphor than this.

Nevertheless, I have heard others who have turned institutional unity into an idolatry of sorts. So interested in keeping the visible church united institutionally, many will tolerate so much that in order for everyone to actually be on the same page in dialogue, they can only speak about a millimeter deep.

Church splits can, at times in this broken world, allow for communities to practice their scripted performance in peace, without constantly being heckled from the wings, "I can't believe s/he missed that line" or "I would have never performed that scene in that way." (I'm borrowing Vanhoozer's drama metaphor here.)

Anyway . . . what seems more tragic than the split itself, is when each resulting remnant begins firing venom at one another. Of course it takes a few years for the initial hurt to pass, but in time churches often find that they can enjoy each others insights and company in broader ecumenical bodies whereas they could not while in more narrow institutional bodies.

Anyway, my two cents spoken from within the Reformed tradition where, goodness knows, we've had our fair share of splits.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus . . .

49erDweet said...

Stephen [and ac], while not truly sympathetic to some bits of Anglican doctrine, I can speak of church splits - though not from so large a body or community.

In my experience the splits I've seen up close have caused short-term anguish but resulted in long-term growth and expansion of the "body of Christ", which should have been the ultimate goal, anyway.

AC is spot on in his third paragraph, and though we seldom see it occurring while we co-exist in pain, ultimately His will is proclaimed and good comes from supposed evil.

I'm much more supportive of the "free church" movement, and hold that many large ecclesiastical bodies are too interested in self-preservation and too dis-interested in furthering the spread of the gospel. To their shame.

If anyone believes 'toeing the line' on promulgating the SSM issue is more important than maintaining, growing and exhorting a body of believers, I shudder to think of their other logical misfires - imho.

Thanks for the post, Stephen