Thursday, February 14, 2008

St. John's Shaughnessy Joins So. Cone

News article from the Vancouver Sun:

Anglicans vote to split over same-sex blessings

Chantal Eustace
Vancouver Sun

Members of what is described as the largest congregation in the Anglican Church of Canada voted strongly Wednesday to split with Vancouver-area Bishop Michael Ingham over his support for same-sex blessings.

"It means that the community speaks with one mind," said St. John's Shaughnessy Anglican Church spokeswoman Lesley Bentley, after a preliminary count showed that out of 495 ballots cast, only 11 opposed the split and nine abstained.

"What it is is very uniting."

The vote means the church, which has more than 700 members, will break with Ingham and join with the conservative Anglican bishops of the Diocese of the Southern Cone, which includes Argentina and Paraguay.

It was a move that Ingham, who is out of the country this week, had earlier warned would be "schismatic."

He said if the church tries to operate under the authority of a South American Anglican bishop or anyone else, it will not be legally able to hold onto the church property.

Bentley said that despite a letter from the Anglican Church of Canada on Wednesday stating that if a parish decides to separate, property disputes will be costly, congregants are prepared to fight.

"We don't see why we should have to go," said Bentley, adding that churchgoers have been supporting the parish since 1932.

She said the church had a commitment from people to pay legal fees should they need to defend the property in court.

In Wednesday's letter, the archbishop of the Anglican Church of Canada urged people to reconsider the idea of separating.

"In our Anglican tradition, individuals who choose to leave the Church over contentious issues cannot take property and other assets with them," wrote Archbishop Fred Hiltz.

"My hope is that no parish will take action that would compel parish or diocesan leaders to resolve property disputes in the civil courts. Such actions would not only be costly in terms of financial resources but also destructive of the witness of the Church in the world."

Among the people who flocked to the neo-Gothic church to cast their votes Wednesday night were Ken and Stella Ting.

"I think it's really important for us," said Ken Ting. "We don't want to be under the Bishop any longer. We think he is wrong."

The meeting was closed to the public and media. Voters had to sign in in order to even enter the church, located in Shaughnessy, one of the city's most affluent neighbourhoods.

Shortly before 10 p.m., Bentley emerged from the meeting to tell the media that only one person spoke out with concerns about the motion. Otherwise, she added, there was overwhelming support.

"We've been looking for a solution for almost six years now. People are looking to move on," said Bentley, describing the tone of the meeting as "serious but anticipatory."

The motion accepted an offer of a 'realignment,' meaning the church will operate under the authority of conservative Anglican bishops of the Diocese of the Southern Cone, which includes Argentina and Paraguay.

The diocese's representative, Rev. Peter Elliott, said in an interview before the vote that for most Anglicans, the same-sex issue is a secondary issue, not a primary one, and not one they would leave the church over. He noted St. John's Shaughnessy is only one of 80 Anglican churches in the Lower Mainland.

"The majority of Canadian Anglicans want to be part of a church that is inclusive and diverse and welcoming and committed to missions, you know, and don't want to spend a lot of our time on disputes within the church," said Elliott.

He said whatever the outcome of the vote, it is not legally possible for a parish to leave a diocese because "a parish is created by a diocese." He likened the idea to that of a B.C. municipality voting to become part of Alberta.

Anglican theologian James Packer, a member of the congregation, said the issue has caused divisions within St. John's Shaughnessy since 2002, when Ingham first supported same-sex blessings.

Speaking before the vote, he said he expected many people would support the motion because of a belief that same-sex blessings run counter to gospel teachings.

"The Bible rules out homosexual partnerships as outside God's will," said Packer, in an interview Wednesday afternoon. "In view of decisions made in previous years with regards to this issue, I would think there's a fair consensus on this issue."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Bravo, brothers and sisters!