Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Canada's largest Anglican congregation leaves ACC

World renowned theologian J.I.Packer also leaves ACC

By Sue Careless

J.I.Packer (left) and David Short, Rector of St. John's Shaughnessy (right).

The largest congregation in the Anglican Church of Canada has voted overwhelmingly to leave the ACC and realign with a more orthodox branch of the Anglican Communion based in South America.

In a secret ballot on Feb. 13, St. John’s Shaughnessy in Vancouver voted 475 to 11 (with 9 abstentions) to come under the episcopal authority of Bishop Donald Harvey and the Primatial oversight of the Most Reverend Gregory Venables of the Province of the Southern Cone. This move will ensure that the clergy and congregation, while under a new jurisdiction, are still part of the global Anglican Communion.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, has told the leader of the ACC, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, that while he doesn’t support interventions across ecclesiastical boundaries, he is powerless to stop them.

Michael Ingham, Bishop of New Westminster, has warned that the Diocese will pursue in court any parish that seeks alternative episcopal oversight.

However, according to Leslie Bentley, a spokeswoman for St John’s, sympathetic legal counsel has told the church that there is “a very strong argument to maintain the property.”

Each Sunday about 760 people worship at St. John’s. Of those, about 150 are children in the Sunday school. One hundred teens swell the youth group while “College and Careers” draws 40 people.

St. John’s was part of New Westminster until 2002 when the Diocese approved the blessing of same-sex unions and departed from what the evangelical congregation considered “biblical faithfulness.” With several other like-minded churches they formed the Anglican Communion in New Westminster, which was still part of the national body. Now St. John’s has left the ACC as well.

The rector, the Rev. David Short, and the assistant priest, the Rev. Dan Gifford, along with retired honorary assistant, Dr. James I. Packer, are expected to relinquish their ACC licences and receive new ones from Bishop Don Harvey to minister in the Anglican Network in Canada. Dr. Packer is a world-renowned theologian and prolific author probably best known for the Christian classic Knowing God.

For the past six years there have been no confirmations performed nor new clergy licences issued at St. John’s or the other dissenting parishes as they waited for more orthodox episcopal oversight.

In April 2007 the Primates of the global Anglican Communion had recommended a Pastoral Council to oversee distressed Anglicans and Episcopalians in North America but the scheme was never implemented by the ACC or The Episcopal Church.

Bentley said that the Primates had called for the Diocese of New Westminster and the ACC to repent by Sept. 30th and that when they didn’t the Southern Cone made the offer of “temporary emergency oversight” in November. “The offer of the Southern Cone is supported by Primates representing well over half the members of the Anglican Communion,” she said, “while the Diocese is in impaired or broken communion with over half the Communion.”

Three other Vancouver-area evangelical Anglican churches are holding similar votes in late February and are likely to also realign with the Southern Cone:

The Church of the Good Shepherd, a Cantonese-speaking congregation in Vancouver, attracts 300 people each Sunday with another 100 attending midweek services. St Matthias and St Luke in Vancouver has about 190 people worshipping in Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese. In Abbotsford, 290 people worship each Sunday at St. Matthew’s.

Two other churches in British Columbia, Church of the Resurrection in Hope and St. John’s in Richmond, are already affiliated with the Southern Cone.

On its website the Diocese reports considerable shrinkage: “In the history of our diocese, 124 parishes have been established, and 47 have been merged or closed.”

Bentley said, “There can be no good reason for the Diocese to take over the parish to protect [theologically] liberal members as there are six liberal parishes within a ten-minute drive of St John’s, which leads me to believe that the Diocese is only interested in protecting St John’s building and property. They either want the money or they just want us out.”

No diocesan money was used to start the parish; the Diocese only gave permission for it to be founded. The church was independently incorporated in the Diocese in 1932. This year the church exceeded its budget by $28,000. Bentley claimed that not only has Bishop Ingham “abandoned” St John’s for the past six years, but the Anglican Church of Canada has been “completely mute” as well. She said if Bishop Ingham locks them out “We’ll meet on the grass.”

See also the "Update on the Suspension of J.I. Packer", below.

1 comment:

HowardRGiles+ said...

What a blessing for them to have a committed lay-woman like Ms. Bentley!

"We'll meet on the grass!" AMEN!