Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Canada's largest Anglican realignment begins in BC, parishes leave ACC

Canada's largest Chinese Congregation votes unanimously to leave

By Sue Careless

The largest Chinese Anglican congregation in Canada has voted unanimously to leave the Anglican Church of Canada and come under the spiritual care of a South American archbishop. It was not alone. This past February saw an unprecedented exdous of congregations and clergy from the national church as more dioceses voted to bless same- sex unions.

The Church of the Good Shepherd in Vancouver, a 119 year-old Cantonese-speaking congregation, attracts 300 people each Sunday with another 100 attending midweek services and fellowship groups. Although many of its members are young, it is the oldest Chinese Anglican church in Canada. It has a remarkable outreach into Vancouver’s substantial Chinese community. And it helped plant a Chinese ministry at St. Luke’s in 1993. Most of the Chinese who take part in home fellowship groups are first-generation immigrants. Once they learn more about Christianity, many begin to attend church and are baptized as adults.

On Feb. 17 this vibrant, thriving church voted unanimously 203-0 with no abstentions to leave the national church and affiliate instead with the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC). “When you have to defend your faith, you grow stronger,” said the Rev’d Stephen Leung, the rector.

A total of ten congregations have voted to leave the ACC yet all hope to retain the church buildings in which they have long worshipped. However, legal battles have begun for some of the ten. Another five congregations, which had roots in the ACC but who now meet in non-ACC buildings, are not expected to be entangled in any court proceedings.

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Fred Hiltz, warned in a letter dated Feb. 13: “In our Anglican tradition, individuals who choose to leave the Church over contentious issues cannot take property and other assets with them.”

All fifteen churches also voted to come under the “temporary emergency oversight” of the Most Reverend Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone. This move will ensure that the clergy and congregations, while under a new jurisdiction, are still part of the global Anglican Communion. Archbishop Venables has appointed Bishops Donald Harvey and Malcolm Harding of the ANiC to offer episcopal oversight. Both former ACC bishops came out of retirement in November and have relinquished their ACC licences. All fifteen churches are now under their spiritual care.

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