Ecumenical News International
Daily News Service
11 September 2002

Foreign Anglicans join in 'provocative' protest
against same-sex blessings


By Ferdy Baglo

Vancouver, 11 September (ENI)--Dissident Canadian
Anglicans were joined by church leaders from abroad at
a conference last week protesting against the decision
by the Canadian Anglican diocese of New Westminster to
authorise same-sex blessings.

Four foreign bishops and archbishops joined Canadian
priests and parishes at the meeting, which ended on 3
September and was called by opponents of the New
Westminster decision.

The presence of the African, Asian and US clerics at
the conference hosted by the dissenting Anglican
Communion in New Westminster (ACNW) was described as
"provocative and inflammatory" by the sitting bishop of the
diocese, Michael Ingham.

In an open letter to diocesan leaders prior to the
conference, Ingham said the foreign clerics were
"deliberately rejecting church policy which forbids
intervening in another bishop's diocese".

Ingham said the diocese was the target of a deliberate
campaign of "disinformation" and "outright errors of
fact" intended to draw members away into a breakaway

In June, the diocese of New Westminster became the
first in the Anglican Communion to endorse the
blessing of same-sex unions. Representatives of eight
parishes and 12 clergy walked out of the synod meeting
in protest.

Archbishop Yong Ping Chung of the Province of South
East Asia, the most outspoken of the foreign church
leaders at the Vancouver gathering last week, said:
"Anglicans in Asia are very sad about what's happened
in Vancouver."

"This kind of issue is life and death to us," the
controversial archbishop told reporters at a news

Last year Chung broke church rules by unilaterally
consecrating Anglican bishops in the United States as
missionary bishops of the conservative Anglican Mission
in America, without the permission of the US diocesan
bishop or the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in
the United States.

At the time, Dr George Carey, the archbishop of
Canterbury and leader of the world-wide Anglican
Communion, called the ordinations "at best irregular
and at worst schismatic".

The other foreign church leaders attending the
Vancouver conference were Archbishop Bernard Malango
of the Anglican Province of Central Africa; Bishop
Peter Njenga, of Mount Kenya South, representing his
primate, Archbishop David Gitari; and Bishop Andrew
Fairfield from the US state of North Dakota,
representing the American Anglican Council, a
conservative group.

A key topic of discussion at the Vancouver meeting was
the request for a "flying bishop" - formally called
"alternative episcopal oversight" - to serve the dissenting
Anglicans in the diocese.

Archbishop David Crawley, Anglican metropolitan of the
Province of British Columbia and Yukon and Bishop
Ingham's superior, said that the dissidents wanted to
have "a bishop of their choice from outside".

This would mean, in effect, "a mini-diocese within the
diocese - or setting up their own diocese", Crawley

He told ENI that the Anglican Church of Canada had no
provision for the authorisation of "someone coming
from outside" to have "complete episcopal jurisdiction", and
that he would not allow a competing diocese to be set up to
serve only the conservative members of the church.

Crawley said the New Westminster synod had provided
for the calling of an "episcopal visitor", a bishop
from Canada, to come into the diocese regularly to
provide pastoral care and episcopal supervision for
the dissident parishes. The synod had also allowed for
"freedom of conscience - parishes will not be forced
or coerced in any way into blessing same-sex unions",
he said.

Crawley refuted a statement by Chung that the church
should have only one teaching on same-sex unions. The
Canadian archbishop said some thorny church questions
should be decided on a regional basis, pointing to
positions taken on polygamy in some African countries.

Although the Anglican Church formally forbade
polygamy, Crawley said, the world communion's 800
bishops had voted in 1988 to allow African churches
discretion in dealing with this cultural practice. The
decision to ordain women priests had also been left to
national churches to decide, Crawley said.

The issue of same-sex partnerships is expected to come
up later this month at a meeting in Hong Kong of the
Anglican Consultative Council, which includes the
world's 38 primates. Bishop Ingham is one of two ACC
leaders scheduled to speak at the event.

The subject is also expected to be on the agenda of
the October meeting of the Anglican House of Bishops
in Canada.

The issue has ignited further controversy elsewhere in
Canada. A priest in Ontario intends to bring a
resolution supporting authorisation of same-sex
blessings to the diocese of Ottawa in October.

A recent survey suggests that 50 per cent of British
Columbians support giving gay and lesbian couples the
legal right to marry - a more radical position than a
same-sex blessing.

The Anglican Communion has 38 primates and almost 70
million adherents world-wide.