Anglican chief and B.C. bishop in open feud over gay marriage

 — Sept. 18, 200218 sept. 2002

Canadian questions ethics of Archbishop of Canterbury

A public feud has broken out between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the British Columbia bishop he accused of creating a worldwide schism in the Anglican Church by deciding to bless homosexual relationships.

Dr. George Carey, the spiritual head of the Anglican Church, warned this week of a possible split in two over divisions caused by liberal-minded North American bishops. He specifically mentioned Michael Ingham, Bishop of the Diocese of New Westminster, B.C., which includes Vancouver.

Bishop Ingham shot back, questioning the Archbishop’s ethics and accusing him of using his office to meddle in local affairs.

“Is it an appropriate use of the Presidential office to comment on complex matters in individual dioceses in highly selective ways? Is it ethical to name individuals and personal situations in a primatial address of this nature?” Bishop Ingham said.

“The diocese of New Westminster believes that Christ died for all humanity, and that the unity of the Church cannot be built on unjust discrimination against minorities, such as homosexual Christians,” he said.

“I regret that the Archbishop’s remarks will confirm and deepen the impression that he has not heard the cry of these, his own children in the Church. Until all voices are heard, the unity we all seek will remain elusive.”

In June, the diocese of New Westminster sparked an international furor after voting to become the first Anglican diocese in Canada to formally bless same-sex marriage, with 63% in favour. The vote followed years of local debate on the issue, where delegates at diocesan meetings voted in favour of such ceremonies.

The decision was immediately condemned by 10 bishops representing rural communities in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and the Yukon, who said same-sex blessings contravene Church teachings.

The Most Reverend Terence Finlay, Archbishop of Toronto, weighed in, saying he supports the right of parishes to bless homosexual relationships.

The country’s highest-ranking Anglican leader, the Most Reverend Michael Peers, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has remained neutral on the issue, except to say the B.C. diocese had acted within its legal right.

In the speech, Archbishop Carey attacked Bishop Ingham for permitting the blessing of same-sex unions in his diocese in defiance of the 1998 Lambeth Conference.

“I deeply regret that Michael and his synod, and other bishops and other dioceses in similar situations in North America, seem to be making such decisions without regard to the rest of us,” Archbishop Carey said.

In a statement to his diocese, Bishop Ingham said: “I recognize the Archbishop of Canterbury’s concern for the unity of Communion. Indeed I share it, along with all other bishops. I think he sincerely believes his remarks today will further our unity. My expectation is that they will do the opposite.”

The Lambeth Conference, a gathering of Anglican bishops from around the world each decade, voted overwhelmingly four years ago to back the ban on the ordination of practising homosexuals and on homosexual marriages.

The Archbishop of Canterbury made the remarks yesterday in his final address as president of the Anglican Consultative Council, a body made up of representatives of Anglican churches or “provinces” throughout the world, meeting this week in Hong Kong.

While the council has no formal power, it is influential, said Neale Adams, a spokesman for the diocese of New Westminster who has been corresponding with Bishop Ingham via e-mail.

It is not clear whether Church governance permits the Archbishop to overturn the decision of a local diocese, said Mr. Adams, explaining the Archbishop of Canterbury does not have the same authority as the Pope, head of the Roman Catholic Church.

“I don’t think it’s insignificant that Carey has made this speech…. It has some bearing on what people will do in the future, but it’s not clear-cut,” Mr. Adams said.

Archbishop Carey, who will retire in a few months, was backed up by his successor, Dr. Rowan Williams, who takes over the position early next year.

Bishop Williams, who preaches tolerance of gays and is known to have ordained a man whom he suspected of living in a homosexual relationship, nonetheless said Archbishop Carey had correctly identified the “fault lines that threaten to run through our Anglican structures.”

He said a unified Church would not survive unless the warring factions put their differences aside. “I agree wholeheartedly that our unity must be deeper than just a common style in worship or even a common structure of ordained ministry.”

For many, the Church is still reeling from Archbishop Carey’s support of the ordination of women, and its inevitable consequence — the elevation of women to the episcopacy.

But Bishop Ingham countered that the Archbishop ignored the careful way he made a decision on the issue of same-sex marriage.

“I have twice withheld my consent to same-sex blessings,” Bishop Ingham said. “However, bishops are responsible not only to the Communion but to their own dioceses. Bishops in our province, as in most, are elected by synods and are accountable to them, as well as to each other. Lambeth resolutions are not binding on diocesian synods.”

Posted: Sept. 18, 2002 • Permanent link:
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