Conservative Anglicans in Vancouver, British Columbia, declared a "state of pastoral emergency" on June 15 after their diocese voted at its annual synod to permit the blessing of same-sex unions.

The Diocese of New Westminster is the first in the global Anglican Communion to officially endorse such blessings. The vote could lead to deeper division among the world's 67 million Anglicans.

After delegates voted 215-129 in favor of Bishop Michael Ingham's plan to prepare a rite for blessing "covenanted same-sex unions," representatives from nine parishes walked out of the synod. Later, they declared they were no longer in communion with their synod or their bishop.

The bishop's plan included a "conscience clause" that would allow traditional clergy to refrain from performing such a rite and that provided for an "episcopal visitor," a conservative bishop who would provide pastoral care to conservative priests and parishes.

Traditionalists said the conscience clause offered them little protection. Before the vote, Ingham said he expected conservative clergy to assist gay couples in finding parishes that would perform the rite.

Conservatives said an episcopal visitor would be a poor substitute for their request for an alternative bishop with full authority.

"All the visitor could do is come and drink tea with you and console you over the tragedy of the diocese," said Ed Hird, rector of St. Simon's Anglican Church in North Vancouver. Hird is a prominent member of Anglican Essentials, a coalition of conservatives.

Hird said the bishop and the synod are endorsing homosexual activity, which was judged incompatible with Scripture by the 1998 Lambeth Conference, the global gathering of Anglican bishops held every ten years.

Ingham said most ...

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