In a move that will deepen the divide between conservatives and liberals within the global Anglican church, the Diocese of New Westminster on June 15 voted by a 62 percent majority at its annual synod to permit the blessing of same-sex unions. Bishop Michael Ingham has endorsed the move.

In response, delegates from nine conservative churches in the Vancouver, British Columbia, diocese walked out and declared they were no longer in communion with the synod or with Ingham, an outspoken advocate for a church blessing of same-sex unions.

The delegates who left the synod also called on bishops from outside the diocese to intervene in what they called a "pastoral emergency." The synod endorsed the bishop's plan to permit clergy to perform a rite of blessing for "covenanted gay and lesbian relationships," while providing a "conscience clause" that would allow traditional clergy to refrain from performing such a rite.

Recognizing that conservative churches were increasingly frustrated with his leadership, Bishop Ingham's proposal also allowed for an "episcopal visitor"—a conservative bishop from outside the diocese who would provide pastoral care to conservative priests and parishes, but who would have no power to appoint or remove clergy within those parishes.

Ingham and others claimed his proposal was balanced and inclusive, but conservatives said it would cut the diocese off from the global Anglican communion, which rejected homosexual activity as incompatible with Scripture at the Lambeth Conference in 1998.

Conservative delegates said the conscience clause would only give the diocese a "false peace," and they said the proposed "episcopal visitor" was a poor substitute for what they had requested, which was "alternative episcopal ...

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