Bishop Michael Ingham of the Anglican Church of Canada's New Westminster diocese has stoked a controversy throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion. On May 28 he announced approval for six Vancouver-area parishes to bless same-sex unions.

A few hours later, one of those parishes, St. Margaret's Cedar Cottage, blessed the union of Michael Kalmuk and Kelly Montfort. The two men have been together for 21 years. The ceremony represents the first time the 700,000-member Canadian church has officially recognized a homosexual union.

News of the ceremony prompted protests from parishes within the diocese and from church leaders worldwide. Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who personally approves of same-sex unions, nonetheless chastised the diocese. Williams accused New Westminster of "ignoring the considerable reservations of the church" and going "significantly further than the teaching of the church or pastoral concern can justify."

Fifteen of the church's thirty-eight primates—that is, leaders of national or international church bodies—have signed a letter vowing to "firmly and resolutely address" the situation in New Westminster.

Ingham, "by deliberately and intentionally abandoning the established Anglican consensus, has placed himself and his diocese in an automatic state of impaired communion with the majority within the Anglican Communion," said the primates, most of whom are from Africa and Asia. "Bishop Ingham's action has brought the Anglican Communion to a defining moment in which the clear choice has to be made between remaining a communion or disintegrating into a federation of churches."

Archbishop Yong Ping Chung and three other bishops from South East Asia later declared that they, too, are no longer in communion ...

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