Seeking to head off another crisis in the worldwide Anglican Communion, in November the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) tried to resolve growing tensions over same-sex blessings. The bishops plan to send a mediator and task force into the Diocese of New Westminster.
But public statements by New Westminster Bishop Michael Ingham and the clergy who oppose him left reconciliation looking more doubtful than ever.
Since Ingham announced that he would permit blessings of same-sex unions, nearly a dozen conservative congregations have demanded an alternative bishop.
Ingham has played hardball with dissenters. Last fall the diocese cut off funding to Church of the Holy Cross, a mission parish in Abbotsford, and put its minister on unpaid leave. Ingham also replaced the elected wardens at St. Martin's. The North Vancouver parish has not had a permanent priest since its rector resigned over the same-sex debate in 2002. And in October Ingham set up a commission to investigate formal charges against seven clergy accused of "disobedient and disrespectful conduct."
Archbishop David Crawley, Metropolitan of British Columbia and Yukon, also initiated disciplinary proceedings against Yukon Bishop Terry Buckle. Despite receiving a letter of inhibition from Ingham, Buckle had offered to serve as bishop to the New Westminster conservatives.
Buckle withdrew his offer after the House said it would set up a task force. Its mandate is to determine how the ACC can satisfy the terms of an October statement from the world's Anglican primates that "dissenting minorities" should receive "adequate provision for episcopal oversight".
Ingham and Crawley have since stayed the disciplinary proceedings against Buckle and the seven priests. Ingham says he is willing to work with the House of Bishops' mediator.
But in a letter to the bishops, the conservatives said they would not negotiate with the task force until all measures taken against them have been dropped and reversed. The parishes also called for the appointment of an interim bishop.
Ingham responded that the "intransigence" of the conservatives may force the negotiations to focus on "schism" rather than reconciliation. He also said his diocese had to "preserve" the "assets of its parishes" from conservative Anglicans.
Buckle said the task force and its mediator must be given a chance. "There's a lot that can happen if we want it to happen."
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