Tag Archives: Father Jake

A New Primate for Canada

You may have heard that the Anglican Primate of Canada is due to retire following the meeting of the Canadian General Synod in June. Unlike the Church of England, the new primate will be democratically elected by the clergy and laity in the General Synod from a short list of candidates drawn up by the bishops. It’s also a pretty rapid turnaround too – the election will take place on June 22nd, with the new primate being installed on June 25th.

So why is the choice of a new primate important to the rest of us? Precisely because it’s the Anglican Church of Canada who although they’ve been somewhat in the shadow of the Episcopal Church in the US recently, have also been pushing ahead with a more liberal position on sexuality, particularly with regards to same-sex blessings.

Alongside this, according to a review of the candidates over on Father Jake’s Blog, the favourite is Bishop Victoria Matthews, current Bishop of Edmonton. She was the first female Bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada, and also chaired the commission that examined the issue of same-sex marraige that determined that whilst it was important, it was not core doctrine and should not be seen as a church, or indeed communion dividing issue. Having said that, she is has consistently toed the line with regards to the issue in her diocese, coming out against the Diocese of New Westminster when they moved ahead with same-sex blessings. So she is certainly not the most liberal Bishop in the church, nor indeed in the field of candidates.

Of course she may not win the election, but it will be interesting to see what the reaction of the more conservative provinces will be if the liberal Anglican Church of Canada also has a female primate. Certainly the other candidates may be more personally acceptable to the anti-women provinces – but theologically her actions with regards to the sexuality issues appear to mark her out as much more the kind of person they would want.

Is Anyone Happy with B033?

So everything has panned out pretty much as expected. The Americans pulled together a last minute motion, B033, that reads as follows:

Resolved, the House of Deputies concurring, that the 75th General Convention receive and embrace The Windsor Report’s invitation to engage in a process of healing and reconciliation; and be it further

Resolved, that this Convention therefore call upon Standing Committees and bishops with jurisdiction to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on the communion.

However, nobody really seems happy about it. The Diocese of Washington has published a ‘Statement of Conscience‘, essentially distancing themselves from the resolution because firstly it was only briefly discussed, and secondly because it discriminates. Father Jake, as would be expected, has a much more direct and forthright response.

Looking on the other side of the rift, the Anglican Communion Network published this statment describing the measure as inadequate. Peter Akinola, the Archbishop of Nigeria was quick with a response too.

There is even comment from a participant in the General Convention who believes that the motion was the centre ground speaking. However if you read further, even he isn’t happy with the result.

So could it have been any different? Could there have been a solution that would make everybody happy? I think not. Nothing short of the removal of the Bishop of New Hampshire, and a legal block on any similar appointments (something I don’t think was even possible under the canon law of the church in a single convention) and the most pitiful, grovelling statement – the verbal equivalent of crawling through the streets in sackcloth and ashes would have satisfied the conservative side. Equally, any move that can be seen as in any way discriminatory would be unacceptable to the liberal wing. Essentially, the only solution would be one that made one group or another happy, not both. What they finished up with was one which pleased nobody, too wishy-washy for the conservatives, and a perceived slap in the face to the liberals.

So what should have happened? Reading the discussion, I was reminded of John Shelby Spong’s call for a new reformation. In a similar way to Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg in 1517, Spong published 12 theses online, and in his book “New Christianity for a New Worldâ€?, the twelfth of which is:

All human beings bear God’s image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one’s being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

Maybe, rather that being, well Anglican about it all, the Episcopal General Convention, realising that no compromise that they would produce would satisfy the conservatives, gone with what they believed, and have backed at previous conventions, and effectively kicked off the new reformation proposed by Spong. Instead, the resolution has alienated and offended parts of the church, without doing anything more than postponing the inevitable break-up of the Anglican Communion. To be frank, the beliefs expressed by both groups are so deep seated that neither is ever going to be happy unless the other moves their position, and since the conservative group isn’t happy for the liberal to be in the same Church (although in general the liberal group seem to be happy to include the conservatives), it seems better that they separate. (This of course will get on to another whole load of terribly earnest but totally tedious and irrelevant arguments over who is the ‘true’ Anglican church. To be honest, who cares?) At least then the two groups can actually get back to doing what the church is called to do, rather than arguing amongst themselves.