Revolutionary movements in Eastern Europe in the 1980s and 1990s headed for the TV stations. In the revolution in the Anglican Communion last week, the Anglican Network in Canada launched its parallel Anglican entity in a TV Station in Burlington, Ontario.
260 leaders of congregations across Canada gathered at short notice. Nothing could be finalised until the Province of Southern Cone synod on 5-7 November had re-elected Gregory Venables as Presiding Bishop and permitted North American churches to affiliate with the Province.
Bishop Don Harvey, retired Bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador who takes his retreats at Mirfield, led from the front. He resigned his orders in the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) on November 15, and one minute later was licensed as a Bishop in the Province of the Southern Cone. He spoke of sorrow, not regret: “The most hurtful thing was to hear the letter (from the Primate of Canada) read in church last Sunday (November 18) which declared that my basic right to celebrate the Holy Communion has been stripped from me. There was no “ I regret to have to do this” in the letter. Will all the Southern Cone bishops will be ostracised in Canada as well? ”
Bishop Harvey declared the revolution in his Pastoral Charge to the newly launched Church: “There is no reference in the Bible to a diocese, border, or boundary. I have heard ”˜Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel’. We have lawyers and doctors and engineers without borders. We are launching bishops without borders.”
Bishop Venables addressed the gathering by video and letter. “The division which has led to these moves is a severance resulting from a determined abandoning of the one true historic faith delivered to the saints.”
“Schism is a sinful parting over secondary issues. This separation is basic and fundamental and means that we are divided at the most essential point of the Christian faith. The sin here is not one of schism but of false teaching which is not at its root about human sexuality but about the very nature of truth itself.”
Dr James Packer, now 82, underlined that this was not schism, despite the protestations of his own (former) Bishop Ingham of New Westminster in the press.
Dr Packer said “Schism means unjustifiable dividing of organized church bodies, by the separating of one group within the structure from the rest of the membership. Schism is sin, for it is a needless and indefensible breach of visible unity. But withdrawal from a unitary set-up that has become unorthodox and distorts the gospel in a major way and will not put its house in order as for instance when the English church withdrew from the Church of Rome in the sixteenth century, should be called not schism but realignment, doubly so when the withdrawal leads to links with a set-up that is faithful to the truth, as in the sixteenth century the Church of England entered into fellowship with the Lutheran and Reformed churches of Europe, and as now we propose gratefully to accept the offer of full fellowship with the Province of the Southern Cone. Any who call such a move schism should be told that they do not know what schism is.”
“The present project is precisely not to abandon Anglicanism but to realign within it, so as to be able to maintain it in its fullness and authenticity”
Dr Packer set out the identity of Anglican Network in Canada:
“We are a community of conscience, – committed to the Anglican convictions – those defined in our foundation documents and expressed in our Prayer Book.
The historic Anglican conviction about homosexual behaviour contains three points:
It violates the order of creation. God made the two sexes to mate and procreate, with pleasure and bonding; but homosexual intercourse, apart from being, at least among men, awkward and unhealthy, is barren.
It defies the gospel call to repent and abstain from it, as from sin. This call is most clearly perhaps expressed in 1Cor. 6: 9-11, where the power of the Holy Spirit to keep believers clear of this and other lapses is celebrated.
The heart of true pastoral care for homosexual persons is helping them in friendship not to yield to their besetting temptation. We are to love the sinner, though we do not love the sin.
Second, we are a community of church people, committed to the Anglican Communion.
More than 90% of worshipping Anglicans worldwide outside the Old West are solidly loyal to the Christian heritage as Anglicanism has received it, and we see our realignment as enhancing our solidarity with them. We are not leaving Anglicanism behind.
Third, we are a community of consecration, committed to the Anglican calling of worship and mission, doxology and discipling. Church planting will be central to our vision of what we are being called to do.
Fourth, we are a community of courage, heading out into unknown waters but committed to the Anglican confidence that God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.”
By contrast “Liberal theology as such knows nothing about a God who uses written language to tell us things, or about the reality of sin in the human system, which makes redemption necessary and new birth urgent. Liberal theology posits, rather, a natural religiosity in man (reverance, that is, for a higher power) and a natural capacity for goodwill towards others, and sees Christianity as a force for cherishing and developing these qualities. They are to be fanned into flame and kept burning in the church, which in each generation must articulate itself by concessive dialogue with the cultural pressures, processes and prejudices that surround it. The church must ever play catch-up to the culture, taking on board whatever is the “in thing” at the moment; otherwise, so it is thought, Christianity will lose all relevance to life.
In an interview with 100 Huntley Street, a TV station, Dr Packer elaborated:
“The basic liberal attitude to human wisdom and liberal theology is poison. Poison is a vivid word. It shocks people awake. Poison takes the strength and life out of a system and if not contained is terminal. Liberal theology takes people away from the real knowledge of the real God to imaginary knowledge of an imaginary God. Their imaginary God is dumb. He does not speak. This is a different God. Liberal theology leads people astray and undermines their health. The real God is not taken seriously and is kept out of the picture.”
Bishop Malcolm Harding, who after retirement led Anglican Renewal Ministries in Canada, was appointed a second Bishop of the Southern Cone for Canada. Rev Canon Charlie Masters, the Director of Anglican Essentials Canada was appointed Archdeacon and Mrs Cheryl Chang from Vancouver as Chancellor. Bishop Harvey’s pastoral charge affirmed that “Women have the same status as men in all ministries in ANiC. We have adopted the same rule and policy as Common Cause. There is no second class citizen. We are all one in Christ Jesus.”
Two congregations not currently part of the Anglican Church of Canada, St John’s Richmond and the Church of the Resurrection, Hope, both in British Columbia, were received into the ANiC. Congregations which belong to ACC have to vote as congregations to transfer. Ownership of the properties has yet to be tested in law. But 8 clergy have already been summoned to appear before their bishops, and the Rev Charlie Masters, the Director of Essentials, expects to be deposed this week.
On Saturday December 2 ordinations have been arranged in Vancouver. Dr. Ingham has sent threatening letters to Bishop Donald Harvey, not to ordain priests for conservative parishes in New Westminster, to the potential ordinands (asserting that only his ordinations are recognized in the Anglican Church of Canada and, speaking imperially, the world-wide Anglican Communion), and to conservative priests in his Diocese (not to support any irregular ordinations). The official launch of the Church will be April 25-27 in Vancouver and the first Synod will be held in November 2008.
Revolutions are legitimized through recognition by others. Supportive greetings and recognition were sent to Bishop Harvey and the new entity by the Primates of Uganda, West Africa, Kenya, Central Africa, the Indian Ocean, South East Asia, and by Bishop Mouneer Anis (Egypt), Archbishop Peter Jensen (Sydney), Bishop Robinson Cavalcanti (Recife) and from Bishop Bob Duncan (Pittsburgh), Bishop John Guernsey (Uganda) and Bishop Martyn Minns (CANA) from the USA.
From England greetings were sent from Bishop Michael Nazir Ali (Rochester) and by Bishop Wallace Benn, Bishop of Lewes & President of Church of England Evangelical Council (CEEC) and leaders from CEEC, Reform, New Wine, Church Society, Anglican Mainstream, Forward in Faith, the Covenant Group for the Church of England, Crosslinks and the 1990 Group of General Synod. (See letters page).
The Conference Presentations on Church Planting, Governance, Structure, and Media Relationships can be found at http://www.anglicannetwork.ca/events.htm
–This article sppears in the Church of England Newspaper, November 30, 2007, on page 12