Anglican Samizdat

September 3, 2009

The Diocese of Niagara and Justice Myopia

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara — David Jenkins @ 2:49 pm

That august organ of Bishop Michael Bird’s crumbling empire, the Niagara Anglican has this to say about the diocese’s bright future:

Many Anglicans have had heavy hearts during the past year or two, as we watch a number of parishes close and a number of parishes depart from our diocesan family over ideological disagreements. In many ways, it feels like we can put all that in the past. The future is ahead and the future is bright.

The hearts of the diocesan administrators may indeed be heavy, but only because of the loss of the revenue that the departed orthodox churches contributed to diocesan coffers; at St. Hilda’s the only time we saw a bishop was when he wanted money – our perspective on the Christian faith was about as welcome as a ruptured haemorrhoid.

For many years now the diocese of Niagara has been in the forefront of the battle for justice in our society. In 1976 in one of the most important moments in the life of our church, John Bothwell, then Bishop of Niagara, ordained the first women to the priesthood. Generations before could never have imagined this happening. It was a great moment in our history and a great moment for the cause of justice in our society and in our church.

Women’s ordination has little to do with justice. It has more to do with a culture that is preoccupied with entitlement. It may have been a theological mistake to disallow women’s ordination – or it may not; there are good arguments on both sides of this issue. It may have seemed unfair – just like the rest of life – to women who felt called to ordained ministry, but unjust it was not.

Bishop Michael Bird, not unlike Bishop Bothwell in 1976 has taken another huge step in justice. Effective September 1st 2009 he will give permission for the blessing of civilly married persons, regardless of gender. This rite is a means for the church to extend affirmation, support and commitment to those who present themselves seeking a sign of God’s love in response to the love and commitment they express for each other and have already affirmed in a civil ceremony.

Similarly, it is no more just to bless same-sex civilly married persons than not to. Such a blessing is either in harmony with Christian theology or it isn’t; the position of 2000 years of Christian understanding is that it is not; there are no good arguments in its favour. The Anglican Church’s impulse to pander to a culturally induced fixation with imagined rights has caused it to stray from the truth, created havoc and will probably be one of the vehicles of its demise.

We are all being called to an ever-deepening faith that will enable us to move forward in justice, in love and in excellence in ministry. Our Church, in the Diocese of Niagara is alive and well!

Whistling in the dark.



  1. or rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic?

    Comment by Muriel — September 3, 2009 @ 4:55 pm

  2. Can’t wait till another bishop of Niagara takes another huge step…… in it.

    Comment by Gawk — September 4, 2009 @ 4:33 pm

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