Anglican Samizdat

January 9, 2010

The Anglican Church of Canada: please make it go away

From the Anglican Journal:

”We just wish it would all go away’

There is “general pessimism” among bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada about the potential for “any clear resolution” of the divisive issue of sexuality at the church’s upcoming General Synod in Halifax this June.

It will be a remarkable day when the ACoC makes a clear resolution on anything at all.

This is one of the many observations recently made by two pastoral visitors from the U.K. who were deputized by the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. They were invited to attend the four-day meeting of the House of Bishops last November in Niagara, Ont., at the request of Archbishop Williams. Archbishop Williams is seeking ways to heal divisions among member provinces of the Anglican Communion.

No matter what decisions may be reached at the 2010 General Synod, however, the gathering is bound to be “a watershed both for the (Anglican Church of Canada) and for its wider relations with the Anglican Communion,” said Bishop Chad Gandiya of Harare, Zimbabwe, and Bishop Colin Bennetts, the retired bishop of Coventry, in their report.  “At its worst it could lead to internal anarchy. At its best it could help us all to appreciate and practice a properly Christian style of inclusiveness.”

Internal anarchy is unlikely at this stage since just about anyone who has the will to resist the ACoC diabolarchy has already fled. Although the Anglican Communion Alliance (née Federation) has promised to make a stand, it’s hard to see how anything they could do will have any teeth, committed as they are to staying in the ACoC come what may. At least when it’s all over, the ACoC will be truly inclusive and, as we all know, the number of members varies inversely as the degree of inclusiveness.

Bishops Gandiya and Bennetts said that the last General Synod left the issue of same-sex blessings “unclear,” noting that while it did not approve same-sex blessings “nor did it rule against them.” Such uncertainty has resulted in a situation that is “complex, not to say confusing,” they said, with some dioceses independently approving same-sex blessings.

It’s neither complex nor confusing. The ACoC has been committed to proceeding with same-sex blessings for a number of years. The ambiguous synod resolutions are simply a reflection of a degree of doubt about how quickly to proceed, not whether to proceed.

The visitors also noted “a widespread sense of weariness with the whole business of same-sex blessings,” as well as a “palpable desire to get on with the business of mission. One bishop said, ‘We have no heart for any more arguing and certainly have no more energy left; we just wish it would all go away!”

The bishops who are weary and wish it would all go away only wish so because they assume, when it does, they will have won and same-sex blessings will be a firmly established part of the ACoC’s ministry. Speaking of ministry, the only other ministry that the ACoC has is social justice and as the ACoC has lost more people and money, even this has devolved into their being an ineffective, whining political pressure group.

The visitors noted that many bishops they met had “an infectious enthusiasm for the Gospel and the Kingdom, such that we could not but feel that their dioceses also must reflect that same spiritual vitality.” They said they were “very encouraged” by the general desire that the church be more mission-focused. “The acknowledgment of numerical decline was matched by a very positive approach to church growth, a strong commitment to ministry among indigenous people and a determination to deliver better, more integrated forms of theological education both for ordinands and for laity.”

Obviously neither of the Visitors is a mathematician, since they are under the impression that Fewer People = Church Growth. The Diocese of Quebec is a perfect example of this principle in action. As an aside, in one of those delightful moments of synchronicity, the bishop of Quebec is called Rev. Drainville; he predicts, “There will be many other dioceses that will fail.” I might set up a facebook group to cheer on the next diocese for demise: “Diocese of Niagara for Drainville.”

If Canadian Anglicans can find a way to break through the impasse over sexuality “it could well become a vibrant model of the kind of renewed Christian community that has much to teach the wider church,” they said.

There is no impasse; either the ACoC has to repent of its heresy or it will eventually proceed with same-sex blessings. Does anyone seriously think the ACoC will repent?

The visitors said they were also reminded frequently by bishops that “Canada is not the USA.” While the United States is seen as a melting pot culture where religious and ethnic groups are synthesized into “Americans,” Canadians “genuinely value and seek to live with diversity.”  Differences between the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church were underscored, including the area of Christology. “We sensed that in Canada there was a general consensus on the nature of orthodoxy, with fewer extreme views of the kind that have led to some of the aberrations south of the border,” the report said. “Even the bishops who were strongly progressive in the matter of same-sex blessings insisted that they stood firmly within the creedal mainstream.” This, the report said, is “an encouraging sign that it allows for a more obviously Christ-centred approach to issues that currently divide the Communion, to say nothing of the wider church.”

I can only assume the Visitors were drunk when they wrote that.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, described the report as “good,” and said it “accurately reflected what they’d see and heard.”

The report also said:

* the Anglican Church of Canada “punches way above its numerical weight when it comes to involvement in affairs of the Communion… They really do want to play their full part and play it well.” Its commitment to the Communion “is much more than an exercise of duty” but is “accompanied by, and springs from, a genuine sense of affection which the visitors found deeply moving.”

The full part the ACoC has played in the affairs of the communion hitherto has been to assist in unravelling it; in this endeavour, the ACoC has indeed punched above its numerical weight.

* Reiterated an earlier observation made by the visitors that the meeting of bishops was “relaxed and relational,” and that while this has merits, “one casualty of this user-friendly meeting was perhaps a certain lack of theological depth.” It noted that “very few of the items discussed were approached via theological first principles, the stress being much more on pragmatic outcomes.”  While this may be “unduly critical,” the visitors said, “we do not believe that the House is not without its theological heavyweights.” Rather, they simply question “whether their expertise is made as widely available as it might be…”

Theological depth could lead to disagreement which would never do since it would not be relational.

* the primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, is one of the church’s “greatest assets.” The visitors said they were “amazed” at the similarities between Archbishop Hiltz and Archbishop Williams, noting that the primate presided over the bishops’ meeting “with humility, sensitivity and passion.”

After I finished laughing about that last paragraph, I wrote this.



  1. “At its best it could help us all to appreciate and practice a properly Christian style of inclusiveness.”

    A properly Christian style of inclusiveness is known as “Catholic”. Not in the sense of Roman Catholic vs. Protestant, but in the sense of allowing anyone to join (no birthrites that would exclude someone from membership). But of course this type of Catholic Church (as we profess to believe in when we recite the Nicene Creed) means that people have to be willing accept that they are imperfect sinners and need to change themselves in order to come closer to God. Whereas an “inclusive” church just wants as many people in attendace as possible, even if that means abandoning the Word of God.

    Comment by AMPisAnglican — January 11, 2010 @ 9:11 am

  2. Even if the ACoC establishment is unprepared to admit that they are promoting sin, there are still consequences to their actions. Those of us who believe our Baptismal (and Confirmation) vows have left and those who remain are no longer as trusting of their “leadership”.
    Yea reap what yea sow.

    Comment by Jim Muirhead — January 11, 2010 @ 9:50 am

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