Canon Alan Perry is challenging the accuracy of the briefing paper prepared by Lorna Ashworth for the Church of England’s General Synod next month. The motion is to “express the desire that the Church of England be in communion with the Anglican Church in North America”.
In his challenge, Canon Perry makes a number of points; among them is this (my emphasis):
Only three former bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada have associated themselves with ACNA:
* Donald Harvey, formerly of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador
* Ronald Ferris, formerly of Algoma
* Malcolm Harding, formerly of Brandon
None of these have been deposed. All were already retired, and all three voluntarily relinquished their ministry pursuant to Canon XIX of the Anglican Church of Canada. This is the equivalent of Canon C1 (2) of the Church of England which makes provision for a cleric “voluntarily [to] relinquish the exercise of his orders and use himself as a layman.”
However, three former presbyters of the Anglican Church of Canada have recently been consecrated as bishops by ACNA: Stephen Leung, Charles Masters and Trevor Walters. This may account for the claim of six. (Also, Silas Ng was consecrated as a bishop by the Church of Rwanda.)
As of March 2009, 52 of the clergy (other than the six bishops) in ACNA were former clergy of the Anglican Church of Canada. The claim of 69 includes the newly ordained and possibly some other transfers.
The total of Anglican Church of Canada clergy as of June 2009 was 3861.
Not a single Canadian priest has been deposed for joining ACNA. The term is almost entirely unheard of in Canada. It is one of the penalties provided for in the Canon on Discipline. However, none of those who have left to join Rwanda or Southern Cone or ACNA have been canonically disciplined.
The phrase “relinquish license for ministry” is canonically meaningless in the Anglican Church of Canada. The correct phrase is “relinquish ministry” pursuant to Canon XIX, on “The Relinquishment or Abandonment of the Ministry” which states that relinquishment:
“removes from the [cleric] the right to exercise that office, including spiritual authority as a minister of Word and Sacraments conferred in ordination.” (emphasis added)
Relinquishment renders the cleric unlicensable in any Jurisdiction. Relinquishment of ministry is reversible, but only in the jurisdiction in which ministry was relinquished.
The issue of whether a priest or bishop relinquishes his right to minister when he leaves the Anglican Church of Canada has come up before. In December 2008 Alan Perry wrote a letter to the Anglican Journal saying:
Is a bishop still a bishop after he/she leaves denomination?
Anglican Journal, Dec, 2008 by Alan T. Perry
I am confused as to why you continue to refer to Don Harvey as a bishop, most recently in your news bulletin of Oct. 16 regarding four parishes purporting to put themselves under the “episcopal oversight of Bishop (sic) Don Harvey.”
Nearly a year ago, the Anglican Journal reported that Mr. Harvey had relinquished his ministry. The mechanism for relinquishment of ministry under our canons, to which Mr. Harvey will have repeatedly sworn an oath of obedience, is found in Canon XIX of the General Synod. The relevant section specifies that “relinquishment of the exercise of ordained ministry removes from the [cleric] the right to exercise … spiritual authority as a minister of Word and Sacraments conferred in ordination.”
Thus, although the ontological effects of ordination remain, the juridical effects are rendered null and void. The perhaps more familiar Roman Catholic term for this is laicization.
Mr. Harvey has relinquished his ministry, and therefore ought no longer to be referred to by a clerical title.
He is, for all practical purposes, a layperson. Or are you implying that Mr. Harvey acted dishonestly, either when he relinquished his ministry or when he repeatedly swore an oath to obey the canons?
Alan T. Perry
The editor responded:
Editor’s response: Consulting with the chancellor, Ronald Stevenson, he writes: “In the relinquishment document prescribed by Canon XIX, the cleric says he or she has voluntarily relinquished the exercise of the ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada to which he or she has been admitted. The cleric does not relinquish his or her orders/ ordination.
“Although Bishops Harvey and Malcolm Harding (retired bishop of the diocese of Brandon) have relinquished the exercise of episcopal ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada, they may well be recognized and accepted as bishops in another church even though they ignore the traditional rule that a bishop does not minister or interfere in another bishop’s jurisdiction.”
Alan Perry is attempting to make out, both in 2008 and now, that the bishops and priests who have joined ACNA have no authority to minister. The response from the ACoC chancellor, Ronald Stevenson, is clear: they have. A priest’s relinquishing his license in the ACoC is not the same as relinquishing his orders, ordination or the right to exercise “spiritual authority as a minister of Word and Sacraments conferred in ordination”.
Obviously Alan Perry didn’t pay much attention to the ACoC chancellor in 2008; I don’t suppose he will now, either, but it does appear that he has got this all wrong.