Niagara lobs one across the bow

The bishops of the Diocese of Niagara have issued a cautionary open letter concerning “Building on the solid Rock”, the Anglican Network conference to be held in Burlington, Ontario, later this month. The Rt Rev Ralph Spence, Bishop, and The Rt Rev Michael Bird, Coadjutor Bishop, don’t seem to be too keen on the meeting.

It has come to our attention that that [sic] there is a national conference of the Anglican Network in Canada being organized for November 22nd and 23rd to be held in our diocese at Crossroads in Burlington. In the initial registration form for this conference, it stated that ‘This conference is open only to Network members and members of Network parishes”. This criterion was subsequently softened by suggesting that it was “primarily intended for Network members and members of Network parishes but is also open to those who share our concern.” Regardless of the language, we believe that this conference is attempting to limit and screen those in attendance based upon very specific theological positions.

It is the opinion of the Bishops of this diocese that any conference, meeting or gathering that intentionally seeks to exclude, screen or forbid any other person from attending for any reason whatsoever is contrary to the teachings and traditions of the Church that seeks to be inclusive and inviting. We believe this action is inconsistent with what the Anglican Church has historically sought to affirm as the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic body of Christ. From the time of the Protestant Reformation, the Anglican Church has struggled to be a community where a diversity of voices could be offered and differing opinions respected and honoured.

With all due respect, that seems to me overwrought and inaccurate. Meetings are held in the Anglican Church of Canada all the time from which some Anglicans are excluded. The House of Bishops met last month in London, and I would not have been accepted had I shown up and asked to be admitted. Ordinary pew warmers are, in my experience, screened out from diocesan clergy retreats. Confirmation classes are limited to those interested in seeking to be confirmed.

The reference to the Protestant Reformation in this context is especially puzzling. The Reformation was born of doctrinal differences between the Reformers and the medieval Roman Catholic Church. Latimer, Ridley, and Cranmer obviously neither respected nor honoured Catholic opinions on disputed doctrinal issues.

The Anglican Church accepted differing opinions, but only insofar as those opinions impinged on matters regarded as non-essential. The early leaders of the Church of England did not honour the views of those who rejected the Thirty-Nine Articles. The C of E imposed the Book of Common Prayer throughout the realm to ensure that every parish followed the same liturgy. No respect for diversity there.

Then comes the warning.

If, in the course of this conference, it comes to the attention of the Bishops of this diocese that any discussions, resolutions or strategies emerge that are contrary to the canons of the Church or may be deemed to be schismatic in nature, we will have no alternative but to act canonically in the best interest of the Anglican Diocese of Niagara and the Anglican Church of Canada.

I hope I’m not being impertinent if I wonder what happened to the respect for diversity and honour for differing opinions that the bishops just extolled.

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26 Responses to Niagara lobs one across the bow

  1. Peter says:

    Ah – got to be the right kind of opinions of course ;-) Nothing like the intolerance of the tolerant.

  2. Pauline says:

    It would appear from an article in the UK Telegraph that Archbishop Venables has agreed to take the Americans and the Canadians. He is the most wonderful, wonderful man you care to meet and for those who feel they must leave at this time it could not be better news. The article appears on Stand Firm.

  3. He has agreed to take the Americans – there has been no announcement about us as yet, and there won’t be ’till the conference.

  4. He has agreed to take the Americans – there has been no announcement about us as yet, and there won’t be ’till the conference.

  5. He has agreed to take the Americans – there has been no announcement about us as yet, and there won’t be ’till the conference.

  6. Pauline says:

    You are right. We await in patience.

  7. Jude says:

    “It is the opinion of the Bishops of this diocese that any conference, meeting or gathering that intentionally seeks to exclude, screen or forbid any other person from attending for any reason whatsoever is contrary to the teachings and traditions of the Church that seeks to be inclusive and inviting.”
    And yet, according to the Anglican Journal re: the recent meeting of the HOB:
    “Discussions on communications and on sexuality proved to be the thorniest of the shortened business meeting … and two sessions were closed to the public. …
    Bishop Patrick Yu, suffragan (assistant) bishop of Toronto, said he could respond “on several levels,” but “not in front of the press,” and the meeting was closed. Afterwards, he commented that he felt “freed to be somewhat personal” concerning his thoughts in a closed session and that some bishops felt that “brainstorming” and considering “a range of responses” could take place more freely. ”
    I guess you have to be a bishop to be permitted to consider your position and the range of options in private.

  8. I have to wonder though – is this just an empty threat, or can he actually do anything to clergy outside of his own diocese? Sigh, what a mess.

  9. I have to wonder though – is this just an empty threat, or can he actually do anything to clergy outside of his own diocese? Sigh, what a mess.

  10. I have to wonder though – is this just an empty threat, or can he actually do anything to clergy outside of his own diocese? Sigh, what a mess.

  11. Jude says:

    Bishop Spence is threatening Niagara clergy. He doesn’t have the authority to discipline anyone outside his own diocese.
    The next few weeks are going to be very exciting around here!

  12. We’re on tenterhooks up in Ottawa, too – but we don’t have the additional provocation of hosting the conference. Do you go to Charlie Masters’ church? I hope you are telling your clergy to keep their heads down – it’s time for the laity to step forward and try to protect the clergy (in my probably ought to be humbler opinion….) ;-)

  13. We’re on tenterhooks up in Ottawa, too – but we don’t have the additional provocation of hosting the conference. Do you go to Charlie Masters’ church? I hope you are telling your clergy to keep their heads down – it’s time for the laity to step forward and try to protect the clergy (in my probably ought to be humbler opinion….) ;-)

  14. We’re on tenterhooks up in Ottawa, too – but we don’t have the additional provocation of hosting the conference. Do you go to Charlie Masters’ church? I hope you are telling your clergy to keep their heads down – it’s time for the laity to step forward and try to protect the clergy (in my probably ought to be humbler opinion….) ;-)

  15. Peter says:

    Interesting times indeed….

  16. Peter says:

    BTW – hopefully we are going to load up some conference footage to this blog. Stay tuned on that one.

  17. Jude says:

    In the Anglican Journal article Bishop Chapman said he’s waiting to see what Bishop Spence will do before he makes his decision, and in the same article Bishop Spence says he won’t be able to not give assent (the double negative threw me at first). So it looks like Niagara is leading the charge on both fronts, doesn’t it?
    Yes, we belong to Charlie’s church, and I am one of the synod delegates.
    (We’ll actually be in Ottawa this weekend – a little break before synod next week and the conference the week after)

  18. Marg says:

    Peter, if you can load up some conference footage to this blog, that would be wonderful. It’s great to get the information firsthand. When you blogged the Synod, it was so helpful

    Marg

  19. Marg says:

    Jude,
    Bishop Chapman’s attitudes concerned me there too. He’s shying away from his responsibilities to lead his flock. It doesn’t matter what Bishop Spence is doing. Bishop Chapman has to consult the Scriptures, discern the truth, and then lead his flock accordingly. I think 2000 plus years of interpretation of the Scriptures telling us plainly that homosexuality is wrong should be enough, don’t you?

    Bishop Chapman needs to just get off his butt and do the job he’s been made a bishop to do.

    Marg

  20. Jude, you should come to St. Alban’s on Sunday morning, then. Corner of King Edward and Daly, modern music service at 9:15 and traditional music at 11.

  21. Jude, you should come to St. Alban’s on Sunday morning, then. Corner of King Edward and Daly, modern music service at 9:15 and traditional music at 11.

  22. Jude, you should come to St. Alban’s on Sunday morning, then. Corner of King Edward and Daly, modern music service at 9:15 and traditional music at 11.

  23. Jude says:

    Mrs. Falstaff,
    A trip to your fair city would never be complete without a time of worship and fellowship in your fine parish.
    We’ll be there at 9:15.

  24. Well, I shall keep my eyes peeled for new faces then. (Wait – I do that anyway…)

  25. Well, I shall keep my eyes peeled for new faces then. (Wait – I do that anyway…)

  26. Well, I shall keep my eyes peeled for new faces then. (Wait – I do that anyway…)

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