The contentious issue of same-sex marriage is at the heart of a move by a Windsor Anglican church to break away from the local diocese and join a more conservative South American wing, the acting bishop of the diocese says.
On Sunday, 109 votes were unanimously cast at St. Aidan’s parish on Wyandotte Street East in favour of ceding from The Huron Diocese of The Anglican Church of Canada and joining the breakaway Anglican Network in Canada (ANIC), which is part of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.
“They may not say it, but the issue of same-sex marriage is underlying the whole debate,” said the Right Rev. Robert Bennett, the Suffragan Bishop of Huron and Bishop of Norfolk.
He said is was disappointed his two representatives were refused admittance to the meeting. “I do not accept this decision as appropriate and the leadership of this diocese will be meeting to further address this situation,” he said in a news release.
The Anglican Church of Canada has been wrestling with the issue of same-sex marriage since 2002 when a church in New Westminster, B.C., agreed to perform same-sex marriages.
The U.S.-based Episcopalian wing of the church also became the focus of debate a year later with the ordination of an openly gay bishop in Vermont.
More conservative factions of the worldwide church have opposed the moves by the North American wings, and a schism has developed.
The Anglican Province of the Southern Cone oversees churches in Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Argentina.
St. Aidan’s, established in 1924, is the first church in the diocese of Huron to break away, but is the seventh in Ontario to join ANIC and the 11th nationally.
Charlie Masters, the executive archdeacon of ANIC, didn’t refer specifically to gay marriage as the motivation for the split.
“The big issue (is) around the Bible and the authority of scripture and the gospel,” said Mr. Masters.
In a news release, ANIC said: “Unfortunately, the Anglican Church of Canada continues to abandon mainstream Anglican teaching and doctrine, particularly in relation to the authority of the Bible, breaking with the vast majority of global Anglicans.”
Cathy Knight, a St. Aidan’s congregation member who attended the vote, said the issue is not tied to same-sex marriage or homosexuality, but rather the desire to go back to a “more orthodox’ version of Anglicanism.
“It has never been about lifestyle choices,” she said of the debate.
Rather, the congregation members who voted want to follow Anglican scripture, which among other things teaches that human sexuality is between a man and a woman within marriage.
For example, she said the scripture does not condone a man and woman living together outside of marriage.
“We became more involved with the more orthodox wing of the church about four years ago,” Ms. Knight said.
Robert Bennett said the diocese is investigating the Sunday meeting and the validity of the vote.
“We’re trying to clarify the details,” said Robert Bennett, who used to be the rector at All Saints Anglican Church in Windsor and frequently attended St. Aidan’s.
“There are also serious issues about who owns the building. We’re looking at our options.”
There are ongoing court cases involving other Canadian churches that have voted to split from the main church, over the ownership of their buildings.
Robert Bennett said he also has issues with the fact that only 109 of about 250 parishioners showed up for the vote.
“I know the parish fairly well and I was quite stunned that the most important congregational meeting in their history was so poorly attended,” said Robert Bennett.
“Was everybody contacted? It’s just a concern I have.”
Robert Bennett said he met with two deacons from St. Aidan’s Monday morning and it was very difficult.
“It was a very sad moment when we met this morning, that this is in all of our lives,” said Robert Bennett.
“This is not easy.”
Robert Bennett is one of seven candidates to replace the recently retired Anglican Bishop of Huron Bruce Howe and is functioning as acting bishop in the interim.
…this post forwarded by Windsor Humanist, Alexander Neil, after a September 29, 2008 article by Chris Thompson in The Windsor Star