A Sad Story

kinnon —  February 23, 2008 — 9 Comments

There is something very painful happening in the worldwide Anglican Communion. This story in today’s National Post (Canada) is a microcosm of that tale.

The first sign that St. Hilda’s Anglican Church is under siege is a posting on its front door warning locksmiths who may arrive to change the locks to think twice. The posting said they are walking into the middle of a “legal dispute” between the parish and the Diocese of Niagara and anyone who fools with church property could be liable.

In the six days since the unanimous vote to remove itself from the Anglican Church of Canada, St. Hilda’s has been visited by a delegation from the diocese demanding the keys to the building, their senior minister, Paul Charbonneau, has been suspended with pay, and the parish bank account has been frozen. The diocese has already appointed a new minister and he is expected to show up Sunday.

“I’m not supposed to be on the church property, I’m not allowed to minister in Canada, and I am not to speak disparagingly against the bishops, other priests, or the Anglican Church of Canada,” Rev. Charbonneau explained.

Read the full story here. I confess that I am of two minds. Part of me wishes the congregations that are leaving would stay, pray and take a very long view of the church’s life – and part of me understands how the heterodoxy of too many Anglican Bishops force the hands of parishes and dioceses. (Bird and Ingram come to mind – and one wonders why the ACC has never effectively dealt with their heterodox issues.)



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

9 responses to A Sad Story

  1. They chose to leave Bill.
    They have decided they cannot be in communion with others.

    I hope every single church that wishes to leave goes, and sooner than later.
    They’ve been miserable, they’ve made sure everyone else is miserable.

    And why should they have the property?
    They’ve chosen to dis-fellowship.

    Heteodoxy: any opinions or doctrines at variance with an official or orthodox position.
    Oh please.
    Have you sent your donation to the IRD yet? Have you been following this the past several years or just swallowing a Nat Po article?

    This is typical dysfunctional family and system stuff. Something had to give.

    Yes, it’s sad, but I don’t feel badly for schismatics as a groups chosing specific leadership. Individuals here and there, yes, I notice in the US some are regretful they voted themselves out. Some aren’t.

    No one forced anything on them, they can play the victim, I get a strong sense in your tender heartedness, you are being played for a sucker.

  2. Bene,
    Your probably right and I do believe that it’s a short view of time that makes it easy to be schismatic. That being said, Ingram and Bird want to call their priests to a level of accountability that they themselves refuse to submit to – in terms of the Anglican Communion.

    I don’t know what the IRD is.

    I would rather churches stay within the Anglican Communion and have a more historical view of the life of the church than leave.

    And I would really rather the arguments didn’t end up being about property.

  3. “Ingram and Bird want to call their priests to a level of accountability that they themselves refuse to submit to – in terms of the Anglican Communion.”

    I beg your pardon, what are you talking about? Please explain.

    Are you saying it is perfectly okay for archbishops to encroach, and not only encroach but decide to hold a not-Lambeth (Gafcon) conference in the ME without notifying or asking the ME archbishop?

    That is not how the communion works.

    If this was the Catholic Church and Lefebvrists, they would be summarily excommunicated and the keys to the church would be handed over. End of story.

    Since this is a power struggle, property is going to be involved, just like in divorce or any other schismic event in history.
    I agree with you it’s sad, and shame,a tremendous waste of resources, time and money; but please tell me why you think any group breaking communion should ‘keep’ the property.

    There was one breakaway church in the US I read about that chose not to battle over stuff or the building.

    What do you think the schismatics have ‘lost’ Bill?

    IRD – Institute on Religion and Democracy
    They’ve had The Episcopal Church in the cross hairs for years.

  4. As I am not Anglican, I don’t really have a horse in this race, so it may be inappropriate for me to comment. The one thing I will say is that the Anglican Communion is committed to episcopal government. While congregationalism has been popular in North America since earliest settlement, that was never the form of government employed by Anglican/Episcopal churches. Property is ultimately owned by the denomination, not the local parishes, and those who donated to fund the parishes and the work of the national church retain no claim over finances donated. Thus, while I feel bad about the present complications in the Anglican Communion, I don’t see parishioners as having anything other recourse than to pray, speak up and individually decide if it is worth staying.

    Ultimately it is the bishops who must show wisdom and maturity to sort these issues out. So far I have seen little of either trait demonstrated by any of the parties involved, with a few shining exceptions.

  5. Adam I’m not Anglican, with no horse either, it is actually interesting to see evangelicals such as Bill noticing.

    I made an error re: my Catholic comment, the Society of Pope Pius X has already been through excommunication. I should have been clearer.

    You are correct, Anglicanism isn’t governed by congregational polity.

    I understand the point of Bill’s post, he is expressing feelings.

    Since schismatics signalled their choice well in advance, The Anglican Church of Canada (and The Episcopal Church) have pastoral care in place for those staying in communion (ie: San Joaquin, Vancouver BC) The schismatics have the money through their umbrella groups to move the property fight into courts, which is exactly what the encroaching Bishops want.

    Bill, please explain your understanding of what Canadian schismatics are being forced to do that bishops and archbishops are not.

  6. BD and Adam,
    Forgive my lack of response. I’m in the middle of a huge project that has me going night and day. I do intend to respond – but it won’t be until tomorrow evening at the earliest. (I have to deliver the video by tomorrow morning.)

  7. Bill,

    It really is sad. I agree that it’s a shame they left. I don’t think the diocese of Niagara was putting pressure on conservatives in the same way that the Diocese of New Westminster was.

    I’ve just become an Anglican so all this is new to me (I used to go to Dan MacDonald’s Grace Toronto). I was encouraged that this isn’t a new phenomenon in the Anglican church – even John Wesley had major squabbles with Anglican unitarians back in the day, yet chose to stay.

    I recently read through some of Wesley’s writings and why he chose to stay Anglican. It’s still applicable today.

    link to civitatedei.wordpress.com

    Keep up the good writing and thanks for the kind words about City of God.

  8. New word:


    I’m giving it a try. So far, so good.

  9. BD,
    Although my wife Imbi still does, I do not identify myself as an evangelical. (Post-evangelical Christian would be more accurate.) Also, when I do attend church – I go to one of three downtown Toronto Anglican churches. All of whom are part of the Toronto diocese – with no intentions to leave. I hold the newest Suffragan Bishop in the highest regard, and know her casually.

    Imbi is in the thesis portion of her MTS from Wycliffe College, one of two Anglican Seminaries at the Toronto School of Theology, University of Toronto.

    I shot a portion of a documentary at Lambeth Palace a year ago, shot Imbi’s interview with Tom Wright two years, have interviewed Bishop Graham Cray – the Anglican leader who was charged by ++Williams with starting Fresh Expressions, have a dear friend who is the rector of one of the largest churches in the Pittsburgh Diocese, attended the All Saints Anglican Church in Nairobi when we were there, and, I almost forgot, became a Christian at an Anglican Church in downtown Toronto 26 years ago. So, I do have a few connections to the Anglican Communion. On both sides of the issues.

    It is very easy to identify those who disagree with the direction of the ACoC or TEC as schismatics. It is disingenuous to not acknowledge that Bishops like Ingham have been as schismatic or more. +Ingham has blithely gone on his merry way bursting through the boundaries of the ACoC and Lambeth – whilst demanding his priests stay loyal to him – rather than their vows. This from a man who by his own writings is a heterodox believer. Unless, of course, you would call someone like Matthew Fox orthodox – a writer and leader that Ingham identifies with.

    I do not support Gafcon, but do recognize the frustrations with the wider Anglican Communion from those Bishops who have asked for further dialogue, been assured of dialogue before certain decisions are made, and then watched as those Bishops who have so agreed return to their countries and make decisions counter to those agreements. However, I agree with +NT Wright on this issue and believe Gafcon is a mistake.

    As to moving the property questions into the courts – good grief, BD, TEC and the ACoC have been just as willing to pursue legal battles as those you choose to identify exclusively as the schismatics. And yes, at least in Vancouver, the Sydney Anglicans are probably relishing a good fight with their war chests full of cash. ‘Tis something else that makes me profoundly sad.

    Fighting over the property from both sides is simply pathetic – and hardly a Christian witness. What was it that Jesus said about turning the other cheek and offering your coat. (Way too simplistic for our esteemed Anglican leaders, I guess – on both sides of the divide.) My advice to the ACoC leavers is walk away from your property – and to the ACoC and TEC – let them take it.

    Perhaps I was too hasty in equating +Bird with Ingham. Imbi and I attended the previous iteration of Grace many years ago (but could not stay because of the PCA’s position on women in leadership.) Dan’s a good friend – but I would never identify it as Dan’s church. Love the Wesley reference, BTW.

    And now I must return to Final Cut Pro and cut another Allelon video. Even if it is a Sunday. And a fundy relative-in-law of mine would loudly proclaim, “there’s no blessing for work on Sunday.” I guess I’ll just have to live with that, eh!


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