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Truce collapses as Ingham closes church

Truce collapses as Ingham closes church

Church of England Newspaper
Number: 5699
Date: Jan 8, 2003

The truce brokered by the Canadian House of Bishops on Oct 31 between Bishop Michael Ingham and traditionalists in the diocese of New Westminster has collapsed following the closure of Holy Cross Church in Abbotsford, British Columbia, by the Bishop.

On December 18, Bishop Ingham banned the Rev James Wagner, vicar of Holy Cross, from ministering to the three-year-old congregation of 50 forcing it to close.

Archdeacon Ronald Harrison told the National Post Holy Cross brought the closure upon itself. At its October meeting, the New Westminster diocesan council voted to “disestablish” Holy Cross and terminated its funding for having requested alternative Episcopal oversight. Bishop Ingham told Holy Cross that funding would be restored if the congregation rescinded its request for alternative Episcopal oversight.

On December 5 the wardens of Holy Cross rebuffed Bishop Ingham saying they would remain part of the Anglican Communion in New Westminster [ACiNW], a traditionalist coalition of parishes within the diocese of New Westminster that comprise 23 per cent of the diocese’s communicants, and would soldier on without diocesan financial involvement.

In response Bishop Ingham wrote to Mr Wagner on December 18 stating he “may not undertake any continuing or permanent Anglican ministry for which a licence would be required”. The diocese also declined to offer another priest to Holy Cross.

Though it withstood having its funding cut off, Holy Cross could not continue without a priest and the mission closed. Holy Cross’ last service took place on Christmas Eve at Mr Wagner’s home.

By refusing to submit, Archdeacon Harrison said the mission had declared itself “independent” of the diocese forcing the decision upon Bishop Ingham.

Holy Cross senior warden Bill Glasgow denied the congregation wanted to be independent asking “whether it is our church or the Diocese of New Westminster that has in fact declared itself independent.”

The “blessing of same-sex unions is the tip of the iceberg”, Mr Wagner told The Church of England Newspaper. The issues at stake were “the revelation of God, inspiration of Scripture, uniqueness of Christ and the ministry of the Spirit”.

Bishop Ingham’s introduction of same-sex blessings creates “a sixth lesser sacrament that our Lord didn’t institute or practice,” Mr Wagner noted.

The demand that Holy Cross accept this new theology and submit to Bishop Ingham’s unconditional authority was at odds with the Primates’ October 15 and the Canadian Bishops’ October 31 statements endorsing an “adequate provision for Episcopal oversight” for traditionalist congregations, Mr Wagner stated.

A spokesman for the ACiNW denied that the request for alternative oversight was, in itself, schismatic. Chris Hawley told The Church of England Newspaper: “the request for ‘alternate episcopal oversight’ is not leaving the Diocese of New Westminster or the Anglican Church of Canada, or a declaration of independence.” Holy Cross wants “to remain in the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Communion.”

Bishop Ingham’s new policy, critics charge, is at odds with his earlier statements of latitude. Addressing the Anglican Consultative Council in Hong Kong on September 18, 2002, on the situation within his diocese Bishop Ingham assured the ACC that, “There will be no discrimination in terms of employment or advancement or licensing or ordination against any person who in conscience cannot support the decision of the diocese” to support same-sex blessings.

His primary concern “was to care for people of every point of view within the diocese; to make sure that everyone was pastorally supported.”

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