BURLINGTON – A parallel national Anglican Church was launched yesterday amid charges by a leading theologian that the Anglican Church of Canada has been poisoned by liberalism and that is the real cause of the schism now underway.
“Schism means unwarranted and unjustified separation from the rest of the Church [structure], causing an indefensible breach of unity,” said J.I. Packer, a Canadian who Time magazine called one of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America. “Those who are unfaithful to the heritage are the schismatics. It is not we who are the schismatics.”
Prof. Packer said the Anglican Church of Canada has been “poisoned” by a liberal theology that “knows nothing of a God who uses [the Bible] to tell us things and knows nothing of sin in the heart and in the head.” He said the Church is being ruined by its attempts to “play catch-up with the culture” by adopting whatever “is the in-thing.”
The Anglican Network of Canada, a small conservative group that has been opposed to same-sex blessings, said at a meeting in Burlington yesterday that it can now provide a church structure for conservatives who want to leave the Anglican Church of Canada but remain Anglicans.
At the meeting, attended by 260 clergy and lay people, Malcolm Harding, retired Bishop of Brandon, Man., became the second bishop in a week to align himself with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone, which takes in most of South America.
Donald Harvey, retired Bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, was the first to defect. Similar moves have occurred in the United States, where some parishes have put themselves under the authority of conservative African provinces.
The Anglican Network will open an office in a Toronto suburb and act as the parallel Church for the time being.
Officials said yesterday a new North American Anglican province, which would include Canadian and U.S. parishes, is being discussed.
The Anglican Network has 16 parishes that have been aligned with the group. But the parishes will now have to formally decide whether to separate from the Canadian Church and put themselves under the new authority of the Southern Cone.
There are 600,000 Anglicans in Canada in almost 2,000 parishes.
The schism has accelerated since June, when the general synod Anglican Church of Canada said performing same-sex blessings does not violate core doctrine. Since then, the dioceses of Ottawa, Montreal and Niagara have all voted in favour of the rite, but have yet to start performing any.
But the Anglican Network said yesterday that even if same-sex blessings were not on the table, there would still be a basis for a split.
“The homosexual issue is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Cheryl Chang, a board member of the Anglican Network.
“It is what’s under the water that is more critical to us. The liberals see the Bible as a book that can be changed and interpreted, and conservatives see it as unchangeable through generations. And those are simply irreconcilable views.”
When asked whether there will be legal ramifications for those parishes that choose to leave the Anglican Church of Canada, she said: “We are not leaving anything. It’s actually the Anglican Church of Canada that is leaving Anglicanism. On that basis, should parishes choose to join new structure under the Southern Cone, we will not see that as a leaving, but as a staying, and we intend to defend that position.”
Bishop Harvey said he has asked to meet with Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, to find an amicable way for a separation to occur so as to avoid court battles.
Michael Ingham, the bishop of the diocese of New Westminster, B.C., which started performing same-sex blessings in 2003, said the network is using “Orwellian double-speak” to get out from under the word schism.
But he agreed the issues go beyond sexuality. “They are deeply discontented with a Church that accommodates diversity. They want to draw boundaries more tightly around themselves.”
He said that since 2003, eight parishes in his diocese — out of a total of 79 parishes — have performed 20 same-sex blessings “and the sky is not falling.”
Bishop Ingham believes the network is just another splinter group among many that have popped up through the history of the Church.
“It’s the latest instance of an occasional trend. The vast majority of Anglicans, including conservatives and traditionalists, will stay with the Church.”