Saturday, November 29, 2008

Conservative Anglicans determined to stay within church

About 50 conservative Anglican leaders, including eight young theological students, gathered in Toronto for a one-day consultation on Nov. 25 and emerged with a determination to remain within the Anglican Church of Canada. They came from 16 dioceses across the country.

Rev. Brett Cane of St. Aidan’s Anglican Church in Winnipeg is chair of Anglican Essentials Federation who was quick to point out that the organization is going through a name change. He said that the “Essentials” label has negative connotations in some parts of the country. He said that the federation is loosening its connection to the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC).

“We will still maintain links of fellowship with the network but we will not be organizationally tied together.”

ANiC includes 23 congregations, 14 of which are churches that left the Anglican Church of Canada, and the rest are new church plants. They are under the episcopal oversight of Bishop Donald Harvey, formerly of the Anglican Church of Canada, and under the primatial authority of Archbishop Gregory Venables, primate of the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone.

Mr. Cane said that the federation will continue to meet together with those involved in ANiC, “being together in preaching, youth work and mission.” “We are all still brothers and sisters in Christ; we need to recognize their pain because it isn’t easy to leave the denomination you love.”

He said that the one day consultation dealt with “reformulating our vision” rather than issues around structure. He said he saw this conservative federation as more of a movement within the Anglican Church of Canada than an organization.

The concerns of conservative Anglicans reach beyond the blessing of same-sex unions, he said. There is a need for theological reflection on the uniqueness of Jesus, biblical interpretation, marriage, and the rights of children. Mr. Cane says the federation – whatever its new name – will be encouraging theological students to become engaged in these conversations.

He said there are five key areas on which the federation will focus: giving voice to the issues at various meetings of dioceses and synods, continuing to network with other conservative organizations and denominations in Canada, international representation (Mr. Cane says he will attend the Common Cause Partnership meeting in December as an observer), encouraging conservative theologians to meet and work on the issues, and working with theological students and others under age 40 to “help the rest of the church affirm authentic Anglicanism.”

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, sent a lengthy pastoral letter to the consultation in which he acknowledged differences in biblical interpretation and expressed appreciation for the fellowship’s determination to work within the Anglican Church of Canada.

In his letter, the primate said that “the St. Michael Report itself acknowledges that ‘the interpretation of scripture is a central and complex matter’ and that, at times in the church’s history, ‘faithful readings have led to mutually contradictory understandings, requiring on-going dialogue and prayer toward discernment of the one voice of the gospel.’

Archbishop Hiltz said he was “deeply mindful of your conscientious struggle over this matter. I acknowledge with deep gratitude your faithfulness to Christ. I recognize your commitment to remain within the fellowship of the Anglican Church of Canada, to support its witness to the gospel and to take your place in its councils. I assure you that there continues to be a place for your voice at the table. That assurance is in keeping with an abiding conviction that as Anglicans we value the comprehensiveness so long a characteristic of our history and tradition as a church.”

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(Source: AJ)