ABC's visitors to Canada on
"aberrations south of the border"

In a report for the Archbishop of Canterbury by his pastoral visitors to the Anglican Church in a Canada take a the opportunity to issue an opinion about the Episcopal Church. As reported by the Anglican Journal,

Differences between the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church were underscored, including the area of Christology. “We sensed that in Canada there was a general consensus on the nature of orthodoxy, with fewer extreme views of the kind that have led to some of the aberrations south of the border,” the report said. “Even the bishops who were strongly progressive in the matter of same-sex blessings insisted that they stood firmly within the creedal mainstream.”
The pastoral visitors were Bishop Chad Gandiya of Harare, Zimbabwe, and Bishop Colin Bennetts, the retired bishop of Coventry.
They were invited to attend the four-day meeting of the House of Bishops last November in Niagara, Ont., at the request of Archbishop Williams. Archbishop Williams is seeking ways to heal divisions among member provinces of the Anglican Communion.
Read the Anglican Journal's article here. In an earlier article Bishop Bennett is interviewed about his bridge-building skills. Lambeth Palace first reported on the larger Pastoral Visitors team last March.

Question of the day: Isn't it true that in the U.S. even the bishops who were strongly progressive in the matter of same-sex blessings insist that they stand firmly within the creedal mainstream?

Comments (27)

I still don't get it: who are these bishops in the US that are so "over the top" in their heterodoxy? Bishop Spong (who is no longer a bishop)? Who??? No names are ever mentioned.

Indeed, E Sinkula. Smearing a group is cheap. Hardly bridge building.

Informed opinion NOT.

Bishop Spong (who is no longer a bishop)?

Correction -
The Rt. Revd. John Shelby Spong has not renounced his vows. He remains a bishop. He is resigned (retired) and no longer has a jurisdiction.

Substituting creedal fundamentalism and literalism for biblical ones does not advance the Gospel. The incarnate Word of God, in all of its manifestations, is present historically amid all the contingencies and relativities of time, place, and circumstance. And it’s a good thing too, since without a constant striving for contemporaneity, the Church would be more anachronistic than it often is.

Joe Monti
Atlanta, GA


Surely OUR Canadian friends are speaking of David Schofield, Jack Leo Iker and Bob Duncan? But, wait, these are the same fellas who hang-out with Bishop Harvey...all righteously devout past the point of being cohesive or coherent! The ABC will understand them perfectly!

The ABC is clearly lost.

His actions, lack of actions, and everything in between have been nauseatingly abhorant for quite a while now.

He needs both our prayers and our strong opposition.

-Jadvar Johnson.

The ABC and his minions never let up bashing the Episcopal Church, do they? Maybe we should stop paying attention or caring.

June Butler

This is troubling. I would also agree about questions about who (or whose positions) they're describing as aberrant, but more to the point I'd like to hear where the visitors and/or the Canadians think we disagree on Christology.

I think, too, that they end up damning the Canadians by faint praise. A good meeting but "theologically light weight?" Not working from "theological first principles?" Exactly what did they expect the bishops to be about? If I were a Canadian bishop I'd be curious and concerned about this report, and about the description of Archbishop Hiltz as being like Archbishop Williams.

Any comments from any Canadian correspondents?

Marshall Scott

I know what it's like to be victimized in this way; their never-ending comments do denigrate our human dignity, although it's more like being pecked to death by ducks. They should be ashamed.

Questions: why are we participating in our own victimization? Why are we paying for the privilege? Most important, why do we listen to one single word from these people?
Cheryl A. Mack

Canadian bishops are mostly moving full steam ahead with same sex blessings -- while TEC creeps ever so slowly -- I don't understand the report of the visitors except my experience with CoE minions of the ABC is that they hate the US and love Canada -- no matter the facts.

Even the bishops who were strongly progressive in the matter of same-sex blessings insisted that they stood firmly within the creedal mainstream.

So now official representatives of the Anglican Communion are making windows into bishops' souls? How...Roman...of them.

It's interesting to see the Lambeth Lackeys turn themselves into pretzels to accept that bishops in Canada can be in the "creedal mainstream" and support same-sex marriage/blessings. The amount of cognitive dissonance it must take to find the Canadians acceptable while pronouncing anathema on those of us "south of the border" must be rather painful. I could almost find it in my heart to feel sorry for them.


I would love to hear what the Canadian bishops have to say about this. If they DID tell these two moles what is reported, they should be ashamed of themselves. But given the mendacity I have seen coming out of Lambeth Palace for the last 6 years, I sincerely doubt they did.

+Cantuar must be hoping against hope to keep the Canadian "in" while carving us out---something I find odd, since +Akinola and company will not be pleased. Wonder how much the Anglican Church of Canada contributes to Lambeth's coffers. Could it be he's hoping they will ante up when TEC is no longer welcome at the party and must spend its usual stipend elsewhere?

Paige Baker

OK, so as many of us have recently preached on the theology of the Incarnation as central to our beliefs and are about to launch into Epiphany where we deepen our discussion of God-made-manifest in the Incarnation, how the dickens is that aberrant theology that is not orthodox??? I just don't get it other than it is getting tedious to be the scapegoat of the Anglican Communion.

The Episcopal Church seems to exist to provide the rest of the Anglican Communion with an outlet for uninformed condescension. The practice has now spread to bishops dispatched by the Archbishop of Canterbury. These men feel they are experts on the United States because they have visited Canada.

Canadian Anglican chiming in here.
I think our House of Bishops have worked really hard at staying together despite radical differences on same-sex issues, mostly along urban vs. rural diocesan lines. Niagara, Ottawa, and our diocese (Montreal) however, all are moving ahead in some form or another with same-sex blessings.
The Diocese of BC (Vancouver Island/Victoria) recently moved to allow partnered gay clergy to function (once again) and hold licenses from the diocesan bp - see the Anglican Journal from Dec '09 for a very touching article on a retired lesbian priest whose license can now be reinstated. Her female partner (now deceased) was also a priest.
Most notably though, Toronto (with its 4-5 suffragans and being the largest diocese in Canada) is moving nowhere visibly on same-sex issues. The medium-sized urban dioceses (Niagara, Huron, Ottawa & Montreal) are moving ahead prophetically in small to medium-sized steps (depending on your perspective).
We are also strongly ahead in developing partnerships with our Lutheran synods (because of our denominational make-up, similar to the US Midwest), with full interchange of clergy recognized by every Anglican diocese and Lutheran (ELCA) synod.
This is where our future lies in deepening these partnerships, and not in cowering in fear of Cantuar.
We have more in common with you in ECUSA than with England. Fear not.

I agree with the accusation of condescension, but let's not minimize the impact Spong has had on the image of our church. Another example: Thew Forrester's election to the episcopate was not finally endorsed, but a lot of bishops did endorse him. And dare I mention another influential writer, Marcus Borg? I respect his faith, but his teachings surely touch the edges of orthodox belief, and sometimes stray beyond the bounds...

The last time I checked, Marcus Borg was not a bishop in the Episcopal Church.

Paige Baker

There is nothing to be shocked about here...the ABC has continously been snide and uppity to folks at TEC...sometimes quietly, sometimes deceitfully.

Maybe +Williams doesn´t like our sass, our spunk, our inclusiveness, our polity, our American Revolution or maybe he is ashamed of his own behavior/action directed toward HIS friend (friends don´t treat friends shabbily as defective/second quality Christians)The Very Reverend Jeffrey John. Who knows?

Maybe Dr. Williams doesn´t think LGBT Christians are entitled to be ¨called¨ to all levels of Anglicanlife (and ought be sent to jail, along with friends and family, for LONG/LIFE SENTENCES in parts of Africa just for ¨being¨).

This scheming man, Rowan Williams, IS ¨inhumane¨ is unkind, illmannered, disrespectful, suffers from pretend and is a coward who has much in common with the Bishop of Rome!

Dr. Williams ignored the boycott of +Drexel Gomez´s Jamaica/West Indies (the LGBT murder capital of the Western Hemisphere of which he never made MENTION) while preaching and pushing for a deceitful ¨covenant¨ at the May, 2009 ACC Meeting in Kingston.

++Rowan ignored the hate crime MURDER of Michael Causner, Liverpool, England, during the Lambeth Conference. +Rowan was busy giving his Presidential filibuster on REAL challenges in REAL life (and death) and REAL situations ¨experienced¨ throughout the Anglican Communion by Bishops.

I have never heard a peep from RW regarding his RUDE treatment of Bishop V.Gene Robinson of TEC diocese of New Hampshire and +Genes exclusion at the Caterbury /Lambeth sorta ¨listening¨ to REALITY confab.

A year later +Rowan pranced around freely and threatened the authority of DEPUTIES and bishops at TEC General Covention in Anaheim last year).

Now what? Bishop Rowan, shame on you!

This is a perfect example of the phenomenon described by Rene Girard, in which a cozy feeling of fellowship and commonality (and dare I say, "Communion") is engendered by two parties getting together and dissing an absent third party. Once again, the mentality and morals of the schoolyard lie at the heart of the church.

Thinking Anglicans' coverage of this article has at this moment garnered 51 comments -- driven by some flame throwing.

I think you're right here Tobias. Clearly this is an example of using a scapegoat to resolve the tensions between two parties.

The danger is though that we might fall into a similar trap (skandalon) in our own discussion of their stumbling.

Thank you, Nicholas. I am acutely aware of that possibility -- and indeed I see this being played out in the Covenant debate: it seems to be pushing folks into camps rather than calling them together. The complex welter of fears, concerns, motives, and so on, is not conducive to careful consideration of the Gospel issues that should be at the heart of our conversations and proclamation! Those who built Babel as a means of unity suffered the same sort of fate -- as those who sought a comprehensive unity ended with mutual incomprehension.

It would helpful to me if Nick and Tobias could unpack "skandalon" just a bit.

I can make some inferences from what you've written, and I've googled skandalon, but I'm afraid I'm still unsure.

Are you saying "we" are: baiting, being baited, or simply the bait about to be swallowed?

Skandalon is the greek word in the New Testament that is usually translated as "stumbling block", occasionally as scandal, and trial.

Jesus describes himself as a skandalon to all of us. The concept is very important to Girard's thought.

My point here is that this present discussion amongst the commentators on this blog is in danger of scapegoating Rowan Williams in just the same way we believe that he might be using us as a scapegoat. I think Tobias' response is well taken, that within the Episcopal Church we're seeing groups gather around making the Covenant and those who support it and those who oppose it as scapegoats within their respective communities.

Which is exactly the opposite of what we're told is intended by the Covenant. Which I can accept. But it's not delivering on what it was designed to deliver and that may be the most damning criticism of it to date.

Brilliantly explained, Nick. It's a comment that I hope gets the attention it deserves.

Say a prayer for the Canadian bishops. The process for choosing bishops in Canada is just not as robust or vigorous as it is in TEC. Most dioceses only elect from within, using a process that is not much more than a popularity contest. That most members of the Canadian HoB are ill equipped to deal with controversy, conflict, and civil rights within the church should therefore come as no surprise. However, most Canadian Anglicans who are familiar with TEC admire its civil rights tradition, its commitment to democratic process, and its unwillingness to be brow beaten by foreign prelates. Many of us here are hoping that developments in TEC will make the proposed “Anglican Covenant” moribund. Chuck Inglis, Canada

Having been part of four Canadian dioceses as a lay person and now a priest I can say that Chuck over-generalizes. Perhaps some bishops are elected in the way he suggests, but I'd suggest most are chosen for their qualities of leadership, demonstrated already in the church. Many recent elections have brought outsiders into Dioceses as well. I don't know that it is fair to say Canadian Bishops are any more ill equipped than any other group of Bishops in dealing with controversy and conflict. Indeed since many are moderates, they tend to work towards reconciliation of diverse views wherever possible.And I agree with many of the comments that the Communion representatives are off base in painting a picture of stark differences between the church in Canada and the US.

Andrew Staples, thank you for a Canadian response. However, your response (and, truthfully, most of our discussions) focus in the "pragmatic outcomes" for which the Pastoral Visitors seem to have little respect. I wouldn't ask you to speak for Canadian bishops; but I wonder whether you've heard anything from a Canadian bishop about a difference between the Canadian Church and the Episcopal Church on Christology or the Creeds.

Those are important questions, and they're not really described in the fragment of the report that's in the Journal article. Sure, we've heard those before from the critics; and neither have they really showed such failings in their arguments. But, surely Pastoral Visitors from Canterbury should meet a higher standard.

Marshall Scott

Add your comments

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Reminder: At Episcopal Café, we hope to establish an ethic of transparency by requiring all contributors and commentators to make submissions under their real names. For more details see our Feedback Policy.

Advertising Space