Updated Wednesday 3:20PM
The Anglican Journal reports,
At the time of year that Anglican churches usually hold their vestries, or annual general meetings, two bishops in British Columbia have warned parishes that they may not legally separate from their diocese or the Anglican Church of Canada.Canwest News Service reports that tonight, "Members of St. John's Shaughnessy Anglican Church, a neo-Gothic landmark in the heart of the city's wealthiest neighbourhood, are gathering for an expected vote on breaking with Vancouver-area Bishop Michael Ingham over the issue of same-sex blessings and trying to take the church property with them."
Bishop Michael Ingham, of the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster, wrote on Feb. 6 to four parishes that are members of the Anglican Network in Canada, a group of churches that are considering separation from the denomination.
Bishop James Cowan of the Victoria-based diocese of British Columbia (which includes Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands) in his letter dated Jan. 30 addressed all clergy, wardens and members of parish councils in his diocese.
Bishop Ingham wrote that “no parish or congregation in the diocese … has any legal existence except as part of the diocese, and any attempt by any person to remove a parish from the jurisdiction of the bishop and synod would be schismatic,” (promoting a split in the church). Excerpts of the letter were published on the diocesan Web site.
He addressed the clergy, wardens and trustees of the four parishes, saying they have a “fiduciary responsibility” to “preserve and protect the assets of the church” within the diocese and the national church.
“Any attempt to betray that trust through schismatic action is a ground for immediate termination of licence or removal from office and may well subject those same individuals to civil proceedings also,” he wrote.
He added, “I strongly urge you to take no action that would force me or the diocese to seek relief in the civil courts to ensure your compliance with the responsibilities to which you are subject.”
Archbishop Fred Hiltz said he very much aware of the possibility that at Annual Meetings some congregations might vote to leave and join the Anglican Church in another country.Hiltz's full letter is here.
“I am very concerned that there are a few parishes that may be considering a motion to withdraw from the fellowship of the Anglican Church of Canada, and to place themselves under the jurisdiction of another Province of the Anglican Communion,” he wrote, urging reconsideration.
“It is not necessary for any parish to consider such action. The House of Bishops has designed a model for Shared Episcopal Ministry.