As a global battle pits senior Anglicans against each other, more than 300 conservative Christians who have broken from the Anglican Church of Canada will gather at an evangelical church in Delta on Friday to welcome their new leader, South American Anglican Archbishop Gregory Venables.
The meeting takes place the same week 11 Anglican Church of Canada clergy in Greater Vancouver resigned from the denomination to serve under the authority of the South American primate, who was asked this week by Canadian Primate Fred Hiltz not to intervene in his jurisdiction.
The gathering of the Anglican Network in Canada Friday and Saturday at South Delta Baptist Church includes 15 congregations, eight from B.C., that have severed ties with the 700,000-member Anglican Church of Canada.
Venables, a 58-year-old British-raised missionary who was elected primate (senior archbishop) of the southern cone in 2002, oversees roughly 22,000 Anglicans spread across Argentina, Chile, Paraguay, Peru and elsewhere.
Like the Canadians he has come to support, Venables opposes accepting the blessing of same-sex relationships and stands up for a traditionalistic interpretation of the Bible.
He agreed to requests from Anglicans in Canada and the U.S. to serve as their spiritual leader even though the practice of crossing ecclesiastical jurisdictions is controversial in the 70-million-member global Anglican denomination.
This week’s resignations of dissident clergy followed a drawn-out ecclesiastical war with Vancouver-area Bishop Michael Ingham over his decision to endorse same-sex blessings in 2002.
Some of the departing priests hail from St. John’s Shaughnessy Church, one of the largest Anglican congregations in Canada with more than 700 attending each Sunday, and include prominent retired theologian James Packer, of Vancouver’s evangelical Regent College.
The nine priests and two deacons said in a letter to Ingham, “It is our intention to remain members of the Anglican church.” They said their former colleagues in the Anglican Church of Canada had “departed from historic, orthodox Anglican teaching and practice.”
Some of the parties to the dispute have been trying to play down tensions.
“We don’t want to create controversy, although controversy might be created for us,” said Marilyn Jacobsen, who works for the Anglican Network in Canada.
“We’re deeply saddened” by the dispute, said Peter Elliott, the dean of Christ Church Anglican Cathedral, which remains in the fold.
“But these are 15 congregations out of more than 2,000 in Canada. My impression is most Anglicans want to get on with the work of the church: sharing the good news, feeding the hungry and sheltering the homeless.”
Countering claims that liberal Anglican churches are dying, Elliott said his congregation in downtown Vancouver has grown by 50 per cent in the past decade.
Last week, a lesbian Anglican couple from Atlanta, Ga., had their relationship blessed at Christ Church Cathedral, said Elliott.