Anglican Parish of Hope
A Bit to Read
Anglican Parish of Hope, BC
Perhaps you’ve picked up on recent developments in the Anglican parish of Hope. This parish, historically Anglican, is no longer under the oversight of the Diocese of British Columbia, nor of the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. This parish (together with another one in Richmond) have requested and received ecclesial oversight from the Province of the Southern Cone in South America – a portion of the world far removed from Hope and Richmond in distance, language and culture. It’s a bit like a member of the Canadian Reformed Church of Yarrow, still living in Yarrow, requesting and receiving pastoral oversight from the office bearers of the Vrije Gereformeerde Kerk in Capetown, South Africa. At first reading, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.
It makes one wonder: what’s happening here? In brief, the story is this. The Anglican Church of Canada has been part and parcel of the Canadian landscape virtually from the day English settlers first arrived on our shores. From its inception, the Anglican Church of Canada was reasonably Calvinist in its doctrine. It certainly had high thoughts of God and hence of God’s Word, it proclaimed the gospel of redemption through Jesus’ blood alone, and encouraged its members to busy themselves daily with the Word of God. The 39 Articles served as its confessional basis, a creed in many ways similar to the Belgic Confession.
In the course of many years, the Anglican Church of Canada slowly drifted from its Calvinist roots and its Scriptural base. This drift accelerated exponentially in recent decades, to the point that the latest Anglican Synod (held last June in Winnipeg) had on its agenda the question of whether or not to permit priests to bless same-sex marriages. As it turned out, the Synod decided to postpone the vote. Meanwhile, though, the Anglican synod did not dare to state that same-sex marriage was in fact contrary to God’s revealed ordinance.
For many in the Anglican Church, this is a watershed issue. At bottom, the aspect that generates the heat is not whether to permit priests to give approval to Canadians who marry within their gender. Rather, what generates the friction is what one thinks of Scripture.
All honest readers of Scripture agree that the Bible at surface reading leaves no room for same-sex marriages. The disagreement arises over whether this instruction from Scripture actually has authority for modern people. There are those within the Anglican Church of Canada who take seriously the historic and confessional understanding of the inspiration of Scripture, and so maintain that Scripture’s condemnation of same-sex marriage (and homosexuality too, for that matter) is simply contrary to God’s will for mankind.
Others say that the Bible has authority today only inasmuch as the wisdom of Paul, Jesus, Isaiah, Moses, etc, is valuable for today’s people – just also the wisdom of Plato and Descartes and Gandhi is valuable. The Bible, these people would say, is not the actual Word of the living God, but rather Paul’s or Jesus’ or Isaiah’s or Moses’ thoughts about God – a God who they thought was real and alive, but who we know does not exist anymore than Santa Claus actually exists and has a toy factory at the North Pole. Those who do not take God for real, those who deny that the Bible is actually the Word of the God-who-is-there, can choose to agree with Moses’ or Paul’s condemnation of homosexuality or they can choose to disagree for this reason or that. Either way, such people see plenty of need and plenty of room for tolerance, for giving each other space for one’s personal view on a given issue. In relation to same-sex marriage, such persons invariably feel the need to give each other freedom – and so to allow a priest to bless such a marriage even if one would personally not embrace that lifestyle. Those, on the other hand, who insist that the Bible is the genuine Word of the living God cannot in good conscience leave room for same-sex marriage – simply because God is so categorical in His condemnation of it. Invariably, these people are called fundamentalists and subjected to ridicule and persecution (see below).
In the face of this frustration, concerned members of the Anglican Church of Canada founded the Anglican Network in Canada in 2005, to serve as a lifeboat for Canadian Anglicans increasingly alienated by the liberal theology taking hold throughout Canada’s Anglican dioceses. Because the members of the Network could no longer stomach oversight from patently liberal and unbiblical leaders, this network has sought for its members ecclesial oversight from one of the 37 other provinces of the worldwide Anglican Church. On November 8, the Province of the Southern Cone in South America (encompassing much of South America, including Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay and Argentina) agreed to provide oversight for unhappy Canadian Anglicans. Within two weeks two Anglican parishes announced that henceforth they would take their instruction and guidance from South America. The one parish is the Church of the Resurrection in Hope, and the other is St John’s in Richmond. A moderator has been appointed in the person of Bishop Donald Harvey, a retired priest from Newfoundland, who will report to the Primatial authority of Archbishop Gregory Venables in South America.
As it turns out, neither St John’s (Richmond, BC) nor the Church of the Resurrection (Hope, BC) was an Anglican Church of Canada congregation at the time they joined the Province of the Southern Cone, although both had their roots in the Anglican Church. St John’s in Richmond began in 2005 as a Bible study group of members from St John’s (Shaughnessy), and numbers today some 80 persons.
The Church of the Resurrection in Hope is also a very young church (2006), but has a very different history. It was planted by the biblically orthodox majority of the former congregation of Christ Church Hope after their priest, the Rev Dr Archie Pell, was forced into early retirement by Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster (in February 2006) after the parish voted to affiliate with the Anglican Network in Canada in opposition to Ingham’s decision to bless same-sex marriages. Bishop Ingham then appointed for the Hope congregation a minister with a more liberal theology, resulting in many of the congregation leaving the Anglican Church of Hope, and Rev Pell became the leader. Rev Pell still teaches at Regent College in Vancouver as a professor of Anglican Studies, and his wife, Dr Barbara Pell, taught English Literature till recently at Trinity Western University.
Given the perspective of our confessions, we would prefer that these congregations of Hope and Richmond would not just break ties with the Anglican Church of Canada, but would also join a federation of other faithful churches in the Fraser Valley. Their view of church, however, urges them to ‘remain’ (as they would put it) within the Anglican Church. Yet since the Anglican Church of Canada is no longer the historic Anglican Church, their only option (to their way of thinking) is to become part of the Anglican Church where it is faithful elsewhere on the globe.
At the same time, the fact that some in the Anglican Church of Canada insist on maintaining a high view of Scripture’s inspiration gives reason for gratitude. In the midst of all the spiritual decay happening in Canada’s mainline churches, here is a beacon of light. May others of the Anglican Church of Canada see the same need to maintain a high view of Scripture, and of the God of Scripture.
Why is this development of interest to us? We tend to think that the Christians of this country are few and far between, and battles for the faith rare. Yet in our own backyard there arises –to our eyes out of nowhere– a reformational move. That’s so very encouraging. So there is also need for response on our part, a response first of prayer for these fellow Canadians who dare to stand for the truth, and perhaps too, as opportunity presents itself, to seek ways to assist these fellow pilgrims.
30 November 2007