Evangelism Exposed

“Jesus wept.” Joh 11:35

Anglican church dispute over Bible moves into new territory in Canada

[Source]:

VANCOUVER — The Bible battle that has been dividing Anglicans in Canada for more than a decade is moving into new territory, with a third court battle looming in a Vancouver court.

The battle over same-sex blessings specifically, and interpretation of the Bible generally, is splitting liberal and conservative Anglicans and the fight over church property ownership has already resulted in two interim court rulings – one in Ontario and one in British Columbia.

Now the Diocese of New Westminster has invoked a church bylaw to essentially fire the clergy at two otherVancouver-area churches and order them to leave the premises.

“We are faced with the situation of clergy in both parishes who have expressly rejected the Anglican Church of Canada as their home and have left the church, yet continue to occupy church buildings that are set aside for use by parishes in the Anglican Church of Canada,” says George Cadman, chancellor, or chief legal officer, for the diocese.

The bylaw, known as Canon 15, was used to dismiss clergy at St. Matthew’s in Abbotsford and at St. Matthias and St. Luke, in Vancouver.

These two churches are among at least 18 parishes in B.C., Ontario, Newfoundland and Manitoba who have left the Anglican Church in Canada and aligned themselves with more conservative Anglican groups in other parts of the world.

Dozens more parishes in the U.S. have left the church in the U.S. over the same issues.

Congregations at St. Matthew’s and St. Matthias and St. Luke voted in February to join the Anglican Network in Canada, which represents the dissidents who have aligned themselves with conservative Anglicans in the southern hemisphere.

In late May, the Diocese of New Westminster asked them to leave their premises, but they refused.

The refusal prompted the diocese in recent days to try force their removal.

Apart from the seemingly irreconcilable differences on theology, the more practical dispute over exactly who owns the property remains to be settled.

Two previous interim court rulings in the Diocese of Niagara in Ontario, and the Diocese of British Columbia, on Vancouver Island, went against the dissidents.

In the Vancouver Island case Anglican parishes in Victoria voted early this year to break away from the Anglican Church of Canada. They went to court to try to ensure that they not be kicked out. They lost.

“The plaintiffs have not, at this stage, established a strong case that they and their fellow parishioners who have elected to join the network are the beneficial owners of church property because they represent true Anglicans and the remaining parishioners do not,” the court ruled.

Cheryl Chang, a lawyer and legal director of the network says the judge “ordered us out at both churches and gave both churches to the diocese until full trial.”

The otherinterim court ruling in Ontario in May concerned three breakaway Anglican parishes in the Diocese of Niagara.

The court ordered them to share the premises but two decided instead to conduct Sunday services at new locations.

If the dispute can’t be resolved without litigation, Chang expects the New Westminstercase to begin in the fall.

But the outcome of a full trial to decide ownership of the churches could go still go either way.

The issues are complex.

“There has been an acknowledgment in Ontario and B.C. that the trust case (who owns the properties) still has to be argued,” says Chang.

She argues that St. Matthew’s, and St. Matthias and St. Luke are independent entities under provincial legislation.

“We don’t recognize (the Diocese of New Westminster) and their authority to simply ignore the constitution and bylaws of the parish corporations,” she says.

The Anglican Church in Canada and the Diocese of New Westminster take the position that all parish property belongs to the church.

In the court case in Victoria, says Chang, the judge sided with the mainstream diocese because the properties were “registered in the name of the diocese.”

But in regards to St. Matthew’s and St. Matthias and St. Luke, she says they are “corporate entitities holding title to the properties.”

Cadman and Chang both suggest they would like to avoid a major court case on the ownership issue.

“We’ve offered to sit down with them and talk about this but at this point we’ve been rebuffed,” says Chang.

New Westminster, says Cadman, also favours another resolution “but on the other hand the current situation can’t be tolerated.”

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September 1, 2008 - Posted by | Anglican Church, Canada, Gay Marriage, Sodomized Churches

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