The Archbishop of Canterbury has said the only church body in Canada that belongs to the Anglican Communion is the Anglican Church of Canada.  But that and a specific request to a “brother Primate” from the head of the Canadian Church, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, apparently wasn’t enough to convince the head of a South American Anglican Church from coming to Canada and holding a “service of celebration, commissioning and Holy Communion” in Vancouver.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams

The letter from Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams was written earlier this year in response to a letter from the Bishop of Brandon, Manitoba.
Bishop James Njegovan shared the letter with follow Canadian bishops recently when they met in Niagara Falls, Ontario, April 14-18.

The letter from the Archbishop, who heads the Anglican Communion but has little legal authority outside the Church of England, was in reply to a letter of concern from the Brandon bishop about the activities of the Anglican Network in Canada.

The Network is headed by a former Anglican Church of Canada bishop, Don Harvey. Harvey has become a bishop in the Province of the Southern Cone, which includes six South American countries. Joining the Network too has been Malcolm Harding, Njegovan’s predecessor, also retired.

Bishop Njegovan wrote the Archbishop of Canterbury: “In essence my question is, ‘Are there two branches of the Anglican Communion in Canada?’”
“I do not endorse any cross-provincial transfers of allegiance,” wrote Archbishop Williams on February 4 of this year.
“This office and that of the Anglican Communion recognise one ecclesial body in Canada as a constitutive member of the Communion, the Anglican Church of Canada.”
Part of the meeting of the Canadian Bishops in Niagara Falls was concerned with how to deal with the Network and the Southern Cone’s incursion into Canada.
About a dozen Canadian congregations have voted to leave the Anglican Church of Canada to come under the jurisdiction of the South American Church. People from the four congregations in the Diocese of New Westminster in this group will meet for two days at a Baptist Church in Delta.

According to a posted agenda, the Network meeting will include speeches and services presided over by Presiding Bishop (equivalent to Archbishop) Gregory Venables of the Diocese of Argentina, Primate (chief bishop) of the Southern Cone.

At the Niagara Falls meeting Archbishop Hiltz was asked to write to Venables and request he drop his plans to come to Canada. Archbishop Hiltz wrote April 21: “I ask you as a brother Primate to stop interfering in the life of this province.” He said he was making the request to “uphold the bonds of affection, and respecting catholic collegiality and provincial autonomy.” The Anglican Journal reached the South American prelate by phone and was told by him that he is coming anyway.

Besides accepting Canadian congregations, the South American primate has offered to receive congregations and even a whole California Anglican Diocese (San Joaquin) into his Church, a situation that the head of The Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts Schori, last week called “bizarre, to say the least.”  “The ancient tradition of the Church is that a bishop functions in a particular geographic area,” said Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori at a press conference in Seattle. The Episcopal Church includes 100 dioceses, most within the United States.

“In fact their own canons say that the Southern Cone can only be geographically contiguous with the existing dioceses of the Southern Cone.” The Southern Cone includes dioceses in Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru.

“That he’s taking jurisdiction in places like San Joaquin and congregations in Canada violates his own canons. The situation we’re dealing with is bizarre, to say the least, and certainly it contradicts the longest history of Christian understanding of what it means to be a bishop in a place,” said Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori.

Asked what could be done, the American Archbishop said that public pressure and complaints from countries other than the US and Canada about incursions of bishops into other parts of the Anglican Communion outside their own dioceses is helpful.

“The reality is that when it begins to hurt in places beyond the US and Canada I think more people will notice,” she said. A group of bishops in Venable’s neighbouring Brazil has complained about his activities in that country, also.  Presiding Bishop Venables has justified operating extra-territorially in a letter to the Anglican Network in Canada last year: “Jesus died not to establish and preserve institutional franchises but for our sins so we could come into a right relationship with God our Father and Creator. Structural norms cannot be equated to the eternal gospel which determines our eternal destiny,” he stated.

The South American is among five Anglican Primates—heads of national or multi-national Anglican Churches—planning to boycott the 2008 Lambeth Conference. The others are Archbishops Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda, Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, and Henry Orombi of Uganda.

Instead of attending the Lambeth Conference, which will occur July 16 to August 3 at the University of Kent near Canterbury, England, the boycotting Primates will be at the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), meeting in Jerusalem, over the objection of the Anglican Bishop there, Suheil Dawani, who fears it will be “disastrous” for his ministry in the Holy Land.

“These five primates, out of a total of 38, do not represent the views of the Communion as a whole, as is often claimed,” said Bishop Michael Ingham of the Diocese of New Westminster.