New Westminster Diocesan Council voted last month to ask the parish of Christ Church in Hope why the number on the parish membership role dropped from 180 to 62 within the space of seven months.

Council received a petition from 49 people identifying themselves as members of the parish which claimed they had been disenfranchised before a special Vestry (membership) meeting on September 26.

The membership stood at 180 in February but was reduced to 140 before a special Vestry meeting in May. No action was taken at that meeting, and various motions were tabled for the summer.

In September, a motion directing the wardens to affiliate the parish with a "federation" of "Canadian orthodox Anglican individuals, parishes, dioceses and other organizations" was passed 31 to 6. However many present who opposed the motion were told they could not vote and that the roll now numbered 62.

Chancellor George Cadman said that he was not upset by the motion, on its face, but was concerned about removal of what appears to be over half the names of members of Vestry from the membership roll.

"The disenfranchisement of any member in any parish on any issue should be a matter of concern to this council," he said.

The canonical committee had set a rule that members must have been present at 12 worship services during the preceding year, Cadman said. He said this rule appeared "arbitrary". The Diocesan canons (bylaws) provide for those who support the work of a parish through time, talents or identifiable financial support and are "accustomed worshippers" in the Parish to have a voice and vote at a Vestry meeting.

Under Diocesan canons, the Diocesan Council can direct the parish to hold a new vote. Cadman said before that is required he hoped that within the parish "wiser minds may prevail" and such a direction will be unnecessary. The matter will come back before Diocesan Council on November 9.