Anglicans from the Diocese of New Westminster continue to participate in ministries with other Anglicans throughout the worldwide Anglican Communion, Mr. Justice Stephen Kelleher was told by two diocesan priests in BC Supreme Court.

The Rev. Kevin Dixon of St. Mary’s Kerrisdale in Vancouver described work his parish in which his Vancouver parish is engaged in El Salvador through the Christosal Foundation, and through the Anglican Communion’s Compass Rose Society—which last fall involved a dinner with the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Rev. Christine Rowe of St. Catherine’s, North Vancouver, spoke of building a rectory in a small village in India, where she received “an amazing reception,” visiting the African country of Malawi with her daughter, and serving in the Mothers’ Union, an international women’s group.

The Rev. Christine Rowe (TOPIC files)

In both cases, lawyers for the diocese asked their witnesses whether the Anglicans in other countries knew that they were from the Diocese of New Westminster, and how they reacted.

“My own personal experience is being welcomed with joy and acceptance,” said Rowe, and Dixon’s testimony was the same.

Rowe did say that she was unable to act as a priest in jurisdictions where women have not been ordained (but not because she is from her diocese).

The testimony by three witnesses Wednesday, May 3, ended the case for the diocese in the three week trial. Some 22 leaders in four Vancouver area congregations, including four former diocesan priests, brought the lawsuit against the Diocese of New Westminster and Bishop Michael Ingham last fall.

They have left the Anglican Church of Canada but want to keep the parish buildings, and are asking the court to rule that they can take the properties with them.

The suit alleges that by instituting a blessing of same sex unions the diocese has broken bonds with the majority of the world’s Anglicans, and violated the 1893 Solemn Declaration, one of the Anglican Church of Canada’s foundational documents.

In court, Rowe said she had been one of the first groups of women ordained as priests in the Church of England in 1994, when the English synod and the British Parliament authorized the ordination of women, and spoke of the passionate debate in that country that event caused. She said that in general the reaction had been good, but some people would not be married by a woman, and when they went to the communion rail would not take the bread and wine from her.

“They would go to the rail for the purpose of refusing communion?” asked the judge.

“I wouldn’t say that,” Rowe responded.

Rowe said she and her husband, the Ven. Stephen Rowe, came to Canada in 2000. She said that first at St. Thomas in Vancouver and currently at St. Catherine’s, North Vancouver, she has had very diverse congregations. She said her role was to “hold in balance” the parishes despite their wide variety of theological positions.

The Rev. Kevin Dixon (TOPIC files)

Dixon, incumbent rector of St. Mary’s Kerrisdale, Vancouver, said that his parish had been twinned with St. John’s Shaughnessy—one of the dissident parishes—in a process of dialogue ordered by Bishop Michael Ingham as a way for parishioners to study issues surrounding same sex blessings before the blessing came back to Diocesan Synod for a second vote in 2001.

In general, said Dixon, he had no difficulties with the process, although he felt that some of the papers given out for study written by a conservative writer was “more polemic than academic.”

The dialogue with St. John’s started well, Dixon said. Their rector, the Rev. David Short, had participated in setting it up, he said.

But halfway through the process Short and several other leaders at St. John’s withdrew their participation.

“He said that he and they could no longer participate in the dialogue process because what they were hearing was contrary to Scripture.” Dixon said that Short was concerned that the dialogue process was ignoring Resolution 110 of the 1998 Lambeth Conference, at which a majority of the world’s Anglican bishops voted that they could not advise adoption of same sex blessings.

Dixon said that he felt the argument to create a pastoral blessing for homosexual couples was scripturally based, in particular in that it involved following the command of Christ that his followers should love their neighbours. “In my view what our diocese has done is a direct response to that commandment,” he said.

The St. Mary’s rector said that at Diocesan Synod in 2002 he seconded the motion that Synod passed for the third time, asking for a blessing of same sex unions. That motion specified there be a conscience clause in order that those who did not want to participate in the blessing did not have to. It also provided for an alternative bishop for those who wanted episcopal pastoral care but felt they could not receive it from Bishop Ingham.

Most people on both sides of the issue were “prayerful and respectful” in their dealings with each other, said Dixon. Short in particular wrote a very “gracious” letter, he said, agreeing with the suggestion of the dissident’s lawyer, Geoff Cowper, QC, in cross examination.

But there were a few confrontations, Dixon recalled. A St. John’s parishioner, Michael Bentley (one of the plaintiffs in the case) at one point at the Synod blocked his path and insisted that Dixon didn’t understand the scope of the motion he had seconded. “He said there was a lot more to this than the blessing.”

Dixon attributed the behaviour to “frustration.” People at St. John’s were upset that the bishop had refused to appoint as an assistant priest there a candidate that the leadership of St. John’s had wanted appointed.

Appointments were made by the bishop after advice from a committee upon which Dixon sat. Dixon said that in his experience the bishop never discriminated against conservative candidates, if they were destined for conservative parishes. Instead the bishop and the committee tried to find the best people they could, regardless of theology.

Dixon said that on the advisory appointments committee he had voted against the candidate that the St. John’s leadership had wanted—not because of the candidate’s conservative theology, but because he had tried to undermine the rector when at a previous parish.

Dixon said he feared this person would try to undermine St. John’s rector. Another priest—also a conservative—was later appointed by the bishop, Dixon said.

“The priority was to ensure this diocese had the best priests possible and to ensure there was a match [of the priest] with the parish,” said Dixon.

Douglas MacAdams (TOPIC files)

A former parishioner at St. Matthew’s, Abbotsford, Douglas MacAdams, said he had for one year in the 1990s been a trustee there. MacAdams, a lawyer, also had served as one of the diocese’s three legal officers. He said he currently is Chancellor (chief legal officer) for the Provincial Synod of BC and the Yukon.

MacAdams testified to his belief that “the Anglican Church is a ‘big tent’ Church. It has room for many different types of Anglicans. He described himself as a “broad Church liberal.”

He said he found St. Matthew’s different in its theological makeup than the parish from which he had come. Still, it was “welcoming and accommodating” to his family.” The parish he described as “evangelical and even charismatic.”

“We found that we were accepted, even celebrated, as new members of the parish.” He said going to a parish with a different focus than what they were used to was interesting, challenging, and liberating. “It was good for us.”


What did bother him, though, was its “congregational” approach to church governance. Asked to expand, MacAdams said this approach centered authority in the congregation. They expected they could decide who to call as priests, or what groups to affiliate with or not.

He said that “cradle Anglicans”—people who had been grown up in the Anglican Church—often differed from the congregational point of view, as did he. He described his own understanding of Anglicanism as one in which authority is ultimately located in a bishop and synod. Anglicans, he felt, should work together under the bishop, in geographically defined parishes, even if they differed in theological understanding.

“We are all in this together,” is how he described it. “If we are within the geographical area of a diocese, it’s our job to worship together as Anglicans, to minister together as Anglicans, even if we have theological differences... the Church needs people of all types, and of various understandings of God...It is good to rub up against people who have a different view.”

Following the walkout of Diocesan Synod in 2002 of several clergy and delegates from St. Matthew’s, MacAdams said he talked to several people at St. Matthew’s and urged them to reconsider disassociating from the diocese. As a lawyer, he felt he had to warn them that the diocese might ultimately use its legal power to replace the parish leadership to “draw the parish back into the diocese.”

He said he continued for a year at the parish, but finally left in September, 2003, following a special vestry which approved some legal expenses. “I felt this was a church that was going to spending too much time in church politics and too much money on lawyers.”

Under cross examination from Cowper, lawyer for the dissenting parishes, MacAdams said that the vast majority of the parish treated him, and continue to treat him, “wonderfully civilly.”

“You’re not saying that ‘cradle Anglicans’ have a greater status in the Anglican Church?” asked Cowper.

“Not for a nanosecond,” replied MacAdams.

Cowper suggested that of those who identify as Anglican on the federal census, perhaps 95 per cent don’t come to Church.

Even a “cradle Anglican” like atheist Christopher Hitchens has turned from the Church and now opposed organized religion, Cowper said. He suggested that many Canadians who started out as cradle Anglicans might have done the same.

“Canada is a lovely country,” MacAdams replied, “we have freedom of religion.”

Following the testimony of the three diocesan witnesses, the diocese’s chief lawyer, George Macintosh, told the judge that the defense had rested its case. Several more documents were added to the 75 or so affidavits that have been sworn by the two sides. They amounted to about a meter-wide collection of bound volumes displayed along the judge’s bench.

“I think we have enough,” joked Judge Kelleher, who has to read them all. By agreement between the two sides in the case and with the consent of the court, most the evidence entered has been by affidavit, with only seven days of oral evidence given. This should save several weeks or months of the court’s time, and considerable legal expenses, which are still very high.

The final week in court starts on Monday, June 8, when the defense and the plaintiffs present their full arguments.