During his visit to the diocese, Primate Andrew Hutchison was asked about what the Anglican Church of Canada had done to fight HIV/AIDS, particularly in Africa where so many Anglicans live.

The Church is finally focusing on the pandemic. It has become a priority of the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund. Stephen Lewis, UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, spoke to the General Synod. Dioceses and parishes - including some in New Westminster - are getting involved.

Then the Primate briefly wondered out loud, a "what if": what if Anglicans had spent as much energy over the past few years on this crisis as they have fighting over issues relating to homosexuality.

No mistake, whether to bless gay and lesbian couples is an important issue. How to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa is a life and death issue.

According to the United Nations, last year 2.3 million Africans died of AIDS. That's over 260 people - men, women, and children - every hour. That's more people every hour than are members in well over half the diocese's parishes.

Half a million of the deaths were of children - 1,400 every day.

And more people were infected with HIV than died. Africa as a whole is not making progress against the disease, though some individual countries may be doing so.

What if - for instance - instead withholding funds, the dissenting parishes had kept contributing - but the diocese had voluntarily reduced its expenditures 20 per cent beginning in June 2002 and used the money to help Africans fight the disease?

We're talking about $850,000. How many lives might that have saved?

And what, one wonders, today would be the relationship between the African and Canadian Anglican churches and the state of the Anglican Communion?

Maybe little difference - maybe a lot.

There are sins, we're told, of commission. And of omission.