On Monday, November 15th, 2010, the British Columbia Appeal Court dismissed the legal action brought against the Diocese of New Westminster by individuals in four parishes.
The Court upheld Justice Stephen Kelleher’s November 25th Reasons for Judgment that the assets of the four parishes: St. Matthew’s, Abbotsford, St. John’s, Shaughnessy, St. Mathias & St. Luke and Church of the Good Shepherd remain within the Diocese of New Westminster.
When the Synod of the Diocese voted for a third time in 2002 to bless committed, faithful same-sex relationships it was made quite clear that such permission was optional, not mandatory. No one has ever been required to act against their conscience in this matter.
The matter brought before the Court was not about sexuality nor the truth of the Gospel. Rather, litigants sought to take possession of diocesan buildings and assets after they had removed themselves from the Anglican Church of Canada. The Court of Appeal refused this request, as did the B. C. Supreme Court in November of 2009.
In doing so, both Courts have upheld the structures and governance of historic Anglicanism.
Each Court recognized that decisions in the Canadian Church have been reached in accordance with our own procedures and customs, and that the civil courts should not be used to determine church doctrine.
The media reports of November 15th and 16th, 2010 that make reference to congregations having to relocate are incorrect. No one is being asked to leave or relocate. The clergy now aligned with a different denomination will need to continue their ministry in other locations.
The principal change that needs to take place is made clear in Justice Kelleher’s November 25th, 2009 Reasons for Judgment “ elected trustees of the dissident parishes must exercise their fiduciary responsibilities in accordance with the Governing Statute, Constitution, Canons, Rules and Regulations of the Diocese under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of the Diocese...”
Bishop Michael Ingham will now contact the trustees of the four parishes in writing and request a meeting. At those meetings the bishop’s intent is to confer with the trustees to appoint interim clergy for the short term and moving forward to work with trustees to seek new clergy to fill the positions of those who have left the Anglican Church of Canada.
A pastoral letter from the Bishop will be available in all diocesan churches this coming Sunday, November 21st.