The Rev. Kevin Dixon, chair of the Task Force on Reconciliation

Reconciliation in the diocese will take time, Diocesan Council was told last month as it received the final report of the Task Force on Reconciliation and agreed to pass it on to Diocesan Synod next month.

The report contained some practical suggestions to achieve reconciliation of parishes and individuals within the Diocese of New Westminster, separated in large measure due to disagreement about the blessing of same sex unions.

"There's a need for the whole diocese to come together, to worship together, to plan together, to meet new friends and strengthen relationships," said the Rev. Kevin Dixon, chair of the task force.

The task force recommended that parishes participate in more activities together within the ten deaneries of the diocese, each of which have from five to 11 parishes.

It also recommended that a diocesan event be organized to strengthen relationships within the diocese.

"Some people have thought that if we go through steps one, two, three, then everything is going to be rosy," said Muriel Kerr of All Saints, Ladner, a member of the task force. "Well, it's just not that sort of a piece of work."

"Reconciliation is an intentional decision people make," added the Rev. Al Carson of St. Cuthbert's, Delta. "It doesn't mean compromise."

Margaret Jonsson of Christ Church Cathedral, said that before reconciliation can take place, there must be "will and intention" on the part of all. "Reconciliation is a long process," she said.

The Ven Andrew Pike, archdeacon of Vancouver, suggested that the process was difficult because "one party doesn't want to have reconciliation, they want to have capitulation."

Members of the Task Force on Reconciliation: Margaret Jonsson, the Rev. Al Carson, and Muriel Kerr

Kerr replied that this wasn't true of all dissenters to the blessing of same sex unions, and that there were several parishes and individuals within the diocese who - while they haven't broken from the diocese or withheld assessments - are still alienated.

"There are some who wish issues like these would go away, but we are talking about issues which are at the heart of what it means to be a church today," said Dixon, the task force chair.

Replying to the task force's report, council member Marcia Sauder of St. Mary's Kerrisdale said, "We must make sure that we ourselves are not hardening our hearts. If we ourselves are open to reconciliation, maybe that's all we can do."

Other recommendations included clergy giving a higher priority for clergy days and induction services, and that delegates to the Diocesan Synod write clergy in disaffected parishes urging that they resume participation in diocesan life.

The Reconciliation Task Force resulted from a motion at the 2004 synod and will report this month to this year's synod.

At present, priests and many members of five parishes out of 78 in the diocese have been refusing to pay diocesan assessments or - for the most part - participate in the diocese. Priests and some parishioners of three other parishes have chosen to break with the diocese and the Anglican Church of Canada.