New Westminster bishop accuses Yukon bishop of issuing 'ultimatums and threats'

March 4, 2003

The bishop of New Westminster is trying to head off efforts of diocesan dissidents to find themselves a new bishop and has asked other bishops in Canada--and one in particular--to keep their noses out of the fray.

In separate moves, Bishop Michael Ingham made efforts to assert his authority as diocesan bishop and stave off the arrival of an outside, or 'flying bishop,' to minister to eight unhappy parishes. Ingham wrote last week to Bishop Terry Buckle of the Yukon, advising that he was barred from ministering within the Diocese of New Westminster. A copy of the letter was also released to all clergy in the diocese.

In the letter, dated February 24, Ingham accuses Buckle of issuing 'ultimatums and threats against the bishop and the synod of the Diocese of New Westminster.' Ingham's letter said he was imposing inhibition against Buckle, thereby preventing him from exercising any ministry within the boundaries of the diocese.

Ingham referred to two letters written by Buckle, one of them co-signed by Bishop William Anderson of the Diocese of Caledonia and addressed to the metropolitan (senior bishop) of the church's Province of British Columbia, Archbishop David Crawley, on February 11 and 17.

'Taken together, it is clear from both these letters that you intend to commit an ecclesiastical offence by asserting 'pastoral responsibility' and 'episcopal jurisdiction' with the Diocese of New Westminster without my permission and contrary to the canons of General Synod, the Province of British Columbia and Yukon, and the Diocese of New Westminster,' Ingham wrote. Failure to abide by the inhibition of ministry, the letter added, would result in referral of the matter to Crawley for disciplinary action.

Members of the parishes, which call themselves the Anglican Communion in New Westminster, were until recently engaged in reconciliation talks with Ingham and diocesan representatives. They have made very public their ongoing efforts to find themselves another bishop either from within the Canadian house of bishops or from outside the country. The ACiNW formed over its disagreement with the June 2002 decision of the diocesan synod to allow same-sex blessings. Members of the eight churches walked out of the synod and the ensuing months have seen bitter fighting and a failed attempt to reconcile, despite efforts by an outside facilitator. Reconciliation talks broke off in early February.

Announcing the break-off of talks earlier this month, Ingham said the ACiNW representatives only wanted to talk about separation, which the ACiNW later denied, saying members wanted more time. The bishop maintained that he was still willing to talk to anyone who wanted to come to the table.

Even before the diocese voted in favor of same-sex blessings, Ingham maintained that clergy would not be obligated to bless homosexual couples. He has also offered an 'episcopal visitor,' a visiting bishop without authority, to provide pastoral care to clergy and parishes that do not support the blessings. To date there have been no blessings of homosexual couples in the diocese, although several priests and parishes have asked the bishop for permission to perform such a ceremony.