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Straining at Gnats in the House of Bishops

Photo: Sue Careless

Friends, it cannot be clearer that the progressive leadership of the Anglican Church of Canada is out to eradicate any opposition to its agenda. Yes, the language of inclusion is still widely used but actions speak louder than words. Ask any priest or postulant who had reservations about the ordination of women in the 90s and 2000s about their interviews. The line reported to me repeatedly was “We as a diocese are committed to comprehensiveness” – which was a signal that there was no room in the diocese for you.

Over the last 12 months we have seen radical changes implemented in the Anglican Church of Canada without any consent. Bishops unilaterally proceeding with same-sex marriage without the consent of General Synod. A partnered homosexual bishop consecrated without even so much as a discussion at the national, provincial or diocesan level about changing the doctrine and discipline of the church on the matter. Yet when the Diocese of Caledonia gathers together and selects a candidate for bishop, a candidate who is a priest in Good Standing, who been a member of General Synod, who was required to sign an extraordinary oath of obedience prior to the election, who had been specifically vetted in advance by the Archbishop of the province, he is rejected. And he is rejected solely on the grounds that he holds a different opinion than the majority of the House of Bishops on the challenges facing the church today.

Let’s have a moment of clarity about this. I have knocked at this question many times and through many sources and what seems to be the case is that the one-time bishop-elect does not believe ecclesial intrusions on ecclesial provinces to be always wrong. That is, he does not think geographical sovereignty to be inviolable. Now on the one hand you might say fair enough. It would be hard to be a neighbouring bishop and have to worry about the Bishop of Caledonia making an intrusion on your diocese. But, at several instances prior to his election and in the presence of the assembled provincial house of bishops, the one-time bishop-elect specifically affirmed that he would be obedient to the Canons of the Anglican Church of Canada. So what it comes down to is that Mr. Worley holds an opinion (one not shared by the majority of bishops in the Province of BC & Yukon) upon which he promises not to act.

Ok, so again, fair enough.  Since we are a faith-based organisation, you could argue that what we believe is even more important, more primary, than what we say or do. Yes, but is Mr. Worley really the first bishop elected whilst having views which run contrary to the teaching or canons of the Anglican Church of Canada? In the 70s and 80s a conservative estimate would suggest half of the bishops consecrated would hold views contrary to fundamental theological teachings of the church, such as the denial of the resurrection or the salvific uniqueness of Christ Jesus. And in the past two decades, how many bishops consecrated were quite clear on their disagreement with the current teaching of the church on matters relating to sexuality? The absolutist line on what the one-time bishop-elect of Caledonia thinks is both absurd and hypocritical. Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.

Anglicans take such enormous pride in our enlightened approach. We are the church where ‘you don’t have to check your brain at the door.’ Sure we are.

So, you may ask, how to move forward? Let me suggest two things:


 1.    The archbishop of BC & Yukon should immediately resign for such an extraordinary mishandling of the situation: to have cleared Mr. Worley prior to the election and then to oversee the kangaroo court that rejected him afterwards. His handling of the matter has brought unnecessary anguish, damage and expense for the Diocese of Caledonia, the Province of BC & Yukon and the Worley family.


2.    The Diocese of Caledonia should stand behind Mr. Worley. They did due diligence in screening candidates, they elected him and he in good faith stepped forward. They should hold another episcopal election with one name – The Rev’d Jacob Worley. The provincial bishops have asked them to reconsider. It only stands to reason that they should do the same. If Mr. Worley is willing to go through another round of this, they should support him.


Friends, let’s have no illusions moving forward. The canons of the Anglican Church of Canada have been weaponised and aim is being taken at those who disagree with the new direction of the church. If an attack this egregious and at this level is allowed to stand less than a year after GS 2016, then it will be open season on theological conservatives across the country.   TAP  

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