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Bishop William Anderson

(Photo: Sue Careless)

On Nov. 16, in the midst of the controversy over the firing of the Rev. Jake Worley, the Rt. Rev. William Anderson, retired bishop of the Diocese of Caledonia, relinquished his ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada. He was welcomed into the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) on Nov. 23.

Anderson, who served as bishop of Caledonia from 2001 until his retirement at the end of 2016, was deeply disturbed both by the blocking of Worley’s consecration and his eventual firing by Abp. John Privett. Anderson joins three other Canadian bishops who have left the ACC to join ANiC: Ronald Ferris, retired bishop of Algoma, Malcolm Harding, former bishop of Brandon, and Donald Harvey, retired bishop of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador.

In welcoming Anderson, ANiC gives him a “General Permission from Bishop Charlie [Masters] to exercise all the priestly functions such as preaching, teaching, and celebrating communion.” Anderson lives in Terrace, BC.  There are currently no ANiC congregations within the Diocese of Caledonia’s boundaries. Sharon Dewey Hetke spoke with Bishop Anderson.

TAP: After many years of ministry and leadership in the Anglican Church of Canada, which shows your deep commitment to the Church and the people you have served, why have you now made this decision?

BA: The trigger for me leaving at this time is complex. It is no secret that I have long been concerned about the drift away from the classic principles that are the hallmark of Anglicanism. These are principles that have been expressed over the centuries by some of the great theologians of the Anglican Church. Cranmer, at the time of the English Reformation for example, expressed the need for us to base our faith on Holy Scripture lest the devil use our inclinations to lead us into building a false church.

So we have been living through a period when principles like this have been the subject of much debate and thought, particularly around the issue of same-sex marriage, and increasingly the broader issue of human sexuality. Through all of this, revisionists have called on conservatives to maintain the unity of the Church, and to stay in conversation. Promises have been made about respecting and protecting the consciences of those who could not agree with the proposed new teaching.

What became clear to me at General Synod in Toronto in 2016 was that, notwithstanding the pleas made by revisionists to maintain the unity of the church, etc., they were going to go ahead and implement the proposed changes even before they were lawful under the General Synods own rules. So clearly there was no honest intention to maintain unity and respect conscience – the revisionists were simply going to bull ahead regardless of the consequences and regardless of pleas not to do so from the majority of the Anglican Communion. The so called respectful conversations we were encouraged to engage in had no other purpose than to fool people into thinking they had any influence on the process, so that they would go along with it.

TAP: Did all of this weigh on you when you decided to retire?

BA: Making that decision, I trusted that at least the electoral process for my successor would simply proceed as laid out in the canons. I was very careful, both privately and publicly, to not support or comment on any candidate for the electoral synod. Indeed, I was out of the country for most of the month leading up to the election. When I returned after the event, it was to news that people were happy with the election that had taken place.

When I learned that the Provincial House of Bishops had withheld consent, on grounds that most of the members were themselves guilty of, I was angry at the duplicity of the bishops, and the profound disrespect that was being shown to the people of the Diocese of Caledonia. They had made an informed choice, including knowing the issue that became the cause of the PHOB withholding consent, because Archbishop Privett had already ruled it wasn’t an issue, in the month before the election.

So, from General Synod through to the spring election in Caledonia, what I witnessed was a consistent pattern of hypocrisy and duplicity by those in leadership positions within the ACoC. They said, ‘maintain unity and respect the conscience of conservatives’. But what they did was promote disunity and actively and hypocritically oppose those with whom they disagreed.

TAP: It must have been painful to watch the people of Caledonia going through this.

BA: I watched as the people of a diocese I tried to serve honestly and faithfully were told that their experience of the Holy Spirit didn’t count – because they chose someone who didn’t line up with revisionist thinking. I watched as a good and faithful priest was mistreated by the Church, and the people of the diocese were disrespected and bullied into turning their backs on him and engaging in a second election.

At that point, I realized there was simply no health left in the ACoC. I was embarrassed to be a member of it, so I had to leave.

TAP: As you leave for ANiC, what warning or encouragement would you like to give to those in the Anglican Church of Canada? 

BA: People tend to stay where they are comfortable. I understand this. When you have spent your life worshipping in a parish church to which you and your family have devoted time and resources, it is hard to walk away into something different. And its hard to leave friends behind. 

And it is so tempting to look at what is happening and dismiss it as nothing more than differences of opinion. We expect the face of evil to be ugly and obvious and so we aren’t prepared to see it in our own backyard, on the smiling face of the churchman who invokes the name of God and uses all the right religious language. But evil often uses half-truths and deceit to accomplish its ends. When I look back over the past year, I see too much that I believe has been evil. Our God is not one who uses deception and chaos to accomplish His purpose.

So, the question I think folks must honestly face is whether they are staying where they are because they are being faithful to God as opposed to where they feel comfortable. As Christians, we are each called to walk in the footsteps of Christ, not to be comfortable with what is familiar. For those who stay, I think it is important to understand that there is no place left for conservatives, or traditionalists, within the ACoC. The promises of respect for conscience, and respect for core Anglican values are simply empty. Sooner or later the revisionist teachings will be imposed upon every parish. Do you want to continue to support such a structure with your time and resources, especially if in so doing you act contrary to God’s will?

However painful it might be, what is the point in staying within a church that has abandoned Scripture as a guiding principle, violates its own liturgies by introducing theological novelties, and whose leadership refuses to be accountable to the people in the pews?   TAP

Editors Note: The print edition reported that Bp Anderson had relinquished his orders. We apologise
for the mistake.

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