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Catherine Sider Hamilton

(Photo: Sue Careless)

After the recent consecration in Toronto Sue Careless spoke with Catherine Sider Hamilton, who is the priest-in-charge at St. Matthew’s Anglican Church, Riverdale and Assistant Professor in New Testament and Greek at Wycliffe College.

ON JAN. 6th, the day before the controversial consecration of three new bishops in the Diocese of Toronto (see p. 6 for story), the Rev. Dr. Catherine Sider Hamilton wrote personally to Archbishop Colin Johnson, her diocesan bishop:

“As one of the concerned clergy and laypeople in this diocese I want to thank you for your willingness to hear the deep dismay many feel at tomorrow’s consecration. In particular, I am grateful for your willingness to register publicly the impediments we see to the consecration and the formal objection we make to it. With the rest of the group, I believe the consecration is invalid; it contradicts the teaching of the church past and present on chastity and marriage – not to mention the doctrine, discipline and worship of the Anglican Communion – and follows upon an election that was out of order.

“I intend to be present at it, because I am a priest of this diocese and so I have a part in this action. I wanted you to know, however, that I will not be able to assent to the questions asked, and I will not be able to participate in Holy Communion. The consecration is in my eyes a Communion-breaking act. It contradicts the communion we purport to celebrate.”



TAP: Why did you object to the whole episcopal election, not just the election of Kevin Robertson, an openly gay priest living in a partnered relationship?

CSH: I object to the whole consecration, too. In my view it was entirely invalid. First, theological: the consecration represents our failure as a diocese to understand the meaning of Christian marriage and to keep the faith. Kevin is not doing this on his own. He is a priest of the diocese in good standing, as the Archbishop pointed out when I objected at [the electoral] synod. The Archbishop appointed him; the electoral committee approved his candidacy; the Ontario College of Bishops concurred in his election. It is the wrong-headedness of the whole diocese that his election represents. I have no wish to make him the “fall guy” for a failure that belongs to the diocese as a whole and especially to its leaders.

Second, practical: If a candidate is not duly qualified then the slate and the election as a whole are out of order. Further, the outcome would be different if the slate were differently constituted.

TAP: Why did the ACA decide on only a written letter of objection and not a vocal one?

CSH: We thought a formal and detailed letter of objection publicly acknowledged by the Archbishop would have more weight and lasting effect. It is important now for the details of the objection to be made known widely. This is in a real sense only the beginning of the protest.

TAP: Were you disappointed that the ACA’s letters would only be referenced, not read aloud or even quoted from?   

CSH: No: that the Archbishop recognized publicly that a serious objection had been made on canonical and ecclesial grounds to the consecration over which he presided was very significant. That he recognized publicly that the objection was serious enough that a mediator is required in the diocese, was also significant. I thought that he made the statement at some personal cost and for that I am grateful.

Having said that, I would also say that there is nothing that can ameliorate the damage done by the consecration; nothing can change the fact that in a solemn celebration of the gathered church we have done what is wrong.

TAP: What has Archbishop Colin Johnson assured you is expected or not expected in your ecclesial relationship with Bishop Robertson?

CSH: This will be clearer after the mediation process. However, for the moment he has indicated that he would respect the wishes of those who cannot accept Robertson’s sacramental ministry.

For myself, I seek some way to serve the beloved people of my parish while still being faithful to the teaching of the church on marriage. To ‘consecrate’ bishops who represent and live a different teaching creates a very particular problem in a hierarchical church. When my vows of obedience to the received doctrine, discipline and worship of the church are at odds with the obedience I owe my bishop, how am I to proceed? For me it will be a victory if we can simply get the Archbishop to understand how real the problem is and how great the anguish this situation of lived contradiction creates. Marriage is fundamental to the fabric of our faith, a sign and work of our redemption. The Archbishop believes he is creating a big tent. We believe he is unraveling the faith, and asking us as priests of his diocese to share in the unraveling.   TAP

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