Bishop Michael Bird responds to Marriage Canon decision

The Canadian House of Bishops cannot muster the 2/3rds majority it would need to pass a motion to change the marriage canon to accommodate same-sex couples. Here is the reaction from the liberal Diocese of Niagara’s Michael Bird. Interestingly, he notes that “many” of the bishops did not agree with the amendment.

TO THE CLERGY AND PEOPLE OF THE DIOCESE OF NIAGARA

My dear friends:

It is with deep sadness and regret that I write this letter to you today. As you know we in Niagara have and continue to work very hard to give life and bear faithful witness to our baptismal promise that calls us to “seek and serve Christ in all persons and to respect the dignity of every human being.” This past week the Canadian House of Bishops has just concluded a special meeting on proposed changes to our national Marriage Canon, changes that I personally believe seek to uphold this sacred dignity in the sacrament of marriage for those who identify as LGBTQ2.

It is apparent, however, that many of my fellow bishops cannot support the proposal at this time, as indicated by this declaration: “In our exploration of these differences it became clear to us that the draft resolution to change the Marriage Canon to accommodate the marriage of same-sex partners is not likely to pass in the Order of Bishops by the canonical requirement of a 2/3rds majority in each Order.”

While I believe this assessment to be true, I know how disturbing this will be for so many in our diocese and beyond. I want to say how deeply sorry I am that this is the case and my heart aches for all who continue to be wounded by the words and actions of our Church. I am one of the bishops at this meeting who was, as a statement by the House of Bishops puts it, “mortified and devastated by this realisation.”

I take heart in the commitment by the House of Bishops to “explore other options for honouring and fully embracing covenanted, faithful same-sex relationships.” Over the coming months I intend to prayerfully explore what that might mean for all of us in Niagara. I know that your voices and those representing Canadian Anglicans at General Synod will offer important insights about where the Spirit is leading us at this moment in the life of our Church.

As your bishop I will continue to do all in my power to seek and bear witness to the transformational power of God’s inclusive love so that the dream of equal marriage will be realized. Please remember those impacted by this news in your prayers along with those who will participate in General

Bishop Michael Bird responds to Primates’ Communiqué

What it lacks in surprises it makes up for in clichés:

Bishop Michael Bird has expressed his “profound disappointment” ‎with news arising from the recent Primates Meeting that The Episcopal Church will be suspended for a period of three years from formal leadership roles within the Anglican Communion. “We stand together with our sister and brother Anglicans in The Episcopal Church,” said the Bishop, and “give thanks for their faithful witness to the loving purposes of God.”

The Bishop is holding in his prayers all those whose dignity is impacted by the Communiqué from the Primates, especially those who identify as LGBTQ2. While we recognize the pain experienced by many as a result of the decisions taken at the Primates Meeting, Bishop Michael echoes Archbishop Curry’s words that our vocation may be to help the Communion “grow in a direction where we can realize and live the love that God has for us all.”

Bishop Michael also deeply appreciates our own Primate’s gracious leadership and his invitation to continue to pray for the primates as well as for ourselves that we might be faithful to our calling to “be the face of Jesus in this world.” The Anglican Church of Canada has issued an initial statement by our Primate and a more fulsome statement is expected on Monday.

As part of his own ongoing commitment to the Anglican Communion, Bishop Michael participates in an annual Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue. Given the developments at the Primates Meeting, Bishop Michael feels that this gathering continues to be “so important in the life of the Anglican Communion.” Since 2010, the rotating group of African and North American bishops have met annually at locales around the world. Their gatherings facilitate learning about each other’s contexts and finding pathways for healing and reconciliation. The next consultation is scheduled for May 2016 in Ghana.

Bishop Michael also reiterates his hope and expectation that all Anglicans in Niagara will prayerfully engage with recent report of the Commission on the Marriage Canon entitled “This Holy Estate” in the lead up to our General Synod this July.

The Diocese of Niagara is in decline

The Anglican Church of Canada is squeamishly shy about publicising how many people attend its churches. No complete statistics for membership and average Sunday attendance have been published since 2001, although the ACoC did claim a membership of 545,957 in 2007.

The Diocese of Niagara’s paper, however, has published some statistics for 2013 and 2014:

DoN NumbersYou can see that the average Sunday attendance fell 7.2 percent in one year. We cannot know, of course, whether this rate of decline will increase or decrease as the years pass but, if it remains the same, in 60 years there will be 91 people left in the diocese or, since there are 89 parishes, around one person per parish – presumably the priest.

On a less gloomy note, the number of green parishes increased by three, demonstrating, I suppose, that the diocese overestimated the drawing power of its Gaia god.

Diocese of Niagara accused of caring only about money – again!

The Diocese of Niagara, still smarting from being denounced as greedy, has decided to give Guelph residents upset with the sale of St. Matthias two months to come up with a plan more to their liking:

The Anglican Diocese of Niagara is giving community groups a two-month window to come up with a revised development proposal for the patch of land at 171 Kortright Rd. W.

The Diocese made the announcement in a news release on Wednesday.

Diocesan spokesman, Rev. Bill Mous, said that “the diocese cared deeply about Guelph”, a pious condescension which has not convinced at least one citizen, who announced in a letter to a local Guelph newspaper that the diocese “cares only about money”, that Mous’s words “ring hollow”, that the community “does not feel cared for“ and that the diocese has “cast a dark shadow on the reputation of the Anglican Church everywhere” – not an easy thing to do considering the completion.

Read it all here and –  Merry Christmas, Diocese of Niagara and staff:

Anglican Diocese only cares about money

Two contract extensions in spite of the fact that the City councillors unanimously said no to the rezoning application. Two extensions in spite of the feelings of the neighbours who want the church to remain a church and in spite of the hopes and prayers of local congregations who are longing for usable worship space. Preserve a church as a church? Why do that when you can reap an extra million dollars by selling to a developer who specializes in high-density construction?

The words of Bill Mous, spokesperson for the Diocese, ring hollow to anyone who has a stake in the neighbourhood surrounding the church property. The Diocese “cares deeply for Guelph”? This community does not feel cared for. It seems the Diocese cares deeply about turning a huge profit by rezoning institutional land to R-4 specialized. And the Diocese cares deeply about running the community out of money so that citizens lose their right to object at the board.

It’s a sad comment on Anglican officials who lack a social conscience and try to bafflegab their way out of any responsibility for the upcoming demolition of a church that other congregations would be thankful to be able to purchase at fair-market value for institutional land. Diocese decisions have cast a dark shadow on the reputation of the Anglican Church everywhere and the Synod clearly worships the almighty dollar rather than the Almighty.

New Anglican church in Guelph

The Diocese of Niagara has managed to alienate a significant segment of Guelph’s inhabitants by selling its buildings to property developers rather than other churches. It isn’t often that the Diocese of Niagara stirs up enough passion to convince anyone to parade around with a sign that has “Anglican” on it. In this case, though, “Anglican” is accompanied by another word: “greed”.

After a couple of church closures by the diocese, the Anglican Network in Canada is starting a new church: it’s Anglican and Christian.

From here:

At this season of renewal, Guelph is also experiencing a renewed expression of Anglicanism. Under the leadership of the Reverend Zena Attwood, “St Jude, Guelph” wants to be a spiritual home for seekers and Christians who value ordered worship combined with serious Biblical and theological scholarship.

St Jude belongs to the Anglican Network in Canada, an alternative Anglican jurisdiction that Ms Attwood says embodies the best of Anglicanism’s catholic, reformed, evangelical, and charismatic traditions. She explains that the impetus to form the St Jude community predates the demise of two of Guelph’s four Anglican congregations, but she hopes that St Jude may help to stanch the hemorrhaging of Guelph’s Anglican community.

Diocese of Niagara to have Justice Camp in Cuba

The Anglican equivalent of Saudi Arabia heading a UN human rights panel is locating a Justice Camp in one of the least just countries in the world outside of North Korea: Cuba. Perhaps the incentive was a promise of free cigars.

From here (page 10):

The first-ever international Justice Camp will bring together a diverse group of Anglicans in Cuba from May 1-6, 2016, to explore the concept of the common good with an eye towards furthering God’s justice and loving purposes.

Bishop Michael Bird spent over $1 million suing ANiC parishes

I had not seen the cost to the Diocese of Niagara of its litigation until this article about Bird appeared in the Anglican Journal. I imagine the diocese views it as money well spent since the sale and demolishing of St. Hilda’s church and rectory alone netted them $2.6 million; and who cares about 1 Corinthians 6:1 when what really counts is at stake?

“Just prior to my becoming bishop, three parishes voted to walk away from the diocese of Niagara,” Bird said in an interview with the Anglican Journal. “There was a subsequent fourth one some months after…that.” What he needed to do, he said, was to draw “a good group of people around the episcopal office.”

Protracted and sometimes rancorous legal battles over the ownership of properties followed. The costs of these battles—which Bird said ran upwards of $1 million—were compounded by the recession of 2008, which drove the diocese into serious financial difficulties.

The Diocese of Niagara continues to endear itself to the community

The Diocese of Niagara Living the Vision in Guelph.

From here:

Last Saturday’s feature on the Ethiopian congregation in Breslau was heartwarming.

Not only did the Eastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church consider fellow Christians seeking worship space as worthy purchasers, they actually donated the church that they no longer use to a congregation without a place to call home.

What generosity of spirit, what kindness and forethought, what admirable consideration for the entire community.

Such selfless motivation is sorely lacking in the saga of the former St. Matthias Church property in Guelph, which is owned by the Anglican Diocese of Niagara. In this case, the diocese outright refused a $1.2-million purchase offer from a local congregation for the redundant Anglican Church at Kortright and Edinburgh roads. Rather, they continue to favour a bidder who proposes to demolish the church and replace it with high-density housing.

Anglican claims of putting ministry ahead of money ring hollow when you see the opportunities the Lutherans (and some other denominations) create for other faith groups.

Why is it so difficult for the Anglican diocese to see through the shallow advice they are being given? Why advocate mercenary practices that preclude serious offers from other congregations because they cannot compete with developers?

This is exactly what is happening here in spite of community objections, in spite of Guelph city council questioning the entire process, in spite of a developer using the Ontario Municipal Board process to get its own way.

What a sad commentary on the state of affairs in the Anglican Church.

Optimism descends upon the Diocese of Niagara

Not, needless to say, because they are bringing more people to Christ but because they have more money.

From here:

The past decade has not been an easy one for the diocese of Niagara. Beset by financial woes, theological divisions over the place of gays and lesbians in the church and a series of lawsuits from parishes that left the diocese to join the breakaway Anglican Network in Canada, diocesan leadership has faced challenging times.

But these days, its leaders are cautiously optimistic about the diocese’s future. For one, a settlement with the Anglican Network reached in 2012 has ended crippling lawsuits and left parish buildings from three breakaway churches in the hands of the diocese.

To clarify one point: “a series of lawsuits from parishes that left the diocese” should read “a series of lawsuits initiated by the diocese against parishes that left the diocese”.

Diocese of Niagara lets secular group use one of its buildings rent free

The diocese allows HARRRP to use St. Peter’s church in Hamilton rent free. At first glance, this appears to be generous. Less so at second glance.

St. Peter’s once housed a thriving congregation, a congregation that, because of theological differences with the diocese, aligned itself with ANiC. To avoid costly court battles, in November 2010 the congregation surrendered the building to the Diocese of Niagara at which point the diocese, rather than allow a Christian congregation to use the building for worship, donated the use of it to HARRRP, a secular organisation.

Being careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them, the diocese, to advertise its generosity, has a smugly self-congratulatory article on display here:

HARRRP’s St. Peter’s location first opened its doors in November 2010. The building had been sitting empty since its congregation broke with the Anglican Church of Canada when the diocese of Niagara offered HARRRP the rent-free use of the building as a community centre. The diocese has remained involved, with the Rev. Peter Wall, dean of Niagara, the Rev. Bill Mous, director of justice, community and global ministries for the diocese of Niagara, and bishop of Niagara Michael Bird currently sitting on HARRRP’s board of directors.

Read more about the settlement with ANiC here:

Hamilton, Ontario, November 1st, 2010 – St. Peter’s Church in Hamilton, Ontario has been returned to the Anglican Diocese of Niagara by the members of the Anglican Network in Canada after a two year dispute over the rightful control over this property.

Negotiations had been underway for a number of weeks and an amicable agreement was reached at the end of last week that will transfer the assets and property back to the Diocese