Bishop Michael Bird looks back at successful lawsuits

Michael Bird, having resigned as Bishop of the Diocese of Niagara, has just completed his final bishop’s charge.

In the charge, he laments the anxieties thrust upon him by dissenting Anglicans immediately following his consecration – during which he processed to the strains of the Beatles’ “All You Need is Love”, an inverse harbinger of things to come – and congratulates himself and the diocese on “having stood our ground”, including ejecting the dissenters from their buildings, seizing, and in some cases selling the buildings and successfully prosecuting a string of lawsuits. And no one in the diocese had to pay any legal fees!

Where did the money come from? Selling St. Hilda’s property and rectory for $2,650,000 probably helped.

From here:

In the days preceding this celebration, local and national newspapers and media spoke of the conflict and division in the life of the Anglican Church. The Toronto Star had a running commentary on the status of three breakaway parishes in our diocese.  On February 20, the headlines read as follows: “Breakaway Anglicans asked to hand over keys.” On February 28, it was announced that “Talks with dissident Anglican parishes end,” and then on March 3, the day after my installation, a picture appeared in newspapers across the country with the caption reading: “A House of worship divided.”

The Toronto Star article went on to say that: “For Niagara Bishop Michael Bird, the court case opened on his first official day in office – he spent the day in court and talking to reporters outside – [this issue] threatens to dominate his entire time in office.”

If this were not enough, 2008 was the year that the economy crashed or at the very least took a dramatic down turn. With this loss of investment money, mounting court and legal fees and a multi-million-dollar debt we had some major and painful financial decisions to make. One of the things that I am most grateful for, as we gather here today, is that we find ourselves in a sound financial position and that having stood our ground and brought our legal proceedings to a successful conclusion, not one cent of those court costs was paid for out of the collection plates of our parishes.

Now is the time to say goodbye

Michael Bird’s exit from the Diocese of Niagara has generated enough interest to be noted in the secular press. Or perhaps it was a slow news day in Guelph.

As you can see, other than the bodies under the parking lot, the Diocese of Niagara is a veritable avian utopia:

As the eleventh Bishop of Niagara, Bishop Bird has borne witness to God’s transformational and inclusive love. He led the diocese to create a new vision for its ministry that includes a focus on prophetic social justice-making, life-changing worship, and leadership development. Bishop Bird is a strong and progressive voice within the Anglican Church of Canada on issues related to the inclusion of members of the LGBTQ2 community, the alleviation and eradication of poverty, the truth and reconciliation process with Indigenous peoples, and the global refugee crisis.

At its next meeting in October, the governing body of the diocese will begin the electoral planning process by selecting a seven-person oversight committee known as the Electoral Synod Nominations and Planning Committee. It is expected that an electoral synod will happen in the first quarter of 2018.

Bishop Michael Bird resigns

As Bird himself notes, “There is so much more to say”, but I will have to confine myself to: I’m devastated.

From here:

Dear friends in Christ:

This evening I have informed the members of Synod Council that, after many months of prayerful discernment, I will step down from my work as the Bishop of Niagara on June 1, 2018. At that time, I will take up a new ministry in the Diocese of Ottawa. Archbishop Colin Johnson, metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, is now in receipt of my letter of resignation.

The decision to end my episcopal ministry here in Niagara was a very difficult one and serving as your bishop has been one of the greatest privileges of my life. Together, we have embraced so many exciting opportunities, we have faced and met a number of daunting challenges, and above all we have remained steadfast in our calling as God’s people. This time has been marked by a decade full of faith and vision, courage and hope, change and innovation. We have never shied away from allowing our prophetic voice to be heard both within the Church and beyond, and we have passionately advocated for those who are marginalized and with those whose voices have gone unheard.

There is so much more to say and I have so many people to thank for the love and support that I have received during these past ten years. There are, however, many months ahead to celebrate and give thanks to God for all that has transpired. For now, let me simply and sincerely ask for your prayers for our diocese, and for Susan and me personally, as we all prepare for this time of transition that will unfold in the days and months ahead.

With profound gratitude, I remain yours faithfully in Christ,

Bishop of Niagara

Diocese of BC desperately seeking same-sex couples to marry

The dioceses of Niagara, Ottawa, Montreal , Toronto and British Columbia are proceeding with same-sex marriages ahead of the final vote to approve them in 2019.

But, having scoured the province for likely candidates, poor Bishop Logan McMenamie has yet to find any men willing to marry another man; or a woman to marry another woman. If Anglicans in BC don’t get with the program soon, McMenamie will have to resort to compelling some of his eligible male clergy to tie the knot.

From here:

Bishop Logan McMenamie, of the diocese of British Columbia, announced at a diocesan synod in autumn 2016 that he will “move forward with the marriage of same-sex couples in the diocese” on a case-by-case basis. When the Anglican Journal contacted McMenamie’s offce in March 2017, no same-sex couples had yet approached the diocese about the possibility of marriage.

Niagara’s Bishop Michael Bird currently has the competitive edge in the same-sex marriage scavenger hunt: he has four couples under his belt.

Niagara, however, may have an unfair advantage since it has widened the net by including bisexuals, who, presumably, would only be satisfied with a ménage à trois, counting as 1.5 couples. Of course, if both candidates are bisexual, we would need a ménage à quatre, a bonus that would qualify as two couples. Transgender couples are also part of the Niagara strategy. I’m not sure exactly how that would work, but I estimate that, depending on the mood of the moment and assuming part-time transgenderism – gender, we are assured, is fluid – it would make a total of four possible copulative combinations, one for each week of the month: man-man, man-woman, woman-man and woman-woman. That would count as at least two couples, possibly four.

Bird said his thoughts on the matter have not changed and that he was committed to continuing “to walk along the path of full inclusion and to immediately proceed with marriage equality” with LGBTQ2 (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, Two-Spirited) Anglicans in his diocese.

Diocese of Niagara deconsecrates another church

This time it is the turn of St. James in Merritton, St Catharines.

From here:

“This church building has been a home, a refuge and a place filled with great joy in the midst of countless celebrations,” said Bishop Michael Bird during the final service at St. James Merritton (St Catharines). “It has also been for us a sanctuary in the face of so many difficult and painful moments and tragedies.”

The building was deconsecrated—returned to common use—at a special afternoon service on Sunday, January 22.

Ironically, it was nine years ago today that diocesan officials marched into St. Hilda’s, and shortly after into Good Shepherd in St. Catharines, to demand the building keys because they wanted to use the churches to continue diocesan services after their congregations had voted to join the Southern Cone and later ANiC.

When the buildings were finally in the hands of the Diocese of Niagara, Bishop Michael Bird noted:

”I am very pleased with this outcome,” said Bishop Michael Bird.  “It affirms that these churches belong to all the generations that built them up and not just a particular group of individuals.”

Of the churches that “belong to all the generations that built them up”, Good Shepherd in St. Catharine’s now stands empty, cold and desolate and St. Hilda’s, in 2013, was torn down:

In 2017, the lot still stands empty:

As a fitting finale to the comedic irony, the Diocese of Niagara, having also acquired St. Hilda’s rectory, sold it to Daniel Freedman, owner of, so I am told, the largest sex toy company in Canada, PinkCherry Sex Toys. You may not want to click on that link.

Diocese of New Westminster won’t perform same-sex marriages until 2019

That means that the Diocese of Niagara has usurped New West’s position as the most liberal diocese in Canada.

From here:

First, during this three-year period we will strengthen what we offer all couples who seek marriage or the blessing of their marriage in the church. I will convene a group to create standards and develop or refine materials to assist all couples in preparing for their making monogamous, lifelong commitments of fidelity to each other.

Second, we will abide by what General Synod decided, that is, during this three-year period we will hold off on our clergy officiating at the marriage of same-sex couples, preserving this period as a time to study, reflect, discern and pray for General Synod 2019 and its decisions. I, myself, did vote for the change in the Marriage Canon and do believe that offering marriage to same-sex couples within the Church is an expression of the Gospel.  At the same time, as your bishop I feel I should respect and abide by the full resolution as passed at General Synod 2016.

Third, building on the work already done in this diocese, I will authorize new liturgies for the blessing of marriages that enhance and maximize what we as church do and keep to a minimum what marriage commissioners do. These liturgies will be available for the use of clergy and parishes who would find them helpful and for all couples who are duly qualified to enter into civil marriage.

Sex in the Diocese of Niagara

The Anglican Church of Canada would like you to believe that it has more important things on its mind than sex; homosexual sex, in particular.

In Canada, around 0.12% of the population are same-sex couples in a civil marriage. Of those, the number pining for a liturgical Anglican seal of approval on their matrimonial state would be even smaller, to the extent that they would represent an extremely small portion of the Canadian population. So the ACoC should have more important things on its mind.

But it doesn’t. Here is the headline of the front page of the Diocese of Niagara’s newspaper:Headline

The Diocese of Niagara connects with its inner gardener

Two churches have been awarded $45,000 in Trillium grants – donated by you, the generous taxpayer – for planting gardens. My wife is a keen gardener so, next year, she will be applying.

Sadly, both Anglican churches that applied received nothing but honourable mentions, notwithstanding the copious number of green tears emitted by its well-rehearsed clergy – who, it must be admitted, are generally overly lachrymose due to the excessive number of smudging ceremonies they are obliged to attend.

From here:

Two local groups are the recipients of a one-year, $45,000 seed grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.

The announcement was recently made during the Greening Sacred Spaces (GSS) Halton Peel chapter’s annual Green Awards Night and Networking Event.

The evening, held at the Church of the Incarnation, celebrates faith communities working together.

[…..]

The Green Awards Night and Networking Event also featured Terrylynn Brant who spoke on the ‘Spirit in Gardening’.

Brant is a member of the Mohawk Nation Turtle Clan from Six Nations and shared her learned skills from a long line of traditional knowledge holders. “She inspired the audience to connect with their inner gardener and their spirit,” stated the release.

The evening ended with an awards presentation.

Unitarian Congregation Church and Applewood United Church in Mississauga were this year’s two award winners.

Honourable mention went to St. Simon’s Anglican Church and Church of the Incarnation in Oakville.

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.