Diocese of Niagara performs another missional deconsecration

Niagara This Week reports, in what appears to be an accidental confluence of stories, that Violet the cat, found frozen and comatose is on the road to recovery and the Diocese of Niagara’s St. George’s Church has also been found frozen and comatose but, unlike Violet, is beyond hope and has been put out of its misery. Or words to that effect.

St. George’s, which has 225 years of history behind it, has been deemed unsustainable by diocesan viability enforcers and has been deconsecrated. Bishop Michael Bird was on hand to point out to the “aging membership” that the occasion, although “sombre”, was also a cause for “celebration” because the church, although now as dead as a doornail, had had a long innings. I expect that was a great comfort.

From here:

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — With heavy hearts but cherished memories, the congregation that worshipped at a church in former village of Homer came together for the final time on Sunday.

St. George’s Anglican Church, which has a history dating back more than 225 years, held its final service. As with so many other small congregations, a dwindling and aging membership forced what for many was a painful decision to disestablish and return the deconsecrated church building to common usage.

The service was presided over by Diocese of Niagara Bishop Michael Bird, who acknowledged the sombre mood in the room but said this was also a time to celebrate a congregation with a long life. He implored everyone to think of how long it has been a home, a sanctuary and a place to come to know God, a place that has served as a backdrop to countless baptisms and weddings.

“Just imagine all the prayers that have been offered here, both spoken and silent,” he said.

Rev. Dorothy Hewlett, who also serves at Christ Church at Lakeshore and McNab roads, said the decision to close was a long time coming and was the right one to make.

Arm’s length reconciliation

Rowan Williams tried to sort out the mess in the Anglican Communion by reconciling opposing views, reaching a synthesis of the two which all parties could go along with. It was a dismal failure for the same reason that asking people to accept the truth of 1+1=3, the middle ground between 1+1=2 and 1+1=4, fails: the answer is wrong.

Justin Welby didn’t fall into the same trap; he devised a new one, one that conservatives will fall into. He is attempting to reconcile people, not ideas: an ecclesiastical version of “I’m OK, You’re OK”, one of the sillier notions to be excreted by the 1970s self-help merchants. The Welby version has Good Disagreement as its primary incantation. It is still a trap. This time for conservatives who, Welby hopes, will put on, not the breastplate of righteousness, but the façade of friendship, the rictus grin of rapport while liberals have their way and hapless conservatives are, in sequence, outmaneuvered, bamboozled and ignored.

To this end, Canadian bishops have been meeting in Africa to reconcile with African bishops who may, and probably do, have different views on what constitutes a marriage. The Canadian bishops are undoubtedly experts in creating situations which beg for reconciliation. They spent the first part of the current millennium, ejecting congregations in order to seize their buildings, bank accounts and rectories with a studied vindictiveness that would have been the envy of Soviet era anti-Christian apparatchiks.

Yet, to date, there have been no attempts to reconcile: it all goes to show how much easier it is to pretend to get along with people at a distance than it is to pretend to get along with those who are close to home.

It could be argued that the Anglican Church of Canada is eager to reconcile with aboriginals who were mistreated in residential schools. I think, though, that the conspicuously frenzied self-flagellation over the residential school scandal has more to do with a rejection of Western culture, Christendom and, ultimately, Christianity than it does with true reconciliation.

The article below, conveniently accessible on the Internet, describes the Canadian bishops’ latest efforts to reconcile with their African brothers; as Michael Bird perceptively notes towards the end, “There is so much misinformation on the internet”.

The eighth annual meeting of Bishops from Canada and Africa has just taken place in Kenya, with the Bishop of Niagara,  Michael Bird, suggesting the yearly encounter could act as a model for reconciliation across the Anglican Communion.

The meetings were initiated after the 2008 Lambeth Conference, amid divisions over issues of same sex unions and larger questions of Scriptural interpretation.  Interested African dioceses started theological correspondence with Canadian counterparts, first on human sexuality and then mission.

A fluid group of Bishops from Canada, the US and various African countries have now met in Cape Town, Accra, Dar Es Salaam, Toronto, Coventry and Virginia in the United States. Together they seek to build common understanding and respect among parts of the Communion that have been in conflict.

Bishop Michael: “We focus on reconciliation and mission and what we agreed this time around, was to produce a testimony for Lambeth 2020. We feel what we have been doing for eight years shows a way forward for the Communion and we hope the next Lambeth conference will help to generate more of these face to face conversations.”

Bishop Michael described the first meeting as somewhat guarded but within a day or so all the participants felt they were doing the right thing – guided by the Holy Spirit. Strong bonds have also been formed,  he said: “I have developed a wonderful friendship with the Bishop in Ghana: he came to Canada and my wife and I went to visit his diocese. The wider Anglican Communion could learn a lot from the way, as a group, we have come together. There is so much misinformation on the internet, there really is no substitute for encountering someone face to face with an openness to the other, that allows us to listen and to come to understand the context in which others are ministering.”

Canadian dioceses marrying same-sex couples

There are presently three Canadian dioceses that have performed same-sex marriages and at least another three which plan to – assuming, after scouring the land, they can find some willing couples. Others will undoubtedly follow.

This is all happening before the vote in 2019 to finalise approval of same-sex marriage in the Anglican Church of Canada. If it seems chaotic, it is because it is: Fred Hiltz says he has no authority to prevent it, Michael Bird and other bishops have cheerfully declared they can proceed because no one can find anything in the canons that says they can’t and, even though synod has pronounced same-sex marriage a matter of theology, Bird et al. have effectively said, no it isn’t it’s pastoral.

Considering the energy, time and passion invested in this, and the ensuing mayhem, it would be reasonable for an outsider to assume that there are thousands or, at the very least, hundreds of same-sex couples clamouring to be joined in unholy matrimony in an Anglican church. But no: there have been eight so far.

Eight! That’s 0.000044% of the population; on the positive side, it a beautiful illustration of how effective the ACoC’s efforts to be relevant are to average Canadians.

Read it all here:

Since the first reading at General Synod 2016 of a resolution to allow for the solemnization of same-sex marriages, eight couples have been married in three Anglican Church of Canada dioceses—with more planning on walking down the aisle in the coming year.

Four weddings of same-sex couples have taken place in the diocese of Niagara, three in the diocese of Toronto and one in the diocese of Ottawa, according to the offices of the respective diocesan bishops. Toronto and Ottawa also noted that several other same-sex couples in their dioceses are in the process of preparation for marriage.

Bishop Mary Irwin-Gibson, of the diocese of Montreal, said she is currently going through a discernment process with four same-sex couples considering marriage.

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 his office in March 2017, no same-sex couples had yet approached the diocese about the possibility of marriage.

Following the first reading of the motion to change the marriage canon (church law) of the Anglican Church of Canada to allow for the marriage of same-sex couples—which was initially, but incorrectly, declared as being defeated in a vote—several bishops publicly announced they would nonetheless marry same-sex couples.

Niagara Bishop Michael Bird, Ottawa Bishop John Chapman, Toronto Archbishop Colin Johnson, then Huron Bishop Bob Bennett and then Coadjutor (now diocesan) Bishop Linda Nicholls all stated that they would marry same-sex couples as a pastoral measure, citing an opinion by General Synod Chancellor David Jones, that the marriage canon as it stands does not actually bar same-sex marriage.

Following discovery of a voting error, which showed that the motion had actually passed its first reading, Bird, Chapman and Johnson said they would still go ahead with same-sex marriage. However, Bennett and Nicholls issued another statement, clarifying that their diocese was “committed to ongoing consultations” as required by the same-sex motion. At press time, no changes to diocesan policy regarding the marriage of same-sex couples had been made.

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 Anglican Church of Canada opens Pandora’s marriage box

In justifying his pressing ahead with same-sex marriages even when it appeared the vote to allow them failed, Michael Bird said:

In the words of David Jones, the chancellor of General Synod, our current marriage canon “does not contain either a definition of marriage or a specific prohibition against solemnizing same-sex marriage.” At the same time, it is clear that our Anglican conventions permit a diocesan bishop to exercise episcopal authority by authorizing liturgies to respond to pastoral needs within their dioceses, in the absence of any actions by this General Synod to address these realities.

So, according to its chancellor, the Anglican Church of Canada recognises no canonical definition of what marriage is or who can marry whom. Some time ago, the Diocese of Niagara used to chant this incantation at every available opportunity: “draw the circle wide, draw it wider still”; the more they chanted, the more people fled.

Now, it seems, the marriage circle has been drawn so wide that, providing there is a “pastoral need”, anyone can marry anyone – or thing.

A woman could marry a horse, a man could marry a goat, or a pillow or himself. We are assured by the ACoC chancellor that there is nothing in the canons that prevents this – so why not? Personally, I’m delighted to see that there is absolutely no prohibition against solemnising a union between a man and his guitar; none at all!

There are two ways to render something meaningless: one is to make it mean nothing, the other is to make it mean anything.

Michael Bird proceeding with same-sex marriages before the canon is changed

The Niagara bishop, Michael Bird, has confirmed that he will begin same-sex marriages three years before the marriage canon change that permits him to do so. No surprise there. Anglican chaos in action.

From here:

Notwithstanding the reversal of the resolution’s outcome, I am committed to my promise to our diocese and local LGBTQ2 community to continue to walk along the path of full inclusion and to immediately proceed with equal marriage.

Decaffeinated Indaba

Apparently, indabas have been replaced by sankofas – and you can tell what that reminds me of by the title.

But I jest. Sankofa actually means: “It is not a taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind”. It is a catchphrase taught to English bus drivers to be used as they watch old ladies in their rear view mirrors running after the bus. If that isn’t clear enough, the definition goes on to say: “the narrative of the past is a dynamic reality that cannot be separated from consideration of the present and future”. In other words, the past is dynamic, or changeable by the present, a concept made popular in the ‘70s by those consuming an excessive quantity of magic mushrooms. Since Canadian bishops seem to fall into that category, many of them – Hiltz, Bird, Ingham and Alexander – were present at the latest salacious sankofa  exercise to ponder together homoerotic sexuality under the pretext of conjuring a prior dynamic reality that conforms ancient perversions to 21st century delusions of normalcy.

A pusillanimous church – and that’s what Western Anglicanism has become – grovels and trembles before the culture in which it finds itself. Hence, as Ingham notes below, the church is content to let the culture determine its theology. A church can sink no lower than that.

From here:

Introduced by the Most Rev. Prof. Emmanuel Asante as an ecumenical contribution from the Methodist Church of Ghana, the Akan concept of sankofa served as a guiding framework for the Seventh Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue, which took place from May 25-29 in Accra, Ghana. The gathering brought together bishops from Canada, Ghana, Swaziland, Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa, Burundi, Zambia, England, and the United States.

Sankofa—literally, ‘It is not a taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind’—refers broadly to the unity of past and present, where the narrative of the past is a dynamic reality that cannot be separated from consideration of the present and future.


Bishop Ingham noted that despite the bishops present holding many different theologies on marriage, sexuality and biblical interpretation, “we’re not divided by these differences. Rather, we’re spurred to be curious with each other and to hear how these matters play out in our different parts of the world.”

“We’re all very aware that mission is contextual,” he added. “And I think most of the African bishops who attend understand that social and legislative challenges have taken place around homosexuality in Western countries.

Canadian bishops all get a copy of Michael Coren’s new book

Coren’s book about how he came to support same-sex marriage has been distributed to all Canadian bishops – as if they needed any encouragement in that direction. Here is Michael Bird’s response:


Coren hopes it will do “some good”, as if such a thing were likely to result from a rather disgusting betrayal of his former principles:


Canadian Bishops back down from same-sex marriage for fear of punishment

According to Michael Bird, some of the bishops who favour same-sex marriage will vote against it to avoid suffering the same sanctions as TEC. A vote rooted more in pusillanimity than principle.

From here:

birdInterestingly, the reasons are not purely theological. Bird told me some bishops reject same-sex marriage on a Biblical basis while others, including himself, interpret scripture differently.

However, many bishops were worried the Canadian Anglican church would be punished if it stepped with the times. It is not divine punishment they fear, but the fist of Canterbury, the heart of the church where its leader, the Archbishop, resides.

“There are many bishops who don’t have a problem with same-sex marriage, but we were told that if we changed the definition of marriage it would negatively impact our relationships with other denominations and within of the Anglican church itself,” Bird said.

For Anglican priests, this is not an unreasonable concern. The American Anglican church defied Canterbury and elected to allow same-sex marriage last year. In January, ranking church officials voted to effectively expel the American church from the Anglican ranks for three years. This means, among other things, American Anglicans cannot vote on church policy at Canterbury. They may be Anglicans in name, but their voices will not decide the future direction of the church internationally.

Canadian bishops evidently fear a similar consequence.

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.


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