More on the objection to an episcopal election in the Anglican Church of Canada

Further background has emerged on the objection registered by the House of Bishops of the Province of British Columbia & Yukon to the election of the Revd Jacob Worley to be Bishop of the Diocese of Caledonia in the Anglican Church of Canada, on which we previously posted the Church’s press release.

The Anglican Journal reported in September 2016 that the election had originally been called for autumn 2016 but was cancelled. The then diocesan bishop, the Rt Revd William Anderson, had given notice that Synod would meet to adopt a new canon to make provision for the election of a coadjutor bishop and to proceed immediately with the election: coadjutor bishops are not uncommon in Canada but the Diocese of Caledonia had no canonical provision for a coadjutor. Apparently, however, a parishioner then complained, pointing out – correctly – that proceeding with an election immediately after adopting the proposed new canon would not allow for the mandatory 90 days’ notice of election. So the election was cancelled until after Bishop Anderson had retired.

A Canadian colleague has since suggested to us that the more significant issue is whether the Revd Mr Worley ought even to be licensed as a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada. As noted in the Bishops’ reasons for nullifying his election, he had previously left The Episcopal Church [of the US] to minister under the auspices of the Province of Rwanda. On his analysis, Mr Worley could only have done so under one of two circumstances: either he had voluntarily relinquished his priestly ministry in a process analogous to the provisions in Canon C1(2) of the Church of England or he would have been presumed to have done so and deposed. Either way, accepting a licence under what was then the Anglican Mission in America – now the Anglican Church of North America – was tantamount to what in Canada would be referred to as Abandonment of Ministry.

The relevant Canadian Canon is Canon XIX of the General Synod and, under the Canadian canons, that would render him unlicensable. Canonically, therefore, his status would be that of a layman, as noted by Mark Hill in his discussion of the Church of England’s Canon C1(2). So it is an interesting question as to how he came to hold a licence in the Diocese of Caledonia – and, for that matter, how he came to be licensed briefly in Ireland.

Our correspondent further suggests that this is a growing issue in Canada, where clergy from ACNA or some other Church not in communion with the Anglican Church of Canada have been granted licences even though there ought to be no canonical way by which their orders can be recognised. He also points to the side issue of the Church of England’s recent decision to recognise the orders of ACNA clergy.

He – and we – would argue that the constituent Provinces of the Anglican Communion must respect each other’s canons in the interests of comity and good governance. A key factor in the nature of Full Communion between Churches is the mutual recognition of Orders, under which each Church recognises:

  • that those ordained in the other Church(es) are canonically and validly ordained as ministers of word and sacrament; and
  • that the processes by which they have been selected, trained, ordained and (lawfully) authorised to exercise ministry as deacons, priests or bishops are as though these processes had occurred in the receiving Province.

Further, though there are obvious anomalies in relation to Provinces that do not accept the ordination of women, he would argue that, leaving those anomalies aside, if one Church accepts the orders of another, then when a cleric is either deposed from ministry or voluntarily relinquishes ministry to “use himself as a layman” [Canon C1] in that Church, the other Church ought to accept and respect those canonical processes:

“Put simply, a priest in the Church of England is acceptable as a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada. Someone who ceases, by the canonical processes of deposition from or relinquishment of ministry, to have the status of a priest in the Church of England ought not to be recognised as a priest in the Anglican Church of Canada. And vice versa.”

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "More on the objection to an episcopal election in the Anglican Church of Canada" in Law & Religion UK, 17 May 2017, http://www.lawandreligionuk.com/2017/05/17/more-on-the-objection-to-an-episcopal-election-in-the-anglican-church-of-canada/

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