Dear friends,

February 16 is sort of a big deal for Messiah. This the third of five blogs to mark this date. The blogs are entitled, “Looking back and praying forward.”

I once went to a conference with lots of well-educated philosophers and theologians. Someone would read a learned paper, then someone would respond, then anyone could ask a question or make a comment. For the life of me, I cannot remember what “the problem” was that one paper was addressing, but I believe it put the source of “the problem” in the mid-1800s. What followed was unintentionally funny: the different speakers all got up, objecting to the source of the problem, pushing it back further and further in time – eventually, I think, to some obscure pre-Socratic philosopher (500-600 years before Jesus!) If anyone who attended that conference happens to read this blog, they will not agree with me on when “the problem” began.

For many decades, all of the bishops in the world-wide Anglican Communion have been invited to a gathering at Lambeth in England. These gatherings happen every 10 years. The bishops build relationships through Bible-study, prayer and worship. They also discuss issues, seeking to bring a world-wide Christian perspective on the issue. In 1998 one of the matters discussed was human sexuality. At the end of the conference, a remarkably strong and wise motion explaining and upholding the historic biblical and Christian understanding was passed by a vote of 88%. It was, in that moment of victory, that the crisis began.

Almost immediately, bishops in the First World who reject the historic, consensual biblical teaching began to act in opposition to the Lambeth decision. Bishops in Canada, in fact, led the way, followed closely by those from the US. Please note, not every bishop in Canada rejected the teaching and began to undermine it. But over the years those few bishops in Canada who embrace the biblical teaching have proven to be far too few in number to stem the changes which continue to transform the Anglican Church of Canada.

In 1999, the Diocese of New Westminster (basically Vancouver and the lower mainland of British Columbia) voted very strongly to “bless same-sex unions”. The bishop of the diocese, who was in favour of the motion, did not act on this right away. A similar vote with similar results took place in 2000. In 2001 there was a “hold” on having the vote. In 2002 the vote again passed strongly and this time the bishop agreed to move forward, allowing and encouraging the blessing of same-sex unions. No real discipline was brought to bear on the bishop or diocese or on the Anglican Church of Canada which had now “officially” allowed this teaching and practice into the structures of the church.

Today, over 85% of Canadians are in dioceses which bless same-sex union and/or marriages. In the case of Messiah, at the beginning of the new millennium in light of Canadian developments, we passed a series of motions affirming our adherence to Biblical teaching. On February 16, 2008 we were led by the Holy Spirit to leave the Anglican Church of Canada’s Diocese of Ottawa and, remaining Anglican, come into a faithful Anglican body.