Dear friends,

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

The “Anglican Way” of following Jesus as Saviour and Lord tries to take seriously the Biblical teaching of the many senses of “church”. There is “the church” as the local congregation. There is” the church” as all of the churches in a city or region. There is “the church” as all the churches in the world. There is “the church” as all the true believers in Jesus, living and dead. So, in the Anglican Way, there are local congregations; there are dioceses and “provinces” which represent cities and regions. There is the “Anglican Communion” which connects all Anglican churches in the world. Connected to this last point is that over the last 100+ years Anglicans have been leaders in cross-denominational mission and witness. Finally, to mark the sense of “the church” as the body of Christ, living and dead, Anglicans include old stuff in their worship and make the important distinction between the visible and the invisible church in their understanding of Christian institutions and movements.

Between 1999 and 2007 at diocesan and national levels, the Anglican Church of Canada, after sober study and deliberation, made a series of official decisions which rejected what the Bible plainly teaches about sexuality and embraced understandings and practices of sexuality which the Bible calls Christians to turn away from. In October 2007 the Diocese of Ottawa’s Synod passed a motion calling for the blessing of same-sex marriages and unions. This vote passed by two-thirds of the laity and two-thirds of the clergy. The bishop gave his assent to the decision; the Chancellor ruled the decision as legal and valid. What would St Alban’s do? (Church of the Messiah used to be called St Alban’s). I knew that the majority of those who called St Alban’s their home church would understand that the official decision by our diocese was a rejection of the Bible as being authoritative and true; a rejection of Jesus as the Saviour and Lord; not a second or third order decision, but a first order decision that was, biblically speaking, a salvation issue.

After the Ottawa Synod the leadership of St Alban’s began to prepare for a special congregational meeting which could vote on whether or not to remain in the Diocese of Ottawa or disconnect from the Diocese of Ottawa and re-connect to another Anglican body. We wanted to remain Anglican, so we needed to connect to another Anglican diocese or “Province” and it had to be outside of the “Province” of Canada.

With the help of lawyers we framed a motion that, if passed, would mean we had disconnected from Ottawa and reconnected to another Anglican province. (It was the Province of the Southern Cone – basically the countries comprising the bottom half of South America.) On Saturday, February 16, 2008 the meeting was held. There were a few “booting up” motions that had to be passed, but there was only one real motion to debate and pass. The congregation was told that, because the motion was crafted by lawyers, and there were many legal issues involved, we would allow no amendments to the motion. They had to vote for or against the motion. Many spoke in the meeting and there was time for prayer. When the vote was called, 98% voted in favour of the motion. We had left the diocese. We went home that night not knowing if we would arrive at the building the next day only to find ourselves locked out.