Dissident Anglicans take fight to top court
Breakaway members of Anglican churches in B.C. opposed to same-sex blessings want to take their battle over church buildings and bank accounts to the Supreme Court of Canada.
Earlier this week, the group filed an application for leave to appeal to the high court.
The group has lost at the two lower court levels in British Columbia, but its lawyer, Cheryl Chang, said there remain many questions for the Supreme Court to answer.
"If any congregation splits over theological differences, the question that we're raising for the Supreme Court of Canada is, what do you do in this post-modern, secularized environment?" Chang said.
"Does the court say always that you have to pick a winner or loser? Or does the court have the ability to … go in and basically divide the assets as you would in any divorce situation?"
Chang represents four Vancouver-area churches that split with the mainstream church mainly over the issue of same-sex blessings.
The clergy in the four churches in court — three in Vancouver and one in suburban Abbotsford — resigned from the Anglican Church of Canada, but have remained in their parishes ministering to their congregations.
Battle forces church to cut back
In a ruling last November, the B.C. Court of Appeal agreed with a lower court that the dissidents couldn't take over ownership of their buildings and bank accounts.
After the ruling, the Diocese of New Westminster indicated the clergy would have to vacate the buildings, though Bishop Michael Ingham has been careful to note that no parishioners have been asked to leave.
In a statement released Friday, Ingham said he was "saddened" by the decision to appeal.
He said the "unnecessary dispute" has forced the church to cut back its work with patients at Vancouver hospitals and in the North.
Ingham urged the church trustees and leaders of the four congregations to meet with him.
Chang said her group is not prepared to discuss the replacement of their clergy, and accused Ingham of wanting to "appoint clergy that will be loyal to him."
However, the diocese hasn't moved to get an injunction to kick the dissidents out and the dissidents haven't asked for a court injunction to prevent the diocese from doing so.
Chang said that if the Supreme Court refuses to hear the dissidents' appeal or if the group loses its appeal, then the fight is over and the clergy will vacate the buildings.