The Anglican Bishop of New Westminster says the division over homosexuality in the Canadian church is now "a full-blown schism" and a conservative Anglican faction has hinted at an announcement this week on the formation of a breakaway body.
Right Reverend Michael Ingham, whose Greater Vancouver diocese became the first Anglican jurisdiction to formally authorize the blessing of same-sex unions, reacted forcefully to a retired Newfoundland bishop's intention to come into the diocese and ordain priests who oppose the blessings.
Diocesan turf-poaching is the biggest bureaucratic sin in the decentralized Anglican Communion, the world's third largest Christian church. Authorizing same-sex blessings may represent a theological difference of opinion, but one bishop taking his episcopal authority into another bishop's diocese is clearly a schismatic act.
Bishop Ingham also warned 10 priests in his diocese who are pastors of conservative parishes that he will discipline them if they take part in the ordinations planned by retired bishop Don Harvey.
Rev. Harvey announced Friday that he was leaving the Anglican Church of Canada and would affiliate with the orthodox Province of the Southern Cone, the Anglican church in South America.
The 77-million Anglican Communion is comprised of 38 autonomous provinces, or regional and national churches, under the titular leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.
Primates of the global south have been encouraging conservative Anglicans in North America to break with their liberal national churches and align with Anglican provinces in Africa and elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere.
Rev. Harvey will lead a conference of conservative Anglicans tomorrow and Friday in Burlington, Ont. One of the participating groups, Anglican Essentials Canada, says on its website: "We anticipate the [southern]primates will offer faithful Canadian Anglicans a specific option for the provision of pastoral care - which we will discuss."
In the United States, the dioceses of Fort Worth, Pittsburgh, San Joaquin, Calif., and Quincy, Ill., as well as several Virginia parishes have indicated they will leave the Anglican Episcopal Church and affiliate with overseas churches.
Recently, the diocese of Virginia began a court battle with its renegade parishes over title to church buildings.
The general synod, or governing body, of the Anglican Church of Canada voted earlier in the year not to "affirm" the authority of member dioceses to authorize the blessing of same-sex unions, but at the same time it voted not to declare the issue to be a matter of core Anglican doctrine.
What its decision meant is still being debated by church canon law experts, but the consensus seems to be that dioceses are not blocked from authorizing the blessings - and three have in the past few weeks: the dioceses of Ottawa, Montreal and Niagara.
The bishop of Niagara has given his approval for the blessings to be implemented, but, to date, the bishops of Montreal and Ottawa haven't.
South Africa's retired archbishop Desmond Tutu last week told the BBC he was ashamed of the church for its attitude toward homosexuals and blamed Archbishop Rowan Williams for not demonstrating the attributes of a "welcoming God."
"If God as they say is homophobic, I wouldn't worship that God," he said.