A Pastoral Letter from Bishop Michael Ingham

Bishop Michael's Pastoral Letter to be read and distributed in churches, November 21, 2010

Dear Friends in Christ:

Last Monday the British Columbia Court of Appeal dismissed the legal action brought against the Diocese by individuals in four of our parishes.

My hope and prayer is that this will bring to an end a sad and unnecessary dispute.

When our Diocesan Synod voted for the third time in 2002 to bless committed, faithful same-sex relationships we made it clear that such permission was optional and not mandatory. No one has ever been required to act against their conscience in this matter. Our Diocese welcomes people of differing convictions. My desire has always been that we should respect one another and continue to serve the mission of God together.

The matter brought before the Court was not about sexuality nor the truth of the Gospel. Rather, litigants sought to take possession of diocesan buildings and assets after they had removed themselves from the Anglican Church of Canada. The Court of Appeal refused this request, as did the B.C. Supreme Court in 2009.

In doing so, both Courts have upheld the structures and governance of historic Anglicanism. Both have affirmed the synodical and episcopal character of Anglican tradition. Both have recognized that decisions in the Canadian Church have been reached in accordance with our own procedures and customs, and that the civil courts should not be used to determine church doctrine.

Churches are sacred places. They hold precious memories. The lives of our parents and children are celebrated and remembered here. They are spaces where our deep human longing is met by the eternal Gospel of Jesus Christ. No one should have to choose between their faith and their church.

Today I am issuing a sincere appeal to members of those congregations whose leaders have drawn them into this action to remain in communion with Canadian Anglicans, and to stay in the churches where they worship. I will work with them in seeking new clergy to fill the positions of those who have left the Anglican Church of Canada. This will be a mutual and collaborative
process, as all such appointments in the Diocese are.

Let us all remember the first Christian principles – love of God and love of our neighbour. Our divided world needs a united church. I invite you all to join with me in the work of healing and reconciliation, mutual forgiveness and forbearance, so that we may move forward together in humility with God’s grace.

Bishop Michael Ingham



  1. In the current fracas, this whole “trying to take the fixtures” with one while leaving the church has made no sense to me. While a citizen of Evangelical Land I belonged to a denomination that was very congregational in its polity, and the church property of the local church was owned by the local congregation. A known “evil” of other traditions was that the property was owned by the denomination (We would not have known or used the word “diocese”.). If I knew that in that setting, why is it such a mystery to the current “grabbers.”

    But I also cannot understand it based on principle. There came a time in Evangelical Land when the church to which I belonged hired as senior pastor a man, who in my opinion, and the opinion of my whole extended family which attended the church, was venal (Later developments confirmed that this was more than a mere biased opinion.). So, I and my family decided it was time to move on, and began making to make plans to do so, getting ducks in a row for a quiet departure, leaving behind many contributions, both tangible and intangible. They simply were not ours to take, and that required no particular level of discernment on our part.

    However, as it turned out, the pastor’s venality became plain to others before we could depart, he resigned in a very spectacular way and much of the congregation went with him, leaving us behind wondering what the heck had happened (And truth be told, a little disappointed, because we were looking for change of setting.). When those left behind wondered what became of the “stuff” in the “divorce,” the District Superintendent (i.e., “Bishop), assured us that those who complied with the bylaws got the “stuff.”

    You know, all of this would likely go much more quickly if we hired Judge Judy as an international ombudsman to deal with all of this. She excels at letting plaintiffs know when they’re just ignorant of the law.