Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Losing Their Properties; but Keeping the Faith

The news is out. The dissident Churches in the Anglican Church in Canada have all lost their court cases. The mainstream liberal Anglican Church of Canada has asserted their rights and won the case to occupy the properties of the conservative churches. It all started back in 2002 when the gay Bishop issues a rite to all in the Anglican Church to perform same-sex marriages and ordination of gay clergy. Bishop Michael Ingham argues that the new gay practices is in line with Jesus' teachings on 'love and welcoming the stranger.' Trouble is, is performing same-sex practices the 'only' way to love and welcome strangers?

As expected, not all agreed. Such a practice was actively debated within the Church, and after much talk internally, some Churches decided that they could not conscientiously follow the leadership of Ingham. Thus they left the Anglican Church (ACC) to join the Anglican Network in Canada (ANIC).

This is a landmark case that garner media coverage from the Vancouver Sun, National Post, as well as the CTV. From a legal standpoint, there is indeed not much that the judges can do, as the documents clearly support the primary owner of such properties, being the ACC. They claim that the dissidents left the Church, and not the other way round. ANIC on the other hand, believed in the spirit of the faith, not the law of ownership. They would rather, in the words of their spokesman, that they will:
"The congregations have always said that if they are forced to choose between their buildings and their faith, they will choose their faith"
That said, it is quite remarkable that the secular courts would make the following statements, even though the ACC has won their legal cases. Quote from the National Post:
“[The] Bishop and the Diocesan Synod of New Westminster have chosen to pursue the matter to the extent they have — despite the opposition of many of their parishioners,” the judges wrote. “Presumably [they] have chosen to take the risk that the policy allowing same-sex blessings will indeed prove to be ‘schismatic’; or that clergy in the Diocese will for the foreseeable future find themselves ministering to vastly reduced or non-existent congregations. That, however, is their decision to make.”

Read more:

Losing the Properties
Now that the courts have passed down their ruling, the four churches concerned will have to make plans to seek new properties. While it is sad that the valuable estate will have to be surrendered, it is a landmark decision that puts faith above worldly possessions. This decision is not easy. Yet, what needs to be done must be done. It is better to trust and obey God, to be faithful to the Biblical texts, than to let properties dictate one's behaviour and direct one's conscience.

For that matter, whether we agree with these dissident churches and how they went about handling the legal cases, it is accurate to say that they have been faithful to their positions. We ought to respect their choices, and their way of faith. People may criticize and measure them negatively. What they need to admit is their courage to fight the good fight, and not let properties decide their faith. It should be faithfulness to the biblical truth that guides them.

Keeping the Faith
I think Churches that practice what they preach need to be applauded for their actions. We need to support and recognize their right to believe and practice their faith. This is what freedom of religion is about. This case is a sign that the end times is near. As the world tries to force the church into its secular mold, it is important to remain faithful. Faithful to the Scriptures. Faithful to Christ. Faithful to be the light and salt of the world. We will know who the winners are: By their fruits.

Pray for the ANIC as they look to relocate and move to new locations. Pray MORE for the ACC, as even the courts have determined that their 'non-existent congregations' are near. I suspect that as their winning party continues to shrink in numbers, the additional properties they have won, will eventually be sold off to other commercial enterprises. The Anglican clergy in the ACC might ultimately end up ministering to themselves.

One more thing. Sometimes it seems like gays and lesbians paint themselves as the victims of the theological debates over homosexuality. There are signs that they are becoming more aggressive, even oppressive especially to those who have come out of the gay movement. According to McDonald who is an ex-gay, she finds herself under a "lot of pressure to shut up!" Interesting.


- Note to Anglican Delegates (link)
- Article on 2 different views on the gay issue (link)


Sze Zeng said...

Hi Yap,

I wanted to leave a comment when I read this the moment you posted this. Yet still didn't get to do it until now. Thank you for the write-up and the links. They have help shaped some of my thoughts about sexuality. :-)

YAPdates said...

Sze Zeng,
I appreciate your feedback. Do keep up your good blog. It is certainly a powerful new medium in sharing and connecting with society.


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