Canadian Priest Resigns in Protest over same sex Blessings

Nov 15, 2002 03:00 AM EST

A Canadian Anglican priest who is opposed to his bishop's approval of same-sex blessings has resigned from his British Columbia parish and will leave to serve a Reformed congregation in Switzerland next year.

The Rev. Timothy Cooke of St Martin's Anglican Church in North Vancouver resigned effective January 2003 due to the impasse with diocesan Bishop Michael Ingham. Cooke's parish has voted at three successive meetings to reject the diocese's decision in June this year to "celebrate permanent, intimate, loving relationships between persons of the same sex."

The unresolved controversy over blessing homosexual unions has afflicted the Diocese of New Westminster, near Vancouver, and the Anglican Church of Canada since the middle of this year. The clash erupted after the western Canadian diocese voted 215 to 129 on 15 June to approve blessings for lesbian and gay couples.

Leaders of eight congregations walked out of the diocesan synod meeting in protest against the decision. They pledged to withhold financial commitments to the diocese and to take church properties worth millions of dollars with them if they seceded.

The eight protesting parishes--which represent 25 percent of the membership--are among the wealthiest of the diocese's 81.

The New Westminster synod's decision was also condemned by 13 Canadian bishops and then archbishop of Canterbury Dr George Carey. The primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Michael Peers, also entered the fray with letters that pleaded for unity.

Cooke said he could not accept his diocese's provision of a "temporary conscience" clause, which would allow dissenting priests and parishes to decline from using the blessing. He said it meant remaining under an authority, that of diocesan Bishop Michael Ingham.

"The parish has been very supportive and understanding," the departing priest said. "I don't think there will be a quick ending to this. My sense is that the hemorrhaging of members and financial support will continue."

Cooke is not the first priest to resign because of the situation in the Diocese of New Westminster. The Rev. Colin Goode, rector of Holy Trinity, Vancouver (not one of the dissenting parishes), left at the end of October for Olympia, Washington in the United States to serve a parish there.

By Albert H. Lee