Religion

The uncomfortable pew

CAROLYN PURDEN March 20 1978
Religion

The uncomfortable pew

CAROLYN PURDEN March 20 1978

The uncomfortable pew

CAROLYN PURDEN

A thorn is digging itself into the flank of the Anglican Church of Canada. Dissident clergyman Rev. Carmino deCatanzaro was asked to leave Ottawa’s St. Barnabas Church early this year for attempting to lead his congregation into the breakaway Anglican Church of North America. Two years in the making in the United States, the schism became fact on January 28 when four bishops were consecrated as heads of a new “purified” church in Denver, Colorado. The bishops strongly oppose the recent ordination of women, revi-

sions in prayerbooks and liberalized attitudes to divorce, abortion and homosexuality, and they hope to attract all Anglicans and Episcopalians who share their concern. Their aim: a return to what deCatanzaro calls the essential duties of Christianity, “work, prayer and Christian teaching.”

Only three clergy and 150 laymen have joined in Canada so far, but at a time when Anglican leadership is attempting to drag the church whole into the 20th century, a group that seems to want solace from the 15th must rankle. The role the church should play in social and political issues is under fire from within. Headlines issuing from last August’s Anglican synod, the meeting of the church’s highest legislative body, sounded more like politics than religion. Leader of the church Archbishop Ted Scott believes that modern Christians must meet head-on the problems of the secular world. Under his direction the church has taken on everything from promoting guaranteed annual incomes to protesting business investment in Chile. Though the well-publicized breaches between what one delegate called “the Tories and the NDP at prayer” had healed by the end of the synod, a sense of dismay persists among church members such as Randall Ivany, Alberta’s ombudsman. He says he’ll have to learn to live with the new social activism. “I need the church, even though perhaps it doesn’t need me.”

It is doubtful that the anxiety felt by conservative Anglicans could ever push them into the breakaway church, says Scott. He believes that since the bitterness over the ordination of women—which had polarized the clergy—has cooled down, the provisional Anglican Church of North America will become no more than a sect. Ironically, despite its search for Anglican faith and order, the new church has already fallen from grace: its four bishops were improperly consecrated and will not be recognized by the Archbishop of Canterbury. CAROLYN PURDEN