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November 19, 2008


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A purely technical question. How is it the House of Bishops of the Province of Rupert's Land met? My understanding is that the House cannot meet if any of the sees are vacant. At least it used to be that way, according to my former bishop, metropolitan and primate.


Found the answer. What they can't do when there is a vacancy is elect a new metropolitan. They can meet to their hearts' content.

Seattle Anglican

May God bless you for your respectful manner towards your fellow Christians of all viewpoints and your reverent consideration of these important issues. So many from both sides have descended into hateful verbal sniping of the opposing side and that, I think, is the poorest representation of the love of Christ that can be witnessed during this whole event.


This just gets me thinking about the influence (in voting) in the House of Bishops. If we assume each of the dioceses in the Province of Rupert's Land has one bishop (bear in mind some will have two), that's 10 (at least). They tend to be a conservative bunch, as revealed by the message above and other things. How many people do they represent? By my count, it would take the combined number of bishops in Toronto, Niagara, Huron, Montreal, Ottawa and New Westminister to get to 10. How many people do they represent?

My obvious point is that when the House of Bishops gets to vote on things like same sex marriage, the playing field is kind of uneven. Not that all the bishops of T,N,H,M,O and NW will vote the same way. The Province of Rupert's Land exercises a greater influence than it merits.

I'm sorry I don't have the numbers to support my observation. I assume they are out there somewhere.


Okay, I couldn't find diocesan stats for every diocese, but I did pull some estimates out of the air. If anyone can fill in some missing stats (these are reported member numbers, not self-identified Anglicans), feel free.

Diocese Membership # of Bishops

Ecclesiastical Province of Canada

Central Newfoundland 1
Eastern Newfoundland & Labrador 1
Fredricton 1
Montreal 14,000 1
Nova Scotia & PEI 2
Western Newfoundland 1
est. 84,000 7 (~12,000/bp)

Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario

Algoma 18,000 1
Huron 50,000 1
Moosonee 1
Niagara 1
Ontario 13,000 1
Ottawa 1
Quebec 7,200 1
Toronto 80,000 5
est. 240,000 12 (~20,000/bp)

Eccelsiastical Province of Rupert's Land

Arctic 3
Athabaska 3,500 1
Brandon 1
Calgary 20,000 1
Edmonton 1
Keewatin 11,000 1
Qu'Appelle 1
Rupert's Land 14,000 1
Saskatchewan 2
Saskatoon 1
est. 100,000 13 (~7,700)

Ecclesiastical Province of British Columbia

British Columbia 13,000 1
Caledonia 1
Central Interior 1
Kootenay 1
New Westminster 30,000 1
Yukon 1
est. 81,000 6 (~9,000/bp)


Your point is very valid and also very dangerous. There were many complaints after the last General Synod about the imablance in the Bishop to Parishioner Ratio and the failure of certain motions was blamed on this. The danger is that one can end up sounding like others in our country who once blamed the failure of their proposals on the "ethnic vote."


Something I read on the interwebs once:

"Modern Western ideas tend to confuse synodality with democracy. Surely in its Christian origins, synods did not come together to establish simple majority rule. Perhaps the modern idea of ‘consensus’ might be closer to what was intended. If the formulations of a majority do not satisfy the concerns of the minority, then something is lacking in the formulation of the majority, and there should not be a definite move until there is agreement. Unless you are willing to wait for one another, you don’t have communion."


Malcolm: Thank you for the numbers. They support my observation that the Province of Rupert's Land has an undue influence in the House of Bishops. The same may be true for the other Houses, but that's too complicated for me. I'm not saying that the Rupert's Land bishops (and the Bishop of Quebec, for that matter) should have some kind of diminished role. It's just that the role they have now is unfair to bishops who represent those of us in other dioceses.

Michael: Danger? I don't think so. It's not like Parizeau and the "ethnic vote". Remember, he said MONEY and the ethnic vote, in that order! I don't think we want to deny Anglophones and Allophones a vote and we don't want to deny Rupert's Land a vote at General Synod. Maybe some way of weighting the votes of bishops in individual provinces by their population? I think it would be dangerous to let things continue the way they are.

Joseph: In our origins, disputes were often resolved by armies! You suggest that "If the formulations of a majority do not satisfy the concerns of the minority, then something is lacking in the formulation of the majority, and there should not be a definite move until there is agreement." This what we call a stalemate, which means nothing happens. This satisfies some, but not others.

Thank you all for your responses. We should have this resolved in a few days!


Michael, with respect, I think you're leaping to conclusions about what my point. In fact, I had no point - other than to try to base whattever discussion went forward in some degree of objective reality.

I think there is a legitimate concern about how representation works. I recall, when I was a young priest, that every -congregation- was represented at our diocesan synod based on a formula, including one delegate for the first 50 parishioners or fewer, one for each additional 50 or (major?) portion thereof, and, at some point, it became per every 100 or (major?) portion thereof. Since a congregation could canonically exist with as few as six communicant members, there was a significant imbalance. The then largest parish in the diocese was entitled to six delegates for their 400ish members, while the parish I was in was entitled to nine delegates (yes, a nine-point parish with one priest) for 120ish members. (We've since changed the formula. I think it's now all based on parish numbers.)

I'm less concerned about the pure over/under-representation issue than about the fact that such distortions can have unintended consequences. I'd argue, for example, that our former formula tended to give greater influence to those parts of the diocese that were in serious decline and to under-represent those parts which were thriving and effectively engaging their communities. (Which is not to say that small congregations are necessarily declining or that large ones are necessarily thriving.)

I'm ambivalent about the synodality / democracy issue. Majority voting is the worst possible choice - except for all the others. That said, certain issues should, perhaps, require greater indications of consensus. Various synods enact that in different ways. Many require certain types of motions to be carried by successive synods, to be carried by the clergy and laity (and bishops) voting separately and / or to be carried by supermajorities (ie 2/3). The election of bishops usually requires separate majorities from both the clergy and the laity.

Without debating the merits of the issue, what is the appropriate procedural response if a diocesan synod votes by the narrowest possible margin to, say, approve the blessing of same sex unions? Or to cease the practice? Should we change the status quo on a divisive issue when the vote is "just barely?"

What is often forgotten about the New Westminster situation is that Michael Ingham did NOT consent to the blessing of same sex unions on either the first or the second occasion it was passed. No one seriously doubts his opinion on the issue itself. Yet instead of ratifying a synodical decision that was in keeping with his own views, he (arguably) exercised a degree of conservatism that was appropriate in a bishop and directed instead that the diocese engage in an extended period of study, dialogue and prayer. Whatever one may think of the final outcome, one cannot honestly say that Michael Westminster rushed.


I did not mean to suggest that Malcolm or anyone posting here was blaming the "ethnic vote" at GS 2008 but many people did, and some of them prominent Canadian Anglicans who did so publicly. A post tht was later removed from an online discussion all but blamed the defeat of a certain motion on Dioceses that had Aboriginal Suffragan Bishops.
One of the greatest moral failures at GS2007 was that we proved ourselves sore losers and ungracious winners. Those of us still talking across the great divide need to heal the hurt and I apologize if my previous comment ame of as a slur.
What is a sufficient majority? It depends upon the issue and the context. A small Parish voting on whether to buy percoloator or drip coffee makers might survive a %55 - %45 decision but I would be hard pressed to go ahead with a new programme, hiring or building project even with %60 in favour and %40 against. Especially when it comes to innovations I think that patience is often required by the "simple" majority.
The difficulty with the current issue is that it is such a matter of core principle (justice revelation etc.) for both sides that patience seems unprincipled. For both poles the necessity or impossibility of same sex marriage is a self evident truth. For both poles this is a communion dividing issue, worth or necessitating the divisions we see unfolding before us.

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  • Copyright Rev. Joseph Walker, St Timothy's Anglican Church

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