Court rules for rebel Anglicans for now

Sat Mar 1, 2008 2:21am EST
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - A court on Friday ruled in favour of two conservative congregations which broke away from the Anglican Church of Canada and said they can stay in their church buildings for now.

The court battle echoes that being fought in the United States with the Episcopal Church, over whether national denominations can keep the assets of congregations that split away from the national church because they are upset with liberal positions on homosexuality and the Bible.

The decision by a court in Hamilton, Ontario, means two rebel congregations retain exclusive use of their facilities for now. They and the Anglican diocese of Niagara will return to court on March 20 to sort out a longer-term arrangement.

Fifteen Canadian congregations have placed themselves under the authority of the conservative Anglican church in southern South Americas -- the so-called Southern Cone.

It is a small fraction of the total number of Anglican parishes across Canada. But it includes the largest congregation in the country -- St. John's Shaughnessy in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The head of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, told the conservative rebels in mid-February that individuals could leave, but they could not take property or assets with them.

The conservative churches oppose the Anglican Church of Canada's tolerance of the blessing of same-sex unions, arguing that it reflects a casual approach to the Bible.

Hiltz has said those on both sides of the issue should be able to co-exist in the Anglican Church of Canada.

(Reporting by Randall Palmer; editing by Janet Guttsman)