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Rebel parish defends vote to leave in absence of its rector: CEN 10.31.08 p 6. November 3, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Canada, Church of England Newspaper, Secession.

Charges leveled by the Diocese of Brandon that the secession of St. Bede’s parish in Manitoba was unlawful due to the absence of the rector from the parish meeting, are unfounded the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) tells The Church of England Newspaper.

On Oct 15 the congregation of St. Bede’s Church in Kinosota, Manitoba held a parish meeting under the presidency of its nsm curate, the Rev. Jona Weitzel, and voted 29 to 1 to quit the Diocese of Brandon for ANiC—the ecclesial “life boat” created by the Province of the Southern Cone for Canadian traditionalists pending the creation of a second province for the US and Canada.

Parish incumbent the Rev. Robert Bettson claimed the vote was unlawful telling the Anglican Journal, “I am the rector of the parish, and was not consulted about the meeting, which the canons of the diocese require.”

However, the congregation charged Mr. Bettson with having neglected the parish, thereby forfeiting his right to preside at parish meetings, claiming that in the year he had been rector, he had only been to the parish two times.

Mr. Bettson was “fully aware” of the Oct 15 congregation meeting, ANiC spokesman Marily Jacobson said. He removed the “legally posted notice of the congregational meeting” tacked to by the vestry on the church’s front door, replacing it “with a notice of his own saying the meeting was cancelled.”

He also told members of the congregation on his second visit to the parish, on Sept 28, he would attend the meeting, ANiC said.

Brandon’s Canon 32 states that the parish incumbent shall convene parish meetings. However, “In the case of the absence of or neglect by the incumbent, the churchwardens shall convene such meetings, and such meetings shall be chaired by either one of the churchwardens or by another parishioner, elected by the meeting.”

ANiC attorney Cheryl Chang told CEN that though the “incumbent has declared the meeting ‘illegal’ and improper, we are simply saying there is evidence that he has been absent and/or neglected the parish, having only attended there two times in the over one year plus he has been rector.”

“In our view, we have taken a proper interpretation of the Canon,” the congregation said, while ” the incumbent and diocese disagree. “


1. Rev. Bob Bettson - November 11, 2008

I’ve been a journalist for almost 40 years. I was ordained as a parish priest in 2001 and have since edited two Diocesan newspapers where I have served. I find it hard to believe that you would give any credibility to the Anglican Network in Canada and their claims that I have “abandoned” or “neglected” the parish of St. Bede’s, Kinosota and circulating this lie on the web without at least checking with me on what the actual situation is.

I was appointed to the South Parkland group of congregations in April 2007 and began my work on August 1 2007. We have five parishes spread widely geographically. The largest by far is St. Paul’s, Dauphin where I live. The arrangement when I was appointed was that I would be rector of the five parishes but that the Rev. Jona Weitzel, a non stipendiary recently ordained priest and special assistant to the Bishop would lead worship and do pastoral care at St. Bede’s,Kinosota and St. Michael’s McCreary, two congregations both located more than an hour’s drive east and south from Dauphin. I have had responsibility for St. Paul’s and St. Matthew, Gilbert Plains and Christ Church, Grandview (both west of Dauphin). Jona was a member of parish council which meets quarterly. We were in touch regularly and we jointly led a wedding and funeral in Dauphin in September. She is a locally raised priest, who did distance learning and would not have been ordained for any other purpose than to serve those two parishes. She had served as a warden at Kinosota.

Far from abandoning or neglecting the parish of St. Bede’s, I took the initiative to discuss with Jona an exchange in February and another one was planned in the fall. She led worship at St. Paul’s and St. Matthew’s. My wife and I traveled to St. Bede’s on the coldest day of the year and received a warm reception including an unexpected lunch.

Both the Bishop and I asked Jona several times whether there was any Network activity at St. Bede’s, particularly since the former incumbent of South Parkland had come back into the area under the auspices of the Network. Our only mistake was to trust Jona. It seems clear there was never any opportunity to present the case that the parishioners should not leave the Anglican church. Indeed I only found out about the meeting by a chance because one of my parishioners heard about a “dinner with Malcolm” which turned out to be a preparatory gathering for the illegal parish meeting.

The meeting was clearly not legal under any reasonable interpretation of the Diocesan canons. It happened in 20 minutes according to the lone dissenter. There was no debate. He doubts if most people even understood the resolution. By definition under the canons only individual members can leave, not an entire parish. The Anglican Church of Canada holds the title to the church and cemetery and has a legal responsibility to past generations and future generations.

I think the accusation of neglect is particularly reprehensible since this is after all only 15 months into my incumbency and we have had to adjust to a new province, a new town and a new environment. On top of that as a result of the Network, a group of about a dozen parishioners, most in leadership positions including a warden and two lay readers have left for a network church plant in Dauphin. The last thing this town of 8,000 needs is two Anglican churches, one from the Anglican Church of Canada and one an illegal foreign intervention.

As well as setting that parish context, there has been absolutely no provocation for the Network in this Diocese. The Diocese does not permit same sex blessings and there has never been even motion to suggest it should. The basic reason for Network activity here seems to be focused on personalities. The former Bishop Malcolm Harding has gone to the Southern Cone and is setting up his own parallel diocese trading on his following from when he was Bishop. He has had a problem letting go even though he retired in 2002.

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