‘It’s a tragedy for the Church’ – Archbishop Venables

Posted on February 28, 2008 
Filed under News

Archbishop Gregory VenablesArchbishop of the Southern Cone, Gregory Venables was interviewed on CBC Radio in Canada earlier this week.

It’s very very sad that it should come to this, it’s a tragedy for the church, for the church in Canada and for the church throughout the world – but it shows how serious the division is.

We are grateful for this transcript of the interview (the audio is available here in RealAudio format). Questions are from CBC’s The Current presenter Anna Maria Tremonti –

Also joining us was The Most Reverend Gregory James Venables, Presiding Bishop of the Province of the Southern Cone. He’s also the Bishop of Argentina and the leader of the parishes that have split with the Anglican Church of Canada. Archbishop Gregory James Venables spoke to us from Buenos Aires.

What is your response to the recent votes here in Canada, what do you think of these decisions?

It’s very, very, sad that it should come to this, it’s a tragedy for the church, for the church in Canada and for the church throughout the world – but it shows how serious the division is. This has never happened before. It has happened significantly with very large groups in the United States in recent years and recently with a whole diocese moving – and now it’s happening in Canada. It shows how serious this division is and how strong the convictions are which are pulling the church apart.

In your view is this solely about the Canadian churches stand on homosexuality? Does it go beyond that?

No. This is about two versions of Christianity which are in a strong state of difference. You’ve got the original biblical Christianity which the church, the Christian church throughout the world has held to over the past two thousand years and then you’ve got this new liberal post-modern Christianity which has evolved especially in the western world over the last 100 years or so. It’s like two ships that have gradually pulled apart and can longer really sail together and the trouble is it’s pulling the church apart as it does that.

And how did you personally, in Argentina, get involved with the Canadian congregations?

We’ve got good links with folk in Canada, we are all a part of the Americas. Also I had been a part of the Primates’ debate on this for a long time now and therefore I’d been in contact with Canadians who’d been in touch with us and discussed things with us and asked our advice and that’s what has led to this situation – that in the end they came to us and said, “Look we are going to have to break away from something we can no longer walk with – will you please give us somewhere to live while this thing works itself out?” and we talked about it with other Primates – there were a number of provinces that were prepared to make an offer to receive these congregations and in the end the decision was to come down to us.

And in practical terms what does that mean to take on these Canadian parishioners?

It means basically that these people cannot say that they agree with their local Church, with the national Church where they are, but they want to remain within the Anglican church and – since they can’t remain within the Anglican Church if they leave the Canadian Church and don’t go anywhere else – they are coming to us for shelter until the situation is resolved. We hope it will be a temporary thing and that something more practical and able to be worked out locally will come out of this in the long term. As it stands there are two bishops who will be looking after these congregations, two retired Canadian bishops who will be doing the practical work for us but the overall coverage will be under the Province of the Southern Cone which includes the six countries you mentioned.

And along with the issue of faith when it comes to the running of a church there are legal and financial considerations how do those shake down with these changes?

Well I suppose the most difficult thing will be where the clergy go in terms of stipend, pensions and medical coverage and all that which implies an enormous sacrifice, which shows again how serious this is and how strong the convictions are. But also the tragedy is going to be over buildings – who actually owns the buildings. Because although buildings are secondary in our faith, the church is the temple – we are the temple and God lives in His people – but even so buildings are very very precious to us and they mean a lot, especially locally where families have lived for a long time in one locality so that is going to be probably the hardest thing of all. And what’s been happening in the states is tragic because there are multi-million (dollar) court cases going on at this moment in which even members of vestries are being taken to court for ‘abandoning the communion’ as they say.

I can hear the regret in your voice.

Yeah. Oh yeah. It’s heartbreaking. It’s heartbreaking. It’s tragic because the church is meant to be a demonstration of love – and one of the things that really breaks us up is that there seems to be so little love in this. I said at a Primates’ meeting a while back that in a marriage, generally, in spite of difficulties you keep going because you want to, because you love each other and in spite of the fact you face terrible problems sometimes you want to stay together and that’s what keeps you going. But there seems to be little love and little desire to remain together and that is the tragic revelation of this situation.

And yet we’re talking about a tug of war over a view of Christianity.

Over two versions, one which is the ancient historic version and one which has grown up more recently but unfortunately you would have thought there would be enough in common to hold it together.

And do you think there is, you think there is a chance of doing that?

We thought that for a long time, we met together as Primates over and over again and every time we said, “Please don’t go on with this, hold back, let’s talk about this, let’s find a way” – but even on one situation when we had a meeting in Brazil, with all the Primates and we put out a letter and said, “Please don’t do this”, within 48 hours a Canadian diocese had gone ahead with moving on same sex blessings which took our breath away, we hadn’t even sent the letter out more than 48 hours I think it was. The other tragedy is, having been in this situation for so long and having taken part in it there’s been very little real dialogue. There’s been long silences but there hasn’t been real dialogue and that is a tragedy. If Christianity is what it should be then we should be able to sit down and work it out in spite of differences and that is part of the sadness too.

Okay, well I understand there is a conference for the end of April in BC by the Anglican Network of Canada that is the group of more traditional or so-called essential Anglicans. You’re going to that conference, what do you hope that will achieve?

I hope to be there. I hope it will give us a chance to clarify even more how this thing is going to work out and to affirm the position that people are taking so that there’s a security within this and simply to be able to pray together and to say okay we’ve taken a step, how can we know be the sort of church that God wants us to be in a world that really needs to find some hope. And if the world is the creation of God what can we do to help the world find its place within that world vision.