Concerned over the Anglican Church of Canada’s decision to bless homosexual relationships, many traditional and evangelical Anglicans have banded together to form the Anglican Network in Canada. At the forefront of this movement stands Dr. Trevor Walters, an Anglican priest who left the Anglican Church in Canada to provide ministry and leadership within the Anglican Network in Canada.
His official title is the Rev. Dr. Trevor Walters, director of the Anglican Network in Canada, senior dean of British Columbia and director of Anglican Essentials Canada. He is also the rector of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Abbotsford, B.C., one of the network’s founding parishes. Yet when asked how he would like to be addressed by The Interim, he replies: “Trevor would be good.”
This gentle familiarity goes to the heart of why Walters became an Anglican priest – he wanted to reach souls for Christ. He was a teacher in London, England when he became involved with an Anglican parish in London. He had grown up in a Baptist home and originally considered the Baptist ministry. However, his experience with the Anglican parish awakened in him an interest in pastoral theology. Thus, Walters went off to study at a theological institute affiliated with the Anglican parish where he ministered.
Trevor possesses many fond memories of seminary life. It was during this time that he experienced first-hand the importance of Christian marriage when he and his fiancee Julie were married. “Sadly, Julie died a year ago,” Walters says. “We were married 30 years.” The couple gave birth to their oldest of two children during his last year of studies.
Walters also garnered experience ministering to homosexuals. “I was involved in working with gay people, trying to help them work with the issue,” he says, referring to homosexual acts as “a breach of biblical teaching.” Yet, he felt that Christ could reach all people with his message of redemption and salvation.
Nevertheless, his seminary experience foreshadowed the moral crisis currently crippling the international Anglican communion. “There were quite a number of gay priests and gay people preparing for ministry,” he said. “I knew then that we had a big problem on our hands.”
However, having met the Anglican bishop of Calgary and several of his clergy, Trevor and Julie accepted the bishop’s invitation to come to Canada and found an Anglican retreat centre in Alberta. “I was ordained in 1978 for Canada and came out (to Alberta) two days later,” Walters said.
He ministered within the Anglican Diocese of Calgary for 13 years. He spent the first seven years building and developing the retreat centre. As his work with the retreat centre came to an end, he was invited to apply for the pastorship of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Abbotsford. Walters found himself attracted to the church’s strong pastoral background and focus on pastoral counselling. “I’ve been tremendously blessed in this church,” he said. “It’s a strong orthodox parish which has been very supportive of my stand.”
His stand refers to the difficulties the Anglican priest ran into with Michael Ingham, the Anglican bishop of New Westminster, beginning in 1998. That was the year Ingham began pushing for the liturgical blessing of homosexual relationships within his diocese – which included Abbotsford. Ingham’s actions would spark the international crisis over homosexuality within the Anglican communion.
Walters was shocked by the suddenness with which Ingham stopped working with the diocese’s orthodox and evangelical Anglicans. “He seemed to sort of very quickly adopt a gay agenda,” he said. “It seemed that from that moment on he was determined to get rid of us and had no interest in resolving the issue collegially.” He pleaded with his bishop “to resolve this issue without forcing the diocese to vote on something that is unscriptural.” Yet, Ingham refused and over the next three years, pushed for a vote at the diocese’s 2001 synod.
Walters still remembers that fateful day in 2002, when the blessing of homosexual relationships passed with Ingham’s support. He approached the microphone during the vote, announced he was leaving, and was joined by 168 delegates and at least seven churches. “We set up a separate meeting in another church” and prayed, he said. “Because the Diocese of New Westminster had stepped away from Anglicanism, we had to step aside until the diocese returned.”
“It was devastating,” he said, having devoted the previous 25 years of his life working for the unity of the Gospel message within Anglicanism. “We were close to tears; we were disturbed at how the church could move so far away from the Bible.”
Moreover, the bishop charged him with “abandonment of ministry,” which normally is the first step toward having Anglican clergy expelled from ministry. “It’s very painful to think that by being faithful to Christian teaching … you would be thrown out of ministry,” Walters said.
Compounding the stress was Julie’s poor health and the potential loss of diocesan health benefits. “My wife was so desperately ill for so many years, that she lived in fear we would not be able to pay for her medication,” he said. Fortunately, international pressure from the Anglican communion forced Ingham to stay the charges against him. However, the bishop recently resumed the charges.
The synod’s decision to bless homosexual relationships sparked the international furor currently fracturing the Anglican communion. In the decision’s aftermath, Archbishop Gregory Venables, head of the Anglican Church in many South American countries, offered Walters episcopal oversight.
For his part, Walters appreciates the opportunity to continue his Anglican ministry while remaining rooted in traditional Christian morality. “If we can demonstrate that we can hold the line, and that faithfulness to Scripture causes suffering, but that it will also cause people to take the Christian faith much more seriously, then I believe we have the opportunity to be a Christian witness and make a difference in Canada.”