The following conversation took place between Sharon Dewey Hetke and The Rev. Jake Worley in May, 2017, following Worley’s election as bishop of the Diocese of Caledonia on April 22, 2017, and the Provincial House of Bishops’ majority decision not to approve his election.
The following conversation took place between Sharon Dewey Hetke and The Rev. Jake Worley in May, 2017, following Worley’s election as bishop of the Diocese of Caledonia on April 22, 2017, and the Provincial House of Bishops’ majority decision not to approve his election. This interview was not published at that time, but is being published now upon the news of the termination of Worley’s employment as a priest in the Diocese of Caledonia.
TAP: First of all I want to tell you that our prayers, and I’m sure I speak for many people, are with you and your family, and with the diocese. This must be a difficult time.
JW: We are trusting in the Lord, and we feel his grace, so Kelly and I and the kids are doing well because we know that no matter what, he’s sovereign and we trust that.
The diocese on the other hand is in an uproar; there are a lot of people hurting. I’m getting texts and phone calls and emails from people who are very confused and upset about the situation.
TAP: Can you tell me what your understanding is of the reason the Province refused to approve your election/consecration?
JW: Yes. In 2007 I was a priest in The Episcopal Church (TEC) in the Diocese of the Rio Grande. That was a season in the Episcopal Church’s life when many of the orthodox clergy and even dioceses were being pressured really hard, to the point of, we felt like, persecution. Some of us were losing our jobs, some of us were just having a major amount of persecution and pressure put upon us. I was, at that time, interim Rector at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Los Cruces, New Mexico. And as an interim, you work for the bishop. I was already pretty experienced with some of that pressure. But the previous Rector of my parish—he’s a wonderful man, but he hadn’t wanted to talk about the issues in the Episcopal Church. It was to the point that we were all ignoring the 800-pound gorilla in the room. I took over and the vestry was saying to me “We need to talk about this. The pressure is too much for us.” So at one vestry meeting, I said “Okay, we’ll finish up with business early, and then we’ll have a frank conversation off the record. Everything is open for discussion, just let it out.” Well somebody had a problem with that, told the bishop, and I was asked to resign. And it was at a time when other people in the diocese were also realizing, “We’re not going to have a job.” So I called Bp. Alexander Greene, who’s seated in the House of Bishops of Rwanda, and asked if he would accept my orders. He said “Yes, I’ll take you over until such time as we can vet you ourselves.”
TAP: Is that when you started the church plant?
JW: Yes, it was just at that moment that many of the people who were already leaving the church said to me, “Will you now plant a church for us?” My new Bishop said yes, so I planted the church. So what the majority in the House of Bishops here [in British Columbia and the Yukon] said is they couldn’t accept me as a bishop because I planted the church within the boundaries of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of the Rio Grande, and that I won’t say I’m sorry I did it. They said that constitutes that I have a view that’s contrary to the Anglican Church of Canada–and the National Chancellor was actually involved in all of that. He was talking to the Provincial Chancellor and diocesan Chancellor, as well as Archbishop Privett. And he was quoting Lambeth 1988, Resolution 72 as the rationale for my view being contrary to the discipline of the Anglican Church of Canada. They came back to me and wanted me to say that it was wrong to plant the church. And I can’t say that, because I know that the Lord moved in a mighty way there. And I didn’t go to anybody and say “Come and join us, leave the church”–I never said that. I just did it. At first there were 19 of us, and 7 were my family! There were young families, just having their kids kind of families, in their early to mid-twenties. And they didn’t want to leave the legacy of the Episcopal Church to their kids, because they saw what was happening. And so we started in someone’s living room and within three years we saw substantial growth in numbers. But more importantly than that, the people we were ministering to were those people in the community who had no place to go, people with mental illnesses, people ostracized by the rest of the churches, who felt they needed to worship and have a loving place where they heard the Gospel.
TAP: So this is why you can’t say you’re sorry you planted it.
JW: Exactly. People’s lives were touched, God moved and he blessed it and I can’t say that was wrong and I won’t. And they wanted me to. And as far as I’m concerned, I would rather say “God blessed that and the movement of the Holy Spirit was there” than to deny the Holy Spirit and get a purple shirt. I won’t do it.
TAP: Did they ask you to make any promises or oaths about what direction you might take the Diocese of Caledonia?
JW: Yes. And my response to them was simple. Do not ask me to make promises based upon hypotheticals. Because we don’t know what it’s going to look like in two years.
TAP: Did you make a statement to the effect “I would consider taking the diocese out, depending on what happens”?
JW: Never. No. I never said that.
TAP: If you were “unqualified” shouldn’t they have pointed that out before you stood for election?
JW: I think that’s a logical assumption to make, especially since there’s a moment during the electoral synod when they say “Are there any canonical objections?” There were two Chancellors there, and both of them said “No.” One from the Province and one from the diocese.
TAP: And was that Provincial Chancellor involved in the subsequent decision?
JW: Mick Adams was the lead Chancellor in making this determination. In some ways it makes you wonder how did they, within a week, come up with this rationale?
TAP: So you did decide to come back to the Anglican Church of Canada…can you give us some insight into that decision?
JW: In the summer of 2012 I began, with the discernment of my bishop in New Mexico, to think that it was time to let the church plant, St. Patrick’s, chart its course without me. There’s a weird dynamic when you plant the church. The clergy who plant the church are the ones who are running everything, at least for the first part. And my fear was that this was becoming ‘Jake and Kelly’s church.’ So six months later, in Feb. 2013, I decided to resign my position and seek another position. Ernest Buchanan, who is the Archdeacon here in Caledonia, was recruiting for an interim up at Ft. St. John. And I was thinking “Well that’s a great place for me to go and spend some prayer and discernment.” So I took them up on it. I started on Easter Sunday of 2013. I told them I would do a minimum of five months if not more. It was lovely, and we loved it there. At that point I was discerning whether or not to go to Ireland, so I took the position there. I had my licence transferred to Ireland. But over time, the Archdeacon [of Caledonia] asked me “Would you consider coming back?” And we missed Canada so much, amongst other things that were going on, so we said “Yes, we’d love to come back.” St. James’ needed somebody so I was put here, in Bulkley Valley Regional Parish.
TAP: What are your thoughts on the way Canons were used in this process?
JW: What’s interesting to me is that the National Chancellor cited Lambeth 1988 Resolution 72, and yet ignores Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1.10. See, that was the hypocrisy. And frankly Resolution 72, if you read it, is not binding. It basically says we shouldn’t cross jurisdictional borders. It doesn’t say we won’t. That’s the way I read it.
TAP: Whereas with 1.10, while it acknowledges that not everyone agrees, I think it’s pretty clear that it’s meant to be a binding resolution.
JW: And I pointed that out to Abp. Privett…
TAP: How did he respond?
JW: Well he was quiet; he didn’t want to say much. And the question then is this, if you’re going to say that I hold a view contrary to the discipline of the Church, aren’t there others in that room who do also? Another question I asked Abp. Privett was this: If you don’t think I’m able to be a bishop, what makes you say I’m able to be a priest? And he said “Well, because we trust you.” And I said, “Well, you trust me to be a priest, but not a bishop?”
Reprinted with permission from The Anglican Planet