September 16

Downtown abbey tests limits

first_imgThey use no gasoline. They don’t require insurance or a license. They’re inexpensive to buy and maintain. And, in an interesting twist, they’re helping to underwrite an unusual Anglican congregation in downtown Vancouver.David Knudtson is selling imported electric bicycles to support the Arnada Abbey at 2001 Broadway.Is that a church? Despite the prayer circle, altar, murals of Jesus, prominent wooden lawn sign, website, a recent visit from an Anglican church official and a regular schedule of services and events, Knudtson insists it’s not.“It’s not a church. It’s a religious house,” he said. “The Anglican church itself would call it a ‘hybrid ministry.’”Knudtson might be the leader — he’s identified as pastor on the website — but he’s not a priest, and his property isn’t a formal religious institution, he said. What it is, he said, is a rental property that hosts informal religious gatherings.The matter arises because Knudtson, 52, a successful local real estate agent, has had “many friendly conversations” with Vancouver code enforcement and community development officials, he said, who’ve questioned everything from the use of his property — church or residence? — to the lack of a street-sale permit for his e-bike business.Knudtson appears to be threading several legal needles as he struggles with the city. So far, he’s succeeded.Home or church?Although there’s no code enforcement case open against Knudtson now, the paper trail provided by Chad Eiken, Vancouver community and economic development director, makes clear the city’s skepticism about Knudtson’s statements regarding what’s really up at t he Arnada Abbey. And the relationship has been anything but friendly: Knudtson has accused the city of harassment and violating his civil rights; the city has said itlast_img read more