Members of General Synod discuss proposed changes to the marriage canon. Photo by Art Babych

Daily Report from the 41st General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada: Friday, July 8, 2016

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Members of General Synod gathered in the Grand York Ballroom after breakfast to begin the second day of General Synod 2016 at the Sheraton Parkway North Toronto Hotel and Suites in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Morning Plenary

The day began with worship. Artist Elizabeth Adams, who attends St. George’s Anglican Church in Guelph, Ontario, and created the artwork that helped to transform the hotel ballroom into a worship space, then took the podium. She created walking sticks and 35 different altar-cloth paintings over the course of two years, all the while praying for the members of General Synod. Adams asked members to consider where they need to go and, in keeping with the theme “You Are My Witnesses,” to reflect on who had been a witness for them in their own lives. She invited members to add those names to the altar-cloth/canvas in front of them on each table.

National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald acknowledged the Indigenous territories in Richmond Hill where General Synod had gathered. Bishop MacDonald noted the sacredness of the land, the traditional territories of the Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, and that other Indigenous peoples had also lived there. He also acknowledged that this area is one of, if not the largest urban Indigenous population in Canada.

Members watched a video “You Are My Witnesses” which told stories of how the church has been witness to God’s mission. The video included stories of how the church as a community responded to families fleeing the 2016 wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alberta; Indigenous elders presenting the Pinawa Manifesto on self-determination; actions taken by Canadian Anglicans to support Syrian refugees after the photo appeared of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body washed ashore; the ringing of bells during the #22Days campaign in 2015 to call for a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women; and footage from church gatherings over related to reconciliation and global ministry.

As acknowledged by Archbishop Hiltz, many in the room were moved to tears during the video.

The Primate opened formalities by calling on the Ven. Harry Huskins, prolocutor, to report from the credentials committee. Huskins reported that 100 per cent of delegates to General Synod had registered, with 40 people registered from the House of Bishops, 83 from the Order of Clergy, 86 in the Order of Laity, and 25 youth.

Declaring the 41st Session of the General Synod duly constituted, Archbishop Hiltz introduced the chairs of the Agenda, Resolutions, Expenditures, Nominating, and Credentials committees, as well as honorary secretaries and assessors.

He welcomed partners with representatives on the Council of General Synod including the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, The Episcopal Church, and ecumenical and international guests. Before the start of the day’s business, J.P. Copeland provided members with another demonstration of the electronic clickers, Sessional Agenda Committee chair Melissa Green read out the Orders of the Day, and Chancellor David Jones reiterated a change in the rules of order as of General Synod 2013, wherein all three orders now vote simultaneously.

Members passed a series of motions relating to business. The motions included:

  • A001: adoption of the agenda for the present General Synod;
  • A002: adoption of the minutes from General Synod 2013 in Ottawa;
  • A003: adoption of notices of motions and memorials as contained in the Convening Circular;
  • A004: reception of reports contained in the Convening Circular;
  • A005: that the Nominating Committee be responsible for arranging the balloting and appointing scrutineers in any election where such is required;
  • A006: that the Rules of Order and Procedure be suspended so far is necessary to permit the No Debate List Procedure;
  • A007: that General Synod suspend rule 18 a) of the Rules of Order and Procedure for the duration of this session of GS to permit members to abstain from voting (and not just in circumstances involving a conflict of interest); and
  • A008: that all resolutions adopted by this session of General Synod that involve the spending of money and for which the necessary financial resources have not been identified in the motion or are not included in the budget of General Synod be referred to a group comprised of the Primate, the Prolocutor, and the General Secretary who shall review, in consultation with the Treasurer, any expenditure that would be required to implement the motion and the financial resources available.

All motions were carried.

Canon Dr. Randall Fairy, chair of the Resolutions Committee, explained the No Debate List, and the Rev. Peter Elliott, chair of the Nominations Committee, outlined the procedures for electing a new Prolocutor.

Address from the Primate

The Primate began his presidential address with a prayer. He noted that the 41st session brought together members from a variety of diverse backgrounds and perspectives, drawn together through their unity of faith embodied in the call “You Are My Witnesses.” Archbishop Hiltz said members must honestly acknowledge that at the outset of Synod, they had arrived with a mixture of feelings: delight, angst, and yearning. He proceeded to describe each in turn.

Delight came through the commitment of the church to bear witness to God’s love for the world through the Marks of Mission, through evangelism, and its international discipleship through the worldwide Anglican Communion. He pointed to movements to renew liturgy in the church; how the church was making a difference in the lives of the poor; by the response of the church to help those affected by massive wildfires in Western Canada in summer 2015 and spring 2016; and parishes that had worked hard to raise funds in order to support Syrian refugee families, often partnering with social agencies and members of other faiths. He highlighted the church’s emerging relationship with Indigenous peoples—marked by an abiding commitment to truth and reconciliation.

Angst, however, was also present among members of General Synod as they prepared to debate amendments to the marriage canon that would allow for the blessing of marriages among same-sex couples. The Primate outlined developments since resolution C003 passed at General Synod 2013, which included the establishment of the Commission on the Marriage Canon, and the release of their report This Holy Estate, which was received at the September 2015 meeting of the Council of General Synod. He urged members to be especially mindful in their discussion of the “lives and loves and longings” of LGBTQ individuals who are members of our families, neighbours, friends, parishes, and clergy. He reiterated the need to recognize how much is at stake in the deliberations while maintaining the unity of spirit, with members conducting themselves in a way reflective of the idea behind “You Are My Witnesses”.

Yearning, the Primate added, came from the deep longing within the hearts of members to strive to be less focused on the church’s internal life, and more on being a church in and of the world. Archbishop Hiltz said that the gospel of Christ compels the church in every age not to remain silent in the face of real life and death issues in our world, which in our time include human trafficking, gender-based violence, racially motivated violence, religiously motivated violence, child labour, child soldiers, drug wars, gun control, criminalization of people for their sexual orientation, extreme poverty, starvation unto death, refugees in the millions, and environmental degradation.

Of these myriad issues, the Primate highlighted in particular the scourge of human trafficking and modern day slavery, which in Canada particularly affects Aboriginal women and girls; the need for increased dialogue among religious and political leaders to combat religiously motivated violence such as attacks by ISIS; and the environmental degradation that manifests itself through rising sea levels, deforestation, desertification, and the particular vulnerability of the poor to climate change, reminding members of Bishop MacDonald’s point that “climate change is really about climate justice.”

The Primate concluded by noting that his prayer and his hope for the present General Synod was that with the accompaniment of the Holy Spirit, their delights would be multiplied, their angst handled with grace, and their yearnings fulfilled.

Presentation—ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson

Following the Primate’s address, ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson offered greetings from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. She told Synod about the four goals of the ELCIC’s strategic plan: spirited discipleship, healthy church, compassionate justice, and effective partnerships.

The ELCIC is currently working towards spirited discipleship through its participation in the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, based around the theme “Liberated by God’s Grace” and its sub-themes: Creation—Not for Sale, Salvation—Not for Sale, and Human Beings—Not for Sale. Bishop Johnson looked forward to ecumenical discussions on how different churches became separated and how God is calling them back together. The ELCIC Reformation Challenge calls for the church to sponsor refugees, build up its schools in Jordan and the Holy Land, plant trees, and raise money for the Lutheran World Federation Endowment Fund, and she noted that the ELCIC would be delighted if Anglicans joined them in the challenge.

The Lutherans were also making progress in becoming a healthy church, with Bishop Johnson providing hope for Canadian Anglicans by noting how the ELCIC had successfully navigated through divisions from previous years; in its pursuit of compassionate justice, by working on right relationships with Indigenous peoples, Syrian refugee family sponsorship, and ongoing work with Lutheran World Relief; and building effective partnerships through ecumenical relationships around the world, particularly its continuing full communion partnership with the Anglican Church of Canada.

Bishop Johnson was visibly moved as she expressed gratitude for her continued friendship with Archbishop Hiltz and past invitations for her to participate in the Anglican Indigenous Sacred Circle. Asking members of General Synod who had participated in various joint initiatives with the ELCIC to stand—which included more than half of those in attendance who had worked in joint meetings and task forces, in shared congregations and parishes, and on responsible resource extraction and combating homelessness and human trafficking—she thanked them for their efforts.

Bishop Johnson concluded by acknowledging the challenges facing General Synod in the coming days, and assuring members of General Synod that whatever its decisions, the ELCIC would continue to be a full communion partner with the Anglican Church of Canada, committed to walking together and striving to help liberate the world through God’s grace.

Afternoon Plenary

Election—Prolocutor

Elections for the Prolocutor followed. Out of three nominees—the Very Rev. Peter Peter Wall, the Ven. Alan Perry, and Ms. Cynthia Haines-Turner—a successful candidate emerged on the first ballot. The Primate announced that Cynthia Haines-Turner was the new Prolocutor for General Synod, adding that she brought a great deal of experience to the position, not least in her former position as Deputy Prolocutor.

Presentation—Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry

After the voting, the Primate introduced Bishop Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, noting his historical significance as the first African-American to hold the position and the first to be elected on the initial ballot. Bishop Curry brought greetings from Anglican brothers and sisters in the United States and praised the “deep wisdom” of the Primate, telling members “you have a treasure in Fred Hiltz.”

In a powerful address, Bishop Curry asked how Anglicans should respond to recent manifestations of violence in the United States, referring to the police killings of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philandro Castile in Minnesota, as well as the deaths of five police officers by sniper fire the previous night at a protest in Dallas, Texas. Each of those who died, the bishop noted, were children of God—as are all human beings, made in the image and likeness of the Creator.

Bishop Curry noted that the people of the United States were struggling at the moment, and asked how they could become a culture where human life is sacred. He expressed his belief that Jesus had shown there is a better way—of loving the Lord God and loving our neighbours as ourselves. He quoted Martin Luther King, Jr. that human beings face a choice between “chaos or community,” and described the baptized as belonging to what he called “the Jesus movement.” The world, he said in an impassioned crescendo, is begging for those in the Jesus movement to show it another way, to go beyond political divisions and differences of opinion, and it is up to those who follow the example of Jesus to show Christ in the way they love, give, forgive, and do justice. Whatever you do in this General Synod, he concluded, do it in the name of Jesus.

The bishop concluded by leading General Synod in singing He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands. Members rose for a standing ovation as Bishop Curry left the stage The Primate said they would be giving their prayers to his church and country.

Audit and Financial Statements

Robert Dickson, chair of the Financial Management Committee of General Synod, led off the report on finances. He noted that while deficits, sometimes of a significant magnitude, were persistent during the first decade of the millennium, committed contributions from dioceses had been stable over the past five years and General Synod had been able to maintain balanced budgets without cutting programs.

Archbishop Colin Johnson, chair of the Audit Committee, presented members with three sets of audited financial statements, which he described as symbols of the ministry undertaken by the church. First was the Anglican Church of Canada Resolution Corporation, which had net assets of $1 million located in the Healing Fund. The Anglican Church of Canada Consolidated Trust Fund, for its part, had net assets of $22.1 million at the end of 2015, for a total investment gain of $700,000. Finally, overall revenue and expenses for General Synod were both $12.4 million, in each case four per cent higher than the previous year.

After answering a question from the floor about international commitments to the Anglican Consultative Council, which were included in operating accounts for General Synod, Archbishop Johnson moved three motions, all of which were carried:

  • A150: that the General Synod approve the audited consolidated financial statements of The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada;
  • A151: that the General Synod approve the audited financial statements of The Anglican Church of Canada Consolidated Trust Fund; and
  • A152: that the General Synod approve the audited financial statements of The Anglican Church of Canada Resolution Corporation.

Election—Deputy Prolocutor

Candidates for Deputy Prolocutor included the Ven. Dr. Lynne McNaughton, the Ven. Alan Perry, the Rev. Canon Rob Towler, and the Very. Rev. Peter Wall.

The choice emerged on the third ballot, with the Primate declaring that the Rev. Lynne McNaughton was the new Deputy Prolocutor of General Synod.

Pension Committee

Bishop Philip Poole, chair of the Pension Committee, led a report on pensions. Going forward, the committee had chosen to remove the subsidy that had been provided for early retirement. Most of the changes General Synod would be asked to approve related to changes in trust agreements, the result of work done by the committee in reviewing governance issues.

The bishop put forward five motions, with each including modifications to different areas related to pensions:

  • A180: Continuing Education Plan of the Anglican Church of Canada;
  • A181: Self-Insured Death Benefit Plan;
  • A182: General Synod Pension Plan;
  • A183: Lay Retirement Plan; and
  • A184: Long Term Disability Plan.

All five motions were carried.

Presentations—Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio and Dr. Jose Bringas, Episcopal Church of Cuba

Global Relations Director Andrea Mann introduced the next two speakers, representing the Episcopal Church of Cuba: Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio and Dr. Jose Bringas.

Bishop del Carpio spoke in Spanish through a translator about the close relationship between the Cuban church and the Anglican Church of Canada. She presented Archbishop Hiltz with sculptured artwork made by a Cuban artist that symbolized family, noting that the Cuban and Canadian churches together were a family in faith.

The bishop outlined the history of the church in Cuba stretching back to the 19th century, through to the situation following the Cuban revolution and the severing of relationships between the governments of Cuba and the United States, and the growing relationship between the Cuban and Canadian churches symbolized by the Metropolitan Council of Cuba, chaired by the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

With the recent re-establishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, the Episcopal Church of Cuba faces a changing situation. Yet its relationship with the Anglican Church of Canada continues to grow stronger, bolstered by the office of Global Relations and the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund.

Bishop del Carpio discussed how the Cuban church had redefined its vision, mission, and strategic objectives—increasing evangelistic mission and the number of ordained and lay leaders, consecrating eight new churches in both rural and urban areas, creating pastoral ministries with youth, and working with people in the community including the elderly, those with disabilities, and individuals struggling with alcoholism and other addictions. Within the secular culture of Cuba, the Episcopal church is now very visible due to its involvement in community projects.

Dr. Bringas, director of Strategic Mission Development for the Episcopal Church of Cuba, spoke next, offering insight into the work of the development office. He described paradigmatic changes revolving around sustainability, community work, linking relief and development, putting funds and resources where capacities exist, and working with projects, saving groups, and loans. Sustainable development is a major factor in ongoing projects in Itabo and Cuatro Esquinas, with the organic farm in Itabo promoting food security and income growth within the community as residents sell ever-increasing quantities of vegetables, milk, and preserved foods.

Returning to the podium, Mann highlighted a recent initiative that brought together 25 Canadian and 25 Cuban Anglicans: the first international Justice Camp, based around the theme “Common Good: Promise of the Reign of God.” She presented a video produced by Anglican Video documenting the camp, in which participants engaged in immersion experiences based around food security, economic justice, and social engagement. Through their experience together, which one Canadian participant described as “life-changing,” the Canadians and Cubans grew to better understand each other, their faith, and their commitment to justice in the world.

Noting the enormous challenges the Episcopal Church of Cuba has faced over the years, the Primate praised Bishop del Carpio’s personal leadership and “absolute devotion” to ministry that had been entrusted to her, and said the Canadian and Cuban churches would find creative ways to continue their special relationship. He cited the video of Justice Camp as a beautiful expression of the call, “You Are My Witnesses,” and thanked Anglican Video for its production.

Evening Plenary

Following supper, the Primate read a letter to General Synod from Presiding Bishop Francisco Moreno offering greetings on behalf of the Anglican Church of Mexico. In his letter, Bishop Moreno said Anglicans in Mexico were praying for the work of General Synod.

Marriage Canon—Introduction

The evening plenary revolved around preparing members for their coming discussion on changes to the marriage canon allowing for the blessing of same-sex marriage. The Primate recalled the passing of Resolution C003 at General Synod 2013 and the subsequent establishment of the Commission on the Marriage Canon, which was tasked with finding recommended wording for an enabling motion and conscience clause and produced the report This Holy Estate towards that end.

All members of the commission were present for the presentation. Bishop Linda Nicholls summarized the contents of the commission’s report to CoGS for the General Synod. Canon Paul Jennings discussed their approach to the report as an opportunity for theological reflection and prayerful consideration of responses, and their parameters based on affirming the authority of Scripture, the church’s understanding of marriage, and the integrity of same-sex relationships.

Commission member Stephen Martin explained their rationale, which revolved around a theology of marriage as a covenant, a form of discipleship, and as sacramental. The purposes of marriage are companionship, procreation, and sexuality. The report presents three models for incorporating covenanted, same-sex relationships. To say such a change would be theologically possible, Martin added, is not to say it would be theologically desirable, which is a decision General Synod would have to reach—not by arguments alone, but by prayerful discernment of the movement of the Spirit in its midst.

Members of General Synod proceeded to spend 40 minutes in discussion at their tables based on three questions: What is your overall impression of the report? What does marriage mean for you? Has your understanding of marriage changed in your lifetime? The object of the conversation was not to convince others, but rather to listen and gain a broader understanding of the issue. Each table was to write down additional questions if any arose and to appoint one person to assist facilitators during the later neighbourhood discussion groups.

The plenary ended with an evening prayer before members departed.

Hospitality—Partnerships

Members of General Synod and partners met in the Grand Richmond to end the evening with hospitality and conversation.


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