Anglican Church of Canada

Highlights from the Council of General Synod: June 24, 2017

National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald speaks about the proposed structure for Indigenous self-determination within the Anglican Church of Canada at the June 2017 meeting of the Council of General Synod. Photo by Matt Gardner

View a PDF version of Highlights from the Council of General Synod: June 24, 2017.

Council members gathered after breakfast at 8:45 a.m. at the Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre in Mississauga.

Eucharist

LCdr The Rev. Beverly Kean-Newhook presided at the morning Eucharist, which featured a reflection from Bishop Sidney Black.

Orders of the Day

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, thanked LCdr Kean-Newhook and Bishop Black for their contributions. He also welcomed National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald to the meeting.

Peter Wall presented the Orders of the Day. Lynne McNaughton, chair of Nominations Committee, offered an update on nominations for different positions.

CoGS Working Group on the Marriage Canon

McNaughton then detailed some of the work performed by the Council of General Synod (CoGS) Working Group on the Marriage Canon since the last council meeting in November.

Thus far members of the working group have held two teleconferences, in April and May. At the November CoGS meeting, the working group had been given a mandate asking for translations of This Holy Estate to be provided to Indigenous Anglican communities; for referrals and resources to be available for dioceses and provinces; and for CoGS members to invite their dioceses to indicate their need for resources or share resources used, and to return said information to the Office of the General Secretary by March 15, 2017. Of the latter resolution, McNaughton said that only a couple of dioceses had sent anything to the General Secretary. Meanwhile, the working group was compiling a list of resources to add to those already online for provinces and dioceses to access in their conversations about the Marriage Canon.

On the matter of translation, McNaughton said the working group had had many conversations about the subject, consulted with Bishop Mark MacDonald, the Rev. Ginny Doctor, and others but had been given indication that translation of documents into Indigenous languages would not be helpful at this point in time. At the same time, it was aware of the need to communicate this to wider church, since such translations were called for at the last General Synod. The matter would return back to the working group for further discussion and action.

At the November 2017 meeting of CoGS, the working group plans to lead plan to lead CoGS through a listening process to promote respectful and generous conversation, with the desired outcome of each member being able to articulate the opinion of the other. Afterwards they would, on behalf of CoGS, draft a letter to provincial synods discussing the value of understanding different positions, and sharing the CoGS listening experience.

Provincial synods will be invited to draw on these lessons as they each develop their own process for conversations about amendments to the marriage canon as they see fit, leading up to the second reading of the proposed amendment at General Synod 2019. The working group will also continue to explore ways to have conversations with the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) around the marriage canon changes.

Bishop Sidney Black, co-chair of ACIP and a member of the working group, spoke further on the question of translating This Holy Estate. He noted that there had been discussions within ACIP about translating the document, and he had also had discussions with National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald and Indigenous Ministries Coordinator Ginny Doctor on the issue of translations. The prevalent feeling was that considering the necessary time, use of resources, and deciding which of the many different Indigenous languages the text was to be translated into—and because of comprehensiveness of document—that might be a difficult thing to do. While deciding not to purse translation at the moment, they plan to keep the conversation regarding translation going within ACIP.

The Primate inquired whether there had been any discussion of translating only the executive summary of This Holy Estate into Indigenous languages. General Secretary Michael Thompson noted that a separate meeting had been held between Bishop MacDonald, the Rev. Doctor, Communications Director Meghan Kilty, and himself. Those present had received “strong advice” that translations of the executive summary would not be useful, and that it would be more productive to find other means of engagement—especially for communities that would not have opportunity to read this in our own language—through face-to-face conversations with elders.

Archbishop Hiltz expressed some anxiety that the position taken on translations may be received with dismay on the part of some members of General Synod, including Indigenous members, who were asking for translation work to be done. While fully aware that translating This Holy Estate in its entirety would be a monumental task, the Primate highlighted the need to be mindful of the request that had been made by General Synod, but said there was some “real work to be done” in terms of face-to-face engagement.

During the discussion, one Indigenous CoGS member asked why some dioceses were already marrying same-sex couples, which her people did not understand given that the church was currently debating passing an amendment to the marriage canon to change the rules. Reconciliation animator Melanie Delvia, meanwhile, said that in many Indigenous communities there was still a longing for basic resources such as Bibles and prayer books to be translated into Indigenous languages, and asked how the church would prioritize translation of different materials.

The Primate said that the church is being guided in these questions by the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop and ACIP, and agreed that the translation of such materials into Indigenous languages was a huge priority that had been highlighted in the General Secretary’s report. He thanked McNaughton for her report on the working group.

Living Wage and Church House Staff

General Secretary Michael Thompson delivered a brief presentation on the topic of a living wage and salaries for staff at Church House in Toronto. He thanked treasurer and CFO Hanna Goschy for her research that underpinned the report.

A living wage, Thompson said, is typically defined in terms of what two full-time working adults would need to earn in order to support themselves and two dependent children—an amount that will be different in different communities, depending on the cost of food and housing. An internal assessment had determined that all salaried employees of General Synod are currently receiving a salary that exceeds the living wage. However, it had also discovered that a small amount of part-time casual contracts in the past had been paid less than the living wage, though more than the provincial minimum wage. As a result, General Synod had adjusted the base rate for casual workers at Church House to meet the standard of a living wage.

In response to a question about the difficulty of paying a living wage for clergy, lay ministers, and church employees in northern regions and/or Indigenous communities where the cost of living is higher, the General Secretary acknowledged that there were deep concerns about justice for non-stipendiary ministries, and said that the church had been attempting to figure out a solution for 20 years. He noted that General Synod has no authority over the employment practices of dioceses, though it has the ability to foster discussion. Thompson and Archbishop Hiltz both suggested it would be beneficial for CoGS to have a conversation on the issue before communicating with the House of Bishops.

The Primate wondered aloud whether it might be helpful if CoGS were to support an initiative, on behalf of himself and the General Secretary, to perhaps invite three members of CoGS to work with them on beginning to address that conversation. A majority of council members voted in support of the measure. Bishop Black encouraged the council to put an Indigenous member on any such working group.

Members broke for coffee from 10:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Yours, Mine, Ours

Reconciliation Animator Melanie Delva resumed the day’s session after the break with a presentation on work related to her new position. An animator, she explained, is someone who leads and encourages participation in a particular activity, especially in cultural and artistic activity. After touching on her own background, Delvia described the role of reconciliation animator as helping building a network of reconciliation teams, contacts, and initiatives; mentoring of the response to the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and helping provide ongoing responses to calls for justice from Indigenous communities.

Since coming on board as reconciliation animator on June 1, Delva had reaching out to diocesan representatives tasked with reconciliation, and was meeting people at Church House whose work overlaps with reconciliation, such as Anglican Healing Fund Coordinator Esther Wesley. She next planned to move on to discussions with ecumenical partners such as KAIROS Canada to gauge what are they doing and how the Anglican Church of Canada can work together to be inspiring to them. From there, she will connect with representatives of national Indigenous groups, such as the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations to see what, if anything, the church might do to help build partnerships.

Delva reiterated her view that reconciliation is a spiritual practice, both individual and corporate. This belief, she said, was borne out of her own spiritual practice in this area as well as from the gospel itself, describing stories such as the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son as narratives about reconciliation. “Undoing system of oppression,” Delva added, “requires constant and active listening to the voices of those who are being oppressed.”

A planned discussion responding to reconciliation animation was moved to later in the day to accommodate a presentation by ACIP members who were present.

Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples

National Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald and Indigenous Ministries Coordinator Ginny Doctor led a presentation on ACIP and three related documents.

The first document was a pastoral letter to CoGS from the Office of the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, which offered an update since the last Sacred Circle on progress towards self-determination for Indigenous people within the Anglican Church of Canada. In August 2015, Sacred Circle had asked the church to move forward with Indigenous self-determination, endorsing the concept of a “fifth province” or equivalent.

A focus group had been formed to coordinate work, consisting of co-chairs Larry Beardy and Donna Bomberry as well as Sidney Black, Sol Sanderson, Vincent Solomon, Ginny Doctor, Lydia Mamakwa, Mark MacDonald, Adam Halkett and Annie Ittoshat. After numerous consultations, the focus group had came up with the idea of forming a Confederacy of Indigenous Ministries, with the word “confederacy” carrying a certain weight due to its associations with Indigenous history such as the Iroquois Confederacy. The task of the Confederacy would be to incorporate various Indigenous congregations, jurisdictions, and so on into a national Indigenous ministry.

One prevailing idea at the moment is a type of “dual citizenship”, in which an individual church could have a type of dual citizenship in the geographic diocese, but also as a part of the Sacred Circle. Just as General Synod has empowered two provinces (B.C. Yukon and Ontario) to be self-determining, in the same way General Synod would have to empower this body to make its own rules and to govern itself. Congregations, clergy, and others would develop a relationship with the Sacred Circle at some level; some would come under the jurisdiction of Sacred Circle, while others would remain under dual affiliation.

Doctor, Bomberry, and Solomon have been assigned to “flesh out” some of the ideas that emerged from the focus group. The trio have met twice at Six Nations in recent months over corn soup, and the content of each meeting had been submitted to CoGS in the form of two reports documenting the “corn soup meetings”. A key theme Doctor highlighted was the need to preserve traditional Indigenous values with Christian values underscoring their similarity, or in some cases congruence.

Major areas ACIP wishes to promote include its Indigenous catechist training program, which Doctor said had “achieved a level of success beyond my imagination,” suicide prevention, healing circles, and elders and youth circles. The report on the second corn soup meeting also included a projected budget for the National Office coordinating efforts towards the proposed Confederacy. The National Office will remain based in Toronto, but will require additional resources.

Following the ACIP presentation, Archbishop Hiltz spoke about the 10-year anniversary of Bishop MacDonald’s appointment as National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, fondly recalling the “great celebration” that was had that day. He spoke of MacDonald’s time as the Bishop of Alaska, his musical talents and frequent gospel jams that had led many to dub him the “rock ‘n’ roll bishop”, and his aptitude as a scholar. The Primate presented Bishop MacDonald with a certificate from ACIP celebrating his 10 years as National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, as well as a gift. Archbishop Hiltz and Bishop Sidney Black then led a prayer for Bishop MacDonald.

Members broke for lunch from noon until 1:30 p.m.

Bible Study

The afternoon session began with a Bible study in which council members read Mark 6:17-29, discussing the passage among their table groups.

Audited Financial Statements

Bishop Fraser Lawton, supported by General Synod treasurer and CFO Hanna Goschy, next presented the report of the Financial Management Committee, presenting audited financial statements for the Anglican Church of Canada Resolution Corporation, the Anglican Church of Canada Consolidated Trust Fund, and the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. Each statement concerned the finances for the respective organization as of Dec. 31, 2016.

After some engagement and an opportunity to ask questions, CoGS received four resolutions. Representatives of the Financial Management Committee put forward the resolutions before the council, all four of which were adopted.

Resolution

Be it resolved that the Council of General Synod approve the audited financial statements of the Anglican Church of Canada Resolution Corporation for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2016.

Resolution

Be it resolved that the Council of General Synod approve the audited financial statements of the Consolidated Trust Fund for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2016.

Resolution

Be it resolved that the Council of General Synod approve the audited financial statements of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2016.

Resolution

Be it resolved that the Council of General Synod approve the appointment of Grant Thornton LLP as auditor for General Synod for fiscal year 2017, at a fee determined by the Audit Committee.

Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation, and Justice

Before presenting an update from the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation, Canon Andrew Wesley and Bishop Riscylla Walsh Shaw reminded council that the last time the Commission reported to CoGS, the report had been delivered by “our dear friend” Archbishop Terry Finlay, the former co-chair of the commission who died earlier this year. CoGS members subsequently took a moment to remember Archbishop Finlay.

Canon Wesley began an account of the last meeting of the Primate’s Commission, which took place in Winnipeg at the Hampton Inn from May 11-14, 2017. The meeting opened on a Thursday with a smudging ceremony, prayers to the Four Directions, and a blessing of the sacred space using tobacco. Commission members moved into a sharing circle, and after catching up on their individual activities since the last meeting, moved into various agenda items requiring attention. During an afternoon break, many members visited the local Human Rights Museum.

On Friday, the commission heard presentations from Melanie Delva, reconciliation animator, and Ryan Weston lead animator for Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice. They also heard reports from Bishop Donald Phillips and Vincent Solomon, urban Indigenous ministry developer, both from the Diocese of Rupert’s Land. Members looked at the report of recommendations made to General Synod in 2016, then took time set aside to remember Archbishop Finlay.

Bishop Shaw then moved into the events of Saturday, May 13, which saw a presentation by Bishop Mark MacDonald on “reclaiming responsibility”, discussion of First Nations treaties in today’s context, and calling governments to accountability. Members agreed unanimously that Delva would serve as an advisor to the commission. They had a conversation on Indigenous self-determination within the Anglican Church of Canada, looking at the TRC Calls to Action—particularly #48, which pertains to how churches would comply with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

Recognition of traditional territories in all church and diocesan events across Canada, as well as education in Indigenous history, came up. The commission talked about how member Jennifer Henry, also director of Kairos, would work on collaborating to create a “reconciliation map” with all stakeholders. Among other items, they talked about how each commission member might communicate with their MPs to support Bill C-262, which would require the laws of Canada to be in compliance with UNDRIP.

The Primate thanked the members for coming out, and prayed that God would continue to bless the good work the commission has done. He noted that this work touches on many other aspects of our life as the church national.

Members broke for coffee from 3 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Communications and Information Resources Coordinating Committee and Anglican Journal Coordinating Committee Reports

Karen Egan, representative of the Communications and Information Resources Coordinating Committee, next reported on a joint project with the Anglican Journal Coordinating Committee.

The initiative grew out of a meeting in the Diocese of Rupert’s Land, which had decided they would no longer distribute a print edition of their own diocesan newspaper. The diocese may still provide an online paper, and make PDFs available so individuals and groups could print out their own copies. The diocese chose this course of action for two reasons: In part, members wished to focus their resources on online communication, but they also believed going electronic would dovetail with their own diocesan mission to become more green and environmentally friendly.

Offering additional context, Egan said that such a decision was by no means exceptional, and that many dioceses are reviewing their communications strategy. In the general media world, print editions are under continuous pressure as costs increase and consumer demand for online communication continues to rise. The request of the Diocese of Rupert’s Land, and its potential impacts, mean that we can no longer ignore the issue, Egan said.

The formation of a working group was a joint effort by the two coordinating committees, and its makeup includes two co-chairs (Bishop William Cliff and Egan), two other members (Ian Alexander and another member to be determined), and two staff members (Meghan Kilty, director of communications, and Tess Sison, editor of the Anglican Journal). In their initial meetings, the group found that the question of print and online media was very complex, due to the interrelated issues of finances, structures, and strategy, where change in one area can precipitate unexpected changes in other areas.

Numerous questions arose: Could we save money by not printing the paper, and directing our readers to online equivalents? Does an online news source deliver the same experience as a newspaper? Do we reach more people when we publish online? Do we need to increase our engagement with Anglicans across the country, and could an online community achieve that?

Taken together, these questions pointed to the need for a Coherent Communications Strategy, which would answer the issues of how and with whom the church communicates, the nature of our communication objectives, the best use of our resources, and where the Anglican Journal would fit into this strategy.

The mandate of the working group was based on the aforementioned concerns and covered three main areas:

  1. Responding to the Diocese of Rupert’s Land, which continues to wait as General Synod works out what to do with their “genuine, whole-hearted” request. The group hopes to produce an interim response soon.
  2. Research and consultation that will begin to develop options for future distribution models for the Anglican Journal, and its connection with web resources that the Communications and Information Resources department currently produces
  3. Strategy for future directions.

The Primate thanked Egan for her presentation and said the CoGS could expect a more substantial report at its next meeting in November.

Yours, Mine, Ours (continued)

Reconciliation Animator Melanie Delva then returned to the podium to pose the discussion questions for the council based on her presentation earlier in the day, the discussion having been moved to accommodate other agenda items. Questions included:

Responses from table groups often spoke to members’ personal experiences. Some wondered how to respond to frustration and anger they felt about colonialism, frustration with the process of reconciliation thus far, and feelings of anger and shame about being complicit in the oppression and subjugation of Indigenous peoples. They declared the need for honesty in taking the next steps forward with courage and hopefulness, accepting the “painful reality” that the privilege of many was based on the non-privilege of others.

Delva thanked the members for their contributions and their willingness to engage each other with difficult questions that can often evoke feelings of vulnerability and fear. Yet she expressed a confidence in progress towards reconciliation, noting, “I know that this is possible, because I’ve seen it in my own life … I know it’s possible because Christ told us that it is. It’s his mission, and his kingdom come.” 

Elections

Bishop Lawton then provided updates on election results. Martha Tatarnic was elected by acclamation to serve on the General Synod Planning Committee, having previously served in the same position in 2016. Similarly, Melissa Green from the Province of B.C. Yukon and Bishop John Chapman from the Province of Ontario were both elected by acclamation to the Anglican Award of Merit Committee.

Council members then voted for the positions of bishop (alternate), lay delegate, and alternate to attend the Anglican Consultative Council in 2019. Four bishops were nominated for the first position, including William Cliff, Greg Kerr-Wilson, Larry Robertson, and Riscylla Walsh Shaw.

Meanwhile, six candidates were put forward for lay delegate and alternate, with the winners having the most and second-most votes, respectively. Candidates included Ian Alexander, Ann Bourke, Melanie Delva, Rob Dixon, Tara Munn, and John Rye.

Members broke for hospitality from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and supper from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Human Trafficking Workplan

Archbishop Hiltz thanked the Planning and Agenda Team for freeing up time for the council so that it could concentrate on the matter of human trafficking for the duration of the evening.

Global Relations Director Andrea Mann began the evening session on human trafficking, directing the attention of CoGS to a report from the Partners in Mission Committee, which included a resolution council members would later vote on, and a new web hub for human trafficking on the national Anglican Church of Canada website that would go online after the conclusion of the present CoGS meeting.

After the Primate led a prayer for all those affected by human trafficking, members watched a video on human trafficking that underscored the massive scope of the “industry”. Ninety-three per cent of human trafficking victims in Canada come from within its borders. The biggest risk factor for falling victim to human trafficking in Canada is simply being a girl. With the rise of live streaming sex acts with children over the Internet, the Philippines is currently the global epicentre of human trafficking, but Canadians are a major part of the demand. The majority of children being trafficked in Canada are Indigenous. While there is often talk of human trafficking victims, there is comparatively little discussion of the perpetrators who fuel and sustain this industry.

Following the video, the Primate led another prayer for all those enslaved by the sex trade. Mann then spoke about Anglican efforts to combat human trafficking.

Following the Anglican Consultative Council’s 2012 resolution, the result of years of work by the International Anglican Women’s Network and International Anglican Family Network, many initiatives have emerged to fight human trafficking. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has repeatedly pledged to lead the Anglican Communion in the struggle against human trafficking, and participated with Pope Francis in the Rome launch of the Global Freedom of Network in 2014 to combat human trafficking. In February 2017, Welby pledged with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew to fight human trafficking.

The Anglican Alliance, meanwhile, has been working to turn these high-level statements and commitments into action. Besides encouraging parishes to take part in Freedom Sunday—an annual day of prayer, worship, and action to stop human trafficking—the Alliance had produced a draft strategic framework for a response to end modern slavery and human trafficking. Though the draft framework offered numerous concrete details, the broad categories of its approach included:

Ryan Weston, lead animator for Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice, then discussed some of those groups most at risk for human trafficking in Canada, which include any girl anywhere in the country, particularly Indigenous; poor young men and women on the streets, youth in care; and people are being exploited in the sex trade and for domestic labour, agricultural labour, and in manufacturing, restaurants, and hotels.

Many Anglicans are already working on this issue, Weston noted. Some of the ways Anglicans are doing this is direct work with people involved in human trafficking, such as outreach and ministry to victims of sex trafficking and agricultural workers, and offering pastoral support to families who have lost track of their own family members.

Anglicans are also engaged in the work of advocacy. Many parishes, dioceses, and staff and ministries of General Synod were and are very active in calling for a government inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, one of the TRC Calls to Action. During the #22Days project in 2015, Anglican churches across the country rang their bells to raise awareness of missing and murdered Indigenous women. Many Anglicans are involved in pushing for a federal strategy on human trafficking, which currently does not exist; even getting remotely accurate numbers in Canada on human trafficking is difficult. General Synod staff members plan to have a map on the human trafficking web hub soon, where people will be able to connect to work going on across the country.

John VanStone, an assistant parish priest at St. Paul’s in Kingston, Ont., and part-time civilian chaplain at Canadian Forces Base Kingston, spoke next to share his own experience in the fight against human trafficking. He reiterated different ways that Anglicans could help combat human trafficking by raising awareness, lobbying for policy change, taking front-line action through outreach to both victims and perpetrators, intercessory prayer, and generosity to support the above.

VanStone also discussed the Ragdoll Prayer Project, an initiative begun by Anglican Renewal Ministries that uses the creation, display, and distribution of ragdolls to raise awareness of human trafficking and encourage intercessory prayer and action. Anyone can take part in the Ragdoll Prayer Project by gathering people who enjoy sewing, distributing fabric and patterns for sewing, hosting workshops that mix sewing ragdolls, prayer, and sharing information on human trafficking; and creating a display showcasing the ragdolls.

It was then that one CoGS member approached the microphone to offer an emotional account of her own encounter with human trafficking. Months after she began working at a hotel in Niagara Falls at the age of 20, the member recalled, a woman came in with a young girl who looked no older than 14. The two looked similar enough to be mother and daughter—though they were not—and stayed at the hotel for two weeks, during which the woman would come and speak to the CoGS member regularly. At the end of two weeks, a pair of undercover police offers came to the hotel declaring that they suspected human trafficking was taking place in the hotel. It turned out to be that same woman, whom they placed under arrest.

The CoGS member tearfully related feeling “horrible” for talking to the woman and unwittingly accepting tips without knowing that she was interacting with a perpetrator of human trafficking. After the woman was arrested, police combed through her hotel room and found needles and drug paraphernalia everywhere. The CoGS member expressed her anguish over the fact that she had seen the young girl at the front desk and had not said anything, not knowing the girl was a victim of trafficking: “I just wish that I could have known…”

Her story left a powerful impact on the rest of the council, which remained silent until the Primate thanked the member for her courage in sharing her story and reminding CoGs of how close to home the issue of human trafficking is. The Primate hoped that having shared the story, she would know the love, support, and prayers of the council.

Members then voted on the resolution related to human trafficking, adopting it unanimously.

Resolution

Be it resolved that the Council of General Synod endorse Resolution 15:10 The Trafficking of Persons of the Anglican Consultative Council 2012, urging Provinces to:

After the resolution passed, Archbishop Hiltz thanked the speakers for their presentation, and the CoGS member who had shared her story for bearing witness. With a lit candle in hand, the Primate led other council members bearing icons and candles in a silent procession to the chapel for evening prayer.

Holden Evening Prayer

Evening prayer took place in the chapel of the Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre.

Members adjourned the meeting for the day at 9 p.m. and subsequently enjoyed an evening social until 11 p.m.