Unofficial notes of the meeting held November 12 to 14 at Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre, Mississauga ON.
FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 12
opened with worship highlighting the place of the church in the world;
welcomed Gladys Cook and Mervyn Wolfleg, members of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples as partners at this meeting of CoGS;
heard about various aspects of the residential schools situation. The General Secretary, Jim Boyles, said our goals include a continuing commitment to healing and reconciliation; surviving (in whatever form) as an organization capable of carrying on that commitment; and pursuing a resolution with the government that will help to heal the rifts in our society. In an overview of litigation , he said we now have more than 200 lawsuits, involving more than 1,000 plaintiffs, and claims continue to come in. In almost all cases, the diocese in which the school was located is also named, as is the government. There are more cases arising from St. George’s (Lytton) and a large group of cases involving the Gordons School (Saskatchewan) is also moving toward court.
Dr. Eleanor Johnson, director of Partnerships, spoke of the hope that alternative dispute resolution (ADR) processes may offer more humane ways of dealing with plaintiffs, and more opportunities for healing and reconciliation. CoGS has previously authorized participation in two ADR pilot projects and we are exploring possible pilots with government and various groups. This work is moving slowly, as there are stumbling blocks both for churches and for plaintiff groups, and the government is slow to make commitments.
Donna Bomberry, Coordinator of Native Ministries, reported on the church’s healing fund . Since 1991 the fund has given assistance to community-based projects to promote healing and reconciliation. This year, 23 projects have received approximately $140,000 to assist with training community trauma and abuse counsellors, gatherings of former students, translations of resources into Aboriginal languages, gathering stories to memorialize the school experience, training events for clergy, and other projects.
Jim Boyles reported on negotiations with government , with the goal of helping the government understand the structure of the church and the limits of its resources. These negotiations raise the question of the value of churches to the Canadian social fabric.
Jim Cullen, the Treasurer, provided an overview of the church’s financial assets , including insurance. Coverage is extremely limited.
Doug Tindal, director of information resources, gave an overview of the communication aspects . He said the church, in concert with other churches where possible, needs to understand what both the public and church membership know and believe about the residential schools, and about appropriate responses.
Nick Parker, Diocese of Cariboo , spoke of the impacts of the Lytton judgment on his diocese. He expressed gratitude for support received from other parts of the church. There is a positive sense that this is a new beginning, in part because so much time had been given previously to the healing work. People are aware that great challenges lie ahead, but there is incredible energy in the diocese.
Helena Rose Houldcroft, Diocese of Qu’Appelle , said the diocese is facing over 200 actions and doesn’t have the assets to cover those claims. “Our concern is not with sustaining buildings, but with addressing all the victims and getting the compensation to the people who need it most…. We have to realize that we’re all in this together, and if Cariboo, Qu’Appelle and the General Synod are never going to look the same, then none of us is going to look the same.”
engaged in bible study on Isaiah 61:1-4, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me.”
began a four-part process on human rights using a model for dealing with controversial or conflict-laden issues. Nan Cressman, a conflict mediator with Mennonite Conciliation Services, facilitated. “Conflict in the church is like pain in our bodies. It’s one of the ways God gets our attention and says, “Beloved, there’s something here I need you to pay attention to.'”
Acts 15:1-35 provides a model for this work: There was “no small dissension” in the early church about the necessities for being a Christian. The model of the Jerusalem Council suggests 11 guidelines for healing divisions, including: a structure for discussion of differences; people sharing personal experiences; careful listening; reconciliation of scripture and tradition with the working of the Spirit today. In session one , focussing on ” the language of rights and responsibilities ,” two members spoke of what was most important to them in considering the “Covenant of Protection” as it was proposed to the 1998 General Synod. Others listened and sought to summarize accurately, before sharing their own views in table groups.
received the report of the Council of the North . It is taking some actions to reduce costs; an interpretive video is in production (co-sponsored by Anglican Appeal); it discussed the request from the Diocese of Quebec that it become a member of the Council and did not make a decision, but did make a grant to the diocese of $40,000.
received the information report of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund . The fund has a Gender and Development policy which seeks to ensure that men and women benefit equally from the development process. A recent workshop has provided analytical tools that will help it achieve this goal.
A position on slavery redemption programs which arose in response to questions from PWRDF donors generated considerable media attention. After research, PWRDF opposed the practice based on a conviction that buying slaves, even to redeem them, can only perpetuate slavery.
discussed a proposal that the PWRDF incorporate separately. Some legal opinion indicates that, without incorporation, money donated for development could, in some circumstances, potentially be diverted for legal fees. The PWRDF committee recommends a separate incorporation as a means of assuring future donors that their wishes will be respected. After discussion in committee of the whole, a small committee was struck to draft a resolution.
adopted the 1998 audited financial statements on recommendation from the Financial Management and Development Committee ; and received the 2000 budget for subsequent discussion and debate. The budget assumes the scale of General Synod operations will continue; residential schools settlements will produce a deficit (estimated at $1.15 million) to be funded from the reserve of the Missionary Society of the Church in Canada (MSCC). During the year, a longer-term strategy will be developed.
discussed human rights issues related to employment and marital status in session two . Again, two members gave their perspectives, one as employer, one as employee. Members listened, summarized, then discussed in table groups.
heard the Primate’s reflections on his time since the last meeting. Church leaders were invited to meet with the Prime Minister in April. It was the first such meeting in 16 years, and it came at the invitation of the PM, largely because the churches were supporting the government’s stand on international nuclear disarmament. In the event, the meeting became more complex because of churches’ opposition to Canada’s action in Kosovo, which arose after the invitation had been issued. “So it was a fascinating meeting. We wanted to support him in some areas and challenge him in others.”
Later Archbishop Peers represented Canadian churches at a gathering in Budapest, organized by the World Council of Churches and the European Council of Churches, on the role of churches in the Kosovo war . “North American churches were generally dubious about that war. In Europe it was very different. The Dutch churches, for example, were completely behind NATO. They saw it as a straightforward issue of human rights — violators get what they deserve. Many of us were astonished by that kind of hard-line perception.
“What came out of it though I hope may bear fruit in years to come. Many of us, when asked to decide about the justifiability of war, use criteria — great, historic criteria — that have been part of our tradition for centuries, but that have been largely overtaken by events.” Archbishop Peers noted that perceptions about ‘the rules of war’ have changed radically. “The outcome, I think, is that churches have to get together on a worldwide level to talk about what in these times constitutes justification for going to war .”
Archbishop Peers spent considerable time reflecting on the current situation of the church in the midst of substantial litigation, with a great deal of resulting anxiety. Immediately after the first court decision there was a sense of “peering into the abyss; now there’s some drawing back and recognizing we’re not right on the edge. The future will not be the same as the present, or the past, but we have time to consider and reflect on our future.”
The Primate said he has replaced his planned sabbatical project with a commitment to use his time (January-April, 2000) to reflect on the fundamental principles, such as partnership, which have evolved to guide the work of General Synod, and to investigate other patterns of guidance and unity. “There are many other means of governance in the communion and in our own history. But what are the values which, if a number of things have to be sacrificed, need to be enshrined?”
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 13
opened with morning prayer
reflected on our current context and strategic plan . The General Secretary noted that a major fund-raising plan in the 1980s, allowed significant growth. Afterward, however, regular givings could not sustain the level of activity. A revenue crisis prompted serious examination of mission and strategy. A mission statement was adopted in 1992, and a strategic plan in 1995. The plan has been before us and directed our work, and has stood up fairly well. Events now before us, however, raise a question about whether we can continue, and how we might make changes.
“The May 2000 meeting of CoGS will need to give critical direction to the shape of the General Synod in 2001 and beyond. This morning we’ll begin looking at our obligations, threats and opportunities , in light of the current situation. In table groups, members developed lists of core values which should guide future consideration of what changes, if any, are needed to the strategic plan; and what kind of options should be brought to the May 2000 meeting of CoGS.
discussed “homosexuality as an issue underlying the human rights discussion in session three , following the same model as previously.
approved a change in the dates of General Synod . The synod will still begin on Wednesday July 4 at 7 p.m., but will conclude at noon the following Wednesday, July 11, earlier than originally scheduled. The move responds to evaluations;
established the theme of General Synod 2001 as Towards Healing, Reconciliation and The New Life .
received the report of the Officers and established a steering committee to oversee the residential schools work . Its mandate includes (among others): developing strategies for litigation and alternative dispute resolution which are consistent with the long term goals of the church; and developing strategies for pursuing healing and reconciliation within Canadian society; and authorized the Officers to make decisions that are necessary before the next meeting of CoGS.
received the report of the General Secretary, including an update on diocesan consultations.
concluded the human rights process in a fourth session by setting aside the proposed solution embodied in the documents (Covenant of Protection) put before the last General Synod, and enquiring into what goals they were intended to achieve. After discussion, agreed goals included:
- promoting fair employment practices
- naming/acknowledging those who have been denied fair treatment
- decreasing gap between practice and statement
- promoting transparency, honesty, openness
- communicating to a secular world that which we profess to believe
- holding ourselves accountable
- increasing our credibility on human rights
- providing a unifying common standard for the church
- protecting the vulnerable
- showing fidelity to scripture
- inspiring and motivating the church to greater action on behalf of the dignity and fair treatment of all
agreed , these are still valid goals and brainstormed ways of meeting them. Ideas:
- take out items we don’t agree on; narrow the scope;
- produce another document accompanied by images, music, right-brain stuff
- use a story-telling process like this to hear with respect, get a sense of emerging common ground and deeper interests
- create a litany of repentance toward those in whom we haven’t seen the face of Christ
- create a hymn
- focus on the employment issue separately
- tell the church about the work we’ve done on this.
celebrated the ministry of Mr. Justice David Wright, Chancellor of General Synod from 1987 to 1999, over dinner;
received the report of the Faith Worship and Ministry committee and supported the Cambridge Accord , a response to increasing violence against homosexual persons. It says no one should be deprived of civil rights or subject to violence because of their sexual orientation; and endorsed a process for agreeing on a common date for Easter among members of the World Council of Churches.
returned to the Financial Management and Development committee and approved the 2000 budget;
heard a report from A.J. Finlay, our representative to the World Council of Churches central committee. Much of the recent world assembly, in Harare, was overshadowed by internal concerns related to the membership of the Orthodox churches. The most exciting time was a visit from Nelson Mandela. The process at the central committee is extremely formal, but the committee is beginning to see itself more as an enabling body.
There were a number of significant workshops, including one on the World Trade Organization, which has a significant and growing influence on Canada and the world. “As churches we should be paying more attention to that than we are.”
There is a proposal for a ” Decade To Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace ,” beginning in 2001. This will largely correspond to a UN-sponsored decade relating to the effect of violence on children and women.
“Somebody said to me, ‘is it [the WCC] a good bang for our buck? Should we be involved at this level?’ I think yes. For example, the Archbishop of Albania, probably the poorest nation in Europe, told us that during the Kosovo crisis his church looked after 20,000 Muslim refugees, made possible by a WCC grant. It’s important to be involved and to know about that work.”
Archbishop Peers said the value of belonging to such organizations is “not where we find convergence, but precisely where we find challenge.”
received a report on the Anglican Consultative Council meeting held in Scotland in September. (Notes from Steven Toope, our lay representative; additional comments by Michael Peers, attending as a member of the Primates Standing Committee.) The Archbishop of Canterbury’s opening address was controversial for its criticism of two primates: Moses Tay of Singapore and Richard Holloway of Scotland. Tay had forbidden Singapore’s Episcopal representative to attend the meeting since it was being held in ‘a heretical Province.’ Holloway’s recent book contained some ideas the Archbishop called ‘unacceptable.’ “It became a very bad beginning.”
There was significant discussion about an Anglican Congress, and a suggestion that it be held in conjunction with the next Lambeth Congress, in 2008. Archbishop Peers commented: “If it happens, it will change the future of Anglicanism. It will radically change the processes, and push the question of what hold us together right up front.”
The mission report (Missio) was heavily influenced by Canada. Indeed, the principles which underlie mission in the communion came from Canada in 1971.
The Virginia Report , which began as a statement of unity, is becoming a source of authority.
“We are known for our expertise. One example is the gift we’ve made of 20 percent of Eric Beresford’s time.” (Beresford is consultant on ethics and interfaith dialogue for Faith Worship and Ministry.)
closed with prayer and thanksgiving for our partners, those who represent us elsewhere, those who serve the church in Canada, both volunteers and staff, and for our work this day.
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 14
opened with a Eucharist. Reflecting on the gospel reading, the parable of the talents (Mt. 25:14-30), Archbishop Peers noted we are coming to the end of 500 years of European colonization and domination. “Like the millennium, it’s ending, and things are changing. Some of us have benefited enormously; others haven’t. Now we are called into a process of reconciliation and healing, a process that begins, perhaps, with an apology, and makes its way through a very difficult stage called ‘restitution.’ What will that look like? What will it cost, in dollars and otherwise?
The Primate recalled some of the values that Council members had identified in this meeting as core values — things like honesty, justice and faithfulness. “As we move through this period of restitution, our temptation will be to take those things we hold dear, and bury them: hide them away to keep them safe. Jesus is telling us that is not the way for us. We are called to use our talents, put them out to risk, and only in that way can they increase in their capacity to enrich life.”
reviewed the values that had been developed in table groups to guide planning for 2001 and beyond, including honesty, justice, love, faithfulness, openness, vulnerability, the Gospel, respect for diversity, commitment, confidence, compassion, integrity, partnership and reconciliation; and worked in table groups to identify the strategic priorities we should focus on in preparing scenarios for 2001; and the values that should be present in all such scenarios; and other information and questions that will be useful for the May meeting of the Council.
approved changes to the General Synod Pension Plan and Lay Retirement Plan regulations to bring them into compliance with Ontario law. Changes in the law and court rulings require the plans to provide survivor benefits to “domestic partners,” as to spouses; and heard that the pension committee is beginning an investigation of considerations in regard to ethical investing; and noted that stress-related applications to the long-term disability plan are increasing.
received the report of the Ecojustice committee and endorsed the Campaign Against Child Poverty , a coalition of public interest and child advocacy groups; and committed itself to supporting year two of the Jubilee initiative on the theme Redistribution of Wealth , and encouraged diocese and parishes to declare themselves Jubilee Communities; and heard that the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada has called on the federal government to renew its funding for scientific study of the groundfish industry: “To us in the Atlantic Provinces, the collapse of the fisheries is the greatest justice issue we deal with.”
returned to the Primate’s World Relief and Development Committee report and asked the Treasurer and General Secretary of General Synod and the Director of PWRDF to investigate further the possible incorporation of PWRDF and bring a final report, with options and recommendations, to the May meeting;
heard that the Officer’s have decided to proceed with an appeal in the St. George’s Lytton case.
heard our Partners’ reflections . Jon Fogleman of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada said he perceives our church as “a church placed under siege by its government.” He encouraged members to continue responding in faith. Warren Ramshaw of ECUSA said “we have a fundamental obligation to be stewards of our own history. If we have not provided material for writing our history, someone else will.” Mervin Wolfleg of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples said his people are continuing to suffer from their domination by Western culture. “The bright light of the gospel was used to suppress, oppress and control our people but we heard the message and now we are using the light of the gospel as an instrument of peace for our people.” He said the loss of aboriginal culture also caused the loss of traditional dispute-settling mechanisms. “The result is litigation. If you hadn’t taken these things away from us we wouldn’t be in this situation now.”
received the report of the Information Resources committee and mandated the development of an information technology strategy , with the Financial Management and Development committee to take the lead role; and heard that the Anglican Journal , in addition to its continuing news coverage, has commissioned a major three-part series on residential schools tentatively scheduled for April, May and June.
received the report of the House of Bishops and appointed a task force to consider the jurisdiction of dioceses and diocesan bishops and ecclesiastical provinces with respect to discipline and doctrine .
received the report of the Mission Coordination Group
received the report of Partnerships and heard that our international partners will be cautioned about the possibility that grants may be reduced in 2001.
received the report of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples ; and sang Happy Birthday to Donna Bomberry, the Indigenous Ministries Coordinator; and appointed 10 non-aboriginal observer-participants to the Anglican Indigenous Sacred Circle , August 17-29, 2000.
dissolved itself (as CoGS) and recrystalized as the Missionary Society of the Church in Canada; and approved the use of funds in the MSCC reserves to pay settlements from residential schools.
adjourned as MSCC and reconstituted itself as CoGS.
referred to the Socially Responsible Investment Group the question of divesting General Synod’s holdings in Talisman Corporation as part of a continuing effort to curb the civil war in the Sudan. There is concern that profits from Talisman’s oil development in that country may fund arms purchases and prolong the conflict.
Record terminates with some items remaining on agenda.