We envision a church growing in membership, faith and service in God’s world

Spring, 2005, Mississauga, Ont.

(Queen of Apostles)

Friday, May 6

Members gathered in the chapel for Bible study, worship and community building.

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, the Primate, thanked the chaplain, Archbishop Terry Finlay and the Planning and Agenda Team. He introduced partners from the Anglican Council of Indigenous People, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Communication Director Sam Carriere introduced Josie De Lucia and Diana Mavunduse, who will be working with media during the meeting.

The Primate introduced a “writing team” that will work on a statement to the church and a response to the Anglican Consultative Council during the meeting. The writing team consists of John Steele, Sue Moxley, Allen Box and Larry Beardy, with Sam Carriere as staff support.

Jim Cowan, chair of the Planning and Agenda Team, explained the structure of the meeting: today will consist of listening and gathering information; tomorrow will deal with decision; Sunday will deal with action.


CoGS gathered in plenary at 10:30.

The minutes of the November meeting of the Council were approved.

Council approved the creation of a planning committee for General Synod 2007.

Lisa Barry, senior producer for Anglican Video, gave a progress report on the production and distribution of the video The Gladys Cook Story.

Council approved a motion establishing a search committee to recommend to the Primate the nomination of a General Secretary to succeed Archdeacon Jim Boyles who is retiring the summer. The Primate is asked to bring a nomination to the fall meeting of CoGS.

Primate’s Report: It has been almost a year since the Primate’s election. The learning curve has been steep and the energy requirements huge. Prayers offered for the Primate throughout the country have been appreciated. Travel schedule has continued to be very heavy both in terms of travel and activities, much of it arising from a passion for communications. Have visited 15 dioceses since the last meeting, some several times. The webcast continues and seems to have been a good initiative. We are settling into the House on Hayden St. which is looking more and more like home. Staff from other dioceses have been visiting and more such visits are planned. Have found remarkable signs of life and vitality in the church across the country. There are exciting and wonderful things happening in many parts of the church. There is also new life in the House of Bishops. We had a wonderful meeting in Windsor and a good meeting with U.S. bishops. There is a new and positive tone in the House of Bishops and trust is being rebuilt.

The Primate expressed gratitude for the assistance of the General Secretary. Ellie Johnson, senior director in Church House will serve as acting General Secretary until a new one is appointed.

There have been two overseas trips. The first was to Cuba in February. The second was a two-week ecumenical visit to China, which was recently completed. The Canadian Church can learn from the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, which prescribed self-government, self-financing and self-evangelization. There is a strict ethic of respect and harmony for people with differing views. The idea of contextual ministry is worth considering. There is, however, a huge challenge in China over theological education.

The Primate referred to council a report in which he recommends that the Anglican Church of Canada change its policy requiring a full release before alternate dispute resolution.

The Primate mentioned work being done on a “Primate’s dinner” in the fall, which would help fund some of the work not presently budgeted for.

The Primate announced a gift of $320,000 from the diocese of New Westminster to help start Letting Down the Nets.

Council discussed the Primate’s Report in table groups.

The Primate briefed council on the Primates’ Meeting in Ireland. It was his first meeting with fellow Primates – “and what a wonderful way to do it.” The meeting began with two days of Bible study. Archbishop Eames presented the Windsor Report and explained how it came to be. Then there was a report from the International Response Team on responses from around the Communion. Then the Primates went into small groups to consider their own response to the report. A writing team was appointed.

Archbishop Eames presented that North America needed to go home with the assurance that the Primates honored their constitutional processes and that these would continue to be honored and respected. They also needed to go home with a sense of the depth with which the issue is felt. The Global South needed to go home with the conviction that they had been heard and honored and that some action had been taken. It was out of this analysis that the communiqué came together. It was not easy to get everyone to agree with the statement.

The document calls for a number of important steps to be taken, including the establishment of a council of reference to monitor alternate Episcopal oversight. Another step was the request that the U.S. and Canadian churches withdraw from the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council. This is a serious request “but I made that undertaking to my fellow primates and I bring it now to you.”

Questions and comments for the Primate:

It is clear that different parts of the country are in a different space on this issue.

There was a lot of conversation around the Windsor Report at the Primates’ Meeting.

The Primates’ Meeting did not bring anything to an end. The discussions and responses to the Windsor Report will carry on.

What does “withdrawing” from the ACC meeting mean? This is something we have to discuss and interpret. Once our decision is made if that decision is to withdraw, then there are a number of options open: should our members make a presentation to ACC? Should they attend as observers, as ECUSA has decided to do? The communiqué leaves the possibility that our members can attend as presenters.

Council adjourned for lunch at noon and reconvened at 1:30 p.m.

Allen Box explained that the afternoon continues the process of listening, this time from several representatives of organizations with interests in the issues raised by the Primates’ Communiqué.

Committees and Councils representatives:

Peter Wall of Faith Worship and Ministry. He described a “strongly worded” resolution from the committee that has more to do with process and governance than with the issues raised by the communiqué. The FWM resolution, which the committee adopted unanimously, calls on CoGS to decline the Primates’ invitation to withdraw from the ACC.

Nigel Packwood spoke on behalf of Partners in Mission Committee. He said the committee is not recommending a particular course of action, but was more concerned with how relationship might be affected by any action taken. The committee was encouraged by the belief that face-to-face relationships would not be affected. The committee affirms that its work is about partnership and that partnerships happen through face-to face conversations.

Sue Moxley, on behalf of the Eco-Justice Committee. The committee affirms that the church continues as a full member of the ACC regardless of the decision taken by CoGS. It is important to remain in face-to-face discussions and staying home takes that option away. Everyone’s voice, including our own, must be heard. We find ways of working together ecumenically despite considerable difference. If we do that with others, we should be able to do it among ourselves.

John Clark and Caleb Lawrence, on behalf of the House of Bishops. Archbishop Clark underlined there has been a profound change in the House of Bishops in the past year. The House of Bishops is diverse. The present leadership in the House of Bishops is astounding. He presented council with the statement approved unanimously by the bishops at their recent meeting.

Archbishop Lawrence said that the fact the House of Bishops is not of a common mind on many issues is strength rather than a weakness.

Members of the council offered some comments on the presentations by representatives of councils and boards.

Council heard from partners.

Stephen Lane of ECUSA described the process through which the Executive Council of ECUSA dealt with the Primates’ request. (The council agreed to voluntarily withdraw from the ACC meeting). But it instructed its members to attend the meeting to listen and hear the response of the wider church, then to report back to the Executive Council.

Sonja Free of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada described a resolution that will be coming to the National Church Convention that would effectively leave the choice regarding the blessing of same-sex union to individual congregations.

Larry Beardy spoke on behalf of the Diocese of Keewatin advising that the church voluntarily withdraw from the ACC; that the church agree to make a presentation to the ACC; that people making this presentation include a native voice; that the church maintain its financial support of the ACC; that the diocese affirms that marriage is between one man and one woman.

George Sinclair spoke on behalf of Essentials. He said it might seem to a lot of people in the world that Canada is walking alone. The concern in the Primates’ Communiqué was not process but that Canada may seem to wish to walk alone and a call to clarify if that is the case. The Communiqué was a gracious call not to walk alone. The Canadian church has torn the fabric of the communion. Our hope is that the church will choose the Communion and orthodoxy.

Patti Brace and Ron Chaplin spoke on behalf of Integrity Canada. Mr. Chaplin says disagreement would not make a crisis if people were joined by love. An openly gay or lesbian person should be a member of the delegation making a presentation to the ACC. Integrity asks for a sign that gay and lesbian ministry be upheld as a valued part of the Anglican community.

Members were given the opportunity to comment on the presentations.

Members discussed the presentations in table groups. Table groups reported on their conversations:

  • One of the limitations in this debate is a perception that a decision arrived at by due process must be correct; this is not necessarily so. But we affirm that in this church decisions are made by a synodical process and that decisions must be communicated to the church.
  • How can we continue the conversation? What can help this happen? We are unanimous that we must stay in the conversation. If we had to choose between the diocese of New Westminster and the Anglican Communion, we might choose the diocese. Do we desire to be in unity? Do we have a pastoral responsibility in this issue and if so to whom? There is not much support for the Council of Advice or for the Covenant.
  • To many people unity means sameness, but dialogue is equally important. What sign will be sufficient for those concerned about where we are? Dialogue is the key, but is there anything we can do that will appease the concerns of those who are not where we are. We cannot go back or reverse course. The pain would be too extreme.
  • We continue to disagree about the level of disagreement allowed that would allow us to remain in the Communion. In some dioceses the conversation about sexuality has not taken place. We affirm that the Primates continue to work together. What process must take place to ensure this situation does not arise again in 2008?
  • Is the crisis being driven by the religious right? Withdrawal from the council would deny our participation in other issues.
  • There is a concern about who might stay away from the Council if we chose to attend. The church is already in a state of schism. A province ought to be able to decide what is the best way for it to move forward in its own context. Why has there been so little discussion about homosexuality? In some contexts people are simply not able to discuss it.
  • Can there be meaningful dialogue at the council if some members are not there. When will the discussion about sexuality begin outside of Canada and the United States? We cannot accept that gays and lesbians be left out of the discussion. We cannot accept us being told to leave the Communion; we cannot accept greater authority for the Archbishop of Canterbury.
  • Talked about communications and sharing our beliefs; we have the right to do things differently, but there are consequences if we do. We affirm the desire of the primates to keep walking together. We affirm the response of our House of Bishops. We would not accept just not attending the ACC.

Council recessed for dinner at 5 p.m. and resumed at 7.

Bishop Victoria Matthews presented a report to the Council on behalf of  the Primate’s Theological Commission which was asked by General Synod 2004 to state whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine.

(The report is presented a year before its deadline.)

Bishop Matthews described the process by which the commission arrived at its report.

The commission concludes that the blessing of committed same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine. However, it is not a matter of core doctrine and the commission says it “does not believe that this should be a Communion-breaking issue. We do believe that this issue has become a matter of such theological significance in the Church that it must be addressed as a matter of doctrine.”

Bishop Matthews answered questions from Council members.

Chancellor Ron Stevenson said that in his opinion jurisdiction on matters of doctrine is vested solely in General Synod.

He said a copy of his opinion would be distributed tomorrow.

Bishop Michael Ingham noted that if this opinion is accepted, same-sex relationships could not be blessed in the Anglican Church of Canada until the matter has been considered and voted on at two successive General Synods.

Council approved a resolution receiving the report with thanks.

Patricia Bays presented the report to the Primate  from the Windsor Report Response Group.

Council adjourned at 8:30