The following is a message to the people of the Anglican Church of Canada from the House of Bishops, who met this week in London, Ontario:
Brothers and Sisters in Christ:
For our first full meeting since last summer’s General Synod, we were hosted by the Diocese of Huron, currently celebrating its sesquicentennial and we attended a special Sunday service at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ont. at which it appeared the entire Anglican diocese turned out to mark the occasion. The theme of the celebration was Years of Light and Life. Light, life and fellowship were also the theme of the sermon preached by our Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz.
Several segments of our gathering were in the company of our brother and sister bishops from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and in furtherance of the Waterloo Declaration on Full Communion, we commended for occasional use the new Evangelical Lutheran Worship resource in Anglican churches, where authorized by the local bishop.
This meeting of the House of Bishops was also a House and Spouse gathering. Once every triennium we come together with our spouses in this way to talk about issues relating to Episcopal ministry that touch in a special way our lives with our families. One particularly useful session of the House and Spouse gathering was a facilitated discussion on Wellness in the Episcopal Household.
Much of our gathering as a House was spent describing and reflecting on the different journeys different ecclesiastical provinces and dioceses have travelled since General Synod. We heard reports from several bishops who spoke of the effects of General Synod’s resolutions on same-sex blessings and these reflections ranged from parts of the country where this issue is paramount in the life of the church to others areas where it is only a very small part of the church’s life or scarcely considered at all. We heard from the bishops of Ottawa and Montreal about the adoption of motions by their respective synods that call upon them to authorize the blessing of civil same-sex marriages, and both bishops described the debate around these motions as courteous and respectful of divergent views. We had a discussion about the April 2007 Statement from the House of Bishops to Members of General Synod and heard from several bishops about how the Statement is being understood. It was agreed that the statement continues to have the same status as it did originally.
We were reminded by our Primate that contrary to impressions created by much of the Canadian media that covered General Synod, the gathering was anything but a one-issue synod. Motions adopted in support of ministry in the North, conversations around issues of governance and the primacy, support for the Companion Dioceses program, support for the Millennium Development Goals, the day spent with our Lutheran brothers and sisters, the success of the publication of the Anglican Journal Daily, were all evidence of things that bring us together and manifestations of the General Synod theme Draw the Circle Wide ? Draw it wider still, Archbishop Hiltz reminded us. “It’s time,” the Primate said, “for this church of ours to celebrate the things that are holding us together and that continue to hold the Communion together.”
In regular business we dealt with a number of issues which we feel are of interest to the church:
We heard a detailed report on the status of the implementation of the renegotiated Residential Schools Agreement and on the church’s progress in the next stage of this healing journey, as well as the establishment by the federal government of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. There was a presentation and discussion of the many aspects of the ongoing work of healing and reconciliation in our dioceses and at the national level.
We spent time discussing a response to the Anglican Communion’s Joint Standing Committee report dealing with the responses of The Episcopal Church to the requests made of that church by the Windsor Report and the Primates’ Meeting earlier this year. Our discussions touched on things to affirm in the report, things that alarm us, and things that give us hope. The Council of General Synod, when it meets in a few weeks, will have a similar discussion. The Primate will then respond to the Archbishop of Canterbury.
We discussed communications and the presence of the media at our meetings, striving to achieve a balance between the transparency and accountability to the wider church which is fostered by allowing media to cover our proceedings, with the necessity of providing a safe space in which bishops may speak openly among themselves about the challenges of their ministry. This is a discussion to which we will return.
Lastly, we bade farewell to three members of the House: Bishops Ralph Spence of Niagara, Michael Bedford-Jones of Toronto and Victoria Matthews of Edmonton.
We ended our time together with a Eucharist celebrated with our brother and sister bishops from ELCIC.
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