A Message to the Church from the House of Bishops

Mount Carmel Centre, Niagara Falls, Ont.

April 19 to 23, 2009

Alleluia, Christ is risen, The Lord is risen indeed Alleluia

The House of Bishops has concluded five days of prayerful meetings during which we met daily for Eucharist and in small groups for Bible study. During this meeting we have been briefed extensively about many activities and programs underway in the church. We are grateful to all the guests who came to our gathering to share progress, problems and issues in their varied ministries.

We welcomed two new members—Bishop Michael Hawkins of Saskatchewan attending his first meeting of the House and Suffragan Bishop elect Terry Dance of Huron whose election was announced although he was not able to be with us. We also bade farewell to Archbishops Bruce Stavert, Archbishop of Quebec and Metropolitan of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada, and John Clarke, former Metropolitan of Rupert’s Land and Archbishop of Athabasca who was not able to be with us.

In his opening reflection, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the Primate, shared his perceptions on several events that have occurred since our last meeting, principally the Primates’ Meeting which was held in Egypt. He noted that although the Primates did discuss issues of sexuality that have divided the Anglican Communion, this was not the only focus of the gathering. The Primates’ Meeting, he said, also spent considerable time discussing the global economic crisis, global warming and the environment and several troubled areas of the world including Zimbabwe, Sudan, Burundi and Gaza. The Primate also shared with us some reflections on his participation in the Americas Conference on Mutual Responsibility and Mission in Costa Rica in February.

The focus of the first part of our meeting was mission and we welcomed Ellie Johnson who retired as director of the General Synod’s Partnerships department about a year ago. She spoke to us about mission and guided us in several reflections for the better part of a day. Ellie helped us to see how mission is manifested in our daily lives and ministry and shared some examples in the context of the Five Marks of Mission. She also guided us through several exercises in our small Bible Study groups through which the bishops were able to have extensive discussion about mission initiatives in our respective areas of jurisdiction. Our conversations enabled us to see how we as bishops can help to “light a fire” in people’s hearts so that they too become active in mission.

In response to a call for clarification of the status of entities who self identify as being Anglican, it was noted that the Archbishop of Canterbury has stated in writing that his office and the Anglican Communion Office recognize one ecclesial body in Canada as a constitutive member of the Communion, The Anglican Church of Canada. We affirm this statement. We cherish our Communion with the See of Canterbury and remain committed to the life and witness of the Anglican Communion in the service of the Gospel.

The House, responding to a question from the National Cursillo Secretariat, discussed the relationship with the Anglican Network in Canada, particularly as it related to leadership in Cursillo. It was noted that diocesan bishops have the authority to decide who may serve on Cursillo leadership teams. The House, with regret, is of the opinion that clergy and laity who are members of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANIC) should not be given permission to exercise a leadership role in the Cursillo Movement of the Anglican Church of Canada.

The House reviewed motions passed by General Synod 2007 concerning same sex blessings. Canon Isaac Kawuki-Mukasa of the Faith Worship and Ministry staff spoke to us about a request to develop a process to engage dioceses and parishes of the Anglican Church of Canada in a study of the Christian perspective of human sexuality through the lens of Scripture, reason, tradition and current scientific understanding. In his presentation Canon Mukasa also informed us of an initiative to link some Canadian dioceses with some African dioceses for discussions and exchange of views around matters of human sexuality.

One of the briefings we received was a progress report on the troubled process for establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) before which people involved in Indian Residential Schools could tell their stories. The establishment of the TRC has been delayed for a long time by both procedural and internal difficulties and we wish to express the strong desire that the Commission’s hearings can begin soon. We also take note of the concern expressed that the hearings of the Commission be comprehensive and that they include former staff and all former students who wish to tell their stories.

We heard a number of other briefings—from Archdeacon Michael Pollesel, the General Secretary of General Synod, about recent events at Church House, from Holland Hendrix, the Director of Philanthropy, who spoke to us about planned initiatives and a project to identify donors through bequests, and from Judy Steers who addressed us on youth ministry. We also received an update from the Task Force examining the role, function and responsibilities of the Primacy. The Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Forces, Peter Coffin, spoke to us about his ministry and the vital role that Chaplains in the regular and the reserve forces play in the military both here and wherever the Armed Forces are deployed. Bishop Coffin asked for our continuing prayers for service members and their families. Bishops Claude Miller and Greg Kerr-Wilson spoke to us about the dioceses of Fredericton and Qu’Appelle respectively. We also heard an enthusiastic presentation describing several initiatives to present the gospel in new contexts given by Canon Nick Brotherwood, Director of Fresh Expressions Canada. Archbishop Terry Finlay reminded us of the country’s dependence on shipping and the ministry to Seafarers in various ports across Canada.

The staff of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund updated us on the 50th anniversary celebrations. They also engaged us in small group discussion about diocesan visions for mission and development.

The House attended the book launch of The Anglican Episcopate in Canada, Volume IV, 1976-2008 that had been compiled by Archbishop Michael Peers and published by the Anglican Book Centre. We were pleased to welcome the former Primate into our midst.

The bishops acknowledged that many of our communities continue to struggle with the impact of the current economic crisis. We are committed to encouraging our congregations to offer their prayers and every possible support to those affected by loss of employment and income. Notwithstanding current circumstances, we urge governments at all levels not to lose sight of their commitments to the most vulnerable in society, including the working poor, women and children in poverty, and the homeless.

Throughout this Easter season we pray for the Spirit of the Risen Christ to renew the Church in the service of the Gospel for the sake of the world.

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