A word to the Church from the House of Bishops

Montreal, October 21 – 26

For the past six days, we have combined three meetings into one, while also enjoying the impressive hospitality of the Diocese of Montreal. The first several days consisted of our once-a-triennium “House and Spouse” gathering, at which bishops are invited to bring spouses so that we may enjoy each others’ company and share in our experiences.

A separate agenda group for bishops’ spouses emphasized that the group wished to spend time together as friends rather than participate in educational events, and that was the tenor of this part of our meeting.

We were also joined by Bishop Patrick Mwachiko of the Diocese of Masasi, Tanzania,  a companion diocese to Montreal.

Our meetings were grounded in prayer and reflection. For the first two days we met in the morning for Eucharist in beautiful and historic Christ Church Cathedral. On Sunday, while our Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, celebrated and preached in the cathedral, many other bishops scattered to different parishes of the diocese where they also either celebrated or preached.

As has been the case for several years, now, this fall meeting also included a joint meeting of the Canadian House of Bishops and the Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. This joint meeting overlapped our regular business meeting and allowed us to meet jointly in consideration of matters that concern us as Full Communion partners, as well as to meet separately to deal with issues that concern each church individually.

If there was a single topic that dominated both our joint meetings and our separate meetings, it revolved around the very nature of why we meet, who we are when we meet, how we manage our agenda and where the House of Bishops fits in the overall church structure. Our Lutheran partners, we learned, have fairly codified statements about where they, as the Conference of Bishops, fit in the Lutheran church. The role and place of the Anglican House of Bishops is much less defined. The House is unlike other church structures in that it is neither a committee nor a board and without formal lines of reporting.  As a house, we frequently make statements, but we do not legislate.

We did reach agreement on several aspects of our meetings: we wish greater opportunities for educational events and for theological discussions. We do not wish to hear presentations from outside groups unless they have a clear purpose, other than informational, in appearing before us. We do not wish to be lobbied. We wish to have the freedom to exchange ideas and feelings without scrutiny by the media, and there was a consensus that media should attend our meetings only when invited. This confirms a policy that has existed for several years now.

We did hear one presentation during this meeting, from the chair and interim director  of the Philanthropy Department. Monica Patten and Sam Carriere appeared before us to describe the first meeting of the Philanthropy Committee newly created at last June’s General Synod and to talk about changes in the directions of the work of the Department of Philanthropy that have been mandated by the committee.

During a closed session, we also heard from every diocesan bishop in attendance about the distribution in their diocese of the statement on sexuality approved by General Synod and about the responses to that statement. Generally, what we heard was that the statement was widely distributed, but that it has elicited very little response. We feel that this indicates that that while issues of sexuality are not fully resolved, the church continues to address other areas of mission and ministry.  Lutheran Bishops also updated us on where their regional synods are in their discussions of sexuality.

We approved a joint Anglican-Lutheran pastoral letter in celebration of the 10th anniversary of Full Communion in 2011.

We wish to thank the Diocese of Montreal, its bishop, Barry Clarke, and the diocesan staff for welcoming up so graciously and for taking care of us, our spouses and our Lutheran partners during our stay.

Interested in keeping up-to-date on news, opinion, events and resources from the Anglican Church of Canada? Sign up for our email alerts .