Bishop Michael Hawkins (at podium) leads a presentation by Council of the North representatives at General Synod. Photo by Art Babych

Daily Report from the 41st General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada: Saturday, July 9, 2016

Members of General Synod gathered in the Grand York Ballroom of the Sheraton Parkway North Toronto Hotel and Suites in Richmond Hill, Ontario to begin the third day of General Synod 2016.

Morning Prayers and Reflections

Following an opening hymn and prayer, artist Elizabeth Adams led a Bible study in which members of General Synod read Isaiah 43 three times and noted their own perceptions of the passage.

Marriage Canon Neighbourhood Groups—Session One

Before members dispersed into neighbourhood groups for their first round of conversations on the proposed changes to the marriage canon, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, offered some guidelines based on discussions from the previous evening.

He reminded members to pay attention to the draft resolution prepared by the Commission on the Marriage Canon in response to Resolution C003 from General Synod 2013, and that the focus of conversation at the present Synod was marriage, not sexual orientation or the blessing of same-sex unions. Chancellor David Jones reiterated the text of Resolution C003 as well as Resolution A051, the proposed amendments to the marriage canon.

Members moved into their neighbourhood groups with a focus on two questions: What is your greatest hope for this motion, and what is your greatest fear? After two hours of discussion, each group said noon prayers and took a break for lunch.

Afternoon Plenary

Members of General Synod returned to the Grand York Ballroom after lunch for the afternoon plenary session.

Presentation—Council of the North

Bishop Michael Hawkins, Saskatchewan diocesan bishop and chair of the Council of the North, took to the podium along with other council representatives for a presentation on their work in Canada’s north. Anglican ministry in the north, the bishop said, has been a priority since the earliest days of the church in Canada. The northern dioceses that make up the Council of the North face challenges such as isolation, harsh weather, instances of poverty, and the legacy of the residential school system.

Yet, Bishop Hawkins said, there is also much to celebrate. Anglican mission in the north has helped preserve Indigenous languages through translations of the Bible and hymn books. North-south partnerships are beginning to flourish. While there may be different methods for northern ministry, the church in the north is engaged in the same mission as the rest of the church, with the bishop noting that “ministry in the Council of the North is truly a mission of the whole church.”

Anglican leaders engaged in northern ministry proceeded to share five stories with the General Synod.

Bishop Stephen Andrews and Bishop Lydia Mamakwa described how the Diocese of Algoma and the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh had partnered together for urban Indigenous ministry in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The city has a high Indigenous population, many of whom have moved there for work or school and are unfamiliar with urban life, or who commute there for health treatment. Anglicans in Thunder Bay provide pastoral care and hospital visits, while St. Paul’s offers services and baptisms in Oji-Cree.

Executive Archdeacon Sam Rose and Dean Iain Luke spoke about ministry to oil workers in northern Alberta who have moved there from Newfoundland and Atlantic Canada and identify strongly with their parishes back home. Conversations with workers from Atlantic Canada have allowed Anglicans to better minister to them by having regular Synod visits, allowing eastern dioceses to write in newsletters, and encouraging East coast parishioners to become more active in welcoming eastern workers into parishes.

Bishop Barbara Andrews spoke about how the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior (APCI) (now Territory of the People), which came into being after the Diocese of Cariboo ceased to operate in 2001 due to legal costs associated with settlements to residential school survivors, had striven to find a way forward in the years since, with a renewed focus on reconciliation. The signing of a covenant of partnership between APCI and the Diocese of Montreal had allowed the sharing of resources and information. APCI has now signed another partnership agreement with new Montreal Bishop Mary Irwin-Gibson, establishing a renewed commitment to the partnership.

St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Ottawa has partnered with the Council of the North in a suicide prevention program. In a further effort to partner with a parish in a remote northern community, it has also established a close relationship with St. Thomas’s Anglican Church in Moose Factory, Ontario. Parishioners from St. Matthew’s traveled to Moose Factory for a weekend filled with sight-seeing and learning about the northern way of life, shared meals, stories, and prayer.

Bishop Larry Robertson of the Diocese of Yukon discussed the challenges of isolation in his diocese and the serious financial struggles it has faced in the years since the decline of the mining industry. Faced with a declining number of stipendiary clergy, the diocese has found innovate ways to continue its northern ministry. Bishop Robertson highlighted the ministry of presence program, in which retired lay people from Southern Canada have lived and ministered in the Yukon for a minimum of one year. He praised the ministers of presence as a blessing for the diocese.

The Primate thanked the Council of the North representatives for their presentation. He suggested that in the spirit of the theme “You Are My Witnesses,” General Synod might consider multiplying the number of relationships between and among dioceses to support ministry in the north.

Presentation—United Church of Canada Moderator Jordan Cantwell

Archbishop Hiltz next introduced United Church of Canada Moderator Jordan Cantwell, who expressed her gratitude to be present at General Synod as a witness, partner, and ecumenical friend, particularly as members of General Synod prepared to engage each other in hard conversations in the days ahead. She emphasized that the partnership and solidarity between the United Church of Canada and the Anglican Church of Canada was not dependent on the outcome of decisions General Synod would make in the present week, and that her church would stand with Canadian Anglicans regardless of what decisions are made, citing their unity in the body of Christ.

Moderator Cantwell referred to reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples as the most important and urgent area of witness for the churches. Having worked together as partners in the Indian residential schools settlement and throughout the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), the United and Anglican churches now must begin the hard work of reconciliation. She highlighted the importance of making sure Indigenous communities such as Fort Chippewa are given the same care and attention as largely non-Indigenous communities such as Fort McMurray when disasters occur. Cantwell pointed to the “obscene rates of suicide” among First Nations as a Canadian crisis that the churches must respond to through programs and solidarity, but also as a prophetic voice drawing attention to the economic, political and social concerns that drive the crisis.

The Primate thanked Cantwell, noted the evolving relationship between the United and Anglican churches over the years, and expressed his hope that the two churches would continue to walk together and respond to the TRC Calls to Action.

Presentation—Archbishop Josiah Idodwu-Fearon, Secretary-General of the Anglican Consultative Council

Members of General Synod received insight into the current state of the worldwide Anglican Communion through a presentation by Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, who was named Secretary-General of the Anglican Consultative Council in April 2015. Archbishop Idowu-Fearon brought greetings on behalf of the churches of the Anglican Communion and the four Instruments of Communion that bind them together, in particular from the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and the community of St. Anselm, who would be praying for members throughout General Synod.

He began by reminding members of the “historic and ongoing” contributions of the Anglican Church of Canada to the Anglican Communion as a whole, thanking individual Canadian Anglicans for their work on various bodies related to the international work of the Communion. Most recently, Canadian bishops were present at the Seventh Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue, which took place from May 25-29 in Accra, Ghana. He pointed to the text that emerged, A Testimony of Unity in Diversity, as meriting a careful and respectful reading across the Anglican Communion.

In the midst of concerns among members of General Synod over how changes to the marriage canon might be received among other Anglican provinces, Archbishop Idowu-Fearon discussed statements from successive Primates Meetings that vigorously condemned both homophobia and governments that have criminalized homosexuality with punishments that include imprisonment and even the death penalty. Citing the tragedy of the recent mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, he pointed to the prophetic task of Anglican Africans of denouncing violence, and the requirement of space and time to do work towards changing attitudes on their own.

Despite divisions at the Primates Meeting, Archbishop Idowu-Fearon noted that the Primates remained in unity at the end, united not through their agreement with each other, but through the “irreversible communion with each other in the death and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” The 2016 Anglican Consultative Council, which took place from April 8-19 in Lusaka, Zambia, affirmed the commitment of the Primates of the Anglican Communion to walk together. “This is an exciting time to be an Anglican,” he concluded, praying that the spirit of the risen Christ would bless the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada and the members and officers of the 41st General Synod. He assured them of his prayers and those of the churches of the Anglican Communion as the members of General Synod discerned how Christ called them to be his witnesses in a rapidly changing world.

Report from 2016 Anglican Consultative Council

Continuing on the subject of the Anglican Consultative Council, Suzanne Lawson and Bishop Jane Alexander, both delegates to ACC-16 along with General Secretary Michael Thompson, discussed their time in Lusaka. Lawson said that despite sadness and dismay over the absence of three provinces (Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda), the Canadian Anglican contingent was met with great welcome, with Bishop Alexander being elected to a standing committee. Bishop Alexander described the opening worship, which attracted thousands of people from the surrounding areas, as a particular highlight. Each day of the meeting was grounded in worship and prayer, creating a sense of unity through the presence of Christ in their midst.

The pair discussed the work of the international Anglican Alliance, which seeks to create a world free of poverty, suffering, conflict, and injustice, characterized by just and sustainable relationships with each other and with God’s creation. They also touched on the work of churches and agencies across the Anglican Communion committed to ending gender-based violence and human trafficking.

Among the international Anglican networks working towards justice in different areas, Lawson and Bishop Alexander spoke about the work of the Anglican Peace and Justice Network, Anglican Communion Safe Church Network, Anglican Communion Environmental Network, Anglican Indigenous Network, Anglican Health Network, Anglican Network for Inter Faith Concerns, International Anglican Family Network, Réseau francophone de la communion anglicanne, Anglican Witness—Evangelism and Church Growth, and Anglicans at the UN. They also noted ongoing ecumenical dialogue between Anglicans and Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Old Catholic, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Reformed churches around the world.

After remarks from the General Secretary on his pride in working with Lawson and Bishop Alexander, Lawson concluded by noting the presence of the Holy Spirit at the meeting in Lusaka, working through people with different cultures, views, and ways of being and following Christ. “We were moved,” she said. “We were living into communion—not uniformity, communion. We won’t ever always agree. But as far as we can see, the Holy Spirit is helping us as long as we open ourselves to the ongoing process of knowing and learning, and above all of listening.”

Table groups engaged in approximately 15 minutes of discussion on three questions: What’s important to you about the communion? What’s new to you? What do you want to share with those at home?

Presentation—The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem

Global Relations Director Andrea Mann introduced the next speaker, the Rev. Canon Richard LeSueur, a member of the advisory council of the Canadian Companions of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, who spoke about the close relationship between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Jerusalem diocese, which encompasses Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.

With the Holy Land representing the roots of the Christian faith, Canon LeSueur spoke about the history and geographic features of the Middle East, detailing the origins of the Anglican presence around Jerusalem. He spoke about the growing closeness between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem from Archbishop Suheil Dawani’s 2007 visit to Canada, the Primate’s subsequent solidarity visit in 2009 to Anglicans in Israel and Palestine, the formation of the Canadian Companions of Jerusalem in 2010, and the 2013 establishment of Jerusalem Sunday as an annual celebration across the Anglican Church of Canada.

Canon LeSueur spoke of various schools across multiple countries run by the Diocese of Jerusalem, as well as health care centres such as the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza and the Penman Clinic in Zebabdeh, West Bank, which offers medical care to eleven neighbouring villages. All of the health care centres operated by the diocese care for everyone, regardless of religion.

Touching on the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Canon LeSueur cautioned against a simplistic binary view of the conflict, referring to the complex reality that is much more complex than two different peoples living on the same land. With the growth of settlements in the West Bank and the decline in viability of a two-state solution, he suggested that the future lay in a one-state solution in which all peoples in the territory would have to find a way of living together.

After addressing questions about the possible ramifications of demographic changes on future democratic processes in Israel, and affirming that Canadian donations to the Diocese of Jerusalem for projects such as the Penman Clinic would receive a tax receipt, Canon LeSueur concluded with a video of a prayer for Jerusalem, written by Archbishop Hiltz and read by Archbishop Dawani.

Update—Fort McMurray Wildfire and Evacuation

Responding to inquiries he had received from members of General Synod about the situation in Fort McMurray, Alberta, located in the northern part of the Diocese of Athabasca, Bishop Fraser Lawton began by expressing his thanks. The need for an evacuation of the city came extremely quickly, and 100,000 evacuees were all ultimately able to get out safely. He described the overwhelming feeling as clergy and people from contacted residents across the country that offered prayers and thoughts through emails and telephone calls, and how quickly they had received emergency funds through the Primate’s office as well as the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund.

Bishop Lawton expressed particular thanks to the Diocese of Edmonton and the Diocese of Calgary, which had helped support the evacuees and made parishes available as temporary homes.

Jeremy Munn, rector’s warden at St. Thomas’ Anglican Church in Fort McMurray, described his personal experience of the wildfire and evacuation, which he had not yet come to terms with, but declared: “I have never seen in my life such an outpouring of the Holy Spirit”. He described the incredible solidarity, love and grace that appeared among the community, where divisions between different groups and demographics suddenly vanished as residents sought to support each other and help the evacuation. The outpouring of support from people across Canada allowed food, water, and shelter to be provided for tens of thousands of evacuees, which Munn described as an example of living out faith in love.

At the moment, Bishop Lawton said, things are beginning to return to normal in Fort McMurray, with residents beginning to return. The church’s buildings are still intact and once again being used for worship. Other parts of the city, however, remain damaged and the return to normalcy will be a long process. At the moment, the Diocese of Athabasca was planning to coordinate a summer Bible school in Fort McMurray.

Provincial Caucuses

After supper, members of General Synod met in provincial caucuses to elect representatives to the Council of General Synod (CoGS) for the next three years.

The results of the elections and subsequent motion passed by General Synod saw the following people named as the new council from 2016-2019.

For the Province of Canada: Bishop Bruce Myers (bishop), Canon David Burrows (clergy), Katie Puxley (laity), Larry Renouf (laity), and Rachel Barrett (youth).

For the Province of Ontario: John Chapman (bishop), Canon Kevin Robertson (clergy), Canon Grace Delaney (laity), Susan Little (laity), and Siobhan Bennett (youth).

For the Province of Rupert’s Land: Bishop Fraser Lawton (bishop), Bishop Mark MacDonald (bishop), Vincent Solomon (clergy), Jason Antonio (laity), John Rye (laity), Lucy Young (laity), and Graham Ward (youth).

For the Province of British Columbia and Yukon: Bishop Larry Robertson (bishop), Clara Plamondon (clergy), Melanie Delva (laity), Randall Fairey (laity), Dale Drozda (youth).

Cynthia Haines-Turner and Lynne McNaughton, elected the previous day as Prolocutor and Deputy Prolocutor, respectively, and Lt.-Cmdr. The Rev. Beverly Kean-Newhook (clergy) for the Anglican Military Ordinariate of Canada are also elected members of CoGS.

Evening Prayers

After the conclusion of the day’s agenda, members of General Synod took part in evening prayers.

Hospitality—CoGS New Members Honoured

Saturday ended with hospitality in the Thornhill room, where members honoured the new officers and members of CoGS.

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