Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, delivers his closing homily at the final worship service of General Synod 2016. Photo by Art Babych

Daily Report from the 41st General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada: Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The sixth and final day of General Synod 2016 began after breakfast in the Grand York Ballroom of the Sheraton Parkway North Toronto Hotel and Suites, located in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Morning Plenary

Artist Elizabeth Adams started the morning plenary with the daily reflection, Praying the Cloth. Hearing Isaiah 43 once more, members of General Synod watched a video in which individuals spoke about the role of art in the church.

Community Reflection

After the Orders of the Day, hymns, and prayer, Archbishop Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, opened a period of reflection on the vote of the previous night regarding the motion to amend the marriage canon. He thanked all members of Synod for their patience and perseverance, respect for one another, and efforts, in spite of weariness, to listen. The Primate noted the deep yearning for unity in the church, amidst frustrations over the process in which members had wrestled through discernment of such a major decision. It was clear, he added, that the Synod’s work on the matter was not done.

Table groups subsequently engaged in a period of discussion based around the question: What now? The debate centred around the next steps for the church and the implications of its decision pastorally, prophetically, and structurally. Each table group wrote down their responses, which were collected to be brought before planning teams for the Council of General Synod (CoGS) and the House of Bishops.

Following the table group discussion, Bishop Jane Alexander put forward the following motion:

  • A052-A1: Be it resolved that this General Synod:
    1. Reaffirm the 2004 General Synod statement on the integrity and sanctity of same-sex relationships; and
    2. Call on the whole church to engage fully with This Holy Estate at every level.

Members of General Synod debated the motion. An amendment to change the first section to entrust the pastoral response of General Synod 2016 to the Primate was defeated, and the motion as originally written was carried.

Investment Principles

Following a break, Bishop Mark MacDonald put forward two motions designed to promote climate justice through socially and ecologically sound investment principles:

  • A170-R1: That the General Synod become a signatory to the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investing, and make full use of its affiliate membership with Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE) and encourage dioceses to become affiliate members; and
  • A171-R2: That this General Synod request that CoGS appoint a Social and Ecological Investment Task Force as soon as possible.

Both motions were carried.

Presentation—Mennonite Church Canada Executive Director Willard Metzger

Bishop Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), introduced fellow ecumenical guest, the Rev. Dr. Willard Metzger, executive director of the Mennonite Church in Canada.

Metzger extended his greetings to members of General Synod on behalf of the Mennonite Church. He reminded them that they were not alone in their discussions on various complex issues, as his own church had just finished its biennial assembly in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and had had many similar conversations.

Metzger said that members of the Mennonite Church in Canada were looking forward to entering into further ecumenical conversation with the Anglican Church of Canada. Noting that many Mennonites were finding richness in liturgical services of Anglican parishes, he described continuing conversations between the churches as the by-product of passionate people, united despite disagreements in their intention to be serious and faithful in following Jesus. He prayed for God’s continued rich blessing in conversations at General Synod.

The Primate thanked Metzger for his presentation, adding that he was looking forward to Metzger’s presence in the afternoon when the General Synod talked about its continuing relationship with the Mennonite Church Canada. 

Anglican Foundation

The Rev. Canon Dr. Judy Rois, executive director of the Anglican Foundation of Canada, and Dr. Scott Brubacher, executive administrator, began their presentation on the Anglican Foundation wearing colourful wigs and dressed as flight attendants, playing a clip presented as an in-flight safety video for “AFC Flight 2016” taking General Synod to work by the Anglican Foundation.

Moving in earnest into her presentation, Canon Rois recalled hearing a description of the Anglican Foundation as “the best-kept secret in the Anglican Church of Canada.” She provided a history of the foundation from its creation at General Synod 1957 to the present day.

In 2015, investment revenue allowed the Anglican Foundation to disperse $850,000 into the Anglican Church of Canada. That money went into a variety of avenues, which included supporting church building construction, accessibility ramps and elevators, choir schools, senior residences, community gardens, the arts, homework clubs, hospice care, summer camp, Indigenous programs, youth leadership, outreach programs, interfaith dialogue, and emergency relief. Recent examples of the latter include responses to floods in Saskatchewan and the wildfires in Fort McMurray.

Donations from Anglicans also help support theological colleges across the country, which Rois said help prepare leaders for the future of the church. She noted that the Anglican Foundation is now in its third year of a Request for Proposals program, annually giving away five $10,000 grants to support initiatives in a certain area, such as youth leadership in 2014, interfaith collaboration in 2014, and the Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2016.

Anglicans across the country, Rois said, are engaged in innovative, creative, and resourceful ministry that are building up the church and moving it ahead. She described the Anglican Foundation as proactive in serving Canadians engaged in ministry, and as responsible stewards of donation dollars.

The Primate thanked the foundation for its work, praising the leadership of Rois as a major factor in its achievements.

Afternoon Plenary

After lunch, members of General Synod returned to the Grand York Ballroom for the afternoon plenary session.

The Primate drew the attention of the Synod to two members present: Bishop Stephen Andrews, who had just become a grandfather; and the Rev. Dr. Eileen Scully, who had volunteered to drop her presentation from the agenda on the work of Faith, Worship, and Ministry in light of the need for discussion such as that morning’s community reflection. Archbishop Hiltz thanked Scully for her nobility and graciousness in doing so.

No Debate List

Members voted for a number of motions that formed the No Debate List, which are resolutions that are simply moved and seconded without debate. They included:

  • A050: Amendments to Canon XXII concerning National Indigenous Ministry;
  • A052: Amendment to Canon XXIII concerning the Anglican Military Ordinariate;
  • A053: Housekeeping amendments for Canon III concerning the Primate, correcting typographical errors;
  • A070: Housekeeping amendment fixing anomaly in Rules of Order and Procedure;
  • A142: Encouraging future work on liturgical texts by the Liturgy Task Force;
  • A143: Receiving report of Liturgy Task Force and authorizing three texts for trial use and evaluation over three years; and
  • A144: Receiving the Iona Report including Competencies for the Diaconate, and commending it to dioceses for study and use.

All motions on the No Debate List were carried.

Additional Resolutions

The members of General Synod then voted on a number of other resolutions. Two motions related to ecumenical dialogues were carried:

  • A140: Welcoming establishment of new bilateral Anglican-Mennonite dialogue for five years, and directing the Faith, Worship, and Ministry Coordinating Committee in consultation with the Mennonite Church Canada to determine the size, membership, and mandate of the dialogue; and
  • A141: Receiving the final report of the latest iteration of dialogue between the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada, engaging in the report’s recommendations so further conversation can take place.

The Primate highlighted that both Mennonite Church Canada Executive Director Willard Metzger and United Church of Canada Moderator Jordan Cantwell were present in the room for the resolutions committing to further dialogue with their respective churches.

Another resolution was split into two parts:

  • A030-R1A: Housekeeping amendments for the Declaration of Principles and specified canons; and
  • A030-R1B: Housekeeping amendment, separated to allow debate, relating to a collect for Good Friday in the Book of Common Prayer.

While Resolution A030-R1B was carried, debate ensued on Resolution A030-R1B, relating to the first reading for an amendment to Canon XIV that would delete from use Prayer Number 4 in “Prayers and Thanksgivings upon Several Occasions” and omit it from further printings of the Book of Common Prayer. Resolution A030 R1B failed to carry after it did not receive a two-thirds majority from the Order of Bishops.

The next resolution related to the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant being monitored by the Anglican Communions Relations Advisory Council:

  • A120: Acknowledgement that the Anglican Covenant process had had the positive effect of leading many to think about the nature of Anglican ecclesiology and the nature of inter-Anglican relationships, directing CoGS to continue to monitor developments related to the Anglican Covenant, and committing the Anglican Church of Canada to full participation in the Instruments of Communion, the Continuing Indaba, the Consultation of Anglican Bishops in Dialogue, and strengthening of relationships through initiatives such as establishment and nurturing of Companion Diocese relationships.

The motion was carried. One additional resolution was put forward relating to the previous night’s vote on amendments to the marriage canon, and subsequently carried:

  • A013: Be it moved that this Synod make public today the list for the recorded votes for A051 as amended.

After initial plans to distribute paper copies with the recorded votes was suggested, the General Secretary stated that the record would be distributed to members of General Synod through a PDF document viewable on the GS2016 app.

Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund

Carolyn Vanderlip, director of the Canadian Anglican Partnership Program, next introduced Will Postma, the new executive director of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), who took over the position from his predecessor Adele Finney effective June 13.

Members of General Synod watched a short video on PWRDF’s Fred Says campaign to promote food security, before Vanderlip asked Postma a series of questions on his views of PWRDF and experience over the past few weeks as executive director.

Asked what was exciting about his work at PWRDF, Postma noted the bedrock commitment of the development fund to human rights, expressed in its vision statement outlining PWRDF’s commitment towards a just and healthy world. He described the positive results of PWRDF’s work, such as vaccinating more than 410,000 children in Burundi, Mozambique, and Tanzania in only three years, leading to a significant drop in child mortality rates. He also pointed to the strong relationships between PWRDF and Canadian Anglicans as well as its partners around the world.

Asked what had surprised him in his first month as executive director, Postma discussed the high number of volunteers who help support the work of PWRDF and the strong involvement of youth, particularly through its youth initiative He also highlighted the appreciation of the Government of Canada for the work of PWRDF.

Postma drew the attention of members to the growing importance of support for Indigenous communities the fast work of PWRDF in responding to disasters such as the Fort McMurray wildfire and needs in Syria, Nepal, and the Phillippines, and PWRDF’s work in sponsoring and resettling Syrian refugees. He discussed the solar suitcase program to help provide power to rural health clinics and initiatives to address gender-based violence, concluding by thanking members of General Synod for their support.

Vanderlip presented a video highlighting PWRDF’s maternal and newborn health program, before Zaida Bastos, director of the development partnership program, took the podium to provide insight into the PWRDF initiative “All Mothers and Children Count” to support maternal, newborn, and child health. Through the example of one expectant mother in sub-Saharan Africa who suffered from HIV/AIDS, Bastos described PWRDF’s role in supporting the woman by providing proper nutrition during and after her pregnancy and transporting her to a health centre where trained medical professionals could assist her delivery and prevent the transmission of the HIV virus from mother to child.

The Primate thanked PWRDF for its work and Postma for his work as director.

Thanks to Sponsor

Archbishop Hiltz then brought onstage Jacinta Whyte, deputy group chief executive, general manager and chief agent for Canada of Ecclesiastical Insurance, which had sponsored General Synod 2016. He thanked Ecclesiastical Insurance for its generosity, as well as that of its charitable arm Allchurches Trust Ltd., describing the close relationship and many connections between the church and Ecclesiastical Insurance, highlighting its $100,000 gift to assist recovering and rebuilding in Fort McMurray following the recent wildfires, and expressing his hope for a long future as the church continued its relationship with Ecclesiastical Insurance and Allchurches Trust.

Vote Count—Resolution A150-R2, Amendment to the Marriage Canon

In an unexpected break from the agenda, some members of General Synod came to the microphones after reading the list of recorded votes for Resolution A0150-R2, the amendment to the marriage canon, to say that their votes had not been counted. Chancellor David Jones met with the assessors to decide how best to handle the issue.

After the meeting, Chancellor Jones pointed to two issues with the printed voting records. One issue was that votes brought up by a select few members of General Synod that had not been counted.

The second issue was that, after counting the number of clergy and votes in favour and opposed to Resolution A150-R2, the chancellor had found that the final number was actually 52 votes in favour out of 78 clergy members, instead of 51 out of 77 as previously reported. The reason for the voting error arose from the fact that the General Secretary had not been coded electronically as a voting member of the clergy.

By counting the vote of the General Secretary correctly, the final vote tally reached a two-thirds majority in the Order of Clergy. Along with similar two-thirds majorities in the Order of Bishops and Order of Laity, this meant that Resolution A150-R2 had, in fact, passed.

As some members of General Synod spoke at the microphones reacting to the new situation, the Primate affirmed that the motion for a first reading to amend the marriage canon had passed, and, after more members spoke about the sudden reversal of the situation in wake of the revelation over the voting error, he paused to acknowledge the gravity of the reversal. He then moved to close the present session of Synod as the time was very late in the afternoon.

The Primate thanked all those who had supported General Synod, beginning with outgoing Prolocutor Harry Huskins, to whom he bestowed a baseball cap and a framed photograph of Huskins with the Primate. Archbishop Hiltz went on to thank the Sheraton Hotel for hosting the event, General Synod staff members for their contributions, and the work of each committees of General Synod and their chairs, among others. The Primate then declared the 41st Session of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada prorogued.

Closing Worship

A closing worship service and Eucharist took place in the Grand York Ballroom following the prorogation of Synod.

Before beginning the worship, the Primate acknowledged that some members were upset that the same amount of time and care was not taken following the reversal of the vote to amend the Marriage Canon. He spoke at length about this and apologized personally for any hurt he caused.

In the course of his homily, the Primate addressed the work of General Synod 2016 and the disagreements that had arose over different matters, in particular the discussion on amending the marriage canon. He described those who had attended as gathered around a table first as children of God, secondly as brothers and sisters in Christ, and only then as members of Synod.

In the first instance, Archbishop Hiltz referred to the stories that Synod had heard of LGBTQ2S+ people being rejected by their own families, and affirmed the abiding love of God for all his children. In the second, he described the Holy Communion into which Jesus had called of us as brothers and sisters in Christ. He noted that brothers and sisters often have differences or disagreements, despite their love for one another. Could there be any more appropriate message and charge at this most challenging Synod, the Primate asked, then the call by Jesus for us to love one another?

Finally, the Primate discussed how those present had worshipped and worked together over the past six days as members of General Synod, along with their brothers and sisters from the Anglican Communion and ecumenical guests. He highlighted new things that had come out of the Synod, such as the church’s renewed partnership with Indigenous peoples and dedication to their self-determination. He also called on the church to renew its relationship with the LGBTQ2 community, giving its ear to their lived experience—a request, he added, that he would have made regardless of the result for the motion on amending the marriage canon.

In the face of such a difficult debate, Archbishop Hiltz stressed that the church could not allow the results of the Synod to disintegrate the church and the fellowship of its members. The unity of the church, he said, was not dependent on Fred Hiltz, the bishops, or the Synod. The unity of the church is the Lord’s gift.

Returning to the image from his opening homily of the small band of disciples that had made up the early church, and reiterating the promise of Jesus, “I am with you always,” the Primate said it was the Lord’s will that we be one, to serve as witnesses to the love of God and the good news of Jesus Christ.

Closing Banquet

Members of General Synod and guests finished the day with a closing banquet in the Grand Richmond room. Bishop Colin Johnson, Bishop Melissa Skelton, and ELCIC National Bishop Johnson offered closing remarks. Musical entertainment included a jazz performance of When The Saints Go Marching In.

As the banquet drew to a close, members and guests departed and began their respective preparations for the journey home.

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