(L-R) General Synod Planning Committee members and staff assemble at Church House in Toronto on March 10. Front row: Lisa Barry, Cathy Waiten, Pamela Boisvert, Bev Murphy, Becky Boucher, Heidi Wilker. Back row: Chris Harper, Peter Wall, Harry Huskins, Cynthia Haines Turner, Martha Tatarnic, Laura Walton, Elizabeth Hardy, Michael Thompson.

General Synod Planning Committee sets the stage

The triennial meeting of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada requires tremendous planning and organization—a herculean task in which the General Synod Planning Committee (GSPC) carries a great deal of the responsibility.

On Tuesday, March 10, GSPC members gathered at Church House to discuss details of the next General Synod, set to take place from July 7–13, 2016 at the Sheraton Parkway North in Richmond Hill, Ont., in the Diocese of Toronto.

The Rev. Peter Wall, who serves as GSPC chair, underscored the scope of the discussion, with the handling of agenda items occupying much of members’ attention.

“In every General Synod, there are some significant items that take big chunks of time, and then there’s a whole lot of other stuff that takes smaller amounts of time,” Wall said. “It’s like dealing with a jigsaw puzzle.”

Two of the biggest agenda items at General Synod 2016 will be the Commission on the Marriage Canon, which has been carrying out consultations since the last General Synod—a resolution will be presented at the forthcoming meeting—and the way forward for the church in its partnership with indigenous peoples.

Other items may include updates from the Liturgy Task Force and reports on the work done with Lutherans, following a joint Anglican-Lutheran resolution at the 2013 Joint Assembly in Ottawa, to tackle the issues of homelessness and responsible resource extraction. The Bishops of Jerusalem and Cuba will also be present as guests, shining light onto issues in Israel, Palestine and Cuba.

With so much business to attend to, it falls to the GSPC to iron out details related to scheduling, locations and meals, fitting individual items into the larger agenda.

“It’s more an organizational task at the moment,” Wall said. “We’ll get to the content of [the agenda items] as we get further on.”

Plenty of other topics came up for discussion at the March 10 meeting, including budgetary matters, communications, timing of worship, and arrangements for travel and receptions.

The GSPC usually plans for 400 attendees, encompassing just under 300 General Synod members as well as staff, guests and companions.

In a notable change, General Synod 2016 will be the first to use a new formula for electing delegates based on the number of church attendees rather than licensed clergy.

Wall estimated that as a result, the meeting will be smaller by 20 to 25 people, but that the minimum number of members from smaller dioceses will increase.

“It’s going to be perhaps a fairer distribution across the country, but a slightly smaller delegation from some of…the more populated dioceses,” he said.

The GSPC will continue meeting regularly in the lead-up to General Synod, with their next meeting set for Nov. 6.

The diverse committee includes both clergy and laypeople, representing communities from Ontario to Newfoundland.

“It’s a very good committee,” Wall said. “We’re talking well with each other, working well together. It’s inspiring to work with this group.”

Current members of the GSPC are:

  • The Very Rev. Peter Wall, chair; dean of Niagara and rector of Christ’s Church Cathedral in Hamilton, Ont.
  • The Ven. Dr. Michael Thompson, general secretary, General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada
  • Ms. Pamela Boisvert, Toronto diocese representative; assistant secretary of Synod, Diocese of Toronto
  • Mrs. Cynthia Haines Turner, Council of General Synod; deputy prolocutor of General Synod
  • The Rev. Chris Harper, Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, Rector of St. Michael and All Angels in Thunder Bay, Ont.
  • The Ven. Harry Huskins, prolocutor of General Synod; executive officer, Anglican ecclesiastical province of Ontario
  • The Rev. Martha Tatarnic, chair, worship committee; rector of St. George’s Anglican Church in St. Catharines, Ont.
  • Mr. Jamie Tomlinson, previous planning committee member; acting director general, communications, Public Safety Canada
  • Ms. Laura Walton, chair, local arrangements committee; diocesan children’s coordinator for the Diocese of Toronto

The additional host diocese contact is:

  • The Ven. Elizabeth Hardy, archdeacon of York, chief administrative officer and secretary of Synod, Diocese of Toronto

Staff include:

  • Ms. Lisa Barry, senior producer, Anglican Video
  • Ms. Becky Boucher, production manager, Anglican Video
  • Mrs. Bev Murphy, senior manager, communications
  • Ms. Cathy Waiten, manager, office of the General Secretary and coordinator of General Synod
  • Mrs. Heidi Wilker, Blessed Events planner

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