Primate's New Year's Day address

What follows is the text of an address by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, delivered on New Year’s Day 2010, at Christ Church Cathedral in Ottawa.

By Archbishop Fred Hiltz

Once again it is our joy to gather in Eucharist to celebrate the Naming of Jesus. Of this feast Herbert O’Driscoll writes, “His mother named him Jesus. Each of us who comes to Christmas in our own way and in our own time must decide whether or not we wish to add the title Christ.” That invitation lies at the heart of our baptismal promises — accepting Jesus as Saviour, putting our trust in his grace and love, and obeying him as Lord. It is in fact true that we disclose our naming of Jesus as The Christ not only in the language of the liturgy but in the manner of our living, not only in our worship but through our servant ministry in the world.

As we stand on the threshold of a new year, we pause to look back and then turn our attention to the future.

2009 was a year of incredible experience for our beloved Church. I have had the privilege of visiting several dioceses and many parishes across the country that celebrated significant anniversaries. I was particularly honoured by the invitation of the Bishop Ordinary to attend the annual Clericus meeting for our Military Chaplains and was deeply moved by their commitment and courage in ministering both to our Armed Forces personnel currently deployed in Afghanistan and to their families here at home.

Changes in Episcopal leadership took place in a number of dioceses. Within each of the four provinces a new Metropolitan was elected and I was very pleased to be present and to preach at their installations.

The ministry of the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop continued to expand across the country. Of particular note was his leadership at the 6th Sacred Circle in Port Elgin, Ont., gathered under the theme, “The Mighty Wind of the Spirit.”

This gathering celebrated the movement of the Spirit empowering old and young alike to rise up with renewed strength in witness to the Gospel. The Circle heard about exciting plans for area missions in Northern Ontario and Northern Manitoba, including the election and consecration of Indigenous Bishops to serve these areas. The Circle also identified a growing need for ministry among Indigenous peoples who have migrated to large urban centres in southern dioceses. Increasingly this call is being heard throughout the whole Church and we are seeing some amazing responses.

Speaking of “amazing”, the Amazing Grace Project, in which so many of us participated, raised more than $100,000. This was a moment when where we saw the Church at its best. The Council of the North has designated those funds for the ministry of a co-ordinator for Suicide Prevention Programs in First Nations communities across the country.

We rejoice in the relaunch of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and pledge as a Church to do our part in raising the profile of its work over the next several years. In December we welcomed two of the Commissioners Marie Wilson and Willy Littlechild to Church House. It is clear to me that they are going about their work very much in the Spirit of the Prayer written for the Church Leaders’ tour in 2008 which concludes with these words:

Remembering the Children
We dare to dream of a Path of Reconciliation
Where apology from the heart leads to healing of the heart….
Hear our prayer of hope and guide this country of Canada
On a new and different path. Amen.

The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) began celebrating its 50th Anniversary. I am delighted that one of the centerpieces is The 50 Refugees Program. In accepting the appointment as patron, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson said, “I feel particularly strongly about this having been a refugee myself, arriving in Canada at age 3 in 1942 in the middle of the Second World War with one suitcase for each one of us — my mother, father brother and I. We will never forget how we were taken in by different people who became friends and also the friends that we made through the neighbourhood and our first church which was Christ Church Cathedral. As a Canadian, I can’t think of more useful work joining our religious commitment to our duties as citizens than being a part of settlement program for specific refugee families.” In this spirit, parishes all across the country are sponsoring families. These are coming from many places including Columbia, Eretria, Burma, Iraq, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Palestine. In fact we are more than half way there in terms of the number of sponsorships and I am confident we’ll go far beyond the goal of 50.

One of the most outstanding efforts to sponsor a family is that of a youth group in the Diocese of Montreal. Youth from St. Mary’s, Kirkland and St. George’s, St. Anne de Bellevue have raised almost $10,000.00 of the required $20,000 to sponsor a family. They understand refugee sponsorship as a unique expression of feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, welcoming new friends. They know that sponsorship represents renewed hope for a life of freedom, dignity and peace. They believe they are changing the world one family at a time.

Within the Communion, work on the drafting of an Anglican Communion Covenant was completed, just one week before Christmas! In a covering letter which accompanied the text, Secretary General Kenneth Kearon wrote, “The presentation of the Covenant represents an invitation to deepening of relationship among the provinces. We have a long history of friendship, affinities and collaboration between provinces, dioceses, parishes and people across the globe and we celebrate these manifold expressions of our oneness in Christ. The Covenant represents a further step in these relationships, building on and giving expression to the bonds of affection which shape our common life.”

The Covenant also speaks about procedures for addressing controversial issues and actions by provinces that could be deemed “incompatible” with the spirit of the Covenant, and of “relational consequences” for that province and its place in the Communion. For some, the language of relational consequences is deeply disturbing, given that our relationships within the Anglican Communion are and should never be dependent or fixed on one issue only.

I maintain that in the midst of our differences over issues of sexuality we are called to model a capacity to live with difference and to do so with grace. It is precisely a lack of graciousness that has fired tempers and sparked words of condemnation and dismissal that have been so destructive to relationships within the Communion. I pray that our attitudes and conversations with one another be more and more centered in Him in whom, beyond our understanding, we are forever one.

Last fall the House of Bishops welcomed Pastoral Visitors representing the Archbishop of Canterbury. Their role in the Communion is to provide guidance for provinces experiencing tension over controversial issues. We appreciated their presence and were pleased to hear their reflections which included the following:

“The phrase ‘we are committed to walking together’ was used on a number of occasions both in relations to dioceses within the Anglican Church of Canada and in relation to the wider Communion. Canadians really do want to play their full part in the Communion and play it well.”

This truth is reflected in a variety of ways not the least in the number of Canadians with significant responsibilities within the Communion for Liturgy, Theological Education, Evangelism and Church Growth, Indigenous Ministries and Relief and Development work. Of particular note in 2009 was the appointment of The Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan as Director of Unity Faith and Order for the Communion.

2010 is a General Synod year. In the first week of June, bishops and clergy and lay delegates from each diocese will gather in Halifax under the theme, “Feeling the Winds of God: Charting a New Course.” We meet in the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island marking the 300th Anniversary of the beginnings of Anglican worship in Canada.

The Synod will welcome a number of International partners. It will be a particular delight to receive the Right Reverend Suheil Dawani the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem and his wife Shafeeqa. He comes with a deep desire to strengthen ties between his Diocese and our Church. I am pleased to say we are already engaged in the placement of some Volunteers in Mission and a theological student at St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem, as well as in establishing a companion relationship with the Diocese of Ottawa. I hope we will announce an initiative to be known as Canadian Companions to the Diocese of Jerusalem, a company of people deeply committed to the witness of the Church in the Land of the Holy One. The General Synod will consider a resolution on peace in the Middle East. Bishop Suheil’s perspective on the current situation will help us to make a statement that is appropriately sensitive and sensible.

Each day of the Synod will call us to renewed commitment to those Marks of Mission which draw us together as Anglicans worldwide:

  • To proclaim the Good news of the Kingdom.
  • To teach, baptise and nurture new believers.
  • To respond to human need by loving service.
  • To seek to transform unjust structures of society.
  • To work for reconciliation and peace with justice for all people.
  • To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.

In many respects our work in this coming Synod is shaped by requests made by the Synod of 2007.

Vision 2019 — This was a call to set in motion a process for shaping our priorities as a General Synod for the next nine years. From coast to coast to coast, Anglicans named their hopes, dreams and prayers for our Church. It is clear that we envision our Church as

  • Celebrating the depth and breadth of Anglican Tradition
  • Engaging in the service of the Gospel at home and overseas
  • Becoming more and more welcoming, diverse, and inclusive
  • Walking with indigenous people in paths of healing and reconciliation
  • Living more deeply into our Full Communion relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
  • Working together with other Churches and other faith traditions

A Governance Working Group has been addressing the jurisdiction of the General Synod in matters of doctrine and discipline; the size and membership of the General Synod and its Council; and structures that support Indigenous ministries in ways that honour Aboriginal culture and tradition and the desire for self-determination.

A Primacy Review Task Force has been examining the role and responsibilities of the Primate. A fundamental question that has informed its engagement with people across the country has been “What qualities of leadership do we require in the person of the Primate for a Church fully engaged in God’s mission in the world?”

As we prepare for conversations about sexuality at General Synod it is very clear that people favour conversation and discernment over resolution and debate. Many hope that our discussions will be marked by a capacity to hear one another’s perspective and to appreciate the diversity of settings in which the pastoral and sacramental ministry of the Church is desired. My own hope is that we will emerge from the Synod with an honest statement of where we are in our continuing discernment.

Personally I am both challenged and heartened by a comment made by the Pastoral Visitors in their report to the Archbishop of Canterbury, “General Synod will, indeed, be a watershed, both for the Anglican Church in Canada, and for its wider relations within the Anglican Communion. At its worst it could lead to internal anarchy. At its best it could help us all to appreciate and practise a properly Christian style of inclusiveness. … Our distinct impression was that if the Anglican Church of Canada could find a way through this current impasse, it could well become a vibrant model of the kind of renewed Christian community that has much to teach the wider Church.”

In the service of God’s mission I believe the Holy Spirit is blowing through the churches and calling us to deeper partnership. Nowhere is that more evident than in the response of the churches in Canada to the recent announcement by Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) to end its 35-year-old funding for KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives. Representing a number of Canada’s largest denominations and related agencies, our work is focused on protecting and advancing human rights. In recent years we have been active in Congo, Sudan, Mexico, Columbia, the Philippines, to name but a few. We believe the cut of CIDA funding for KAIROS denies hope for millions of people throughout the world and damages our reputation among the nations. We requested the Government to reconsider its position on this matter. I made a personal appeal to the Minister of International Co-operation in the name of those whose hope and security for a better future rests in our care and actions as Canadians.

This crisis highlights the need for the Churches to have a Secretariat for Government Relations here in the nation’s capital. Given the multicultural and multi-religious complexion of our country, such a secretariat could reflect a strong partnership in the interest of human rights, among people of a variety of faith traditions. I believe that a secretariat of this kind would enhance our capacity to have a stronger voice in influencing the shaping of public policy, both domestic and international.

This year in June Canada hosts an expanded global leaders’ summit. It is not going unnoticed by many people that we will have reached the two-thirds point for the deadline to fulfil the Millennium Development Goals set by the leaders of 192 United Nations member states in the year 2000.

In conjunction with this gathering, there is a Religious Leaders Summit in Winnipeg. Known as the 2010 Interfaith Partnership Initiative, we will urge world leaders,

  • to address the immediate needs of the most vulnerable while simultaneously making structural changes to close the growing gap between rich and poor;
  • to invest in peace and remove factors that feed cycles of violent conflict and costly militarism.”
  • to prioritize long-term environmental sustainability and halt climate change.

Our deep desire is that 2010 be a year of monumental progress in addressing these issues. We call on all Canadians and all people of good will to uphold the leaders in prayer at this critical moment in our collective history.

On a personal note at this time, I ask for your prayers for Archdeacon Michael Pollesel, the General Synod’s General Secretary, whose wife Gini, as many of you will know, died tragically in a car accident earlier this week.

And as we cross the threshold into this New Year, we pray, in words written by former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey at the dawn of the Second Millenium: “Eternal God, we place ourselves into your hands. May we walk together, hand in hand and in all our actions may your will be done, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

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