Report-back to the Church from the House of Bishops, November 2009

The fall meeting of the House of Bishops was held Nov. 2 to 6 at Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre in Niagara Falls, Ont., where we were joined by the Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC). We were also joined by two Pastoral Visitors—Bishop Colin Bennetts, retired bishop of Coventry and Bishop Chad Gandiya of Harare. The Pastoral Visitors are partners from the Anglican Communion appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to observe our proceedings and to report their observations to him as well as to offer reflections to us. We were enriched by their presence. We also always value the presence, experiences and contributions of our full communion Lutheran partners at our once-a-year joint meetings.

We welcomed three new bishops to the House—Terry Dance of Huron, Barbara Andrews of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior and Fraser Lawton of Athabasca. We also said good bye to Bishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee who was attending his last meeting before retirement and to ELCIC Bishop Gerhard Preibisch who is also retiring. We honored the ministries of Alyson Barnett-Cowan who is leaving her position as director of General Synod’s Department of Faith, Worship and Ministry for a new position with the Anglican Communion and of Paul Johnson, assistant to ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson.

At the invitation of the Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, we spent some time this meeting reflecting on how we meet and discussing the purpose of our meetings both when the House meets alone and when we meet with our Lutheran colleagues. In his opening reflection, the Primate noted that it is an opportune time to do this, since there has been considerable feedback on our recent meetings which were largely taken up by people making presentations to us rather than by us discussing Episcopal ministry among ourselves. The Primate also noted that for the first time in more than a decade, the Church now has four new Metropolitans—Archbishops John Privett of British Columbia and Yukon, David Ashdown of Ruperts’ Land, Colin Johnson of Ontario and Claude Miller of Canada. The Primate told us that he feels it is essential that the Metropolitans form a cohesive team and announced that they would gather in a retreat this winter to reflect on this.

In this context, we received a request from the Primate that a task force be established that would include a bishop from each Ecclesiastical Province to reflect on the leadership role of the House of Bishops, and to strengthen links between the national house and provincial houses.

Both the Primate and the National Bishop have now been in office for a little more than two years and both reflected on the fact that the two churches are engaged in similar processes of structural renewal in light of declining members and declining finances—a process which Bishop Johnson described as “creative, scary exciting work.”

We were introduced to Kristin Jenkins, the new Editor of the Anglican Journal, who arranged for us a half-day workshop on declining membership in the Anglican Church of Canada, led by the Rev. Dr. Gary Nicolosi, congregational development officer for the diocese of British Columbia. In a wide-ranging presentation, Dr. Nicolosi challenged us to think about new approaches to ministry and to being church that can assist us to focus on congregational development and growth.

We heard a number of other presentations that consisted of advance briefings on work that will be before the Council of General Synod (COGS) when it meets next week.

The Governance Working Group updated us on the work they have been doing on the “National Indigenous Ministry” file and on work mandated by General Synod 2007 which asked for a conversation on issues relating to church structures and how they facilitate the mission of the Anglican Church of Canada. We also received a draft report from the Governance Working Group.

We heard a presentation by members of the Vision 2019 working group and received a draft report which will also be presented at COGS. We were invited to offer first-blush reactions to some of the report’s key recommendations. Vision 2019 is a project that asked Canadian Anglicans to describe where they see their church as being today and where they would like it to be in the year 2019.

We are encouraged by the tone and content of this meeting which allowed us to focus more on broad themes of leadership and mission than we have done in the past. Considerably less time was spent on hearing reports and more time was spent engaging each other on matters of concern in our ministry. We feel that several conversations have begun that will be worth pursuing in subsequent meetings.

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