Dear Friends in Christ:
In this holy season we pray in the words of the Litany for Lent, “For the mission of the Church, that in faithful witness it may preach the gospel to the ends of the earth.” In doing so we remember every expression of the Church’s life — local, diocesan, national and international. I realise that the witness of the whole Church is very much dependent on the work of the local Church and I give thanks for the faithful witness of clergy and laity in every parish across Canada.
The month of February is an important time for the Church “local” as parishes come together in annual meetings. It is a time to give an account of the stewardship of the gifts God has given us for ministry and to consider emerging needs and priorities for mission within and beyond the parish. Please know that I hold you in my prayers as these meetings take place.
We are currently living with considerable tensions over issues of sexuality and unity in the Anglican Communion. My hope is that we will continue to speak with one another in such a way that our tensions do not give way to separation, that none of us will say to another “I do not belong” or “I have no need of you.” My prayer is that we will never lose sight of Paul’s teaching about our membership, one with another, in the body of Christ. (1 Corinthians 12)
Given this understanding of Church I am very concerned that there are a few parishes that may be considering a motion to withdraw from the fellowship of the Anglican Church of Canada, and to place themselves under the jurisdiction of another Province of the Anglican Communion. It is not necessary for any parish to consider such action. The House of Bishops has designed a model for Shared Episcopal Ministry. This model enables a diocesan Bishop to share his or her Episcopal oversight with another Bishop for parishes finding themselves in conscientious disagreement with the Bishop and Synod over the matter of the blessing of same sex unions. With this provision in place there is no need for pastoral interventions by bishops from jurisdictions outside of the Anglican Church of Canada. Such interventions in fact are inappropriate. Indeed the Archbishop of Canterbury in a recent letter to me said he cannot “support or sanction” such actions.
In our Anglican tradition, individuals who choose to leave the Church over contentious issues cannot take property and other assets with them. My hope is that no parish will take action that would compel parish or diocesan leaders to resolve property disputes in the civil courts. Such actions would not only be costly in terms of financial resources but also destructive of the witness of the Church in the world.
In my travels I hear many people struggling from a variety of perspectives over issues of human sexuality, but I also hear their intentions to remain within the fellowship of our Church. They trust in the comprehensiveness that has been so long a characteristic of Anglican tradition. They know that there continues to be a place for them in this Church and they know it to be a home for many people with very different views who faithfully remain members one of another in Christ.
Across our beloved Church I see strength, vitality and a genuine commitment to the Marks of Mission of the entire Anglican Communion:
- To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God,
- To teach, baptise and nurture new believers,
- To respond to human need by loving service,
- To seek to transform unjust structures of society,
- To strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.
I pray these Marks of Mission will continue to draw us together in the service of the Gospel.
In him “in whose love we are forever one,” I am sincerely yours,
Fred J. Hiltz
Archbishop and Primate