January 19, 2004

The first meeting of the newly appointed Primate’s Theological Commission (2004-2010) took place at St. Michael’s House in Oakville, Ontario.

Its purpose is to

  1. encourage and promote theological discussion in the Church by producing statements and study materials on central theological questions
  2. set its own agenda, in consultation with the Primate, concentrating on key theological issues
  3. discuss the foundational theological questions underlying matters referred to the Commission by the Faith Worship and Ministry Committee and/or the House of Bishops and/or the Council of General Synod.
  4. reflect and respect the diversity of theological opinion in the Church

The Commission was originally established at the request of the General Synod of 1995. Members of the first Commission met from 1996 until 2003, and produced three workbooks to assist the Anglican Church to address ‘fundamental theological questions’. The first two of the series called ‘Wrestling with God’, ‘Longing for God’ and ‘Turning to God’ are available from the Anglican Book Centre. The third workbook, ‘Encountering God’, will be published in the spring along with videos produced by the Commission.

The new Commission has an additional mandate of responding to questions put to it by the Faith Worship and Ministry Committee, the House of Bishops or the Council of General Synod. Faith Worship and Ministry has asked the Commission to ‘comment and reflect on the theological basis on which Anglicans approach inter-faith dialogue’.

In beginning to address this question, Commissioners identified underlying foundational questions, including our expression of our understanding of Christ and the Church’s understanding of its mission. It chose to focus first on ‘mission’; each member reflected on their sense of their own mission in Christ, and for its next meeting members will prepare presentations on ‘What is the Church’s mission? Has our understanding and implementation of this mission changed over time?’ Further reflection will also be given to ‘How and why should we continue the mission of the Church?’ In approaching the questions before the Commission, members agreed to use a variety of creative ways of engaging with the issues.

The meeting took place with the assistance of the warm and generous hospitality of the Sisters of the Church in Oakville and the parish of St. Christopher’s, Burlington. It was characterized by participation in the regular life of prayer and communal meals of the community, and Bible study. Commissioners entered into their work with creativity and a sense of enthusiasm, respect and dedication, and commented on the irenic nature of the conversations, in spite of considerable differences of perspectives and approaches.

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Michael G. Peers thanked the members for their willingness to serve, and expressed some regret that he would not be able to continue in the conversation with this Commission. He observed that this was the last meeting of any body of the church that he would attend as Primate, as he retires at the end of this month.

The Commission is chaired, as it was in the first round, by the Bishop of Edmonton, the Rt. Rev’d Victoria Matthews. Members include:

The Rev’d Dr. Stephen Andrews, President of Thorneloe University, an Anglican federated college of Laurentian University in Sudbury, ON (Diocese of Algoma); former Dean of Saskatchewan. Stephen holds a doctorate in Biblical studies from the University of Cambridge, England.

The Rt. Rev’d Benjamin Arreak, suffragan bishop of the Diocese of the Arctic. Ben lives in Kuujjuaq, QC and has been part of a team translating the Scriptures into Inuktitut for 26 years. The team completed the New Testament in 1991, and will publish the Old Testament in 2005.

Dr. Walter Deller is Principal of the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad in Saskatoon, SK (Diocese of Saskatoon). A layman, he holds a doctorate in Old Testament from the University of Toronto and has extensive experience as an adult educator, particularly from his time as Director of Program Resources for the Diocese of Toronto

Rev’d Dr. Wendy Fletcher is Vice-Principal and Dean of The Vancouver School of Theology in the Diocese of New Westminster. She holds a doctorate in theology from the University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto. Her area of research is the history of Christianity, focusing on the history of women in 19th and 20thAnglicanism and the history of residential schools in Canada. She enjoys working with the Association of Theological Schools of North America in accreditation work and is raising three school age children.

Rev’d Jamie Howison is the pastor of the Church of St Stephen & St Bede, an amalgamated Anglican and Lutheran parish in Winnipeg (Diocese of Rupert’s Land), and is also involved in the establishment of Saint Benedict’s Table, a new worshipping community in the “emergent church” movement. He also lectures in the Canadian Mennonite University’s “School of Discipleship.”

Rev’d Paul Jennings is a priest of the Diocese of Montreal and currently Director of Pastoral Studies at the Montreal Diocesan Theological College. His theology was strongly influenced by Luther, and by both liberal Catholic and German Protestant thinking.

Rev’d Joanne Mercer is Director of Internship and Student Development at Queen’s College, St. John’s, NL. A priest of the Diocese of Central Newfoundland, Joanne is also continuing her work on a PhD from the University of Wales, Lampeter, looking at the image of God in animated film.

Dr. Robert Moore (Diocese of Ottawa) is presently retired but still engrossed in theology and church history. A former Guyanese ambassador of Guyana to Canada and an academic historian in Guyana he holds degrees from the universities of the West Indies, Cambridge and Sussex .His doctoral thesis was focused on race and colonialism in Guyana with emphasis on the role of the churches in fostering racial attitudes in that society. Much of his active life has been spent in promoting a creative role for the Anglican Church in creating harmonious societies in the ethnically heterogeneous societies in the Caribbean. His Canadian public life has been spent in Canada’s international role in the development of societies of the Global South at the Canadian International Development Agency.

Rev’d Dr. Canon Gary Thorne (Diocese of Nova Scotia) has recently returned from a six month tour of the Middle East where he ministered as a military chaplain to Canadian troops in Syria and Israel. His doctoral studies considered the resolution of ninth century Byzantine iconoclasm and the revitalization of monasticism in the Eastern Church. Rector of Saint George’s Round church in Halifax since 1990, he is committed to inner city ministry and the mission of the church to the impoverished and disadvantaged.

Ms. Madeleine Urion is completing her Masters of Divinity at Wycliffe College. She holds a B.A. Hons in English and History from the University of Alberta, and is an ordinand in the Diocese of Edmonton.

Rev’d Dr. Lisa Wang is the Assistant Curate at the parish of St Philip’s, Etobicoke (Diocese of Toronto) and Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Divinity, Trinity College, Toronto. She holds a doctorate in English Literature from the University of London and is a graduate of Trinity College (MDiv, 2002). She has research interests in Biblical hermeneutics and conciliar theology. She enjoys finding the parish as much a place of learning as the academy, and the academy as much a place of ministry as the parish.

Staff support for the Commission is provided by Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, to whom requests for further information may be directed. (600 Jarvis St., Toronto, ON M4Y 2J6; 416-924-9199 ext. 281; [email protected])