The Venerable Alan T. Perry, General Secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada has said on more than one occasion that General Synod is the Anglican Church of Canada at its best.
I experienced moments of what I would describe as the Anglican Church of Canada at its best when:
- we authorized gender transition and affirmation liturgies;
- the Assembly 2023 Resolution on Peace and Justice in Palestine and Israel was carried;
- resolutions on Addressing the Climate Emergency, Water and Moving Toward Net Zero in the Anglican Church of Canada were carried;
- we received and approved One Flock, One Shepherd: Lutherans, Anglicans, and Moravians – Called to Walk Together in Full Communion – the Declaration on recognition of full communion relations between the Anglican, Lutheran and Moravian churches in Canada;
- resolutions on Dismantling Racism and Faith Formation and a Commitment to Call to Action #59 were carried as amended;
- we heard from the Strategic Planning Working Group and adopted Five Transformational Aspirations to guide planning, priority-setting, resource allocation and collaboration with provinces and dioceses in the 2023-25 biennium;
- we heard from Indigenous Archbishop Chris Harper and the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), and the resolution with a Message of Support to Sacred Circle was carried; and
- a motion on Consensus Decision making was carried.
It was the second time in our history that the General Synod met in collaboration with our Full Communion partners, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC). Their Special Convention met the same time as General Synod, and we had a number of joint sessions involving both bodies for worship, fellowship, Bible study, presentations and other discussions. Elections and legislative business were conducted separately.
Table discussions and joint worship with Lutherans were highlights in the week. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings we shared in Holden Evening Prayer, a setting of the Lutheran Vespers Service by Marty Haugen, and I look forward to offering this at Ascension!
The week was not without its low points, though. The resolution to Amend Canon III to Extend Term of Office of Primate was debated at length and defeated on Wednesday and reconsidered and defeated again on Thursday. This vote required two-thirds majority in the three Orders of Bishops, Clergy and Laity, and it was among the Bishops that it failed. This highlights in our system that the current requirement of two-thirds of each Order has the possibility that a small minority (one-third plus one) of any one Order could block a change, despite a majority of each Order as well as two-thirds of all of the members of General Synod being in favour. We debated a Motion Responding to GS 2019 Resolution C005 – Changing the Threshold for Required Votes by Orders. Bishop Shane spoke eloquently and in strong favour of this motion, as did others, but in the end it was deferred until General Synod 2025.
The schedule of the week was intense, with the agenda setting 13-hour days for us. The residence was a 15-minute walk from our meeting place, and while I did do some good socializing in the breaks, I balanced that with returning to my room when possible. I have a FitBit, and I’m able to report that I logged 78, 250 steps last week!
I am so grateful to Wes, and the Ascension community for the blessing and laying on of hands that you sent me on my way with on Sunday, June 25th. Wes invited me to go with the spirit of Ascension, and I felt Ascension’s love and support and prayers with me all week: thank you.
As Anglicans, we are part of a wider structure and framework that holds us as we participate in God’s mission starting at our beloved Church of the Ascension on Echo Drive. Sometimes the way that structure holds us can feel restrictive and inhibiting. I felt some of that this week at General Synod, but I have come away with an even stronger conviction that it’s not about doing away with the structure and framework, but rather about how we inhabit it. Power isn’t, in itself, wrong, but we are asked to be aware of power and how it is used. We are asked to face abuse of power and to resist it non-violently. There is work to be done on how we inhabit the structure of the Anglican Church of Canada. That work is underway already and it is visible in our relationship with Sacred Circle. It is visible in the resolution to change the threshold for required votes by Orders, and in the resolution on consensus decision making. There is hope in this – thanks be to God.
Yours in faith,