The week-long, triennial gathering of the national General Synod concluded on Tuesday evening, and there was much to celebrate during its closing banquet.
The Anglican church has, since its inception, striven to create space for diversity in theological thought and expression. Tensions are, at times, inevitable as people struggle to accommodate differences between them, but this past week was significant for its respectful communication, expressions of compassion and hope, and a shared commitment to walk together in mutual friendship as we explore what God calls each of us to be within our own lives, cultures and communities.
The following outcomes of General Synod are among its historic highlights:
- The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz offered this apology to the Indigenous people of Canada for the grave spiritual harms that were wrought upon them by our church. As he notes, the apology builds on a 1993 apology offered by Archbishop Michael Peers and makes explicit our remorse for the "spiritual arrogance" we showed in failing to recognize the rich spiritual culture present in these lands long before our arrival. The Indigenous elders of General Synod 2019 issued a gracious statement in response to Archbishop Fred; please make time to read them both.
- Primate Fred (shown above) retired after 12 years of heart-centred, bridge-building service to the church and on Saturday, July 13 the Most Rev. Linda Nicholls was voted Canada's 14th Primate. She is the first woman to hold this position, and she was installed at a celebratory Eucharist at the Cathedral on Tuesday afternoon before the closing banquet.
- The "Word to the Church" statement was approved by approximately 85 per cent of the delegates. Amongst its affirmations is the recognition that the current marriage canon does not prohibit same-sex marriage in the Anglican church and that dioceses may use their own discretion in choosing how they will proceed on this issue. A later vote to amend the marriage canon to explicitly include same-sex partnerships received an approximate 75 per cent majority, but did not pass the required 2/3 supermajority in the House of Bishops. The House of Bishops later issued this statement, also affirming the right for bishops and diocese to discern their own path regarding same-sex marriage.
A number of dioceses are already offering the service in the aftermath of the successful first reading of the marriage canon resolution in 2016; a number more have stated their commitment to doing so now that this Synod has spoken.
Archbishop Melissa issued this pastoral letter, laying out the means by which same-sex couples can be married in the Diocese of New Westminster.
- The Synod spoke with a near-unanimous voice in establishing a self-determining Indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada. The Most Rev. Mark MacDonald now has the title of Archbishop of the Indigenous Church and is ranked amongst the other metropolitans. This moving moment was the culmination of many years of walking together, commitment and passionate dialogue; you can learn more about this journey right here.
- The governance structure of Synod and national decision-making processes will be reviewed prior to General Synod 2022. CTV has published this excellent article talking about the fact that 14 bishops were able to block canonical change despite a substantial majority of delegates (approximately 75 per cent) being in favour of it.
- Creation care, a commitment to interfaith kinship in signing The Common Word and in a prayer for reconciliation with the Jewish people, and the authorization of added liturgical resources were amongst some of the other positive outcomes to emerge from General Synod.
More in-depth Synod news can be found here on the national website, and on the Anglican Journal's news page. Videos, presentations, and exhibit booths were rife throughout the week, and together attested to the passionate, dedicated ministries of the Anglican Church of Canada. The spirit was at work in Vancouver this week!
- photo credit: General Synod 2019. All rights reserved.