Thoughts from our Delegates

A letter from Bishop Chris Harper

To our Family in faith, the Diocese of Saskatoon, as we come toward the last day of this General Synod 2019, Vancouver B.C. We, your delegates for the Diocese of Saskatoon, acknowledge that this Synod has been a tiring and trying one. Emotions and passions have taken us to highs and lows, spurring our hearts to respond with Christian love and prayers to our many realities. Long nights and early mornings are the part of the physical reality as well.  

It has been interesting to note the responses within the circle of the Synod as well as those on the outside watching across Canada and beyond. With the legislative process and wording utilized there was no way there would have been a win / win result. This means that it then comes down to our Christian response to our Brothers and Sisters in faith, no matter where they sit or stand on this conversation. It should be noted that we as Christian have failed to witness God’s love to all when we stand firm in our own views. As of late, social media has become the weapon of choice for those that are passionate about one side of the conversation or the other. Certain on line attacks are far from Christian, they certainly do not respect another who has their own context and life. 

General Synod 2019 is yet another example of Christians across this land getting together to express their faith as they practice and witness, and as Christ has opened their hearts. Whilst on this journey of faith we as Christians are not all at the same place in faith and understanding, praise God in this fact, because this shows that the Spirit of God is alive and working in and amongst us. 

What am I coming away from this General Synod with: My dear Lord!!! we are different from each other, made lovingly in the image of God, but different in the song of life and experience we build up, is ours to sing before God Almighty at our end. This song is ours and ours alone, but still part of the great Choir God our Creator has blessed this world with. I personally give thanksgiving to the Almighty, for your song and I personally respect and honor you as you sing your song and presence in our beloved church. The church and the world would be diminished and less without you. 

We need to listen more and speak less, we need to pray more, we need to walk in humility in the love that God almighty exemplified and revealed in Christ to all peoples and nations: to be peace and hope in an embattled world… That the church is not perfect nor perfected. 

Reconciliation is not only an exercise with the Indigenous, but all peoples in God’s creation.

That General Synod is always going to be a challenge to the sensitivities of all of us. To believe that the Spirit of God is leading us should challenge the controlling nature within all of us. The Anglican church has Orders of Faith in our Primate, Metropolitans, Bishops, Chancellors, Archdeacons, Priests, Canons, Deacons, Wardens, Lay Readers, Servers, Ministers of the People, and Laity, all vital parts of the body of the church.

In the imagery of the body, a head is important but is useless without the neck to turn it, the shoulder to support the head and so on…  with all the parts of the body and their function, we as people of faith in our context need to see what your place and function is… 

Yours in Christ,

+ Christopher

A letter from Alexa Wallace

Synod has been a time of extraordinary highs and lows, often in close sequence. Looking over the orders of the day, we have had workshops on respectful conversations, the elation of appointing a new archbishop and electing a new primate, far too many hours spent in meetings, and, of course, a vote which has shown the division in our Church.

The vote on the Amendment to the Marriage Canon is heartbreaking, and was going to be regardless of the decision. There is a harm in taking our diverse Church and placing it to a vote. A vote with only three options – affirm, oppose, or abstain. The nature of the vote necessitates that one side will “win” and the other will “lose,” neglecting the reality that all lose when we force division on our Church.

As a Church, we are divided. As a Synod, we are divided. As your delegates to Synod, and reflective of our Diocese, we are not of one opinion on many questions. But, on all levels, we are committed to remaining together.

Before the vote on the amendment to the Marriage Canon, Synod voted to adopt a set of 5 affirmations. Self-Determination for the Indigenous Church, the Diversity of Understanding on the existing Canon, the Diversity of Understandings and Teachings on Marriage within our Church, a Commitment to Affirm Good Faith amongst all persons and to “hold dear their continued presence in this Church,” and a Commitment to Stand together. They recognize that the Church, as a whole, is not of one mind on this issue, and commit to keeping, or making, space for all.

Our Church – regionally, provincially, and nationally – reflects a diversity of opinions. And there is work happening at Synod, right to the end, to recognize this diversity and strive to keep us in unity. Unity, but not uniformity. Because that is the marker that makes us Anglican. Our ability to include those different than ourselves. Our ability to recognize the Christ in the other and welcome them into our lives. Our ability to be bridge-builders, reaching across the expanse to acquaint those that would otherwise be divided. Our ability to reflect the diversity that makes us the body of Christ.

We need not be of one mind, but we remain one in the body of Christ. To share in fellowship. To join in communion. To show ourselves, our Church, to be the family of God. This, more than any other, has been the work of this Synod. And this is the work we bring home to our Diocese.

 

Yours in Christ,

Alexa Wallace

 

A letter from Archdeacon Ken Watts 

Monday, July 15, 2019

So far this General Synod has had its highs and lows.

Let me talk the lows first.

Certainly the failure of the motion to revise the National Marriage Canon (XXI) to pass the second reading was and is personally a real sadness for me. Yet as we, the Saskatoon delegates, met afterwards I was reminded that the Faith we believe in, the relationship each of us has with Christ and therefore with each other, is greater than any single issue.  Christ will lead us through this time and into some place something where we can all see that we are all Christians, reconciled in Christ.

The greater paradox here (not in Christ but in our current circumstances) is that this has changed nothing for the dioceses.  Each diocese continues to be free to either marry or not marry same-sex couples as determined by the diocesan Bishop. And Bishop Chris has continued the policy put in place by Bishop David, that each parish is free to seek permission from the Bishop to conduct same-sex weddings in their churches, but may only do so after receiving permission. This does not require any diocesan clergy to perform same-sex weddings.

Currently, I do not have an answer as to why this approach was taken at the national level of our church.

A couple of highs:

On Friday morning a motion was passed making Bishop Mark MacDonald, the National Anglican Indigenous Bishop, an Archbishop, so that he is now equivalent to the Metropolitans of the Ecclesiastical Provinces. This is in anticipation that one day there will be an Indigenous Ecclesiastical Province in the Anglican Church of Canada.  It was a great moment.

The other great moment took place Saturday afternoon at Christ Church Cathedral (just down the street from where we have been meeting) where we elected the Bishop of Huron, the Rt. Rev. Linda Nicholls, as the 14thPrimate of the Anglican Church of Canada, to succeed Fred Hiltz as the Primate of Canada, at of the end of this General Synod. She will also be the first woman elected to lead the Anglican Church of Canada.  Bishop Linda comes with a wealth of experience across our Church and the Anglican Communion.

There is much more that could be shared (reports of a wide range of committees and issues), but the last thing I want to mention here is that General Synod also provides Anglicans from ocean to ocean to ocean to meet and talk and exchange our understandings and experiences of what it means to be an Anglican Christian today.

 

In Christ,

Ken Watts    

A letter from Dean Scott Pittendrigh

July 18, 2019 - A Letter to the Congregation of The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist from Dean Scott at the completion of the 42nd General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada

My Dear People of God,

Greetings from Vancouver BC, where I just finished attending General Synod as a delegate from the Diocese of Saskatoon, and Sarah was present as an Observer. The Diocese was also represented by Bishop Chris Harper, Archdeacon Ken Watts, Chris Wood, Alexa Wallace and Ruth Skinner. 

Some of you may have been following the events at General Synod on the Anglican Church of Canada website or our own Diocesan website. I will not attempt in this letter to summarize all that has happened since last Wednesday but I do encourage you to update yourselves on some of the very significant decisions that have been made - all links, documents and video are available at https://gs2019.anglican.ca/category/news/

In an historic vote, General Synod decided almost unanimously on Thursday July 12 to approve changes to Canon XXII that enable a self-determining Indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada, and to bestow the title of ‘Archbishop’ upon National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald, a position which now ranks among the metropolitans. And in a profoundly moving moment our Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, offered a sincere and humble apology for the spiritual harm the Church inflicted on the indigenous peoples of this country. Members of General Synod rose to their feet upon hearing this apology to join together in sincerely supporting this statement. 

Reporting on this moment, the Anglican Journal stated that “delivering his apology to the gathering of General Synod July 11, Hiltz laid out a confession of the ways the Anglican church demonized, dismissed and actively discouraged traditional Indigenous spiritual practices.

“For such shameful behaviours, I am very sorry. We were so full of our own self-importance. To quote the Book of Common Prayer, we followed ‘too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.’ We were ignorant. We were insensitive. We offended you. And I believe we offended God.” See here for full article: https://www.anglicanjournal.com/primate-apologizes-for-spiritual-harm-inflicted-on-indigenous-peoples/amp/

This apology was accepted by indigenous elders on the closing day of Synod - a very important moment in the long process of healing and reconciliation.  

The first part of Friday contained some very encouraging decisions. General Synod passed - by 85% - a document called “A Word to the Church” and can be found here:https://gs2019.anglican.ca/wp-content/uploads/A-Word-to-the-Church-Considering-the-proposed-amendment-of-Marriage-Canon-XXI.pdf

This wide ranging and generous statement, recognizing that many Anglican laity, clergy and bishops have differing understandings and beliefs regarding the sacrament of marriage and who this sacrament can be shared with, seemed to us to have the inclusivity to engage all communities. Please take the time to read this document. 

Given the wide support for this document by the vast majority of those in General Synod, many of us were deeply shocked and saddened when GS failed to pass a resolution amending the marriage canon, which would have allowed for the solemnization of same-sex marriage. A very thorough article describing this day and some possible options as we move forward can be found here: https://www.anglicanjournal.com/church-grapples-with-pain-after-marriage-canon-vote/

Saturday at the Eucharist prior to the election of our new Primate: The following is a portion of an article published in the Anglican Journal that does a very good job summarizing part of Bishop Lynne’s sermon:

“In her sermon at Christ Church Cathedral the morning after the marriage canon vote, Bishop Lynne McNaughton described the day’s reading from Ezekiel 34 as “an indictment of shepherds who don’t care for their sheep.” Jesus, she said, views himself as the “good shepherd who came to bind up the broken-hearted, seek the lost, rescue the scattered and the outcast. The good shepherd calls us each by name…. The namer whispers to the broken-hearted, ‘You are precious, honoured and loved.’”

“How do we hear this?” she asked. “How do we hear this as we get up after an agonizing night at General Synod when we move from the high of yesterday morning moving to the Indigenous self-determination, through the afternoon of making affirmations of how we can live well in our diversity, to the excruciating pain of last night’s close vote?”

McNaughton moved onto the subject of bishops, a relevant topic for many upset about the vote results. While the Order of Laity and Order of Clergy both saw the required two-thirds majority in favour of the marriage canon amendment, the Order of Bishops did not meet that threshold.

“Church leaders have taken on the pastoral metaphor from scripture that pastors and bishops are shepherds…. There’s a danger when human beings take on this metaphor and forget that Jesus is the good shepherd,” McNaughton said. 

As this article was being written, the House of Bishops had met together at General Synod and were reportedly preparing a joint statement on the marriage canon vote.”  (End of AJ article)

Please see their statement here: https://gs2019.anglican.ca/atsynod/a-message-from-hob/

Speaking for myself, I was deeply aware that on Friday night many of us at General Synod were struggling.  We were struggling with a Church who says, “All are welcome…..but...”. “All are welcome but...if you are part of the LGBTQ2S+ you are not fully welcome.’” This part of the Church community that is asking to be fully and pastorally welcomed, ought to have rightful access to all the sacraments of the church and this includes the Sacrament of Marriage.  That’s what full inclusion means!  Many of the members of Synod were in deep pain because of the conversations held on that day.  The announcement of the results left many Synod members in shock.  Many were hurt and disillusioned by the failure of Synod to pass the motion to amend the Marriage Canon.  I was one of those persons.  Many of us were frustrated that the motion passed with strong majorities in the Orders of Laity and Clergy, but not in the Order of Bishops - they were short three votes. When the resolution did not receive the required two-thirds votes in the Order of Bishops some people among us—many of them our younger Synod delegates—left the room in tears.  “Our children are crying” said our Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, as he asked us to be mindful of the immense hurt and pain in the room that night. 

But as Archbishop Fred Hiltz said two days later in his sermon at Christ Church Cathedral, “We are not finished yet!” and asked for prayers to find a way to make provisions to allow same-sex marriage so that we can continue as one church and make room for one another across our differences, and that we can accommodate the diversity in people’s understanding of marriage.  

Several clergy responded with a statement of our own in the following—and I was one of the signatories to this statement:

A Statement from Clergy and Lay Delegates of General Synod 2019

July 15, 2019.

The clergy and lay delegates of General Synod 2019 have by overwhelming majorities voted in favour of the proposed change to the marriage canon to explicitly permit same sex marriage (Resolution A52-R2) and the affirmations of “A Word to the Church” (Resolution A101-R1).  We are saddened and dismayed that the change to the marriage canon was blocked by the vote in the order of bishops, though we are heartened that a strong majority of bishops (62%) voted in favour.

Therefore we affirm:

1. The full inclusion of LGBTQ2S+ people in the life, leadership, liturgies and sacraments, including marriage, of the Anglican Church of Canada

2. That in accordance with the affirmations found in “A Word to the Church”, same sex marriage can and will proceed by local option.

3. That we regret and lament the hurt and harm that has been caused by the actions of this Synod and by our church to LGBTQ2S+ people.  We apologize, and call on our Church to end the harm. (End of statement)

In our own diocese we were given a local option by Bishop David Irving to marry same sex couples after consulting with the bishop and it is my hope that this “local option” will continue in the future. As the Cathedral of our diocese I want our community to be a welcoming, safe and inclusive place for ALL of God’s children. 

But I don’t want to leave the impression that this was the only issue discussed during our week together. On Saturday following the morning Eucharist where we heard Bishop Lynne’s sermon we gathered to elect our next Primate. 

Linda Nicholls, bishop of the diocese of Huron, was elected fourteenth primate of the Anglican Church of Canada on July 13, becoming the first woman in the history of the Anglican Church of Canada and the second woman ever to hold the office of Primate.

“You have bestowed on me an honour that I can hardly imagine, and it is terrifying. But it is also a gift, to be able to walk with the whole of the Anglican Church of Canada from coast to coast to coast,” Nicholls said in a brief impromptu speech on her arrival, after the vote at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, where the election was held. For the full article from the Anglican Journal please visit: https://www.anglicanjournal.com/linda-nicholls-elected-primate/

I believe we have been blessed in past years with a wise, loving, gentle and strong Primate in Archbishop Hiltz and as a Cathedral community we will continue to pray for Archbishop Nicholls in the years to come. 

There are so many other important statements and decisions that were made during our 7 days together—more than can be included here. But I did want to be in touch with you all to assure you that as a community of faith we will continue to be the eyes, ears, hands and feet of Christ in our world—in the heart of Saskatoon—at St. John’s Cathedral. Slowly but surely, God’s transformative Love is shaping us into being the loving, generous and gracious people we were created to be. 

May this God continue to bless you all,

Dean Scott Pittendrigh