Reflections on General Synod 2019 in Vancouver
Thanking Volunteers and Supporters!
Thank you so much for the many assurances of prayers and support for our efforts at General Synod. We know that hundreds of people across the country were praying for us and for the whole Church as we met in Vancouver.
Our ACA hospitality suite was a great blessing to many delegates. Thank you to Roland and Arlene Stephenson of Calgary who were the most gracious hosts we could have hoped for!
Visitors to the suite enjoyed Opening and Closing Receptions, continental breakfasts & light snacks throughout the day as well as Morning Prayer, Compline, debriefing sessions and very rich fellowship.
Special thanks to Al Getty, Pilar Gateman, Rob Taylor, Gene Packwood, David Kellett, Bruce Glencross and Gerry Laskey who organized and led the prayer services.
As you can imagine there were numerous rides needed and we are so thankful for the kindness and generosity of David Kellett (from Holy Trinity, Vancouver) in driving a number of us to and from the airport and train station!
Our display table was also made possible by numerous volunteers taking shifts and graciously sharing our vision with those who passed by. Thanks to David Kellett, Ian Falconer, Gayle Higginson, Bruce Glencross, Roland Stephenson, Jason Antonio, Siobhan Laskey, Katherine Yeo, Roger Spack for working the display table! An extra special thank you to Julie Moser (Youth Missioner in the Diocese of Qu'Appelle) who took charge of the display table and also shared her youth ministry materials.
In addition to the times for prayer in the suite, a Prayer Team was also assembled and did regular prayer walks around the cathedral and the site of the meeting. Thank you to them, and also to Christine Rye (Saskatchewan) who attended the plenary sessions regularly in order to provide a constant intercessory prayer presence. I know this was a comfort to delegates!
Sunday worship was a highlight as a number of us joined Holy Trinity, Vancouver for their worship service and for a lovely lunch--it was so delicious and it is clear that in addition to their ministry of producing theological and devotional materials, this parish has a flourishing ministry of hospitality! Holy Trinity, Vancouver and the Rev. Karl Przywala were also a great help in the months leading up to General Synod in terms of planning and organizing volunteers. Thank you!
Finally, a special thank you to 2 members of the ACA Board--Fr. Ajit John (Diocese of Toronto) and Roger Spack (Montreal)--for sacrificing their time and resources in order to attend General Synod. Roger's knowledge of the Church and his cheerful support was greatly appreciated, as was Ajit's pastoral wisdom and knowledge of Canon law and procedural matters!
General Synod 2022 will be held in Calgary and, looking forward, we certainly have a fantastic team of supporters in that diocese!
Turning now to the meetings of General Synod itself, I'm going to share a few links that will provide you with a great deal of information. Most of them focus on the vote on the Marriage Canon and other developments around same-sex marriage. But I would like to say that even in the stress of General Synod and in the midst of intense struggle over the question of same-sex marriage, we also saw some wonderful things happening. Bp. Mark MacDonald's excellent talk on discipleship; some very moving times of worship; the presentation and vote on Indigenous self-determination; the Gospel Jamboree; a beautiful testimony from a woman who was rescued from sex trafficking--those are some highlights. Please check out the videos of General Synod in order to watch these.
At the close of General Synod, we also enjoyed a banquet in the beautiful Vancouver Convention Centre--thanks to the kind couple who paid for tickets for me and for Fr. Ajit! Here are a few photos from that night.
With regard to the complex events around same-sex marriage at General Synod, best to start by reading this news story from The Anglican Planet, which outlines some of the main developments.
The Rt. Rev. Dr. Stephen Andrews (Principal, Wycliffe College) has also written a very good analysis of the vote on the Canon and aftermath.
One of the concerns expressed during and after General Synod centred on what seemed to some to be General Synod's endorsement of the Chancellor's 2016 Memo (which suggested that since the Canon didn't specifically prohibit same-sex marriage, it was in fact permissible). In the lead-up to the vote on the Marriage Canon, General Synod passed the Affirmations proposed in COGS' "Word to the Church." Affirmation #2 was especially concerning. But it's important to note that in responding to questions, the Chancellor made clear that GS was not affirming the Memo itself.
"Affirmation #2…notes that it’s the bishops and synods who have authorized liturgies between persons of the same sex; it’s 'the bishops' and synods' understand that the existing Canon does not prohibit same-sex marriage.
That’s their understanding. It’s also my understanding, that’s contained in a Memorandum that was part of the Convening Circular in 2016 and it’s in our material now.
It doesn’t matter, in a certain sense, whether you accept my view or you don’t accept my view.
Affirmation #2 doesn’t talk about that. It talks about the bishops and synods who have proceeded. They understand that the existing Canon does not prohibit same-sex marriage."
These were very significant comments. In defending Affirmation #2, the Chancellor himself expressed the limitedness of its force. ACA has and will continue to dissent from the Memo, and will continue to highlight the dangerous precedent it sets for future deliberations on matters of doctrine. If you haven't yet read it, check out Fr. Ajit John's piece "The Scope of the Marriage Canon: Against the Chancellor's Memo," one of a series of essays we were pleased to offer in print form at the display booth.
This point is made clearly in the Joint Vancouver Statement put out by ACA and the Communion Partner bishops following General Synod. We encourage you to send this link to other concerned Anglicans, or to view and share it from our Facebook page.
A final note about the legislative process: following the defeat of the change to the Marriage Canon, there were some open expressions of hostility towards the House of Bishops, including to "the 14" that voted against it. There was tremendous pressure put on these bishops, and this came with particular force on the Indigenous bishops who were assumed to have voted against the change. (The voting record is not yet public.) Please continue to pray for all bishops of our Church, with a special focus on those who are now being attacked for holding to the traditional position on marriage. There were also calls for the Church (through COGS) to examine the way it makes decisions. It was openly stated that we need to find ways to reduce the power of bishops to block moves that find favour in the houses of clergy and laity. As our Church is episcopal, not congregational, and as our bishops are to be guardians of the faith, this is a serious concern, and is a discussion ACA will monitor in the coming months and years.
Reflecting on the events of 2 weeks ago, and looking to the future, I sense that in this time of tension, and given the sense of ours being very much a minority position, our work as ACA is more important than ever. One of the things we try to do is to work within the councils of the Church towards our goal of "deepening Biblical faith in the Anglican Church of Canada." We are pleased about the composition of COGS for the coming triennium. Sad to see some folks end their time there, but there are a number of names we're very happy to see on the list!
Our goal is to draw people across the country closer together as they seek fellowship and encouragement. We want to give people a place and a community in which to stand and be faithful. We also know that as many dioceses across the country have now endorsed "local option," in spite of the Canon remaining unchanged, in some dioceses those who hold the traditional position will come under even more pressure. We want to be there for those who are experiencing this. If we can be of support in terms of what's going on at the diocesan level, please let us know! With support and fellowship being so crucial, we'd like to invite you again to join our monthly cross-country calls (just email email@example.com to have your name added and to receive invitations to those calls). And if you are on Facebook, please "like" our page. You'll see many more links and updates as well as more pictures from General Synod.
May God bless you as you rest in him this summer,
Sharon Dewey Hetke
National Director, Anglican Communion Alliance