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General Synod now offers resource support to dioceses that need better websites

August 16, 2018 - 4:51pm

An informal lunch meeting during the Road to Warm Springs National Church Gathering in Pinawa, Manitoba, has paved the way for a web development partnership model between the General Synod’s Communications Department and Anglican dioceses across Canada.

Bishop Bruce Myers of Quebec was chatting with Meghan Kilty, Director of Communications and Information Resources for the Anglican Church of Canada, when the conversation turned to the unsatisfactory nature of his diocese’s official website.

The website needed an update—badly. In addition, most of its content was available only in English—a disservice to the francophone community that the diocese is rooted in.  However, the diocese’s limited resources made it difficult to implement the necessary changes.

“We’re a small diocese in terms of numbers and resources, and are always looking for a helping hand for projects like this,” Bishop Myers said.

Could the General Synod lend a hand?

According to Kilty, the General Synod’s Communications Department is ready to work with any diocese that needs support in improving its online presence.

“We developed a model in which we can help a diocese develop a website, and we can hand it off at the end of that development,” Kilty said. While the diocese “holds the keys” to its website, covering necessary costs and providing content, the General Synod can offer the time and expertise of its communications team to help develop the site, ensure optimal design and execution, and provide training for the diocese to update it effectively.

That model, she added, “is repeatable for any diocese that is seeking help to develop a site that is clean and modern—that’s mobile-friendly and meets all professional standards—up and running.”

Creation and development

Myers soon began working with the General Synod’s National Web Manager, Brian Bukowski, ushering in an exciting and new partnership between the General Synod’s Communications Team and Anglican Dioceses across Canada.

Bukowski worked closely with Bishop Myers on the design and structure of the new website. He also helped move content from the old website to the new one.  It was important for the new website to have a platform that could accommodate at least three languages: English, French, and Naskapi – the language spoken by Indigenous people in the region. In order to do this, Bukowski looked at a number of multilingual plugin platforms before suggesting Voog, a tool that can provide easy toggling between languages, while also being able to accommodate syllabic characters.

While the vendor provides the first level of web support to dioceses, the General Synod’s Communications team can provide a secondary level of support in the event that dioceses wish to add new sections to the website.

“It’s a site that is hosted with the vendor, versus one where [the diocese has] to own a posting space and put the application on and manage the databases and everything,” Bukowski said. “Someone else is handling all that—the company—and it’s developing the system.”

Enhanced web presence

Feedback on the new website has been overwhelmingly positive; in particular, over the new French content.

“There was a sense that finally, there’s an almost fully bilingual web presence for the Anglican Church in this part of Quebec,” Myers said.

“Even if the majority of Anglicans in the diocese we serve are Anglophone, all of our neighbours and the air we breathe and the waters in which we swim are French-speaking. If we’re going to have any kind of meaningful public face and relationship with the dominant culture in which we exist, it needs to be in French. That’s one of the huge steps forward with our diocese’s web presence thanks to this new website.”

Moving forward, Myers hopes to continue expanding the website, with all online content ultimately being available in English, French, and Naskapi.

“Having a website these days is as basic as having a phone number was … 20, 30 years ago,” Bishop Myers said.

“It’s as basic as having a sign outside your church. The first place people go looking for information about your church is the Internet. They’re going to hit a search engine and go looking for you. So we’re glad that when people go into a search engine and look for ‘Anglican Church Quebec’, hopefully the first hit they’re going to get is our Diocesan website.”

New partnerships emerge

Weeks before the new website for the Diocese of Quebec had gone live, news of this initiative was already spreading across other areas of the Church. Bishop Lydia Mamakwa of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh in Northern Manitoba and Ontario, reached out to Kilty and had begun consulting with Bukowski on how to develop a site for her ministry area.

Although approval is still pending for the new site, the website for the Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh will be very similar to that of the Diocese of Quebec. Both dioceses will take advantage of multilingual platforms—in this case, one for supporting content in both English and Oji-Cree.

“I think this is really an interesting model in the sense that we’re always here for [the diocese],” Bukowski said. “If they get into a pickle or if they can’t figure out something, or if they need to bring someone else on to do training, we’re here for them and we can get them off the ground.”

Dioceses interested in working with General Synod to develop or update a website are invited to contact Meghan Kilty at mkilty@national.anglican.ca.

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Day Four at Sacred Circle 2018: Keeping the covenant

August 13, 2018 - 4:51pm

On the morning of Friday, August 10, we pondered what it meant to be a disciple of Christ. By the end of the day we saw what it meant through the example of our fellow church members.

The Ninth Indigenous Anglican Sacred Circle opened with an opening Eucharist where Primate Fred Hiltz preached and looked back to the 25th anniversary of the acceptance of the apology by then-Primate Michael Peers. This Sacred Circle closed with a closing Eucharist and homily by the Primate that looked ahead to another milestone: the 25th anniversary of the 1994 covenant, which called for a new relationship between the Anglican Church of Canada and  Indigenous people across the church based on self-determination.

When reflecting on how far the church had come in advancing the goals laid out in the covenant, Archbishop Hiltz was frank about the opportunities that are alive, the obstacles that remain and the challenges that still face Indigenous communities. But he also detailed a substantial record of discipleship that has laid the foundation for a truly Indigenous expression of the Church, and helping us all grow into the church that God is calling us to be.

‘Take up your cross and follow me’

The impact that gospel-based discipleship has in creating disciples had become clear to me by the time I attended my final talking circle on the last full day of Sacred Circle.

Each day, the practice of reading a gospel passage three times with others, and posing the same three questions of the text, had brought the Bible to life in a way I had rarely experienced before. It was in many ways the opposite of a standard homily, where one preacher stands at the front of the room and expounds on the day’s gospel reading. The exchange with others in a talking circle—a format more reflective of Indigenous cultures—helped us continually uncover new meanings in the text, apply it to our own life experiences, and leave the circle with a renewed sense of purpose and direction.

In Friday’s reading from Matthew 16:24-28, Jesus tells his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life?” We all had our own interpretations. But among the recurrent themes was the need to focus on our spiritual health and not on material things. There emerged a renewed emphasis on the importance of perseverance, self-sacrifice, and faith through all the difficulties we encounter in life.

Partner moments and focus group recommendations

Reminding us of the importance of friends and fellow travellers in our spiritual journeys, after gospel-based discipleship the members of Sacred Circle heard partner reflections from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and the United Church of Canada.

National Bishop Susan Johnson brought greetings on behalf of the ELCIC, and assurance of their prayers. Attending her third Sacred Circle, the National Bishop said that the gathering for her had come to feel like a family reunion.

Johnson expressed the support of Lutherans as their Anglican full communion partners continues the journey towards a self-determining Indigenous expression of the Church. Moved by the practice of gospel-based discipleship, she noted that she would be taking it back to her church, not just as a tool for deepening their own discipleship, but as a reminder of the ELCIC’s ongoing partnership with the Anglican Church of Canada and the two churches’ shared commitment to Indigenous self-determination.

Ray Jones, hereditary chief of the Fireweed/Grouse clan in Gitsegukla, B.C., offered greetings from the United Church of Canada. He detailed the history of Indigenous ministry in his church; his experiences in residential school, where all students had “three companions: hunger, loneliness, and fear”; and his journey back to Christianity. Ray Aldred, director of the Indigenous Studies program at the Vancouver School of Theology, presented to Sacred Circle and described the vision for his program: “We train Indigenous people for the Indigenous church in Indigenous communities.”

After these reflections, representatives from the focus/working groups earlier in the week came to offer summaries of their discussions and recommendations for action.

Youth and young adults lead a song following their joint presentation. Photo by Matt Gardner

A common thread connecting topics such as the opioid crisis, suicide prevention, and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls was the continuing intergenerational trauma caused by the residential school system, which often manifested itself in poverty and addictions. Speakers urged the church to help communities by building relationships with families who are struggling and being a voice for them.

The focus group on the marriage canon wondered might happen to a self-determining Indigenous church in the event that proposed changes to the marriage canon allowing for same-sex marriage are passed at General Synod 2019.

In relation to how they might move together in the event of a decision that will be hurtful to some parties, the presenters recalled a “profound statement” from their discussions: “How can you ask us how we can walk together after our people have already suffered great wounds, and yet here we are?” The presenters also pointed to the need to translate the marriage canon into Indigenous languages to help people make decisions based on understanding rather than fear.

The focus group on governance for self-determination set a long-term goal of looking for Sacred Circle to have a voice and vote at General Synod, while expressing a desire to move away from the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop being a “program manager”. They planned to recommend to the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) that Sacred Circle sponsor a national gathering of praise, worship, and spiritual renewal.

Young people speak out

Youth and young adult members of Sacred Circle were the next presenters. Each spoke to issues of importance to them that they hoped Sacred Circle would take up as priorities, and ultimately the wider Anglican Church of Canada. These included:

  • Learning more stories and traditional teachings from elders;
  • Adding more interactive events and workshops at Sacred Circle and in parishes to impart skills such as drum making, crafts, learning songs, and making food;
  • Creating safe LGBTQ2S+ spaces to make all youth feel welcome;
  • Continuing to open spaces in the church to encourage community engagement with all, but especially to draw in youth;
  • Meeting more with elders to learn from them and share respective experiences together, perhaps by having a rotating guest elder to speak and meet with youth;
  • Supporting those in prisons through an increased commitment to prison ministry and greater funding for chaplaincy, which has been heavily privatized in recent years; and
  • Hosting a youth gathering to focus on issues such as poverty, abuse, and healing, and to learn more about youth from all corners of Turtle Island.

Taking up their drums, presenters Danielle Black and the Rev. Leigh Kern led the other young members and Sacred Circle in singing “The Strong Woman Song” and the “Ancestors Song”, which they dedicated to Indigenous people who attended residential schools and those who have died in prisons. 

Sowing seeds and watering those already planted

The hymn that started the closing Eucharist, “Holy! Holy! Holy!”, included verses sung in six languages: English, Naskapi, Plains Cree, Oji-Cree, Inuktitut, and Moose Cree. Both the first and last verses were sung in English.

As a non-Indigenous person whose first language is English, I was used to the luxury of being able to sing, read, and pray in my own language. With the lyrics in Indigenous languages spelled out phonetically on the page, I attempted to sing along, but to my frustration found it difficult to pronounce the words. Did others share the same feeling? Our collective singing in the room became noticeably quieter, shakier, less confident when the verses were sung in Indigenous languages, before swelling again in volume during the last verse in English. In that moment, it seemed as if our hopes and actions could not always match the height of our ambitions, but clarified our deep yearning for a brighter future.

Fittingly, the Primate’s homily seemed to reflect these concerns. Archbishop Hiltz honoured the “holy men and holy women”, the “faithful disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ” who had signed the 1994 covenant—many of whom were still with us in that room in Prince George. He described the tears that had been shed on that momentous day: “Tears for the sad state of affairs of the people whom these leaders represented. Tears for the overwhelming poverty and despair in their communities. But tears, too, for the wonder and grace and power of God in that moment.” He evoked the spirit of hope and encouragement that swept through Indigenous Anglicans as they called their people into unity and a self-determining community within the Anglican Church of Canada.

Twenty years after signing the covenant, Indigenous leaders gathered again to discuss what had changed since then. They noted with sadness, the Primate said, that “the overwhelming poverty and despair that had prompted the covenant in first place had not lifted. In fact, it was feeling heavier.” Yet as more tears were shed, they continued to plant the seeds for what has been called a “church of living hope”.

Primate Fred Hiltz and National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald commission new members of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples. Photo by Matt Gardner

Last year, Indigenous and non-Indigenous Anglicans gathered for the Road to Warm Springs in Pinawa, Manitoba. At that gathering, the Primate recalled, he and the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop had learned a great deal about “the spirit of partnership that the 1994 covenant continues to call us” to.

In relating the events of the past four days as Sacred Circle drew to a close, the Primate described that spirit of partnership infusing all the members and guests of Sacred Circle as they continued to walk together on the journey towards self-determination. He quoted the words of a prayer often attributed to the slain archbishop Oscar Romero:

We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.

These words, Archbishop Hiltz said, captured what had been accomplished at the current Sacred Circle. “We are but labourers, watering seeds planted by others … looking together for growth that God alone can give, looking together for that day of reaping with its songs of joy.”

The Primate saw sowers in Indigenous Ministries Coordinator Ginny Doctor and National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald, who believed the best days of Indigenous ministries in the church were ahead of us. He saw them in ACIP; in the work of the Indigenous House of Bishops Leadership Circle; in the diocesan bishops; in the men and women who facilitate community programs, language revitalization, and suicide prevention. He saw it in the offices of the General Synod; in the work of the Anglican Healing Fund, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, and the Anglican Foundation. And he saw it in the rising generation of young people who had laid out plans for a future with hope.

Postscript

Later that evening, after the Eucharist had ended, members of Sacred Circle honoured individuals including Healing Fund Coordinator Esther Wesley; General Synod Archivist Nancy Hurn; Lisa Barry, Becky Boucher, and Scott Brown of Anglican Video; and Program Associate Teresa Mandricks, Secretariat of the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop.

The biggest tribute, however, came to Archbishop and Primate Fred Hiltz, who will be resigning as Primate at the end of next year’s meeting of General Synod in Vancouver. A special video included wishes of farewell from Sacred Circle members, many speaking in their traditional languages, while gifts were also bestowed upon the Primate.

Though Archbishop Hiltz was not the only staff member at Sacred Circle who faced impending retirement, he was emblematic of the crossroads that the church finds itself in as it prepares to pass the torch to new generations of leaders. Yet for all the bittersweet emotions in seeing the departure of beloved leaders of the church, the occasion was marked equally by that very hope for the future that the Primate had described in his homily.

The next morning, the Sacred Fire was extinguished. The members of Sacred Circle departed for home. But the fire in our hearts would continue to burn, as we sought to share with others the same warmth and light it had brought us during our time together in Prince George, B.C.

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Day Three at Sacred Circle 2018: New representation, new voices

August 10, 2018 - 7:11pm

The morning of Thursday, Aug. 9 began with another round of gospel-based discipleship, a practice I have come to appreciate more and more at the Ninth Indigenous Anglican Sacred Circle. In plenary the previous day, National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald described the growing spiritual support that GBD has come to provide many Indigenous communities, inviting people to let Jesus into their lives by going straight to the source.

In the view of one member in my talking circle, today’s gospel reading from Matthew 16:13-23 spoke to the faith journey of each person. When Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” they say others have suggested John the Baptist, or Elijah, or Jeremiah, or other prophets. Jesus’ response redirects the focus to each disciple’s own thoughts and experiences: “But who do you say that I am?”

For modern disciples of Jesus, one’s personal faith journey can lead to surprising places as we strive to discern what God is telling us. Such was the case for a number of delegates at Sacred Circle who, over the course of a day, unexpectedly found themselves elected to serve as new members of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP).

Latest ACIP roster includes enhanced Inuit presence

With this year’s Sacred Circle marking the second elections to ACIP under Canon XXII, Bishop MacDonald acknowledged one major deficiency the last time around in the lack of any Inuit representation.

This time, that flaw would be remedied. Declaring that “Inuit representation is absolutely essential for us,” the bishop said the current elections included three slots for Inuit representation, prompting enthusiastic applause from delegates.

One of those Inuit representatives who would be elected to ACIP was Martha Kunuk. A resident of Iqualuit, Nunavut in the Diocese of the Arctic, Kunuk is a mother and grandmother whose first language is Inuktitut.

Delegates from the Diocese of the Arctic confer during the Provincial Caucus to elect ACIP representatives for Rupert’s Land. Photo by Matt Gardner

“I think our part of the Arctic needs new representation,” Kunuk said. “I woke up this morning not knowing that I would take on a new position. But when the nominations started taking place … When God steps in, you no longer control your feet, where you’re going … You no longer have your own voice, and your heart is no longer yours when God takes over. That is where I believe I stand. This is [what], I believe, God also wants me to take part in.”

“ACIP also needs representation from the Inuit, and God answered our prayers,” she added. “God is in control, so he will further guide us into this.”

Besides the new Inuit members on the council, the revamped membership of ACIP also included representatives from the younger generation of Indigenous Anglicans.

Sheba McKay, 33, is the new representative the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh. Hailing from the northern Ontario community of Kingfisher Lake, she is Oji-Cree.

Like Kunuk, McKay was not expecting to run for ACIP when she woke up that morning. But when the time for nominations came around, she decided to give it a try by “just letting God work”.

As a new member of the council, McKay said, “I feel like I have big shoes to fill. That’s how I feel right now. But my hope is that we will carry on the work of ACIP, and that will continue to get to where we want to go in our life in the church.”

Primate’s Commission and Vision Keepers

Earlier in the day, we heard updates from General Synod staff members and representatives of other church bodies advancing reconciliation on various fronts.

Archivist Nancy Hurn gave a presentation on how to search online through church archives for material related to the residential school system. In recognition of her services towards reconciliation and her upcoming retirement, Hurn was honoured with a friendship blanket and received a standing ovation from members of Sacred Circle.

General Synod Web Manager Brian Bukowski guided Sacred Circle members through components related to Indigenous Ministries on the Anglican Church of Canada website. He also gave them a preview of a new bilingual website in the works for the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh. The display of the proposed Mishamikoweesh website with text in Oji-Cree led to another round of applause.

The Rev. Canon Andrew Wesley and the Rt. Rev. Riscylla Shaw offered an update on behalf of the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation, and Justice. Detailing its work since the last Sacred Circle in 2015, they highlighted:

  • The General Synod’s hiring of Melanie Delva as the church’s national reconciliation animator;
  • Meetings with Delva and the Vision Keepers Council to coordinate work together; and
  • Collaboration with General Synod communications to produce a video on the Doctrine of Discovery, which they presented to members of Sacred Circle.

They also shared the latest work of the formation of a Jubilee Commission which was affirmed by the Council of General Synod in June 2018. This Commission would propose a funding base for a self-determining Indigenous church and address inequalities such as the rates of stipendiary ministry and the concentration of the church’s wealth and resources.

L-R: Aaron Sault, Leigh Kern, and Danielle Black report on the work of the Vision Keepers Council. Photo by Matt Gardner

Updates on the work of the Vision Keepers Council, were also provided from members Laverne Jacobs, Judith Moses, Leigh Kern, Danielle Black, and Aaron Sault. Currently focused on monitoring and supporting the Anglican Church of Canada in implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), the Vision Keepers have suggested a range of tools to help realize UNDRIP throughout the wider church.

To implement the UN document, they said, the church would require tools such as:

  • Information sheets to help non-Indigenous communities build meaningful relationships across cultures and become knowledgeable about traditional Indigenous territories and treaties;
  • Mandatory anti-racism and cultural sensitivity training;
  • Plans for every diocese on how their churches would respond to the 94 Calls to Action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and
  • The larger goal of Indigenous governance for a self-determining Indigenous church.

Maori perspectives

At the end of the day, Thursday’s agenda brought to Sacred Circle representatives from the Anglican Church in Aotearoa, one of three tikanga or groups alongside New Zealand and Polynesia that collectively serve as a province of the Anglican Communion.

Members of Sacred Circle join in singing a Maori song during the evening partner reflection. Photo by Matt Gardner

Bishop Richard Wallace, Archdeacon Mere Wallace, and Bishop TeKitohi Wiremu Pikaahu shared songs, language, and the history of their own Maori people. Recognition of faith through different cultural expressions is officially enshrined in the church in this region, to the point where its leadership is based on three primates who share authority equally, each representing a different tikanga.

Mere Wallace said that the church constitution in their province includes provision to allow their people to express their vote as Maori—reflecting their traditional culture, values, and language, organizing ourselves as they deem appropriate, and participating as equal partners.

“Our cultural practices, our expression of our faith through our language and through song, through stories and how we worship, reflect our own Indigeneity,” the archdeacon said.

Sacred Circle continues until Friday, August 10.

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Day Two at Sacred Circle 2018: ‘Jesus is our liberator’

August 9, 2018 - 7:19pm

As the Ninth Indigenous Anglican Sacred Circle entered its second full day, the universal nature of Jesus’s message, and its connection to global struggles for justice encompassing those of Indigenous Peoples in Canada surrounded our day.

The gospel-based discipleship reading for the morning of Wednesday, Aug. 8 was Matthew 15:21-28, the faith of a Canaanite woman.

In this passage, Jesus encounters the woman in the district of Tyre and Sidon who begs him to help her daughter, who is tormented by a demon. The disciples urge Jesus to “send her away, for she keeps shouting at us.” After initially answering that he was “sent only to the lost sheep of the children of Israel,” Jesus comes to recognize the woman’s faith, and her daughter is healed instantly.

As the listener and note-taker within our talking circle, I listened to members of my group read and reflect upon the passage. Some common themes emerged in the group’s interpretations. One was the need for persistence in prayer and in asking for things. Another was the importance of helping those who require it. And a third was that through Jesus, all are the children of God, regardless of background or ethnicity, and all may come to the table. Christ helped the woman even though she was a Canaanite and not a Jew. As one group member observed, “Jesus came not only for Jews, not only for white people, but also for all of us. He can help us all if we pray to him.” And Jesus calls us to listen to each other.

Back in plenary, National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald expanded on the concept of discipleship, and how centering discipleship on the gospels and on “allowing Jesus into our lives” had facilitated a sustained pastoral presence in Indigenous communities.

Ongoing work by the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) was the subject of a presentation by executive director Will Postma and board member Judith Moses, the latter a representative of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP). They discussed current initiatives such as the clean water project in Pikangikum, Ont., youth and economic development through the Nuu-chah-nulth Economic Development Corporation in Port Alberni, B.C., and Indigenous midwifery in Canada, Peru, and Mexico.

The PWRDF representatives also asked for feedback and guidance from ACIP and Sacred Circle on future program design. Sacred Circle members brought up many of the issues affecting northern Indigenous communities, such as a severe lack of housing and the need to fund community gardens to address high food prices. A bishop raised the possibility of an “Indigenous PWRDF” that would specifically look after the needs of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. As a separately incorporated entity, it wasn’t clear what the relationship would be with national Indigenous ministries.

Resource extraction and climate change

After lunch and before we broke into our focus/working groups, I went out for a brief stroll to enjoy some sunshine and explore the University of Northern British Columbia campus. The sky was hazy and I detected the smell of smoke in the air.

Hazy skies overlook the David Douglas Botanical Garden at UNBC as the air quality warning takes effect. Photo by Matt Gardner

Upon returning to the Conference Centre for the afternoon, I was informed along with the rest of Sacred Circle that Prince George was officially under an air quality advisory due to wildfire smoke. Later that afternoon, the advisory was upgraded to a warning. We were instructed to stay inside, particularly those of us with respiratory issues or pre-existing health conditions.

The afternoon session provided some choice and we selected a topic that we were passionate about. Each of the groups addressed an issue of concern to Indigenous communities: the opioid crisis, governance for self-determination, missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, changes to the marriage canon, suicide prevention, and PWRDF. For me, the air quality warning solidified my original choice: climate change and resource extraction.

The summer of 2018 has been dominated by record-breaking heat waves around the world, amidst a variety of other extreme weather events. Having travelled to Sacred Circle from Toronto, I learned that the city had experienced flooding the previous night after receiving a month’s rainfall in less than three hours. Meanwhile, the wildfires ravaging British Columbia had been exacerbated by hot, dry conditions.

In our working group on resource extraction and climate change, members emotionally detailed the destructive impact of climate change on their traditional way of life.

Lorraine Netro, a delegate from the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation in Old Crow, Yukon, has spent 20 years fighting for protection of the land in the north, and noted that things are only getting worse. She pointed to a provision in the recent tax bill passed by U.S. President Donald Trump that opens up the Arctic national wildlife refuge for oil and gas drilling.

Having fought for so many years to protect her land, she expressed exasperation with the lack of response from those in authority and from constantly having to explain the same issues.

“We’re fighting for our life,” Netro said. “Always, it’s life-threatening. How much more serious is it going to get? A good example is to look at what we’re dealing with today—the quality of air. We can’t go outside. […] Everything that we do is related to our land and our waters and our animals.”

Climate change, she noted, is exacerbating food insecurity for northern communities. Hunters and trappers who used to read the ice and snow now find it dangerous for them to go out. Traditional weather knowledge is faltering in the face of unprecedented changes in seasonal temperatures and weather patterns.

Discussion of the resource extraction and climate change working group. Photo by Matt Gardner

“When we’re talking about climate change, it impacts every aspect of our life, even our spirituality,” Netro said. “It breaks down everything. We have our own way of being in our own communities.”

Her own grandson, “who should be learning about hunting and trapping and fishing”, has never been to a fishing camp because there are no more salmon in his area.

Ingrid Johnson, a member of the Teslin Tlingit Council in Yukon, lives in the same area. Besides salmon, the main staple food there has traditionally been moose. This year, the council made a voluntary decision to shut down all moose hunting due to the low numbers.

“I worry because in our town this year, we usually have snow in late October, November, and then gradual cooling until the cold winter; we have spring coming in the end of April,” Johnson said.

“This year … I was standing at my window just desperate because snow was melting in front of my eyes in December. I was so scared … Our temperature in Yukon north of 60 has risen two degrees. This is supposed to be a tipping point for the world, but it’s happening north of 60 now … It is absolutely immoral that governments don’t pay attention to this.”

Tentatively volunteering my own opinion, I suggested that the elephant in the room was capitalism and its incentive to maximize profits at all costs. That need to prioritize short-term profits over the long-term well-being of future generations prevents governments and businesses from adequately responding to climate change, or quickly transitioning away from fossil fuels towards more sustainable forms of energy.

In the face of such obstacles, our group suggested that the only recourses were education, building a broad-based movement, taking part in acts of civil disobedience—which Indigenous groups in B.C. and Anglicans such as the Rev. Emilie Smith were already engaged in to stop construction of the Kinder Morgan pipeline—and political stances in favour of measures such as the expropriation and nationalization of energy companies under workers’ ownership and control.

Social justice central to evangelism

The evening session saw two partner reflections from the Rev. Malcolm Chun, of the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii, and the Rev. Dr. Brad Hauff, Missioner for Indigenous Ministries in The Episcopal Church. Leading Sacred Circle in singing “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”, Chun laid out what he described as “God’s vision of globalization” in bringing distant peoples closer together.

Hauff focused on current conditions facing Indigenous ministry in the United States through The Episcopal Church. He was blunt in his assessment of the challenges posed by the Trump presidency.

“In the past, Indigenous people have not had the best relationships with presidents of the United States because of our history and the tension that’s been there—the treaty violations, the war and the genocide,” Hauff said. “Some presidents are better than others. But currently we are faced with the reality as we see it that we have an adversary in the Oval Office.”

“Our national parks are being whittled away, sacrificed for private development and abuse of resources, and we ask ourselves, what’s next?” he added. “There are some who even have nightmares about the possibility of tribes having their status revoked and having their lands being taken away completely. A few years ago, I would have said that’s unthinkable … but in the United States now we find the unthinkable is happening.”

While asking for prayers and support, Hauff also noted a number of positive developments for Indigenous ministry in the United States. At its General Convention last summer in Austin, Texas, The Episcopal Church created a new full-time permanent position of Indigenous Theological Education Coordinator—a “huge” development that would help Indigenous people reclaim their own theological narrative.

The Rev. Dr. Brad Hauff offers a partner reflection from the United States. Photo by Matt Gardner

Another resolution that passed made teaching about the Doctrine of Discovery mandatory for all those who undergo the ordination process in The Episcopal Church. Hauff expressed his gratitude to the work of Bishop MacDonald for bringing the Doctrine of Discovery to the attention of the wider church.

Discussing the topic of evangelism, he described social justice as central to Indigenous conceptions of the term.

“When the first missionaries came to this continent to ‘evangelize’ Indigenous people, they weren’t bringing us anything that we didn’t already know. […] If evangelism is going to be done in an Indigenous context, it must have a social justice aspect to it,” Hauff said. “It must be about righting the wrongs of the past, many of which the church created and perpetrated.”

He described “authentic Christianity” as “loving, liberating, and life-giving”. Liberation serves as a release from myriad forms of oppression, whether that is being oppressed through addictions, self-hatred, low self-esteem, racism, or any other issue.

‘Jesus is our liberator,” Hauff said. “The early missionaries when they came here were not liberation-minded. They were oppression-minded, and that has to change.

“That is changing in the church … We will make a change.”

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Day One at Sacred Circle 2018: Being the church God is calling us to be

August 8, 2018 - 7:22pm

In order to pass the torch, one must first light the fire.

The Ninth Indigenous Anglican Sacred Circle began, as had many of its predecessors, with the lighting of the Sacred Fire. As the sun dawned over the University of North British Columbia campus in Prince George, B.C., delegates gathered in the cool morning air to witness the symbolic opening of their meeting, embodied in the flame that served as a reminder of the presence of God—and of the mission that brought them there.

National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald speaks during the lighting of the Sacred Fire. Photo by Matt Gardner

The dream of a self-determining Indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada is closer than ever to becoming a reality. With the Sacred Fire burning bright and the sounds of songs and drums inspiring those gathered, a procession of delegates, partners, bishops, and youth moved from the fire outside into the university Conference Centre, where the work of realizing the vision of the elders continues.

In his sermon at the opening Eucharist, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, recalled a significant anniversary. On that very day 25 years earlier, Vi Smith, “a great Indigenous woman who was a faithful follower of Jesus”, stood up at the closing Eucharist of the National Native Convocation and accepted the apology of then-Primate Michael Peers for the church’s role in administering the residential school system.

As I listened to Archbishop Hiltz recite words from the apology detailing the horrors of the residential schools, I experienced a familiar surge of emotion. Three years ago, in my capacity as web writer for the Anglican Church of Canada, I attended the closing events of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Ottawa, Ont., where I spoke to residential school survivors and was moved to tears by their stories. The accounts of children torn from their families, subjected to rampant physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and the attempted destruction of their language and culture, reflect unspeakable trauma, but also the strength and resilience of survivors.

Now, invoking the gospel and his predecessor’s words from the apology, “more than I can say”, Archbishop Hiltz suggested a new phrase underscoring the continuing relevance of Archbishop Peers’ apology in 2018: “more than ever”.

“More than ever,” the Primate said, “let us persevere in showing that the church’s apology remains a living text. […] Let us be unwavering in our resolve to spot and stomp racism in the church, and in this country […] to strive for right relationships among the children of God from all four directions […] More than ever, let us remain committed to paths of healing and reconciliation upon which the apology set our feet.”

Archbishop and Primate Fred Hiltz delivers the homily at the opening Eucharist. Photo by Matt Gardner

The Primate urged Anglicans to be determined in their efforts to educate the church about the lingering impact of the Doctrine of Discovery, to honour the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and to make good on our church’s public pledge to uphold the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He gave thanks and prayed for continued support to the Anglican Healing Fund. He asked members of the church to turn their hearts and minds to the plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and to rid Canada of the crime of human trafficking.

Yet even as the Primate drew attention to these issues, he grounded them and the larger journey towards Indigenous self-determination in that day’s Bible readings, making clear their inseparability from the life and teachings of Jesus.

“More than ever, may we be as those of whom [Jesus] says, ‘Blessed are the poor, blessed are the meek, blessed are the ones who show mercy, and blessed are the ones who hunger and thirst after right relationships with God and one another. […] More than ever, let us be obedient to the call of the father, ‘This is my beloved son, listen to him.’”

Equipping a new generation of leaders

Reports from the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) and Indigenous Ministries that followed lunch were full of updates detailing new developments, such as the hiring of two part-time youth workers and two full-time suicide prevention workers.

Suicide prevention had made major strides with the release of the video and booklet Suicide in Our Land. Meanwhile, various translation projects, such as the translation of the 2015 Sacred Circle video into Oji-Cree, reiterated the high priority of the revitalization of Indigenous languages.

However, one of the recurring themes during this segment of the day’s agenda was the impending retirement of some key staff members. In the midst of her own report, Indigenous Ministries Coordinator Ginny Doctor indicated that she would transition to part-time as of Sept. 1, after which plans would begin to find her replacement.

Declaring that it was “time to pass it on,” Doctor pointed to the need to pass the torch of leadership. “We have young people here, and we have to equip them to do this ministry,” she said. However, she intended to continue supporting the work of ACIP and National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald: “I’m going to stick around, because I believe that we can be self-determining, and I want to be a part of that.”

As he prepared to share a document on self-determination with Sacred Circle members, Bishop MacDonald recounted some of the successes that early Indigenous ministers such as Henry Budd accomplished in the 1800s in baptizing thousands of Indigenous people, before his efforts were quashed by the church sending in ministers from England who did not understand the needs of Indigenous communities.

Representing one bridge from the past of Indigenous Anglicans to the future, Bishop MacDonald described himself as “a transitional National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, meaning I am going from whatever the old system was to the new system we’re giving birth to.” Looking ahead to a self-determining Indigenous church, he said, “I believe the best days of Indigenous ministries are ahead of us.”

‘Becoming what God intends us to be’

In the late afternoon, Sacred Circle received a draft version of the document An Indigenous Spiritual Movement: Becoming What God Intends Us to Be, which laid out the goals of self-determination, its meaning and guiding principles. Delegates and bishops separated into breakout groups.

Taking notes for one of the breakout groups, I listened to delegates discuss their thoughts about the document. Overall reception was positive, but there was a concern about some vestiges of colonial language, which to the untrained eye might have seemed so subtle as to have gone unnoticed.

For example, one passage read that “The full humanity of Indigenous Peoples cannot be respected, inside or outside of the Church, unless the full authority of their right to exist as self-determining peoples is affirmed.” A delegate raised the question: Affirmed by who? “As long as colonial language is there,” she said, “we’re not going anywhere.”’

Others in my group raised concerns about continuing resistance to self-determination within the institutional levels of the church, such as bishops who were worried about how it might affect the existing division of authority among ecclesiastical provinces and dioceses. Similarly, allocation of funding might be complicated by new jurisdictions.

A consensus among my group was that bridging the gap with those who were skeptical of self-determination was a major goal. They noted that familiarity with the conditions faced by Indigenous people on reserves can breed understanding, which in turn can generate a desire to help.

Sacred Circle members pray together at the opening Eucharist. Photo by Matt Gardner

They highlighted the need to emphasize our common humanity as described in the Bible, in which all are created with equal worth by God. And they pointed out that the current conversation was happening in large part because of the growing strength through unity of Indigenous Peoples and the recognition of their rights to exist in their own way with their own language and culture, including by external organizations such as the United Nations.

Though I took notes, listening intently and quietly, one passage above all in the document stood out to me: “We believe that Self-determination has the potential to deepen the unity of Indigenous and non-Indigenous Christians”. In context of the church’s historic responsibility for colonial policies, the residential school system, and the resulting intergenerational trauma, these words clarified that the right to self-determination is essential for any long-term rebuilding of trust between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Anglicans.

While expressing some concerns in their own discussion, another group I listened to also indicated their desire to support the document on the basis that it would benefit the church as a whole. “The Indigenous church will be the church that God is calling us to be,” said one bishop participant, “but will also help the whole of the Anglican Church of Canada be the church that God is calling us to be.”

The spirituality of self-determination

The final item in the day’s agenda was a presentation by Dr. Martin Brokenleg, The Spirituality of Self-Determination. Retelling a creation myth of the Lakota, Dr. Brokenleg said that moving into an Indigenous Anglican church would be “as big a challenge as coming into this world was for the Lakota”.

Drawing upon his experience as a psychologist, he noted that pushback or resistance can be a natural reaction to change even when the change is desired. When Moses was leading children of Israel out of Egypt to freedom into their own country—to use a biblical example—the hardships of the journey caused some of the Israelites to complain that they wanted to go back, even if it was to slavery.

History has given each Indigenous person some level of trauma related to the colonial past and its continuing intergenerational effects today, Dr. Brokenleg said. But, he added, an Indigenous Anglican church cannot be based on emotions of trauma. Rather, Indigenous people can heal their emotional selves by relating to one another with the love and respect God gave to their ancestors.

“An Indigenous Anglican church uses its strength as a community to love Indigenous peoples enough to begin to heal their trauma … We use our ceremony of holy communion to nourish spiritually our new relatives and ourselves,” he said. “All of these ceremonies teach us how much we are loved by God, and how we can then love others.”

Despite all the attempts to eradicate their cultures, Dr. Brokenleg said, Indigenous people are still here. In choosing these words, he echoed the language of the youth group from the previous session, who in the summary of their own discussion noted, “We are a strong people. We were self-determined. It’s been thousands of years, and we’re still here!”

The richness and resilience of Indigenous cultures can provide unique gifts to the church. Dr. Brokenleg painted a vibrant picture of a future Anglican Church of Canada that has found its true foundation and is made stronger and more colourful, with good music and beautiful clothes in its celebrations.

Even beyond the church, he said, Canadian culture as a whole has become “less and less religious and more embarrassed about spiritual matters … An Indigenous Anglican church can help Canadian culture recover its spiritual side.” By looking to their ancestors and to Jesus, self-determining Indigenous people could share many blessings with all.

A lengthy and enthusiastic applause followed Dr. Brokenleg’s presentation. Closing the day’s session before the evening gospel jam, Bishop MacDonald noted that Doctor had joked to him, “How do you follow that?”

In the days to come, the members of Sacred Circle would seek to answer that question.

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‘This is a spiritual movement’: Discipleship and self-determination drive upcoming Sacred Circle

July 27, 2018 - 4:19pm

On Aug. 6-11, the Ninth Indigenous Anglican Sacred Circle will take place at the University of Northern British Columbia campus in Prince George, B.C.

The latest gathering of the national decision-making body of Indigenous Anglicans will mark another step forward in the journey towards a self-determining Indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada. The theme of the event, Making and Strengthening Disciples: Reborn by Water and Spirit, reflects the key role of discipleship in achieving this long-cherished vision, guided by baptism in water and the Holy Spirit.

“The theme was chosen to mark our progress towards a self-determining Indigenous church within the Anglican Church,” co-chair Caroline Chum said. “We are all disciples, and we all need to be strong and reborn in water and spirit. This is a spiritual movement.”

The focus on discipleship developed in the course of the February meeting of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) and subsequent discussions among the planning team, but received a significant boost in March when National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald attended the World Council of Churches Conference on World Mission and Evangelism in Arusha, Tanzania.

The conference included a heavy emphasis on transforming discipleship, which Bishop MacDonald connected to the agenda for the upcoming Sacred Circle—in particular its work to advance self-determination.

“Over time, Indigenous people have experienced calls for them to be members of an institutional church, and it is very critical, I think, to the health and well-being of our churches, and also critical for self-determination, that we begin to develop discipleship,” Bishop MacDonald said.

“We often refer to it as gospel-based discipleship, contrasting that to institutional-based membership … We see this as a critical factor in the well-being of individual Indigenous people and their families, but also the foundation and cornerstone of our leadership development.”

Meeting details and agenda

This year’s gathering marks the first time that a Sacred Circle has taken place in British Columbia. Until this year, Lethbridge, Alta., host of the third Sacred Circle in 1997, was the furthest west the event had been held

Though ACIP had decided on 92 delegates at its February meeting, Indigenous Ministries coordinator Ginny Doctor said that the number of delegates was “way over 92 now … We have a full house.” Most of the proceedings will be in English, but tools will be available for any delegate who requires translation.

With self-determination being one of the main agenda items, Doctor said that a key priority would be “getting everyone onboard and making sure people understand what that means for us as an Indigenous church,” as well as developing a constitution for the Indigenous church.

“Lots of people still think [self-determination] means separation, but it doesn’t,” Doctor said. “I think it’s going to be a much stronger partnership with the Anglican Church than what we’ve had in the past.

“If you go way back, our Indigenous people were always looked upon as being like children and had to be taken care of. But now what we’re really saying is we can take care of our own, we can take care of our ministry, just let us do it and give us the opportunity. And there are some people who are afraid of that. But we’ll see what happens.”

Urgent items for discussion at Sacred Circle include proposed changes to Canon XXI on marriage and Canon XXII on Indigenous ministry, to be moved forward for General Synod 2019.

A range of other issues will be addressed through several focus groups, based on topics that have frequently come under discussion in the last one or two years. For example, one focus group, originally planned to concentrate on the opioid crisis, has been expanded to include all forms of substance abuse.

Delegates will be able to self-select which focus groups they wish to attend. Each focus group is a “real working group”, Doctor said, and will be expected to come out with proposed actions for ACIP, the General Synod, or the office of the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop.

New this year: Livestreaming

Anglicans who wish to follow proceedings at Sacred Circle may view the event through livestreaming video on the Anglican Church of Canada website and Facebook page. In addition, comprehensive coverage will be provided through daily reports on Anglican.ca and the Anglican Journal.

Above all, members of the church are encouraged to pray for delegates as they attempt to discern the movement of the Spirit at what the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop said would be a “very consequential meeting.”

“We certainly hope people will pray for us … There will be a lot of consequences of this,” Bishop MacDonald said. “We pray for God’s guidance and wisdom in moving ahead.

“We are constantly aware of the challenges in our communities, both those on reserve and also urban areas as well. And we hope to see this emphasis on discipleship make a positive contribution to the health and well-being of the larger communities that we’re a part of.”

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Mary Magdalene: Witness of the resurrection

July 23, 2018 - 5:32pm

July 22 traditionally marks the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, observed by Anglicans as well as Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox churches.

In 2018, Mary’s feast day falls on Monday, July 23. The date transfer reflects the custom that feasts celebrating saints cannot take the place of a Sunday liturgy, unless that saint is the patron of a parish or one of the apostles of Jesus. Yet in the case of Mary Magdalene, that distinction is a subject of growing debate.

At a time when the role of women in the church has never been more prominent, changing views of the unique witness and discipleship of Mary Magdalene—her close relationship with Jesus, her financial support for his ministry with the apostles, and her witness of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection—mirror the change in perceptions of women within the church and in society as a whole.

Different perspectives: Eastern and Western Christian traditions

The Rev. Canon Dr. Lizette Larson-Miller, Huron-Lawson chair of moral and pastoral theology at Huron University College, said that views of Mary Magdalene have historically diverged between the Western and Eastern Christian traditions. She pointed to words from the Anglican collect for Mary’s feast day:

Almighty God,
whose Son restored Mary Magdalene
to health of mind and body
and called her to be a witness of his resurrection,
forgive us and heal us by your grace […]

“It’s interesting that the focus is still on healing and sin, rather than what you would find in Eastern Christianity,” Larson-Miller said. The latter tradition, she noted, has “three names for her: apostle to the apostles, equal to the apostles, and a myrrh-bearer, which is actually an important classification.”

In contrast to these prestigious titles, Western Christian views starting in the fifth century A.D. suffered from confusion over different Marys in the New Testament, in which Mary Magdalene was conflated with other women such as a prostitute and a “sinful woman”.

Reflecting on how these views shaped perceptions of Mary in the Western Christian tradition, Suzanne Rumsey—public engagement program coordinator for the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, and a master’s of theology student at Trinity College—drew a comparison with traditional portrayals of the Virgin Mary.

In each case, Rumsey suggested, each woman was largely reduced to a stereotype. Where Mary, the mother of Jesus, was portrayed in the patriarchal church tradition as “the perfect virgin”, Mary Magdalene was viewed as “the reformed prostitute, the fallen woman who Jesus saves.”

She added, “I think what has been happening, but I think needs to happen more still, is saying to ourselves: how do we go beyond the stereotypes?”

A shift in understanding

The rise of second-wave feminism led to a sea change in views of women and their role in society. Among Christians, the most visible expression of this change was the growing conversation around the ordination of women.

In 1969, the Anglican Church of Canada began to ordain women as deacons. In 1975, General Synod approved the ordination of women as priests, and in 1986 it signaled its support for the ordination of women as bishops.

The growing presence of women in church leadership positions coincided with a gradual reassessment of Mary Magdalene and the role she played in Jesus’s ministry. Larson-Miller pointed to the increasing phenomenon of women gathering around July 22, often with ecumenical evening prayers, which she herself has participated in for years.

She also recalled attending an opera in 2013 by Mark Adamo, entitled The Gospel of Mary Magdalene. In particular, she remembered the excited conversations from audience members, especially women, about the contributions of Mary.

Mary Magdalene “was there at the crucifixion,” Larson-Miller said. “She clearly accompanies Jesus. After this healing encounter with Jesus […] she clearly goes along with the disciples. She’s using her money to support them. She was there in Jerusalem. She’s the one that runs to the tomb and then goes and tells the others … In [eastern] prayers, it says, ‘Christ received you as a true disciple.’”

“I’m not sure that these kinds of celebrations and the shift in understanding have made huge changes in the role of women in the church,” the scholar added. “But it’s not a complete coincidence that all of this is happening in the 1970s. It becomes a part of a larger movement towards a greater inclusion of women and a stronger voice of women, so that they can point back and go, ‘It’s not just Peter, [and] it’s not just those [male disciples]. There is this woman who also played this role.’”

‘You are my witness’: Mary Magdalene and the #MeToo movement

Earlier this year, the film Mary Magdalene was released starring Rooney Mara as Mary and Joaquin Phoenix as Jesus. In the trailer for the film, Jesus tells Mary, “You are my witness” —a phrase that evokes “You Are My Witnesses”, the theme of the 2016 General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada and the 2016-2019 triennium.

In March 2018, it was announced that the film would no longer be distributed in the United States and Canada by its original partner, The Weinstein Company, following allegations of sexual abuse against the company’s co-founder and chief executive Harvey Weinstein. Those allegations would go on to spark the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and assault.

For Rumsey, the witness of women against sexual misconduct through #MeToo has parallels in the biblical witness of women to the resurrection of Christ after seeing his empty tomb:

Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. (Luke 24:11-12)

“You’ve got these women witnesses, and the men in the crowds don’t believe them,” Rumsey said.

“I think that rings so many bells, or it should ring so many bells for us in this time about the #MeToo movement as it’s impacting the church … We need to believe women, and we need to believe what they’re telling us.”

View prayers and readings for the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene.

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Sacred Circle 2015 video translated into Oji-Cree

July 19, 2018 - 1:30pm

A feature-length video documenting the eighth national Anglican Indigenous Sacred Circle is now available online in Oji-Cree.

The translation marks the first time that a Sacred Circle video has been translated in its entirety into an Indigenous language. Though translators have been onsite during previous Sacred Circles, the translation of the 2015 Sacred Circle—which took place in Port Elgin, Ont. and was built around the theme Lifted on the Wings of Faith: Heeding the Indigenous Call—represents a major stride forward in the official oral history of the gathering available in a traditional language.

Bishop Lydia Mamakwa and Ruth Kitchekesik, deacon of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Kingfisher Lake, translated the video into Oji-Cree, the predominant language spoken in the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh (ISMM).

“The discussions [at Sacred Circle] are very relevant to our people, and not all of [our people] speak English,” Bishop Mamakwa said.

“Typically, in Mishamikoweesh and northern Ontario, they speak only Oji-Cree and read and write Oji-Cree only, some of our priests and others. So we felt that it was very important for them to know what happened and what was discussed at Sacred Circle.”

Requests to translate Sacred Circle resources into Oji-Cree have been made for many years, but a lack of available resources had precluded any such translations being done.

In the wake of Sacred Circle 2015, an application for funding resulting in grants being provided by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Foundation, which allowed the long-awaited translation to take place. With the grants providing the necessary funds for travel costs, Bishop Mamakwa and Kitchekesik were able to travel to Toronto and complete the translations.

Various delays caused by health issues, crises in their home communities, and competing responsibilities— Kitchekesik is also working on other translation projects in the ISMM—meant that the overall process took three years, but the majority of the work was done on two separate trips to Toronto.

During each of these visits, the translators spent days at Church House, painstakingly going through the Sacred Circle video and translating the words into Oji-Cree. One of the challenges was translating certain words, such as “canon”, that do not have an equivalent in the Oji-Cree language, and required building in new sections to define them.

To make the process more manageable, Kitchekesik and Bishop Mamakwa divided the work into segments and took turns, alternating every few hours. In translating the feature, they worked closely with members of the General Synod communications team: senior producer Lisa Barry, production coordinator Becky Boucher, and freelancer Scott Brown, who helped match their spoken words to the video footage.

“Scott, our cameraman, took it on, and had to work very closely with Bishop Lydia,” Barry said. “It was a lot of back and forth because we don’t speak Oji-Cree, to understand that we’re actually putting the correct line over every line that’s being said. It took him a few hundred hours to do … Becky worked very closely with him as well.”

The labourious process paid off and the complete video of Sacred Circle 2015 in Oji-Cree is now available free at the Anglican Church of Canada website. Discussions are currently underway as to possible alternative methods of distributing the video, such as on flash drives and DVDs.

Though Indigenous Ministries is hopeful that such translations will continue for Sacred Circle 2018 and beyond, whether or not that occurs depends largely on the will of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, and whether enough money is available to cover the costs.

“We’re in discussions about it now as to how much and how much translation we can do, and when things need to be translated,” Indigenous Ministries coordinator Ginny Doctor said.

“As we gear up for this Sacred Circle [2018], it’s a concern, because what happens at Sacred Circle needs to be taken home to the Indigenous communities. But if it’s not translated properly to that community, then we lose the message, and there may be misunderstanding or people may not know. That’s the kind of thing we get all the time, ‘I don’t know anything about this’, and it’s really frustrating because it seems like we haven’t done our work. It’s just one of those things that we have to keep working at in order to make it better.”

While unclear whether video of Sacred Circle 2018 would be translated into Indigenous languages, Bishop Mamakwa welcomed more of such translations in the future.

“Personally, I’d like to see that happen again,” the bishop said.

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Bound to the Word unites preaching and music

July 17, 2018 - 1:30pm

In the beginning was the Word. Then there was the Music.

Bound to the Word is an innovative experiment within the Anglican Church of Canada that made its debut last Advent in the Diocese of Huron. It is a “call-and-response” style of worship that brings together spoken homilies and musical accompaniment.

Now its chief architect, the Rev. Steve Greene, is hoping to see congregations across the country—particularly youth—try out this different form of worship, tinkering as necessary to suit their own contexts.

“The whole goal is for the priest in each church to say, ‘Hey, yeah, I’ll try this out,’” Greene said. “‘Yeah, my youth like spoken word, they like music, so let’s incorporate both and therefore challenge the congregation to hear differently on the preaching of the Word.’”

Inspired by his love of the call-and-response African-American preaching style, Greene organized a pair of events in December 2017 that brought together four preachers from different denominations with pianist Angus Sinclair, first affiliate cathedral organist at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, Ont. and backing musician for The Three Cantors. In addition to Greene, the preachers included Andrew Rampton, a deacon and graduate student in the master’s of theology program at Huron University College; Pastor Susan Boddaert of Hillsburgh Baptist Church in Toronto; and Pastor Karl Thomas of Impact Community Church in London.

The Bound to the Word events took place in two locations, one at Trivitt Memorial Anglican Church in Exeter, Ont., where Greene serves as assistant curate to the rector, and the other at Bishop Cronyn Memorial Church in London. Each preacher was given a scripture passage for a different week of Advent. After lighting a candle, each built a homily around that week’s gospel reading, connecting it to an Advent theme such as hope or love.

Throughout each homily, Sinclair would play music to complement the preacher’s words and individual style. For example, when Rampton spoke, the pianist would respond by playing traditional English Advent hymns. During Greene’s homily, his playing took on a more energetic gospel style.

“I can recall a particularly great improvisation on ‘Once in Royal David’s City’ toward the end of my sermon, which was really splendid, whereas when Steve was preaching—as is totally appropriate to Steve’s style—the improvisation from Angus had a much more jazzy and gospel feel,” Rampton recalled.

“Pastor Karl was preaching, and his preaching style relies a lot on weaving the theology in with fairly colloquial stories. He spent a lot of time preaching about a dog that he owned— and so Angus’s style of music went back and forth between a sort of classical piano style of improvisation, and a much more sort of illustrative musical commentary on the life of this dog and what was happening in the story.”

While Rampton would preach and stop, allowing Sinclair to respond with musical commentary, Greene and Thomas gave the pianist free rein to improvise under them throughout their homilies. Pastor Boddaert, in the intervening time, adopted something of a halfway approach, referencing specific pieces of music during her homily for Sinclair to play while he was able to improvise in between.

Along with dialogue between preachers and musician, the call-and-response also extended to those sitting in the pews. In both Exeter and London, members of the community who had accepted the invitation to attend regularly chimed in to affirm the preacher’s message.

“I’d have some questions and have a response to them and say an ‘Amen’, or whatever it is in their hearts to speak and proclaim,” Greene said. “It was always a constant dialogue. The community with me, the community with Angus, Angus with me—it was a constant dialogue with all three parties.”

Reactions to Bound to the Word were largely positive, from both the preachers and the congregations.

“The commentary from the congregation in both sessions was that they were really interested to hear different preachers, especially from different churches, and to be exposed one after the other to different styles, different traditions, different ideas, and that it was interesting to hear homilies with a shared theme of Advent one after the other, and to be able to put them in conversation with each other,” Rampton said.

“They all commented on how interesting it was to have a musician work with the preacher as part of the preaching, rather than one happening and then the other happening […] There was a good-natured affection to the thing from the start.”

Speaking personally, he added, “I thought it was a lot of fun. […] I enjoy preaching and I always look forward to doing it, but I also really enjoy hearing preaching. […] I don’t think many preachers get to work as part of a team of preachers very often, and that was a really interesting, rewarding experience.”

With a successful trial run under his belt, Greene is now looking to encourage other congregations to try the Bound to the World format.

As the official storyweaver at the upcoming Canadian Lutheran-Anglican Youth (CLAY) gathering in Thunder Bay, he is pondering the idea of incorporating Bound to the Word in some way (registration is still open for CLAY, which runs from August 15-19). However, Greene makes it clear that much of the success relies on the presence of a talented musician of Sinclair’s calibre.

“To have Angus is critical for the event and for the ministry. […] I’d love to do it in CLAY,” Greene said. “It’d be a great opportunity to have 800 kids and youth there to hear it, but we’ll see. I do want to bring it. It is on my radar.”

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Religious Social Action Coalition strives to end poverty in Newfoundland

July 12, 2018 - 5:11pm

The elimination of poverty is a bold goal, but it is the driving force behind every act of the Religious Social Action Coalition in Newfoundland (RSACNL).

An alliance of faith organizations based primarily in Greater St. John’s and the Avalon Peninsula, the RSACNL seeks to achieve a living wage for workers and the adoption by government of a “fairness prism”, in which all proposed legislation and policy is evaluated on the basis of whether it is fair to all members of society, from the richest to the poorest. Establishing a higher minimum wage is a key component towards its goal of a living wage.

The coalition aims to attain these goals by championing its policies of economic justice to government officials from all political parties, as well as municipalities, businesses, labour unions, and other advocacy groups. Their chief means for doing so are through knowledge sharing, public advocacy, and engaging with the wider community.

“We talk all about the elimination of poverty, rather than the alleviation of poverty,” said the Rev. Canon David Burrows, coordinator of the RSACNL.

“We don’t want to see less people poor at the same levels. Instead, we want to see an overall lessening of poverty, with the hope that it becomes the elimination of poverty, and that that gap no longer exists between the poor and the rest of us.”

The RSACNL has existed since 2007, emerging from annual interfaith dialogues in St. John’s between various faith groups. A particularly prominent topic of discussion was the shared concern of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and Hindus around issues of poverty.

One of the founding members of the RSACNL was Arnold Bennett, an activist and former advisor on health care to U.S. President Bill Clinton, who had started a Jewish community havura (group) in St. John’s. As Burrows explained, Bennett “suggested that the faith community should put their money where their mouth is and take some action rather than just chatting about things”.

The formation of the RSACNL aimed to make the elimination of poverty a permanent agenda item for governments in Newfoundland and beyond. In 2010, Burrows was appointed by the three Anglican bishops in Newfoundland and Labrador to the RSACNL as its Anglican representative.. He was appointed coordinator in 2012 following the death of Bennett.

Efforts to eliminate poverty have deep roots in the Christian tradition, Burrows noted.

“Jesus talks about money more than he talks about pretty much anything else, but we as Christian preachers sometimes ignore that fact,” he said. “But there are underlying themes within the scriptures and within the gospels, particularly around the difference between those who have and those who have not. Sometimes it has to do more with faith and understanding, or being at one with God. But a lot of it comes to do with socioeconomic challenges.

“It’s the people who are ignored in Luke’s gospel—those who are socially disadvantaged, like children and women, or who are pushed outside of the community, like lepers or people who have a job as a sex worker for example, and are ostracized by the Pharisees and others. For me, scripture’s focus on socioeconomic justice is an important piece, one that we need to translate and to integrate into our daily living as we live out our faith in the things that we do.”

The concern for economic justice is also a value shared by many different faiths. Those shared values made the elimination of poverty a natural focal point for the RSACNL.

Economic justice “is something common to all religions,” said RSACNL director Mohammed Nazir, a volunteer with the Muslim Association of Newfoundland and Labrador. “Whether it’s Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, Pentecostals, Muslims, Hindus, Jews—every religion has certain values, and not only these. There are other values.

“For example, [we] all believe in charity. [We] all believe in equality. [We] all believe in human dignity. [We] all believe in human rights. So we are trying to pick up things which are common to the religions […] [We] have a lot more in common than … differences. And out of these, we felt that this [economic justice] is something which deserves our attention.”

Fighting poverty is an interfaith endeavor

Each fall, the RSACNL organized a symposium and invites various speakers to discuss how to engage municipalities, provincial and federal governments on justice issues related to poverty. Past speakers have included professors from Memorial University and members of the group Citizens for Public Justice.

Throughout the rest of the year, members of the RSACNL research and engage in dialogue with government officials and community groups to advance its goals of establishing a living wage for Newfoundland and Labrador as well as a fairness prism for public policy.

The RSACNL has what Burrows described as an “ongoing open dialogue” with the province, meeting with government officials twice per year to discuss their concerns. In May, they met with then-Speaker of the House of Assembly Tom Osborne and interested MHAs.

The coalition has written two letters to the provincial government over the past four years, during which the minimum wage has increased from under $10 to its current level of $11.15. Its ongoing relationship with the government has also given the RSACNL access to the statistics agency of Newfoundland and Labrador, providing the coalition with information for specific municipalities around the cost of living and wage variance.

Through their shared work, members of different faith organizations in the RSACNL have drawn closer together. As a friend of the Muslim Association, Burrows attends Muslim prayers four times per year.

He often shares ideas and offers suggestions on how Anglicans might be able to support them in their own projects. For example, with the Muslim Association currently working on establishing the first Muslim cemetery in Newfoundland and Labrador, its members have approached Burrows with questions on how Anglicans have dealt with funeral processes and cemetery regulations.

“We see a lot more humanity and a lot more common themes among our differing faiths because of the concerns that we have, and the care that we have for each other,” Burrows said.

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Ministry in Vancouver, B.C.: Setting the stage for General Synod 2019

July 10, 2018 - 5:19pm

One year from today, Anglicans from across the country will pour into Vancouver, B.C. for the 42nd General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. Led by the General Synod Planning Committee, preparations are well underway for the gathering, which will take place from July 10-16, 2019 at the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre.

For those new to Vancouver, the life in and around the coastal seaport city could seem unfamiliar. Let’s explore the context for Anglican ministry today in Vancouver, and how local concerns find expression within the church.

Multiculturalism and diversity

With an estimated population of more than 630,000 in the city and almost 2.5 million residents throughout the Metro Vancouver area, Vancouver is one of the most diverse and multicultural cities in Canada. More than half of city residents’ first language is one other than English.

That cultural diversity also finds expression among local Anglicans. On June 23, the Diocese of New Westminster ordained two deacons and three priests. Notably, all three of the newly ordained priests came from countries other than Canada. The Rev. Hyok Kim was born in Korea, came to Canada to study theatre at Regent College, and resolved to became an Anglican priest after visiting the Episcopal Cathedral in South Korea. The Rev. Marion Man Wai Wong was born in Hong Kong and serves as a curate in a Mandarin and English-speaking congregation. The Rev. Dr. Sharon Smith is an occupational therapist from South Africa.

Meanwhile, the Diocese of New Westminster itself is in a companion relationship with the Episcopal Diocese of the Northern Philippines, and has four Filipino parishes. One of the Anglican priests in the city came directly to Vancouver from the Philippines.

Diverse and inclusive forms of ministry

The diversity of Vancouver’s population is also reflected in the diverse forms of ministry engaged in by Anglicans.

One of the most notable examples of Anglican ministry in the Vancouver area is Salal + Cedar, a community oriented around the Watershed Discipleship Movement and reflecting a commitment to the firth Mark of Mission, “to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.” Coordinated by the Rev. Laurel Dykstra, Salal + Cedar has a strong emphasis on environmental activism and social and ecological justice, and is currently gearing up to support grassroots resistance of the Kinder Morgan pipeline.

Another focal point for Christian community is St. Hildegard’s Sanctuary, which bases its contemplative ministry on the arts and creative expression. Holding services that incorporate creative and kinaesthetic elements such as painting, poetry, and music, St. Hildegard’s recently received a $15,000 grant from the Anglican Foundation to develop a set of trauma-sensitive liturgical resources.

At Christ Church Cathedral, an emerging LGBTQ-affirming ministry can be found in the form of its Sunday evening congregation known as St. Brigids. Though firmly rooted in Anglican liturgical and spiritual traditions, the St. Brigids congregation is slightly less formal, providing an opportunity for participants to question and grapple with the implications of Scripture and tradition in their lives.

Moving that sense of Christian community into the streets, Father Matthew Johnson is the coordinator of the Street Outreach Initiative, which provides frontline pastoral care to residents in Vancouver’s Downtown East Side struggling with poverty, mental illness, violence, alcohol and drug addiction, and dealing with past traumas. Every Sunday morning, as part of the initiative, lay ministers on the front steps of St. James Church invite street-involved newcomers into the church to meet together and to hear the liturgy.

Building community alliances

Concerns of local Anglicans over issues of social and ecological justice often find expression in the Metro Vancouver Alliance (MVA). A coalition of labour, religious, community, academic groups, as well as educational institutions and some small businesses, the MVA provides a forum for local activists to work on issues of concern.

The Anglican Diocese of New Westminster is one of the sponsoring organizations of the MVA, as are five local Anglican parishes. Since its founding in 2014, the MVA has focused on issues such as affordable housing and public transit, social inclusion, and income justice.

Look for more stories on Anglican.ca as we prepare as a church for GS2019.

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2019 Canadian Church Calendar reflects life of the church ‘inside and out’

July 3, 2018 - 4:50pm

In 2019, the new Canadian Church Calendar brings together the best of both worlds: a reflection of our beautiful Anglican tradition in twelve Canadian cathedrals, and the ministry that each cathedral community leads inside and outside the walls of its church buildings. The calendar deftly weaves together photographs of Anglican cathedrals with the church’s ministry across Canada and around the world through the theme “Inside and Out”.

“Sometimes [in past calendars] we’ve focused on the buildings and what’s in them, and sometimes we’ve focused on the way the church engages in God’s work in the world, and so this was a way of bringing those two things together,” General Secretary Michael Thompson said. “So these are the places where we gather, and these are the things that we do in the world … inside and out.”

Thompson described the theme as emphasizing unity between the life of the church and the interaction of its members with the wider world.

“One of the maybe not-so-helpful ways of thinking about all of this is that what goes on inside the church is for the members, and what goes on outside the church is the members serving the world,” the General Secretary said. “It makes the church sound kind of like a clubhouse, when in fact, part of our work is to invite people into the encounter with God that we typically understand as happening … at least in the gathered community … inside a lovely church that has been built and cared for with great love and attention.”

He drew a comparison with the word liturgy defined as a “public good that is provided by private contribution”, one that “provides a potentially life-changing encounter with God.” Liturgies inside the church, Thompson said, are “seamlessly related to the other liturgies of the church, in which we feed the poor … in which we bear witness to God’s desire for peace, in which we struggle against racism and the detritus of colonialism.”

The month of March, for example, features a photograph of 3,000 origami cranes hanging at the Cathedral Church of All Saints in Halifax, as well as a quote from Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers”. The art display was a response to the tsunami in Japan, but Thompson noted the association of paper cranes with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, describing the image as an illustration of the church’s witness for peace.

In the September spread, the calendar depicts a young child, Marco, learning math by playing dominos at St. Hilda’s Anglican School, a mission of the Diocese of Fredericton in Belize.

Since 2005, Christ Church Cathedral in Fredericton has helped support the school, offering sponsorships to students and donating funds twice a year to help maintain operations. Carol Ann Melvin, a parishioner at Christ Church Cathedral and volunteer on its Belize Mission Committee, took the photograph during a week-long mission trip in which she helped bring educational games to the students.

“We basically hugged the kids as much as possible and had all kinds of games, and we supported the teachers working in small groups,” she recalled. She and her fellow parishioners also spoke to older students, offering positive messages of self-confidence and talking with them about their plans for the future.

“This is a poor community in Georgetown, Belize, and so we were giving as much love to the kids because we know that the families were challenged financially and that adds on its own stresses,” Melvin said. “Every child can always use more love, and we felt that these children perhaps could benefit from our love and just spending time with them … working on their basic educational skills … but maybe [also] on a spiritual level … that they would know that we were there and we came just for them, and we loved being with them, and they were important, and we were excited to see them everyday.”

“It’s powerful,” she added. “For us, to be there, God was ‘inside and out’ all the time.”

The 2019 Canadian Church Calendar will be available for order in early July. Copies of the calendar cost $5 plus tax, or lower at bulk order prices, and can be ordered from Parasource or directly from your regional calendar secretary.

View ordering details.

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Three Cantors return in concert to lift spirits of Churchill residents

June 26, 2018 - 1:30pm

The vocal trio of Anglican clergy known as the The Three Cantors returned to the stage on Sunday, June 10 after a two-year hiatus, performing a special concert to bring some good cheer to the residents of Churchill, Manitoba.

The Cantors—Bishop William Cliff, Dean Peter Wall, and Archdeacon David Pickett, and backed by pianist Angus Sinclair—sang to an estimated crowd of 60-70 people at the Churchill Community Centre. The performance marked their first appearance together since their last concert in 2016, which took place just prior to Cliff’s consecration as seventh bishop of the Diocese of Brandon.

“We haven’t sung together in two years, so it was an adventure,” Bishop Cliff said. “We had to sort of remind one another when we breathed and do a little extra practice, and of course we were in a hall that we didn’t know. […] But it was by far an adventure. It’s the furthest north we’ve ever sung.”

The Churchill concert, which was open to all members of the public, brought out a sizable part of the town’s population,  estimated to be 900 people.

That turnout was partly the result of pent-up demand, as residents of Churchill had first requested a performance from the Cantors last year to coincide with the town’s 125th anniversary. Yet it also reflected a need for uplift in a town going through hard times.

Churchill has suffered greatly since flooding damage in May 2017 shut off the only railroad link to the town, which is otherwise primarily accessible by plane. Bishop Cliff has described the resulting situation as a “pastoral emergency”. The closure of Churchill’s two major employers, the railroad and then port, have had a severe economic impact, particularly on the tourism industry. Meanwhile, prices for essential items such as food have skyrocketed.

Though the broken railroad had seemed to thwart the hopes of residents to hear The Three Cantors perform for their anniversary celebration, their determination remained unbroken. In the aftermath of the flooding, they doggedly organized fundraising efforts to pay the necessary travel costs.

With the individual Cantors living across a wide geographical expanse—Bishop Cliff is in Brandon Man., Dean Wall in Hamilton, Ont., Archdeacon Pickett in Calgary, Alta., and Sinclair in London, Ont.—gathering its members together for a performance can cost a considerable sum.

Churchill residents “wanted us to come up last year in June […] but then the rail washout made that impossible,” Bishop Cliff said. “So they worked for the better part of a year and got donations and funding to get us all up there—and we had a great time.”

Having successfully made the journey to entertain the people of Churchill, the Three Cantors are considering the possible of performing together again in the future.

A possible concert in Brandon, Man.—which would reduce the total cost of travel—is currently in the works for the Cantors, who in their two decades performing together have recorded four albums and raised more than $1.5 million for the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund.

“Being a bishop makes it near impossible to get us together,” Bishop Cliff said. “But we’re going to keep trying to do what we can where we can.”

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Edmonton Equally Anglican group raises banner for LGBTQ-affirming ministry

June 22, 2018 - 1:30pm

On the last Sunday of every month, the evening Eucharist at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Edmonton takes on a distinctly rainbow-coloured hue.

The monthly worship service is the focal point for area members and friends of Equally Anglican, an LGBTQ-affirming ministry. Although the ministry first took shape in the Diocese of Toronto preceding the first vote on amendments to Canon XXI on Marriage in the Church at General Synod 2016,  Equally Anglican has taken on a life of its own in other parts of the country.

At Holy Trinity, the Eucharist is organized by the Equally Anglican group and welcomes, and includes, LGBTQ people in the worship as intercessors and as guest preachers. Intercessions and sermons at the service have a particular focus on LGBTQ concerns, but all centre around what co-organizer and lay reader Matthew Mercer Deadman calls “the radical love-for-all as taught to us by God.”

“From my layman’s perspective, it’s a reaffirmation that the Good News applies and is about everyone,” Mercer-Deadman said. “I think particularly now in the LGBTQ community, a lot of the focus quite rightly is shifting to the needs of the trans community, and I feel that it’s important that we remind ourselves and we remind our neighbours that we are all made in God’s image…”

“Being made in God’s image encompasses everyone, regardless of race or sexual orientation or gender identity or gender expression. It’s just so much bigger than that, and the sacrificial and redemptive love of Jesus is part of that incomprehensible largeness.”

In dioceses from Ottawa to New Westminster, many congregations have adopted the symbols of Equally Anglican in a show of support for the LGBTQ community, particularly during Pride Month—using its distinctive logo on banners outside their churches or during Pride parades.

For Edmonton Pride this year, Equally Anglican had a presence at both the Pride Parade and Pride in the Park, with co-organizer Imai Welch attending along with other “clergy-allies” from the diocese wearing their clerical clothing. Supporters also planned to attend the local LGBTQ-organized social evenings known as Fruit Loop, engaging with the local community and helping to reinvest proceeds into the local LGBTQ community.

In Toronto, supporters of Equally Anglican are participating in Pride activities such as the annual Church on Tap event on June 22 at Christ Church Deer Park, a fully inclusive celebration of the Eucharist with Bishop Kevin Robertson presiding—Canada’s first openly gay bishop—as well as live music, words from local queer activists, and an evening “Gospel Drag” show.

Equally Anglican origins

Equally Anglican began in 2016 as the brainchild of the Rev. Philip Josselyn-Hamilton, assistant curate at Trinity Chuch in Aurora, Ont.

“I think that in so many ways, the church has not traditionally been a place that LGBT people feel like they can have a voice or have a meaningful contribution into the life of the church,” Josselyn-Hamilton said.

Vestments bearing the Equally Anglican logo. Photo via Facebook

“Equally Anglican was almost sort of reminding the church that we’ve always been here, and that you can’t get through most Sundays without singing a hymn written by one of us, or directed by an [out] choir director/organist who is L, G, B, or T. I thought it was time for us to say to the rest of the Anglican Church that the way that the vote went in 2016 actually mattered to their friends and their parishioners and their clergy, even.”

In the lead-up to the vote on same-sex marriage at General Synod, Josselyn-Hamilton led local Anglicans and members of the LGBTQ community in producing three videos depicting gay or lesbian couples active in the Anglican Church of Canada, whether as clergy or lay people. Each video received tens of thousands of views on Facebook.

“My hope was just that we would get even just a few people to see these videos, feel humanized about the issue, and then maybe vote more gently at the synod,” Josselyn-Hamilton recalled. “Even if they were maybe conservative on the issue of same-sex marriage, at least maybe in their working groups, they would have a bit of a context for people who are already in their neighbourhoods [and communities].”

The extension of Equally Anglican to Edmonton began when the rector of Holy Trinity asked anyone elected to a second term in the vestry to pick a ministry focus. One vestry member chose the LGBTQ community as an outreach ministry. Having heard of Equally Anglican in Toronto, the members asked permission to use the name before spinning it off and making it their own (“Toronto-inspired, but not Toronto-directed”).

Mercer-Deadman described the monthly Eucharist service as “sort of a halfway point to reintroduce not just LGBTQ people back to the Anglican Church, but to reintroduce the Anglican Church back to LGBTQ people.”

“In the grand scheme of things, it’s not meant to be a separate-but-equal congregation,” he noted. “It’s just seen as another Sunday night service for the parish of Holy Trinity, but is more outwardly and specifically affirming for the LGBTQ community.” At Holy Trinity, Equally Anglican is looking towards more community outreach, possible fundraising, and coordinating with other LGBTQ faith groups in the city.

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Mission to Seafarers a welcoming haven for isolated mariners

June 14, 2018 - 1:30pm

June 25 marks the International Day of the Seafarer, an annual occasion designated by the International Maritime Organization to recognize the contributions of seafarers who operate the cargo ships that provide many of the goods and materials we use every day. Since 1856, Anglicans have helped promote the well-being of seafarers and their families through the global outreach ministry Mission to Seafarers. Its Canadian region, Mission to Seafarers: Canada, operates in ten centres across the country stationed by full-time and part-time chaplains.

As the International Day of the Seafarer approaches, many Mission to Seafarers centres across Canada are planning special events to mark the occasion. In Halifax, Mission to Seafarers will be inviting the public to an open house and holding its annual luncheon with the local Filipino community, joined by the mayor and other dignitaries.

In Thunder Bay, the local Mission to Seafarers is hosting the annual Blessing of the Fleet ceremony featuring a pipe band and short service with prayers, a memorial for all those who have died at sea, and a blessing of vessels on the water.

“Seafarers play a vital role in our economy,” said the Rev. Canon Ed Swayze, a naval chaplain with the Anglican Military Ordinariate and part-time chaplain at Mission to Seafarers Thunder Bay.

“Here in Thunder Bay, we ship eight million tons of grain a year,” he said. “Well, that’s grain that’s grown in the Prairies, and so the seafarers are a link in that chain back to the farmer. If you look at sea containers, right now NAFTA’s talking about percentage of all the parts in cars; well, the parts that come from offshore come in a sea container, and they’re brought here by seafarers.

“In Eastern Canada, most of our gasoline and petroleum products comes from the refinery in Saint John. Well, the ship brings the oil to the refinery at Saint John […] When you drive your car, the gasoline you’ve got at some point in its life was transported on a ship.”

For chaplains, the work of ministry with seafarers begins with visiting merchant ships that come into port and speaking with crew members, striking up conversation and asking whether there are any issues onboard.

The Rev. Maggie Whittingham-Lamont, regional director of Mission to Seafarers Canada, greets crew members on a ship docked at the Port of Halifax. Submitted photo

“Most seafarers don’t have a lot of people in their work life that they can [put their] trust in,” the Rev. Maggie Whittingham-Lamont, chaplain for Mission to Seafarers Halifax and regional director for Mission to Seafarers Canada.

“They know that when they see the flying angel logo, they’ve found someone who they can confide in, they can trust in, and anything they tell us will be dealt with to the best of our ability without endangering their position onboard ship or endangering their future employment, which is always an issue.”

Inquiring into the welfare of those onboard, chaplains will sometimes discover issues such as unpaid wages or insufficient food. Many seafarers come from nations such as the Philippines, India, or countries in Eastern Europe where average wages are much lower to start with.

To help assist with any needs that are raised, chaplains will orient crew members to services offered by Seafarers’ Centres located near the ports.

These centres offer conveniences such as small shops to buy toiletries and souvenirs, and stockpiles of used clothing to keep warm, since many seafarers find the cold Canadian weather a chilly surprise. All centres have a van used to transport seafarers, operating as a free service while accepting donations. Chaplains will often use the vans to take seafarers ashore to do shopping or even sightseeing.

Because many seafarers have little access to shore leave—often as little as two days per month—Mission to Seafarers also help them get in contact with loved ones by connecting them to Wi-Fi, selling SIM cards, and helping them to wire money back home.

“We’re not the only way they can do that, but we have a role in helping them communicate with their family, and I think for everybody, family support is important,” Swayze said. “It’s a primary support in our lives.”

Over the last few decades, the nature of ministry to seafarers has gradually changed. Where in the 1960s, it was common for a ship to be in port for two weeks, today a typical duration is between five to eight hours.

With advances in communications technology, chaplains often stay in contact with seafarers even after the latter have left harbour.

“I just spent my whole lunch break talking via Messenger to a seafarer that’s heading into New Zealand tomorrow, but they have a problem onboard and so he’d message me to talk about it, and to see if there’s anything I can do about it,” Whittingham-Lamont said.

“So it’s not just locally—with computers and the Internet, we’ve sort of become cyber-chaplains as well as on-the-ground chaplains.”

Mission to Seafarers offers Seafarers’ Centres with full-time chaplains in Halifax and Vancouver. Centres with part-time chaplains operate in Toronto, Hamilton, Oshawa, Thunder Bay, and Saint John. All Canadian missions are locally funded.

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Canadian Anglicans attend Brazilian Episcopal Church General Synod

June 12, 2018 - 1:30pm

Representatives of the Anglican Church of Canada deepened ties with their Brazilian counterparts this month as international guests at the 34th General Synod of the Igreja Episcopal Anglicana do Brasil (IEAB), or the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil.

Bishop Linda Nicholls of the Diocese of Huron and Global Relations Director Andrea Mann travelled to Brasilia to attend the Brazilian church’s latest General Synod, which took place from May 31-June 3. Due to scheduling conflicts as a result of his presence at the Council of General Synod, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, selected Bishop Nicholls to attend as the Primate’s designate.

The two Canadian Anglicans were among a handful of international guests that included the Primus of Scotland Mark Strange, Primate-elect Julip Murray of the province of Central America, Oklahoma Bishop Edward Konieczny―representing Presiding Bishop Michael Curry of The Episcopal Church―and representatives of the United Society Partners in the Gospel from England.

“We are in a conversation with the province to discern renewal of partnership between ourselves and the Brazilian church,” Mann said. “Attending their synod was a good opportunity to reconnect with leaders of the church and to listen to reports and have conversations both with the leadership and synod delegates, but also with the Brazilian church’s other international partners.”

A small but growing Anglican province

The IEAB is a relatively new province of the Anglican Communion, having officially joined in 1965 as its 19th ecclesiastical province. With a membership of approximately 120,000 in a country whose population exceeds 200 million people, the IEAB is a small but growing church that has a reputation for inclusivity.

Total attendance at the IEAB General Synod was estimated at 65 people representing 10 dioceses, each of which has three laity, three clergy, and one bishop. Reflecting the relative newness of the province itself, much of the conversation at the Synod involved efforts to establish new canons, clarify working relationships, and find financial stability for dioceses and as a provincial synod.

As a representative of the Primate and her own Diocese of Huron, which has a companion diocese relationship with the Diocese of Amazonia in Brazil, Bishop Nicholls described an atmosphere of camaraderie and solidarity at the synod.

“It’s a real privilege to sit and watch another church at work in its life,” the bishop said. “There was an informality to the provincial synod that our General Synod [in Canada] would find curious. There isn’t the same strictness about rules of order, but there’s a wonderful spirit of joyful participation and passion about what they’re doing, and that was good to see.”

Same-sex marriage resolution

Aside from the election of a new Primate, Bishop Naudal Alves Gomes, one of the most significant developments at the Brazilian General Synod was the passing of a resolution permitting same-sex marriages in the church.

The resolution has obvious parallels to the debate facing the Anglican Church of Canada as it heads into General Synod 2019 in Vancouver, where members will vote on the second reading of a similar amendment to their own marriage canon.

Bishop Nicholls noted that Brazilian Anglicans have gained an identity among the wider churches of Brazil as “a church that has claimed very strongly the principle of inclusivity and justice … There were a number of LGBTQ people, both lay and clergy, that are part of the church, and that intense commitment to inclusivity was a strong factor in this―but not exclusively, because there certainly were rural dioceses that expressed concern over this.”

In the end, the resolution to permit same-sex marriage passed overwhelmingly, with 57 voting in favour and three against.

Despite the disparity in votes, Bishop Nicholls described a relationship among those in attendance based on a clear sense of mutual respect.

“It was a very strong vote, and I think the reason was that the people who were opposed felt that there had been space created for them by allowing it to be at the discretion of the bishop, which gave them a place where if their bishop was not in favour, they didn’t feel they would be forced into anything,” Bishop Nicholls said.

“I was moved by the fact that when the vote happened, and there was great joy amongst those who had been working towards this for some time, those who were opposed kept a gracious silence,” she added. “They weren’t angry, they weren’t upset, they didn’t stomp out of the room, they didn’t make it clear that they were unhappy. They just quietly sat and let the others who felt strongly about this have that moment. And that was different than some of what I saw at our last General Synod.”

Deepening relationship

As the new Brazilian Primate prepares to take on his new responsibilities, the IEAB and the Canadian church continue to make plans to strengthen their national and international commitments to social and ecological justice―priorities highlighted by Bishop Gomes’ predecessor, Bishop Francisco de Assis da Silva, in his 2016 presentation to the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada.

Following a request by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby for regional consultations of all Primates before the Lambeth 2020 conference, Archbishop Fred Hiltz volunteered to host a meeting of Primates from the Americas in Ontario this November. Though logistics remain to be worked out, Mann expressed hope that Primate Gomes would be able to attend the gathering.

“My impression about the relationship between our two churches is that there is certainly a spirit of friendship and mutual interest, and respect in the other’s ministries and contexts for church development and church ministry. […] There is an interest in seeing where we might go further and more substantially from here.”

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Shamattawa First Nation parish seeks to rebuild after fire destroys church

June 8, 2018 - 12:23am

The Rev. Mary Anne Miles lives a considerable distance from St. John’s Anglican Church in Shamattawa First Nation, the northern Manitoba parish in the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh where she serves as priest.

As a result, it was through a telephone call that she first learned about the blaze on April 18 that burned the community’s only Anglican church to the ground.

“I had a call that the church was burning,” Miles recalled. “I’m not really sure what the first person was who saw it.”

“It was very sad when I heard that it was burning, because I have everything in there and I lost everything through the fire,” she added. “All my registry books, whatever I do, my recordings for the services—I lost everything, even my licenses for being a reverend. I lost everything in that fire.”

According to an RCMP spokesperson, investigators traced the origins of the fire to a furnace within the church that had recently been malfunctioning.

In the wake of the destruction of St. John’s, Miles and her congregation responded with a fierce determination to rebuild their church.

“While the fire was on, I had thought to myself, whatever it takes—that I will do what I can do to help have the church [back] as soon as possible; that I can find ways to have the church rebuilt again,” Miles said.

An isolated community with an official population of 1,016, Shamattawa relies on winter and ice roads for taking in supplies, including any materials that would be necessary to rebuild St. John’s.

Mindful of the amount of time it would take for supplies to come in, Miles wished to begin efforts to rebuild as soon as possible. She spoke to local residents who helped set up a GoFundMe page with a goal of raising $50,000. At the time of writing, the campaign had raised a total of $750.

At the same time, the parish has received a wave of support from various dioceses and ecclesiastical provinces of the Anglican Church of Canada. Among the first to respond was the Diocese of Central Newfoundland, which pledged to gift materials including Bibles, prayer books, a chalice, and paten. Bishop John Watton invited members of his diocese to pray and make a donation through their own local churches.

Shortly thereafter, the Ecclesiastical Province of Rupert’s Land took up a collection at its provincial synod in early May, with all proceeds going to support the congregation of St. John’s. The synod ultimately raised almost $1,000.

Archbishop and Metropolitan Greg Kerr-Wilson called the offering “an expression of our solidarity and our love for our brothers and sisters” in Shamattawa First Nation, while noting that other churches had been stepping up to donate materials such as extra vestments.

“First and foremost, there’s the tragedy of losing the building, but there’s also of course the psychological trauma of losing their place of worship, which is very dear in many smaller communities especially,” Archbishop Kerr-Wilson said.

“There’s a real important place for the churches, and so understanding [those] signs of support and love from the rest of the church are really, I think, crucial for helping people move through the thing and begin to rebuild their life together as a church.”

National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald described St. John’s as one of the Anglican Church of Canada’s most remote congregations. Through the ministry of Miles, he said, “St. John’s provides the primary pastoral and social care for a community that faces many challenges.”

“The response of the Anglican Church of Canada to their needs is an indication of our sensitivity to our fellow church members in a time of grave crisis and need,” Bishop MacDonald said.

“The response so far, especially the pledge of the Diocese of Central Newfoundland, is promising. We hope that many others will join them and that all of our churches will pray for this community in crisis.”

Donate to support rebuilding efforts for St. John’s.

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Highlights from the Council of General Synod: June 3, 2018

June 4, 2018 - 1:52am

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Council members gathered at 8:45 a.m. at the Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre in Mississauga, Ont.

Orders of the Day

The Rev. Dr. Karen Egan, co-chair of the Planning and Agenda Team, read out the Orders of the Day.

General Synod Planning Committee

The Very Rev. Peter Wall, chair of the General Synod Planning Committee (GSPC), presented a report to the Council of General Synod (CoGS) on the work of the committee in preparation for General Synod 2019 in Vancouver. He began with a video showcasing the proposed theme for the gathering, “I Have Called You By Name”. The theme refers to a passage from the Book of Isaiah:

But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you. (Isaiah 43:1-2)

The video presented logo ideas for the theme, as well as examples of the logo on various items such as pens and T-shirts.

Describing it as an “enormous privilege” to have been involved in the planning of eight General Synods, Dean Wall noted that while each General Synod is identical in the sense of bringing together Anglicans and partners to do work as one body, each General Synod is distinct in terms of having its own themes and tasks to perform.

Moving into the particulars of General Synod 2019, he expressed the recommendation of the GSPC that electronic voting be used in Vancouver only at elections—those of the Prolocutor, Deputy Prolocutor, and Primate. He described the hotel that will host General Synod, the Sheraton Vancouver Wall Centre, as a good site that will cover all the needs of members in attendance. The Sheraton Vancouver is only three blocks away from Christ Church Cathedral, where the bulk of worship will take place. Parish visits are also planned throughout the lower mainland on Sunday, July 14.

The GSPC been able to confirm the attendance of Dr. Martin Brokenleg, who will work with Archbishop Melissa Skelton to prepare members of General Synod for their tasks at the meeting. Both have experience in how groups make decisions and people work together, and will spend some intentional time offering orientation to members to do their work in ways that are healthy and life-giving, so that the church can come out of General Synod as an intact body of love and discipleship.

Table groups took six minutes to answer a pair of questions posed by Dean Wall:

  1. What would you say to the GSPC is your hope for the tone of these discussions, and suggestions as to how that tone might be achieved?
  2. Two major items on the agenda are continuing the journey to a self-determining Indigenous church, and our church’s response to human trafficking. As a table, offer two ways that GS might engage in these important discussions.

Notes from each table were sent into Wall, to be passed on to the rest of the GSPC.

Continuing his report, Wall said that the GSPC had received a draft communications plan at its last meeting. Having tried tablets and an app for the first time at General Synod 2016 to ensure the convening circular was in the hands of all members, the GSPC had decided to do the same thing at General Synod 2019—albeit without tablets, having concluded that distribution of tablets to members was not necessary. The forthcoming General Synod will have a well-developed app, and those in attendance will be asked to bring their own electronic devices, though additional laptops and smartphones will be available for those without devices to bring. The General Synod 2019 app is currently in development and will likely not be ready until early next year.

Finally, sponsorship and displays at the upcoming General Synod were “well in hand”. The presence of sponsors is an important part of the budget, and dioceses and individuals can be sponsors. Those in charge of displays are interested in expanding beyond purely church-related displays and trying to broaden the net, such as by reaching out to artisans and craftspeople from the city and surrounding region.

Wall concluded by putting forward a motion to the council formally proposing the theme for General Synod 2019, which was carried by consensus.

Resolution

Be it resolved that the Council of General Synod, meeting in Mississauga in June 2018, approve the theme “I Have Called You By Name” for the 42nd General Synod, taking place in the Diocese of New Westminster from July 10-16, 2019.

Partner Moments

Mrs. Pat Lovell, partner to CoGS from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), and Prolocutor Cynthia Haines-Turner, partner to the ELCIC through CoGS, took to the podium to provide an update on the relationship between the Anglican Church of Canada and its full communion partner.

Haines-Turner called it “a joy and a privilege” to serve with the ELCIC and to have Lovell with the council. Both recently attended a meeting of the Joint Anglican-Lutheran Commission, which provided context for the cooperation and shared ministry that takes place across Canada between Anglicans and Lutherans. Lovell noted that the ELCIC National Church Council had met in Winnipeg earlier in the year, working on its strategic plan from 2017 to 2022. Their four priorities going forward are Courageous Innovation, Reconciled Relationships, One Body Working Together—particularly significant for the history of the ELCIC due to a split over issues of human sexuality—and Empowered Disciples. The Prolocutor praised the ELCIC’s revision of its inclusive language guidelines at the meeting, which were brought before the Anglican representation for approval.

Though General Synod 2019 was originally planned to be a Joint Assembly with the ELCIC, Haines-Turner pointed out that the two churches will still be meeting during the same time. The next ELCIC National Convention will take place in Saskatoon from July 11-13, 2018, coinciding with General Synod, and based around the theme “To Journey Together in the Ministry of Reconciliation”. Lovell detailed numerous upcoming examples of national gatherings bringing Anglicans and Lutherans together, such as the National Worship Conference in Victoria, B.C. and the Canadian Lutheran Anglican Youth (CLAY) gathering in Thunder Bay, Ont.

Throughout the presentation, the close bonds between the two churches were underscored by Lovell and Haines-Turner referring to each other as “sisters”. Describing a recent visit by National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald to her parish in Newmarket, Ont. to speak about the journey toward reconciliation—a subject of particular interest to the ELCIC global justice team—Lovell recalled how people came from all over Newmarket and as far as Oshawa and Kitchener to participate in the workshop. She called the visit another example of how the full communion partnership between the Anglican and Lutheran churches continues to grow and flourish.

“We love our relationship, we are sisters, but we feel very much a part of your meetings as well,” Lovell said. Reflecting words from ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson, she added, “We continue to walk with you as you go through any decisions you have to make. And whatever the outcome, we pray for you, we love you, and we will continue to work with you.”

The second partner moment came from Canon Noreen Duncan, representative of The Episcopal Church (TEC) to CoGS, and the Rev. Canon David Burrows, partner to TEC through CoGS, who reported on the latest developments in the relationship between the Anglican Church of Canada and The Episcopal Church of the United States.

Canon Duncan related her visit to Havana, Cuba in March 2018 as the only TEC representative attending the 109th Synod of the Episcopal Church of Cuba. Feeling alone, she was enthralled when Bishop Griselda Delgado del Carpio and her clergy came in singing with joy—and experienced a further burst of happiness when she saw Primate Fred Hiltz, General Secretary Michael Thompson, Global Relations Director Andrea Mann, and Treasurer and CFO Hanna Goschy. In her time representing TEC on CoGS, Duncan said, she had grown to love the Canadians she had met. She thanked the Anglican Church of Canada for its unwavering support for their brothers and sisters in Cuba over the years, praising “your ongoing struggling to hear your own heartbeat in the pulse of others … I think that relationship with Cuba is an illustration of that.”

Acknowledging that such struggling has not always been the case in the history of the church, Canon Duncan applauded the efforts of the Canadian church to atone for its sins in the centuries after first contact with Indigenous Peoples, and to recognize the Doctrine of Discovery as the source of so much suffering. As the Anglican Church of Canada treads new paths and walks its own “road to warm springs”, walking shoulder to shoulder with Indigenous people towards self-determination, walking with LGBTQ people who lovingly share their lives with partners, fighting human traffickers, ensuring churches are safe and socially responsible environments, Duncan said that Canadian Anglicans should know TEC is with them, walking shoulder to shoulder. Though uncertain whether she would be able to attend the next meeting of CoGS due to an upcoming election for the representative position for TEC, she planned to work on being re-elected.

Since the last meeting of CoGS, Canon Burrows said, he had met with the executive council of TEC twice, once in Baltimore, Md. and once in Austin, Texas. Coming from Newfoundland and Labrador, Burrows arrived in the “spirit of a nomad” to the meeting, travelling thousands of kilometres to further the building of community and continuing the work of Jesus Christ. Arriving at the ancestral lands of three nomadic peoples, he was mindful in remembering the Indigenous people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

In the life and ministry the U.S Episcopalians have shared with him, Burrows said that TEC has “act, means, and purpose”, revealing the redemptive love of their community of faith that breathes the Holy Spirit in its daily expression. He highlighted the diversity of dialogue among TEC members, and their ability to hold conversations with respect for one another despite differences. “No one walks away from the vote,” he observed. TEC lays great emphasis on mission and the sharing of the gospel, with Presiding Bishop Michael Curry travelling to places such as Honduras in his recent ministry. Burrows highlighted the focus of TEC on care and responsibility for the entire body of Christ, particularly those who are vulnerable and those who are in positions of responsibility.

Declaring that “We are nomads no longer, now we are God’s people,” Canon Burrows concluded by singing a well-known folk song that he had sang with members of TEC, “The Water is Wide”, illustrating the view that “We are in this boat together. We row together, and we row with God.” 

General Secretary’s Report

In his report, General Secretary Michael Thompson said that it continues to be a privilege to undertake his ministry as part of the life of the church. “My work is about the work of others,” Thompson said, and he expressed his appreciation for the gifts and skills of the staff members at General Synod.

The General Secretary praised Global Relations director Andrea Mann for maintaining close relationships with the church’s partners around the world; Faith, Worship, and Ministry director Eileen Scully, who has managed the successful transition of FWM from an unwieldy large committee taking on all kinds of tasks to a smaller coordinating committee seeking to network; Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice lead animator Ryan Weston, for his role in the church’s response to the scourge of human trafficking; Resources for Mission director Deborah Barretto, a recent addition to the staff who believes RfM can find new resources for the church to do new things; Communications and Information Resources director Meghan Kilty, “who has the almost unmanageable responsibility of holding together a team of really strong-willed people whose strong-willedness is actually their great gift”; and Treasurer and CFO Hanna Goschy, whom Thompson said “has transformed the ministry of finance at General Synod and given it such a human face.”

The General Secretary became emotional as he highlighted the role of Archbishop and Primate Fred Hiltz—“the best supervisor I have ever had, and who loves this church in a way and at a depth that inspires us,” whose skill and determination have helped the Anglican Church of Canada maintain its unity over a difficult journey in its life. Though CoGS members had not met the new manager of Human Resources, Scott Hilborn, Thompson said they would at the next meeting, and that they would discover someone who sees human resources as a way to strengthen the ministry of Church House and ensure it is effective and humane.

Moving on from General Synod, Thompson thanked the people who had appeared in front of the council over the previous days. Members had heard from Canon Ian Alexander, a journalist and member of the Anglican Journal and Communications and Information Resources Committee working group who brought with him “astonishing gifts and clarity”; Dean Shane Parker, who had helped members imagine what it would be like for the whole church to listen to its heartbeat; and Bishop Riscylla Shaw, whose clarity and sense of conviction about Indigenous justice and the Doctrine of Discovery offer concrete steps the church might take to move to a new place in the relationships between its Indigenous and non-Indigeneous members. Bishop Shaw is part of a team of Indigenous leaders that includes Bishop Sidney Black, the Rev. Vincent Solomon, Ginny Doctor, Bishop Mark MacDonald, and—though unable to attend the present meeting—Canon Grace Delaney and Ms. Caroline Chum. “We have an extraordinary gift in our church in these Indigenous leaders, who speak of great wrongs, but also of great hopes,” Thompson said.

CoGS, he continued, had benefitted from the leadership of the Rev. Dr. Karen Egan and the Very Rev. Peter Wall, co-chairs of the Planning and Agenda Team. It had heard Mr. Will Postma, executive director of the Primate’s Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), and the Rev. Gillian Hoyer, PWRDF board member, speak about work that changes people’s lives. It had heard Archbishop Colin Johnson and Mr. Rob Saffrey, chair of the Financial Management Committee, help members understand the financial life of the church. It had heard from its partners in the ELCIC and TEC. It had heard the members of the CoGS Working Group on the Marriage Canon, who helped the council understand the process of addressing the marriage canon ahead of the vote at General Synod 2019. Sharing his appreciation at the aforementioned team of people, Thompson described it the gift of individuals who weaved themselves together and became the gifts of the community.

The General Secretary then recounted a story about attending a concert featuring renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. As one piece of music came to an end, there was a moment when Ma’s bow was poised above his cello, with one more note to come. The entire hall was leaning into anticipation of this note, experiencing the reality that much of the beauty of music lies in the gap between the notes, and the anticipation and pleasure when that note is struck. Just then, one audience member’s cellphone went off. The air went out of the room, replaced by a sense of disturbance and even hostility. Yo-Yo Ma played the last note—and then picked out the ring tone on his cello. The room filled with joy, Thompson said, because “the cello defeated the cellphone, and did so by joining into a flaw, to something that had gone wrong, and lifting it into a thing of beauty and responsiveness.”

He drew a comparison between this story and the church. “We aren’t always a community that always gets it right, or that we don’t hurt each other,” Thompson said. There is always a proverbial “person with a cellphone” causing embarrassment, but there is also always someone waiting to pluck the ringtone on their cello and restore us to joy. “I’m grateful that in this community, we have the kind of space in which ways we can disappoint each other are outweighed by ways we love and support one another.”

Thompson prayed that the church would be attentive to that gift going into General Synod 2019 and as members go back into their communities, allowing the broken moments of their lives to be redeemed and turned into relationships and new life. Reiterating his remarks the previous day about the centrality of self-determination and reconciliation with Indigenous peoples in the life of the Anglican Church of Canada, Thompson believed that if there is something the church will be known for in 50 years, it will not be its attitude towards same-sex marriage, but rather the way it had addressed a deep wound across the church and across the country and moved towards healing.

The General Secretary concluded by describing Savona, B.C., a small town with an official population of 650, founded in 1844 as a stagecoach post and place where the ferry crossed the river. Savona, he said, is the smallest community in the history of the Anglican Church of Canada to have provided two members to the governing body of the church: Ms. Dale Drozda and Ms. Melissa Green, who were each present at the current meeting. “I think it says a lot about our church that a little community that many of you will be hearing about for the first time provides the leadership of two strong, wise young women. […] Our church finds the inner bigness in small things.”

The Primate thanked Thompson for his insight, wisdom, and service and said that Anglicans were blessed to have him in the role of General Secretary, especially at this time in the life of the church.

Key Messages / Word to the Church

Concluding the morning session, council members brainstormed key messages for the church coming of the latest CoGS meeting. These key messages included:

  • We have a Jubilee Commission!
  • We are concerned with those being enslaved and trafficked.
  • The Heartbeat of the Church
  • Courage and forbearance in walking together with Indigenous peoples.
  • August 6-11: Sacred Circle will take place with a new council to be elected, and based around the theme “Making Disciples, Being Disciples”.
  • New theme for General Synod 2019: “I Have Called You By Name”.
  • Concerned about and monitoring future of Anglican Journal—Anglicans want a communications tool.
  • Marriage canon is out for consultation to provinces and dioceses.
  • Sidney Black and Noreen Duncan
  • Keep working on Safe Church.
  • Previous concern re: finances à Happy with changes and figures
  • Working hard to be faithful to the Mission of God
  • Respectful listening à Gentle hopefulness
  • Resources re: responsible investing

Members took a break from 10:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Closing Eucharist

The Rev. Dr. Karen Egan presided at the closing Eucharist, with Archbishop and Primate Fred Hiltz preaching.

Members broke for lunch from noon until 1:15 p.m.

Dismantling Racism: Blanket Exercise

As the final segment of the meeting, reconciliation animator Melanie Delva and Healing Fund coordinator Esther Wesley facilitated members as they took part in the KAIROS Blanket Exercise. In light of the passing of a resolution establishing the Jubilee Commission, the facilitators offered background on the biblical origins of Jubilee in Leviticus 25, which reflected the blanket exercise’s focus on land and the displacement of peoples. As detailed in Leviticus, the jubilee referred to a period of emancipation every 50 years, provided for by Hebrew law, which was marked by the freeing of slaves, restoration of lands to their former owners, and—rather than cultivating the fields—eating the produce from the land.

An interactive learning experience to teach the history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada through colonization and the resulting loss of land, the KAIROS Blanket Exercise involves participants standing on a large number of blankets which are gradually removed, allowing them less and less space to stand on. Throughout the exercise, participants read texts that take them through the experience of pre-contact, the making and breaking of treaties by European settlers, colonization, development of reserves, the residential school system, and ongoing Indigenous resistance.

Following the blanket exercise, council members gathered again in a circle and opened up for discussion. Many related personal life experiences sparked by their participation in the blanket exercise. Some non-Indigenous members expressed feelings of shame at their descent from settlers who had gained from the historical subjugation of Indigenous Peoples. Meanwhile, some Indigenous council members recalled the pain that they felt due to racism and the intergenerational trauma rooted in colonial policies such as the residential school system.

The discussion touched on social ills that disproportionately affect Indigenous communities, such as poverty and disproportionately high levels of incarceration. There was a sense of loss for what might have been, had Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples walked together in a good way from the beginning. Throughout, a common sentiment was the desperate need for healing.

Closing the discussion, Archbishop Hiltz expressed thanks to Wesley and Delva for facilitating the blanket exercise and for their work in advancing healing and reconciliation, noting they had developed into a strong team. In recognition that the present CoGS meeting may be the last for Bishop Sidney Black, representing the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, the Primate asked Bishop Black to bless the council before its members’ departure.

Adjournment

The meeting concluded with Peter Wall leading the council in singing and humming the hymn “Ubi caratas”. As members continued to hum the melody, the Primate recited once more the verses of John 15:12-17 that underpin the Heartbeat of the Church initiative: “This is my command, that you love one another as I have loved you…”

Bishop Black blessed the members of council, sending them on their way as they began the journey home.

The meeting adjourned at 3 p.m.

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Highlights from the Council of General Synod: June 2, 2018

June 3, 2018 - 2:51pm

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Council members gathered at 8:45 a.m. at the Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre in Mississauga, Ont.

Morning Eucharist, Orders of the Day

Deputy Prolocutor and Executive Archdeacon Lynne McNaughton presided over the morning Eucharist service, with Ms. Melissa Green providing the homily.

Dean Peter Wall read out the Orders of the Day.

CoGS Progress Report

Prolocutor Cynthia Haines-Turner and the Deputy Prolocutor gave a brief presentation on the progress of the Council of General Synod (CoGS) thus far over the course of the 2016-2019 triennium, relating them to the responsibilities of CoGS as outlined in the Constitution of the General Synod. In terms of providing overall strategic vision and planning within the mandate of the General Synod, they highlighted the decision of CoGS to extend Vision 2019 to 2022, while the Heartbeat of the Church initiative will help inform a new plan going forward.

In terms of coordinating the work of all committees, councils, boards, commissions and divisions of the General Synod, CoGS had received regular reports from standing and co-ordinating committees and enhanced coordination through the presence of the Prolocutor and Deputy Prolocutor. Haines-Turner and McNaughton also spoke about CoGS carrying on the work of the General Synod between sessions, through actions such as moving forward with the Anglican-United Church Dialogue and the establishment of the Responsible Investment Task Force. CoGS has also created a process for discussion of the marriage canon, continued work around reconciliation and motions around Canon XXII related to National Indigenous Ministry, and facilitated preparations for General Synod 2019 in Vancouver.

Following their presentation, a motion was put forward in support of the Heartbeat of the Church initiative outlined in the Primate’s report. The motion was carried by consensus.

Resolution

Be it resolved that this Council of General Synod fully support the Primate’s call to the church to engage with the project entitled “The Heartbeat of the Church” beginning in the Fall of 2018.

Members broke for coffee from 10:15 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Audited Financial Statements / Budget Scenarios

Mr. Robert Saffrey, chair of the Financial Management Committee, introduced the committee’s report on the church’s audited financial statements, while Archbishop Colin Johnson presented much of the report. Overall revenue for the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada was $11.9 million, a decrease of $400,000 over the previous year, while overall expenses were $11.4 million, or $1.2 million lower than last year. The resulting surplus of core revenues over expenses was $521,214.

After presenting the Financial Management Committee’s report, five motions were put forward and carried by consensus.

Resolution

That the Council of General Synod approve the audited financial statements of the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2017.

Resolution

That the Council of General Synod approve the audited financial statements of the Anglican Church of Canada Consolidated Trust Fund for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2017.

Resolution

That the Council of General Synod approve the audited financial statements of the Anglican Church of Canada Resolution Corporation for the fiscal year ending December 31, 2017.

Resolution

That the Council of General Synod approve the changes to the Statement of Investment Policy as recommended by the Investment Committee and Financial Management Committee.

Resolution

That the Council of General Synod approve the appointment of Grant Thornton LLP as auditor for General Synod for fiscal year 2018, at a fee determined by the Audit Committee.

After the resolutions were passed, General Secretary Michael Thompson spoke briefly on the previous day’s discussion following the report from the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation, and Justice.

Thompson said it was increasingly clear that the mind of the council, as a representational group reflecting the mind of the church, believes that justice, reconciliation, and self-determination are emerging priorities for the life of the whole church, and therefore for CoGS in its use of resources. As a result, the council must take seriously questions it had heard about the planned Jubilee Commission: How it can account not just for past practices, but for current resources and future decisions in a way that pays more than lip service to those priorities?

The General Secretary said he was “delighted” the previous day to see the ways that council could commission the church’s attentiveness to its use of resources. He expressed hope as the church moves forward to act with more conviction in its journey toward reconciliation and self-determination. He looked forward to the planned video documentary on the Doctrine of Discovery becoming a resource in the hands of those who wish to create change in this country. Finally, Thompson expressed his gratitude to National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald and others in the church who have reminded us that there is a moral content in the investments of the Anglican Church of Canada — a moral content that Thompson believed was the work of the Holy Spirit acting to sustain the church in its service to God’s mission.

Members broke for lunch from noon until 1:30 p.m.

Bible Study

The afternoon session began with a Bible study in which council members studied and reflected on John 15:12-17, the same reading from the previous day’s study and a major thematic component of the Heartbeat of the Church initiative.

Indigenous Ministries

Before the report from Indigenous Ministries, General Secretary Thompson led council members in a prayer. Members sang the hymn “Many and Great O God Are Your Works” led by Indigenous Ministries Coordinator Ginny Doctor playing the drum. The Rev. Vincent Solomon read out a gospel passage, Mark 11:27-33, in which the authority of Jesus is questioned by chief priests, scribes, and elders after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem and cleansing of the temple.

Because of events over the previous year, Doctor said, Indigenous Ministries had decided that its presentation at CoGS must be prefaced with a history providing context to where the church has been in its journey towards reconciliation and Indigenous self-determination. In contrast to Canadian textbooks that reinforce negative stereotypes of Indigenous people, she said, it was time for Indigenous people to reclaim their history, to be proud of it, and to share it with the whole church. The video, an update of the 2008 Anglican Video production Pitching Our Tent, would serve as a start.

Narrated by Canon Laverne Jacobs, the video begins in 1969, the year that the Anglican Church of Canada ended its relationship with the residential schools. The decision followed the publication of sociologist Charles Hendry’s influential book Beyond Traplines: Does the Church Really Care? Towards an Assessment of the Work of the Anglican Church of Canada with Canada’s Native Peoples, which called for a new relationship between the church and Indigenous people based on solidarity, equality, and mutual respect.

Since that turning point, the Anglican Church of Canada has slowly grown into a solidarity role by supporting Indigenous goals towards self-determination, treaty and land rights, and protecting the earth. In the ensuing decades, the presence of Indigenous leaders and clergy have steadily increased in the church. Since 1989, 12 Indigenous bishops have been elected, of which eight were First Nations, three Inuk, and one Métis. Of those 12 bishops, six are now retired.

The 1990s saw the emergence of national convocations in which Indigenous Anglicans reclaimed their identity and began to share and heal their pain from residential schools, followed by their acceptance of the apology from Primate Michael Peers in 1993. The adoption of the 1994 Covenant by General Synod coincided with the first Sacred Circle gatherings, focused on healing, self-determination, finding Indigenous voices, and establishing a true partnership with the wider church.

In 2003, Anglican leaders across Canada ratified an agreement detailing the payment of compensation to victims who endured abuse at Anglican-run residential schools. In 2005, the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) began its search for a National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, ultimately selecting Bishop Mark MacDonald, who started his ministry in spring 2007 and was officially installed at General Synod 2007 in Winnipeg.

Later developments included additional Indigenous bishops; the adoption of Canon XXII at General Synod 2010 in Halifax, establishing a National Indigenous Ministry; the creation of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh; the adoption by the Indigenous House of Bishops of the statement Where We Are Today: Twenty Years after the Covenant; the decision at the eighth Sacred Circle in 2016 to move forward with self-determination by endorsing a fifth province or equivalent within the church; and the Road to Warm Springs gathering the following year in Pinawa, Man.

After the video, the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop expressed his thanks to Anglican Video for the work they have done with Indigenous Ministries from the beginning, “helping us to tell our story.”

Bishop Sidney Black spoke about his experience at the Council of Native Ministries, a 1988 gathering that took place during his first year studying for ordained ministry at the College of Emmanuel and St. Chad in Saskatoon. The experience of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit coming together was a profound one for the young Sidney Black: “We came to a place where it was safe for us to begin to speak from the heart,” he recalled. “And out of that was the beginning of that litany of telling our stories of our experiences in the schools.” The experience would help influence his path towards taking on a leadership role within the Anglican Church of Canada in relation to Indigenous ministries.

Doctor initiated a table group discussion based on the passage from the Gospel of Mark read out by Solomon that prefaced the report. She asked council members, having seen the video and heard the gospel reading, to reflect on what stood out to them. After discussion, Bishop MacDonald read out the passage again and asked council members what they thought God was saying to them in the video and in the gospel reading. Ten more minutes of discussion were followed by a third reading of the passage and plenary discussion.

Reflecting on the gospel reading, table groups highlighted the lack of trust and fear of the unknown; the question “By whose authority are you doing this?” asked of Jesus, which brought to mind the many times when Indigenous people have been asked to justify their own existence, and how “Jesus was able to shut that down”; and the relationship of church members to authority and having credentials.

Picking up his guitar, Bishop MacDonald concluded the segment by leading council members in the singing of the hymn “How Great Thou Art”, accompanied by Doctor on the drum.

Members broke for coffee from 3:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Two motions were put forward after the break, one related to Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice, and the other to the Responsible Investment Task Force. Both were carried by consensus.

Resolution

Be it resolved that the Council of General Synod approve the updated Terms of Reference for the Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice Coordinating Committee, as amended by the Coordinating Committee at their meeting of March 12, 2018.

Resolution

Be it resolved that the Council of General Synod:

  • Endorse the recommendations in the report of the Responsible Investment Task Force;
  • Recommend that the Investment Committee, other bodies and relevant staff of the General Synod collaborate to ensure implementation of these recommendations with respect to funds held by General Synod;
  • Forward these recommendations to the Pension Committee and strongly encourage their serious consideration;
  • Forward these recommendations to dioceses, ecclesiastical provinces, and other Anglican-affiliated entities and strongly encourage their serious consideration.

Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund

Mr. Will Postma, executive director of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), and the Rev. Gillian Hoyer, a member of the PWRDF Board of Directors, opened their report on PWRDF by acknowledging good conversations about emergency response that followed their last presentation at CoGS. Over the last year, PWRDF had raised its budget for emergency response and deepened its involvement in that area.

As PWRDF looks ahead to its 60th anniversary, which it will begin commemorating in the fall of 2018, the church agency finds itself working in more than 25 countries with 45 different partners. Across Canada, there are 30 diocesan representatives for PWRDF, and nine youth council members. To mark its upcoming anniversary, PWRDF has chosen to look back and reflect. Part of that reflection involves a case study from South Africa, which Postma and Hoyer presented to council members as an illustration of PWRDF’s work, alongside references to another case study in El Salvador of teenagers who established an organization to fight HIV/AIDS stigma and gender-based violence.

In the past year, PWRDF conducted an evaluation of two of its partners in South Africa, who are no longer receiving funds from PWRDF but are still in operation: the John Wesley Community Center (JWCC) and Temba Community Development Services, which began work in the 2000s as the number of new HIV infections was increasing across Africa. Both the JWCC and Temba saw the need to reduce the spread of the AIDS epidemic, decrease the high rate of transmission, reduce the number of deaths and orphans left behind, and to facilitate access to basic services by lessening the stigma and discrimination surrounding those with HIV or AIDS. Their initial work focused on helping HIV-positive individuals to die with dignity.

From 2004 to 2015, PWRDF provided funding to the JWCC and Temba as part of its Partnership for Life campaign. Three years after the end of funding, both partners were happy to serve as the focus of an evaluation by PWRDF to highlight lessons learned for future projects. Among those lessons:

  1. Small investments, combined with long-term commitment and relevant supports, yield lasting results. Go slow with the timeframe, support administrative costs, and ask how we can part of the partner’s agenda.
  2. Invest in learning. “Without training there would not be any advance. No one can take learning away.” Take the time to do a proper needs assessment and baseline.
  3. Partnership is important. It can be messy, but it works and is impactful. Flexibility helps, as does the capacity to connect on a personal level.
  4. Do what we can to tell the partner’s story from their perspective. Advocate for the partner, use our social media, and tell the story to national governments and other donors, since success stories often lead to more support.
  5. Volunteers, including youth, want a meaningful experience. Volunteers with lived experience (e.g. those with HIV/AIDS who volunteered at the JWCC and Temba) can offer great help.
  6. Gender is important in program work, but also how we partner. For example, attention to gender has important implications in HIV/AIDS, as women are especially vulnerable to being infected by their husbands or other men, and can spread HIV to their children when pregnant. In the El Salvador case study, workshops run in communities help men work against culture of machismo that has caused violence against women and the gay community.
  7. Faith-based organizations are important entry points to civil society engagement, for being proactive on issues of rights and dignity, and for working with government and other organizations for referrals, exchange, etc.

Postma and Hoyer posed questions to council members for a small group discussion, asking them to consider events or activities where PWRDF’s 60th anniversary might be shared, and any insights or suggestions they might offer going forward into Year 61 based on the South African case study. CoGS members offered few responses and suggested that they trusted in the skill and insight of the PWRDF leadership.

The session concluded with a two-minute video in which the executive director of Temba House and others thanked PWRDF and the Anglican Church of Canada for making such a difference in South Africa, and especially in Temba.

The council prayed together before adjourning for dinner.

Members broke for hospitality and dinner from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Marriage Canon

Beginning the evening session, Deputy Prolocutor Lynne McNaughton introduced the members of the CoGS Working Group on the Marriage Canon—one for each ecclesiastical province, as well as a member representing the Anglican Military Ordinariate.

McNaughton reminded CoGS that its members have three more meetings to continue working on how General Synod will have its conversation on proposed changes to the marriage canon. The job of CoGS is to investigate issues arising from council members’ own conversations, rather than to resolve them. The resolution from General Synod 2016 must go forward as is to General Synod 2019, and cannot be amended before that by CoGS. A draft resolution to mitigate consequences or clarify diversity could be prepared in advance of General Synod 2019, but cannot be presented and voted on until after the vote on the second reading occurs.

The goal for General Synod, McNaughton stressed, is conviviality and not homogeneity, living well together as a church after the meeting. Taking such an approach, members of the Working Group on the Marriage Canon have asked themselves how the church will mitigate the consequences and emotions of the vote, how to deal with the “power mind set” of winners and losers, and how to move to a mindset of “discerning the best way forward for the whole church”.

Introducing the first section of discussion, the Working Group put forward three questions for council members, which they were to answer individually on paper:

  1. What is my relationship to the outcome to the marriage canon resolution? In other words, what do I have invested in the outcome of the vote?
  2. What is my hope regarding the resolution?
  3. What are my fears?

After five minutes to write out their responses, members spent 10 minutes in pairs discussing their answers with each other. Responses were then brought before the whole council in a plenary discussion, with the major points written down. Among the stated concerns of council members:

  • “No one wants to relive General Synod 2016”
  • Hope: After the debate and vote, everyone feels heard and supported
  • Hope: Synod will set tone for behaviour. Fear: That chair will have to “referee”.
  • Investment: If canon passes as is, I may be out of sync with doctrine of the church (fear).
  • We have to have a vote; fear that it will not be fair. Can we make it simple? Suspend the rules of order? (answer: no)
  • Hope: Invest in outcome where there is viable unity for mission.
  • Hope: That there will be pastoral care for everyone at General Synod and care before, during, after, and that it be felt.
  • Fear: That if the resolution is defeated, I cannot stay in the church.
  • That the church remains together and moves forward together.
  • Hope: An amendment to accommodate self-determination.
  • Investment/fear: Parish will split over the decision.
  • Hope: At the end of the day, we remember we are part of one family. Fear: That we won’t.

In the second section, council members were asked to respond to a new set of questions individually on paper:

  1. If the vote agrees with your perspective, how do you express empathy for those who are disappointed by the outcome of the vote? How do you express empathy with those who have a sense of well-being with the outcome of the vote?
  2. If the vote does not agree with your perspective, how do you have empathy for those who are disappointed by the outcome of the vote? How do you have empathy with those who have a sense of well-being with the outcome of the vote?

As before, members then joined into pairs and discussed their responses with each other for 10 minutes before reporting back in plenary. Suggestions for creating empathy included:

  • Listening with love and a promise to walk together, encouraging one another, and remembering that the vote is one day in the life of the church.
  • The job of staff members is to put personal feelings aside. The hope is for the reaction of General Synod members to be the same, with no celebration. Everyone stays in the room and expresses feelings together.
  • No applause. Join together to eat and pray. Build coalitions with those we disagree with on other issues.
  • Avoid the words “win” and “lose”. There is a need to minister to the broken. We don’t have to agree to be part of the same family. Pray, pray, and pray some more.
  • Very good questions have been put forward in the present exercise. Could we invite or require members of General Synod to engage with them before synod? We need a process at General Synod to ensure that members are speaking to the resolution itself and not other issues.

Responding to the second section of discussion, Archbishop and Primate Fred Hiltz expressed his agreement that members of General Synod needed to engage with these questions in some kind of forum before they arrive. He thought it would be very helpful if—between what members do in committee and their dealing with the resolution itself—the same questions and discussion CoGS was currently grappling with were placed before the General Synod.

In this way, all members would experience the same struggle before the actual debate and will have seriously thought about these questions as members of the synod. “We could get some really good mileage, I think, out of these questions, in the hopes of a good conversation at synod and a good way to live with the outcome,” the Primate said.

In the third and final section of the discussion, the working group put forward two more questions to the council in plenary:

  1. Considering the responses, you have heard about people’s fears, how could the process be shaped to mitigate those fears?
  2. What changes do you think would be helpful to meet your concerns?

The subsequent plenary discussion yielded the following suggestions for mitigating fears:

  • Have mentors work with the same questions/process.
  • We need to be visible in including the both/and, such as an amendment to uphold “tradition”. Without breaking from the doctrine of the church, such efforts would be a way to include both views and show that all are welcome.
  • Process has “boxed us in”. We need to figure out a way to use the process to make it more “appropriate” and make a resolution that leaves everyone’s integrity and theology intact.
  • Concern that the wording of the resolution ties the church definition of marriage to the legal one, i.e. concern over setting the definition of marriage to that of the “law of the land”.
  • Concern for new clergy, Indigenous peoples, and the remainder of the church. Invite a bishop to counsel people individually at General Synod.

To wrap up the discussion, council members sang the hymn “Guide My Feet”, a song about discernment that many felt appropriate to the occasion. For the final verse, members changed the lyrics to “guide our feet”, reflecting the sense of community and solidarity they hoped would endure through the coming General Synod.

Chancellor David Jones closed the marriage canon session by walking members through the process of the vote at General Synod. He highly recommended that they read and re-read the preface to Canon XXI, which talks in great detail about the history and the traditional view of marriage, as well as changes or variations. Jones described the preface as “a very thoughtful document that I think frames a great deal of what we’re talking about.”

He detailed the background running up to the marriage canon vote, beginning with Resolution C003 at General Synod 2013; carefully parsed the language of Canon XXI itself; and went through each aspect of amending a canon. The Chancellor reiterated that any amendment to canon dealing with doctrine must be passed by a two-thirds majority of each order in voting, at two successive General Synods. He also directed the attention of council members to two memoranda, one on Oaths and Declarations and possible amendment to Canon XXI, and the other on steps at General Synod 2019 in dealing with the second reading of the resolution to amend the marriage canon. In a subsequent discussion, Jones answered questions from members on different aspects of procedure.

The Primate thanked Chancellor Jones for providing clarification on details of the General Synod Handbook, Declaration of Principles, and constitutional matters. He also thanked the working group on the marriage canon, and said that conversations at CoGS would be very helpful in how the General Synod Planning Committee makes plans for carrying out the conversation at General Synod in 2019.

Holden Evening Prayer

Council closed out the Saturday agenda with night prayer in the chapel.

Members adjourned for the evening at 9 p.m.

The post Highlights from the Council of General Synod: June 2, 2018 appeared first on The Anglican Church of Canada.

Highlights from the Council of General Synod: June 1, 2018

June 2, 2018 - 1:37pm

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Council members gathered at 8:45 a.m. at the Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre in Mississauga.

Opening Eucharist

Dean Peter Wall, co-chair of the Planning Team, provided a homily during the opening Eucharist. Invoking Justin, Martyr at Rome, Dean Wall discussed martyrdom as a form of sacrifice and self-giving, setting aside things that might be important to us personally and taking up things that are important to all. This concept of martyrdom, he said, was also part the “crucible of leadership” to which members of the Council of General Synod (CoGS) were called at the present meeting as they prepared to pray, discern, and decide.

Welcome, Opening Formalities, Orders of the Day

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, welcomed everyone to the meeting. He listed regrets and introduced a number of council members, partners, and staff members from General Synod.

Peter Wall read out the Orders of the Day. Council members carried a motion to approve the minutes from the last CoGS meeting in November 2017. The Primate led a prayer before moving into the main agenda items of the day, starting with his own report.

Primate’s Report

In his report, Archbishop Hiltz recounted how five months ago, he took the time to read the presidential address from every General Synod since its establishment in 1893. Quoting from different addresses over the years, the Primate charted evolving attitudes towards the institution of General Synod within the Anglican Church of Canada.

At the inaugural session, Archbishop Robert Machray talked about the need for strength and harmony, calling for those attending the first General Synod “to throw themselves into this great venture”. At the third and fourth sessions in 1908 and 1911, Archbishop Samuel Matheson wrote that Anglicans had laid good foundations for a national church. In 1931, Archbishop Clarendon Worrell called for a constitution that would more exactly outline the roles and responsibilities of General Synod.

In 1943, the approach of the 50th anniversary of General Synod saw Archbishop Derwyn Owen argue that the national decision-making body of the church had proved itself to the older units of administration, dioceses and ecclesiastical provinces. Whatever the controversial issues of the day, Owen said, “I view with horror any signs of widening divisiveness among us” at a time when the foundations of faith were crumbling in other areas of society. His later successor, Archbishop Edward Scott, presented an image of the church moving into the complexities of the world and sustaining individuals from all different backgrounds and walks of life in his “I have a vision” speech. By 1992, in anticipation of the centennial anniversary of General Synod, Archbishop Michael Peers could speak of how General Synod had come together to form a structure that would strengthen national unity as well as forming a common mission for dioceses.

With 2018 marking the 125th anniversary of General Synod, Archbishop Hiltz announced that to celebrate this milestone, he was inviting the Anglican Church of Canada to “listen to its heartbeat” through a new initiative encouraging people to hold conversation circles in their homes and churches about their relationship to God, Jesus, and the church.

The Primate outlined different steps for this Heartbeat of the Church initiative. As designed by Dean Shane Parker to help guide the conversations, these steps would include:

  1. Drawing people together and leading off with a memorable prayer;
  2. Inviting participants to speak from the heart; to consider when and how we pray; and to describe times when prayer came deeply to our hearts, when we felt God was very close to them, and when we felt very close to Jesus;
  3. Reading and reflecting on a conversation from John’s gospel that Jesus brings followers into in every generation: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you…”; linking it to times when the church made our hearts glad, when it made our hearts ache, and went it gave us hope;
  4. Asking participants to ponder what our own heartfelt prayer to the church might be.

Trial runs of the Heartbeat program in the Diocese of Ottawa have garnered positive feedback from participants, who said the format allowed for meaningful conversation, enabled people to share stories, and made for some sacred moments. In the context of the present meeting of CoGS, the Primate said council members would have the opportunity to try out the Heartbeat conversational model in marketplace discussions, Bible studies, and hopefully table group discussions. Within the coming month, he hoped to write a letter inviting people to participate in the Heartbeat initiative between September 2018 and May 2019.

Alongside the 125th anniversary of General Synod that Heartbeat of the Church aims to commemorate, the Primate pointed to an array of other anniversaries the church will be celebrating in 2018:

  • The 55th anniversary of the first Anglican Congress in Toronto, which Archbishop Hiltz called a “watershed moment for the Anglican Communion”. Archbishop Howard Clark hosted the 1963 conference, declaring at the outset: “If there is to be a rebirth of the Anglican Communion, it must be a rebirth of loving service to the world.”
  • The 45th anniversary of the church appointing the Primate’s Council on the North, which later became the Council of the North. The Primate highlighted the support of Anglican Church Women (ACW) across the country for the Council of the North, noting that ACW in Huron earlier that week had donated $50,000 to help support the council.
  • The 25th anniversary of the Anglican Healing Fund, which saw a large influx of donations last year reflecting concerted fundraising efforts. The Primate thanked Healing Fund coordinator Esther Wesley for her “incredible work” over many years.
  • The 25th anniversary of the apology of then-Primate Michael Peers for the church’s role in the Indian residential school system. Archbishop Hiltz noted that the anniversary on Aug. 6 coincides with the upcoming meeting of Sacred Circle in Prince George, B.C., and said that he would be working with National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald to find the best ways to commemorate the anniversary.

In addition, the church would be marking two more significant anniversaries in 2019:

  • The 25th anniversary of the 1994 covenant in which Indigenous Anglicans embarked on a journey of spiritual renewal and extended a hand to the rest of church to join them. In the years since, the church has witnessed the installation of the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, establishment of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh, and the creation of numerous Indigenous bishop positions including two more in Manitoba and Ontario;
  • The 25th anniversary of the consecration of the church’s first female bishop. Today, Archbishop Hiltz said, 10 out of the 42 bishops in the Anglican Church of Canada are women, including eight diocesan bishops. “What a blessing it has been to have women in episcopal ministry in our beloved church,” the Primate added, and highlighted the recent election of Melissa Skelton as the church’s first female archbishop and metropolitan.
  • The 10th anniversary of efforts to deepen the church’s relationship with the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, with General Synod staff members making multiple visits to Israel-Palestine and repeatedly welcoming Archbishop Suheil Dawani to Canada. The Primate thanked Canadian Anglicans for supporting the Diocese of Jerusalem in its ministries such as the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza—support that was particularly important in the wake of recent protests on the Gaza Strip that saw more than 100 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces and thousands of others wounded.

2019 will also likely mark the end of the Anglican Church of Canada’s 50-year relationship with the Episcopal Church of Cuba, as the latter seeks reintegration with The Episcopal Church in the United States. That history together saw the Canadian church spearhead numerous projects in conjunction the development office supported by the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF). “Cubans never, ever forget that in some of the hardest times of the last 50 years, the Anglican Church of Canada, as they put it, was there for them,” the Primate said, praising the Cuban church for its exemplary living out of the Marks of Mission.

Two other entities related to the work of the church national are also marking anniversaries within a short timeframe. In 2017, the Anglican Foundation commemorated its 60th anniversary, while PWRDF is set to celebrate its own 60th anniversary in the fall of 2018.

All of the aforementioned anniversaries have, for the Primate, created what he called “a time of great gratitude” for all these accomplishments through the ministries of the church, and gratitude for those who have helped in these ministries. He expressed his hope that this anniversary period would also be a time of prayer for the kind of rebirth that Archbishop Clark described.

Members broke for coffee from 10:30 a.m. to 10:45 a.m.

Anglican Journal & Communication and Information Resources Committee Working Group

After the break, Canon Ian Alexander gave a presentation on the work of the Anglican Journal and Communications and Information Resources Committee Working Group. He recounted the background that prompted the church to explore current and future trends in diocesan newspaper distribution, and their potential impact on distribution of the Anglican Journal.

Thus far, the working group has made initial presentations to CoGS laying out its work plan and seeking initial input. It has undertaken quantitative opinion surveys as well as a qualitative study, and compared media strategies of other churches both inside and outside Canada.

One of the clear conclusions emerging from surveys is that Canadian Anglicans value their church publications very highly. More than three-quarters of respondents said it was “somewhat” or “very” important that “a national publication of interest to the members of the Anglican Church of Canada continues to exist in some form”, as well as for a “diocesan publication of interest”. One representative sample quote called the Anglican Journal “a unifying factor in the life of Canadian Anglicans.”

According to the survey results, most Canadian Anglicans currently read their church publications in print, but a significant amount are open to alternative forms of distribution. General expectations are that Canadian Anglicans will see a “long, slow transition from print to digital distribution.” On the subject of editorial independence, Alexander said that the most important issue for many respondents was that the church offer diverse voices in its publications.

During a short discussion period, table groups talked about how the conclusions reached by the working group might influence two key issues: the future of print distribution, and the mandate and governance of the Anglican Journal. Alexander said that following discussions at the present meeting, the advisory committee would be meeting again in October, and would hopefully return to the November meeting of CoGS with a more concrete set of recommendations in mind.

Members broke for lunch from noon until 1:30 p.m.

Bible Study

After lunch, council members engaged in Bible study based around the passage highlighted in Heartbeat of the Church from the Gospel According to John.

Responsible Investing Task Force 

Mr. Ryan Weston, General Synod staff to the Responsible Investing Task Force (RITF), began a presentation about the recent work of the task force. Since its establishment by CoGS in November 2016, the RITF has held two in-person meetings, in January 2017 and March 2018, and surveyed Anglican and Anglican-affiliated funds related to responsible investment practices. Its 17 respondents thus far include dioceses, theological schools, and foundations. Currently, its three main areas of work are theological reflection; examining current investment practices and the context of Anglican investment; and crafting a communications strategy.

Fellow RITF member Bob Boeckner outlined the four primary approaches to investing explored by the group: 1) integration of environmental, social, and governance factors; 2) active ownership, i.e. trying to influence change from within companies as shareholders; 3) impact investing, or making specific investments with social goals in mind; and 4) investment exclusions, or divestment. These approaches, Boeckner said, are more likely to be used in combination rather than taking only one approach. In each case, the goal is for earnings to be used in the mission of the body making the investment.

RITF members are currently prepared to complete a resource for use by the wider church, with members also willing to engage key stakeholders such as bishops and diocesan financial officers to raise awareness of the resource. An RITF report provided to CoGS included a discussion of theological foundations, highlights of current investing practices, and recommendations for increased engagement and updated practices by the General Synod Consolidated Trust Fund, General Synod Pension Plan, and the Anglican Church of Canada.

Two motions were put forward. Members adopted the first by consensus.

Resolution

Be it resolved that the Council of General Synod receive with gratitude and appreciation this report of the Responsible Investing Task Force.

Debate over the wording of a second motion related to recommendations in the report led to the motion being returned to the Resolutions Committee. The committee intended to review the motion and bring it back before council members later at the present meeting.

Pension Committee

Presenting again for the Pension Committee, Boeckner put forward three motions related to General Synod benefit plans administration and expenses regulation, regulation of Canon XII for the Continuing Education Plan (CEP), and long-term disability plan regulations.

Council members passed each motion by consensus.

Resolution

Be it resolved that the Council of General Synod approves the recommendation of the Pension Committee to make the following amendments to Regulations 1 and 2 of General Synod Benefit Plans Administration and Expenses Regulation made pursuant to Section 4 of Canon VIII effective January 1, 2018.

Resolution

Be it resolved that the Council of General Synod approves the recommendation of the Pension Committee to a three-year plan to double the CEP contribution to $900 per year beginning at:

  • $600 (effective January 2, 2019)
  • $750 (effective January 1, 2020)
  • $900 (effective January 1, 2010)

and also make the following amendment to Regulation 1 of the Regulations of Canon XII effective January 1, 2019, January 1, 2020, and January 1, 2021 respectively.

Resolution

Be it resolved that the Council of General Synod approves the recommendation of the Pension Committee to make the following amendments to Regulations A.5, C.3 and the Benefit Schedule of LTD Regulations effective January 1, 2019.

Members broke for coffee from 2:55 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.

Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation, and Justice

Ms. Ginny Doctor, Indigenous Ministries coordinator, introduced the presentation by the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation, and Justice. Having served as staff liaison to the Primate’s Commission since its inception, Doctor said she would soon be retiring and relinquishing that role to Ms. Melanie Delva, national reconciliation animator.

In working with the commission, Doctor said, the idea of producing a video documentary on the Doctrine of Discovery had come to the fore. The documentary would be for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous audiences as a way to understand the impact of the Doctrine of Discovery on Indigenous and settler peoples alike.

Ms. Lisa Barry, senior producer for Anglican Video, offered additional context on the process leading up to the production of the documentary. Since her first involvement 25 years ago in a video sharing the story of a residential school survivor, Barry had come to recognize the Doctrine of Discovery as the source of the intergenerational trauma and destruction that followed the first contact between European settlers and Indigenous peoples. She presented a short promo video for council members to give an idea of their work and what the documentary would look like.

Council members watched the short video, which began with footage of the ocean and captions discussing the 1492 voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World. Prior to contact with Europeans, the Indigenous population of the Americas was estimated at more than 100 million people across 800 different nations. Food was shared, disease was minimal, and there were extensive and well-established trade networks. The Spanish fleet was initially well-received by Indigenous peoples.

Within 25 years, the settlers had exterminated the entire population of Hispaniola, the island where Columbus had landed. Within 100 years, ravaged by violence, disease, and slavery, the entire Indigenous population in the New World had declined to 10 million. The video explicitly linked this demographic displacement with the Doctrine of Discovery. Interviews featured figures such as Murray Sinclair, Dr. Martin Brokenleg, and Ginny Doctor discussing the loss of land, culture, and self-esteem rooted in the doctrine.

After the video, Mr. Andrew Wesley, co-chair of the Primate’s Commission, described their last meeting on Walpole Island First Nation in Ontario. The gathering saw a presentation from a local chief on their journey to self-determination, as well as discussion on the various working relationships between the commission and the Vision Keepers Council, the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), and reconciliation animator Melanie Delva. They also touched on plans for Sacred Circle in August.

Bishop Riscylla Shaw, co-chair, expressed excitement from the commission about the potential for the Doctrine of Discovery video as an educational tool, supplemented with study guides for Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. She noted that the meeting in Walpole included lengthy, focused discussion on the commission’s priorities and assigning responsibility to wrap up its work by the next General Synod.

Part of that discussion involved how to keep the work of the commission going after General Synod. In addition to a proposed Indigenous Justice and Reconciliation Coordinating Committee of the General Synod, which would serve as a permanent working group with links to ACIP and the Vision Keepers Council, the commission was looking to form a Jubilee Commission, tasked with auditing how money had been invested by the church in Indigenous Ministries in the past and present, and how it might be invested in the future.

A motion was put forward laying out the framework for the Jubilee Commission. During a vote on the motion, two CoGS members indicated the need for further discussion. Members who supported the motion explained their belief that it would better help the church move forward towards funding a self-determining Indigenous church. In response to concerns over the speed of the process, Doctor also noted that Anglicans in Indigenous ministry had been referring to self-determination back in 1969. Other members from the floor pointed to the high number of young people in Indigenous communities, underscoring that the concerns of the Jubilee Committee would relate not just to the past of the church, but to its future.

Reassured by the responses of fellow council members, the two previously hesitant members of CoGS expressed their support for the motion, which was carried by consensus.

Resolution

That CoGS appoint a Jubilee Commission to propose a just, sustainable and equitable funding base for the self-determining Indigenous Anglican church.

The Commission would:

  • have a three-year term, potentially renewable
  • consist of 6 members
  • report to the Council of General Synod
  • include significant representation from the current Primate’s Commission on the Doctrine of Discovery, Reconciliation, and Justice.

The Commission would be charged with examining historic and current funds made available for Indigenous ministry at various levels of the Church’s structure, assessing current funds designated to Indigenous programming, and assessing broader property questions. Topics for consideration might include current salary levels of Indigenous clergy and strategies to move towards parity, possible redistribution of portions of property sales on a principled basis, and increasing alignment between funds for Indigenous ministry and Indigenous oversight of these funds.

The passing of the resolution by consensus prompted Archbishop Hiltz to describe the decision as “a very important moment in the life of this council. It’s a really important moment in the life of our church”—one that evoked the spirit of the 1994 covenant and served as a practical follow-up to discussions at the Road to Warm Springs gathering.

Missionary Society of the Anglican Church of Canada

Reflecting a constitutional requirement in Canon VII, members of CoGS voted to adjourn and reconstituted themselves as the Missionary Society of the Anglican Church of Canada to discuss and approve the financial statements of the latter.

Two motions were carried by consensus, after which members officially terminated their meeting as the Board of Management of the Missionary Society, and resumed their meeting as CoGS.

Resolution

Be it resolved that the Board of Management approves the Financial Statements of the Missionary Society of the Anglican Church of Canada for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2017 and that any two Officers are authorized to sign the statements on the Board’s behalf.

Resolution

Be it resolved that the meeting of the Board of Management of the Missionary Society of the Anglican Church of Canada be terminated.

Human Trafficking

Mr. Ryan Weston, General Synod lead staff (along with Global Relations Director Andrea Mann) for regional consultations on the fight to eradicate human trafficking, gave a presentation detailing the background to the consultations.

Weston described human trafficking as a global crime, human rights violation, and an ongoing issue related to missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. In 2015, Anglican Consultative Council Resolution 15.10—The trafficking of persons requested that provinces of the Anglican Communion commit themselves to the fight to eradicate human trafficking and modern slavery. A CoGS resolution in June 2017 established a reference group, which first gathered in September to begin hearing details on the scope of trafficking worldwide and in Canada.

Regional consultations were planned to further educate members of the Anglican Church of Canada on human trafficking and strategies to fight it, with one consultation for each ecclesiastical province. A consultation for the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario took place from April 10-13 in Pickering, Ont., followed by a consultation for the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada from April 15-18 in St. John’s, Nfld. Bishops in each province were invited to suggest people to attend the consultations, which were funded by parish and diocesan apportionment to General Synod as well as grants from the Anglican Foundation and the Diocese of Niagara.

At each consultation, participants heard stories from survivors of trafficking and exploitation. Weston said that work against human trafficking needed to be guided by the experience of survivors who understand these situations best and recognize needs for the work. The consultations also featured speakers from church organizations such as the Anglican Alliance and KAIROS Canada—the latter of which focused on the exploitation of migrant workers—non-profits such as the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking; and community groups such as the Coalition Against the Sexual Exploitation of Youth, based in St. John’s. A member of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation in Ontario also provided an Indigenous perspective at the Pickering event.

Following Weston’s presentation, council members took part in a table group activity. Each table group received a story of someone caught up in trafficking-like conditions. At three key junctures in the story, they were asked to reflect on the needs of the person at the centre of the story, how their local church might respond to those needs, and what opportunities might exist for collaboration.

Members broke for hospitality and dinner from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Market Place

Council members broke into two groups after dinner for a pair of marketplace discussions.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz and Dean Shane Parker facilitated one discussion on the Heartbeat of the Church initiative. Meanwhile, the Rev. Dr. Eileen Scully and LCdr the Rev. Beverly Kean-Newhook facilitated a separate discussion on the subject of Safe Church and Sanctuary.

Evening Prayer

Members closed out the Friday agenda with night prayer in the chapel.

An evening social took place from 9 p.m. until 11 p.m.

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