Archbishop Fred J. Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church in Canada, addressed the 2010 General Synod which is meeting in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
His address to the Synod covers a wide range of issues and focuses on the mission and ministry of Anglicans across Canada. Here is what he has to say about their mutual discernment about human sexuality, the Anglican Covenant and Canterbury's Pentecost letter.
A considerable amount of time in Synod is devoted to the issue of the blessing of same-sex unions. My observation is that wherever the majority of us are with respect to a theological position on this matter, there is less passion for resolving it through resolution and heated debate, and much deeper commitment to respectful dialogue and continuing discernment together. I have witnessed this shift in the House of Bishops, in the Council of General Synod, and in the context of many discussions during diocesan visits. I believe the Spirit has called us into this space for a time. We shall begin our work on this issue in the Synod with A Faithful Reporting on behalf of the Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee, the Primate’s Theological Commission, and the House of Bishops, and International Conversations. Rapporteurs will record our conversations then meet and report back to the Synod the common themes. Each time we meet in prayerful conversation, we will build upon the themes emerging. I ask all members of Synod to enter into these conversations in a Spirit of humility and a genuine commitment to listen and to learn from one another. I know that our deliberations on these matters will be watched by many within Canada and around the world. I hope they see no evidence of rejection, condemnation, or demonization but every evidence of respect, charity, and patience. I hope they see a Church sensitive to the variety of contexts in which we are called to meet the pastoral and sacramental needs of those we serve. I hope they see a capacity for pastoral generosity. I hope they see us striving to live together with difference and to do it gracefully. I hope they see us “bearing one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3)
I come to this Synod mindful of the comments made by the Pastoral Visitors, appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to visit the House of Bishops last fall. In their report to the Archbishop, they said, “General Synod will, indeed, be a watershed, both for the Anglican Church of Canada and for its wider relations within the Anglican Communion. At its worst it could lead to internal anarchy. At its best it could help us all to appreciate and practice a properly Christian style of inclusiveness.” I pray, of course, for the latter.
My earnest hope is that we will emerge from this Synod with a Pastoral Statement reflecting the mind and heart of the Canadian Church on this matter at this moment in time. I hope it can reflect our determination to never walk apart, but always to walk together, in that love Christ wills and prays for us and for the whole Church.
Another major topic before the Synod is the Anglican Communion Covenant. We are one of the first provinces to consider the final text. We are blessed to have had an Anglican Communion Working Group guiding our study of the drafts of the Covenant and inviting our input by way of critique and revision. And I know that those comments from our Church have been viewed by many within the Communion as constructive and helpful.
Section IV, Our Covenanted Life Together, continues to be challenging for many in the Communion. On the one hand it speaks of respect for the autonomy and integrity of each province in making decisions according to the polity reflected in its Constitution and Canons. On the other, it speaks of relational consequences for a Church should it make decisions deemed incompatible with the Covenant. These consequences could range from limited participation to suspension from dialogues, commissions and councils within the Communion. In my opinion, they reflect principles of exclusion with which many in the Communion are very uneasy. For if one is excluded from a table, how can one be part of a conversation? How can our voice be heard, how can we hear the voices of others, how can we struggle together to hear the voice of the Spirit? How can we hope to restore communion in our relationships if any one of us cannot or will not be heard?
In his 2010 Pentecost letter, the Archbishop of Canterbury speaks of “particular provinces being contacted about the outworking of these relational consequences.” To date we cannot be identified as “a Province that has formally through their Synod or House of Bishops adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently affirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith, and Order”. However the Archbishop’s letter also refers to “some provinces that have within them dioceses that are committed to policies that neither the province as a whole nor The Communion has sanctioned”. One is left wondering if provinces whose Primates continue to interfere in the internal life of other provinces and extend their pastoral jurisdiction through cross-border interventions will be contacted. To date I have seen no real measure to address that concern within The Communion. I maintain and have publicly declared my belief that those interventions have created more havoc in the Church, resulting in schism, than any honest and transparent theological dialogue on issues of sexuality through due synodical process in dioceses and in the General Synod. I also wonder when I see the word “formally” italicized in the Archbishop’s letter. It leaves me wondering about places where the moratoria on the blessing of same sex unions is in fact ignored. The blessings happen but not “formally”. As you will have detected I have some significant concerns about imposing discipline consistent with provisions in the Covenant before it is even adopted; and about consistency in the exercise of discipline throughout one Communion. There are also lingering concerns in Section IV on monitoring discipline and procedures for restoring membership in our covenanted life together.
The whole address may be found here.
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori is scheduled to speak to the Synod next Tuesday.
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