Day II -- as observed by The Ven Douglas Fenton
It was hard to believe that the clock was correct. It felt like it was well before a civilized time for even someone with insomnia to be getting out of bed: 4:30 am. Of course, that was what time it would have been had I still been in my own bed but, no, this is the Sheraton Parkway Hotel in Richmond Hill, Ontario where it's already 7:30 am EDT! Rock and roll. Time to get up. It's Day II of General Synod--food to eat, people to meet, art to to create, reports to receive, motions to pass, prolocutors and deputy prolocutors to elect and partners from whom to hear.
Elizabeth Adams, a parishioner at St George's, Guelph is an artist. Elizabeth was contracted to create a sacred space for worship and for our meeting. Part of her work has manifested itself on canvases that cover the tables at which we gather around. Every canvas is different, distinct and a reflection of her mediation upon the scriptural passage from Isaiah 43 which informs the theme "You are my witnesses." During our morning prayer we considered those who had been a witness to us and then were invited to contribute to the canvas by writing their name into the image on the canvas.
Anglican Video produced a film with a series of stories told by witnesses testifying to their experience of our Church's expression of God's love: being received, welcomed and cared for as evacuees from the fires in Fort McMurray by a Church in Edmonton, a parish welcoming Syrian refugees and the overwhelming sense of mutual joy, and the decision of the Sacred Circle in Pinawa in 2005 to move to a place of self-determination with the blessing of eagles soaring overhead.
Archbishop Hiltz recounted these stories in his Primatial Address. He reminded General Synod of our Church's commitment to undertaking the recommendations of Truth and Reconciliation Report relating to the church. His own response on behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada calls us to remind ourselves each year of relationship with Indigenous Peoples by acknowledging the Territories upon which our churches stand with appropriate ceremonies, prayers and the recitation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. He also called our attention to the work of the Anglican Alliance--the collective Anglican witness which includes the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) -- a part of our Anglican Communion response to the world's need. He quoted from Bishop James Tengatenga, Chair of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) who said that 'the rumour of the Anglican COmmunion's demise is greatly exaggerated...while it is only yet an approximation of what God has intended.'
We heard from Bishop Susan Johnson about the ELCIC, it's priorities, and the importance of our relationship with them. She particularly showed appreciation for the way in which our Primate Fred is an important colleague to her as her church struggles through a difficult time.
And then there was lunch.
As an after-lunch-activity it was time try our our votingclickers -- the little voting gadgets we had been entrusted with when we registered and which hang around our neck so that we don't lose them. Voting, we were told, would be done as an entire assembly -- which meant bishops were now to vote with the rest of us....I know. 1 for 'in favour'; 2 for 'opposed' and 3 for 'abstain.' You can imagine how long the explanations took. (Yes, you can.)
Despite it all we successfully elected a new Prolocutor of General Synod (Cynthia Haines Turner) and a new Deputy Prolocutor (our own Lynne McNaughton) for the next triennium.
The first partner church was up next and we were privileged to hear from a very power witness, Presiding Bishop Michael Currie from The Episcopal Church. He reflected on what was happening in the US, in the many occasions of violence and especially those that had happened in the past day. 'That was a child of God who was killed', he said. And no matter their colour or whether they were a Latino or a police officer--they were all a child of God.
He called to mind the creation story in the first chapter of Genesis where all humankind was created in God's image. We are imprinted with the same image of God. In our baptism we all receive the same cross and so we are all love and beloved of God.
Bishop Currie also reminded us that as Christians, as disciples of Jesus, we are all participants in the Jesus Movement and Jesus taught us a better way, a way of love, only love.
There was another chance to use our clickers. This time it was to pass resolutions approving the accounts of General Synod as we heard the delightful news of the sound fiscal management that the Treasurer and her team had overseen. This report was made by Archbishop Colin Johnson (Toronto) and our own Rob Dickson, Chair of the Financial Management Committee.
Likewise we heard from the Pensions Committee and approved the changes requested by that management team.
We heard from our partner church in Cuba--Bishop Griselda and Dr Jose Bringas. The Church in Cuba, despite its many challenges to provide food security, development grants to local initiatives and support for a small team of clergy(2 vocational deacons, 5 transitional deacons and 24 priests for several thousand Anglicans) is a powerful witness to the visionary work of their bishop and development team. In many ways they reflect the same faith, initiative, vision and witness to the gospel we experience in our Companions in the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Philippines.
After dinner we began had an introduction to the Marriage Canon in preparation for our work tomorrow (today?). Table conversations consider three topics: what was your experience of the Commission's report; what does marriage mean to you; and has your understanding of marriage changed over time? There was an opportunity to record questions for clarification before we begin in mixed groups for discussion tomorrow.
Is it any wonder that 32 hours have gone by and I haven't set foot outdoors? It's a full schedule. A lot to pray over and discuss. A wonderful time to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. A chance to visit exhibits which themselves are witnesses to our church's many manifestations. And an opportunity to give thanks to God for the love we are shown in spite of it all.
Photos: Primatial address by Archbishop Fted Hitltz // Greetings from presiding Bishop Michael Currie (Melanie Delva)