Sorrento Centre on the shore of Shuswap Lake was the scene for the 2018 Synod of the Ecclesiastical Province of BC and Yukon. Officers, delegates, and guests—some 60 souls—met on a few brisk days in mid-September (13-16) to conduct the business of the Province. Here follows a reporter’s notebook from that meeting, your play list for the main events.
Thursday, September 13: In another week or two, a million sockeye salmon will throng to this region, fatefully programmed to spawn and die. Hoping to stay ahead of that feverish mob, the delegates from the Province of BC and the Yukon will gather tomorrow evening to commence their triennial synod, masterminding the proliferation of Mother Church in what this reporter confidently expects to be a more decorous but equally productive engagement of vital energies. And less fatal.
After four hours of driving and a foray into fast food, we pull into the parking area at Sorrento Centre. We walk the grounds of a near perfect autumn afternoon, apples in the orchard trees and scattered on the grass. The business of Synod includes the induction of the new Archbishop (my travelling companion), the election of officers and Provincial Council members, and the consideration of resolutions—one to commit the province to a Safe Church initiative, and a second to reconfigure the British Columbia/Yukon Anglican Youth Ministry (BCYAYM). We’re expecting some fine presentations, some possibly orderly discourse on changes to the marriage canons (second reading coming to General Synod 2019), and a guest appearance by the Primate, the Most Reverend Fred Hiltz. Much is in readiness, but tonight is a work night.
Friday, September 14: After a day of consultation for the Provincial House of Bishops (diocesan bishops), the Provincial Synod convened this evening with worship in the Caritas Room, the multipurpose setting for the business of synod. Primate Fred Hiltz presided for this opening Eucharist, Archbishop Melissa Skelton preached, and the newly hired executive director of Sorrento Centre, the Reverend Michael Shapcott, served as deacon. The archbishop’s sermon was devoted to Jesus’ revealing God’s way of acting, expressed in his encounter with Nicodemus in John 3:15-17. Central to this passage, of course, is the declaration that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” The selfless quality of God’s love, revealed in Jesus, is the foundation of his ministry, affirmed the Archbishop—the foundation on which we stand as Christians, and the foundation on which we stand in all our diversity as a Church and as a province. “This and no other,” she said, “is the love that claims us. This and no other is the kind of love we are asked to offer to one another.”
Contained within the worship was the rite of induction of Melissa M. Skelton as Metropolitan of the Province with the title Archbishop. The rite was conducted with the diocesan bishops present—from the Dioceses of British Columbia, Caledonia, and Yukon, the Territory of the People—as well as the Rev Brian Krushel representing Bishop Mohr and the BC Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. (The Diocese of Kootenay was not represented by a bishop, the Right Reverend John Privett having retired earlier this year.)
When the cheering subsided (richly deserved, opines this reporter), Archbishop Skelton addressed the synod, extending the theme of her sermon. God acts, she declared, through a love that is costly, fearless and humble. And we are challenged to take up that call to action in the same spirit. If we can in fact meet that challenge to “abide in our unity in the midst of our diversity, in our life as a Province, maybe, just maybe, we can be a witness to God’s unity within diversity to the broader Anglican Church of Canada which, in turn, can be a witness to a broader culture that is easily polarized and routinely fragmented on account of differences.” Put me down for that.
(The text of the Archbishop's sermon and her Address to Synod are available as downloadable .PDFs below)
Her current priorities for provincial action? The Archbishop identified three:
- Collaboration. Decisive action and follow through to bring to fruition the initiatives begun under her worthy predecessor (especially those before this assembly—Safe Church and the BCYAYM memorandum)
- Relationship building. Supplementing and extending the communication (virtual and in person) to “deepen our knowledge, experience and connection to one another.”
- Effecting transitions well. As a number of bishops will be retiring over the next few years, we have an opportunity to contribute at every stage to transitions that enhance the confidence and unity of each diocese and of the Province.
Saturday, September 15: The Most Reverend Fred Hiltz led a segment of the meeting devoted to taking the pulse of attendees, specifically on their experiences of the church. This survey is being done across the body of the faithful in similar formats, touching on a range of questions: Where are you finding joy? What causes aching? When are you hopeful?
And speaking of vitality: Melanie Delva, Animator for Reconciliation, Anglican Church of Canada and Bishop Logan McMenamie, Diocese of BC. These two took the stage twice during the synod, concluding Saturday evening with a showing of Bishop Logan’s short film documenting his Lenten pilgrimage from Alert Bay to Victoria. Careful that it not come across as a PR stunt, the bishop largely avoided the press but did meet along the road with tribal leaders, asking permission to enter as he proceeded from territory to territory, listening, observing, praying, celebrating. Quite a journey, quite a film.
The film was inspiring, and no less so the presentation by Melanie. They don’t call her the Animator for nothing. It might be her superpower. With great focus and energetic pacing, she escorted us down the road that has been leading toward reconciliation; with care, she brought us to the current scene, where the TRC Calls to Action are being carried forward in various programs and initiatives across the nation. This reporter came away with fresh sense of hopefulness that the Spirit is moving in these acts of reconciliation, such that a real shift is not only possible but happening.
Among the needful pieces of business was the election of officers and Provincial Council members. This went very smoothly, with thanks to outgoing Prolocutor Randall Fairey and congratulations to his successor Clara Plamondon. And congratulations to Linda LaGroix who succeeds Clara as Secretary. Much appreciation to Treasurer Cheryl Hunt who is succeeded by Vera Morgan. The inestimable Douglas MacAdams continues as Chancellor. “I am grateful and encouraged,” the Metropolitan was heard to say, “that we have such a strong team going forward.”
After some spirited questioning around issues of cost of the proposed program and conformity of policies across the Province, the synod passed the resolution to proceed with a plan to adopt and fund the Safe Church resources that were proposed by the Task Force.
Another resolution proposed to and adopted by the body was to ratify the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that would reconfigure BCYAYM to integrate it within the provincial structure, a move endorsed by current BCYAYM leadership as a means of sustaining its life for the next generation.
Two resolutions proposed from the floor—both passed by Synod—were inspired by environmental stewardship concerns. One called for Synod to move away from employing single-use plastic items (straws, sacks, containers, and the like), with sensitivity to persons whose disabilities or poverty make that reliance very hard to break. The second established an environmental concerns committee under the supervision of the Executive Committee, to study, raise awareness, and propose action around issues that involve the care and health of the natural environment.
A final resolution was passed to add to the Metropolitan Cross a design element that acknowledges the existence and inclusion of the Territory of the People (in consultation with that entity).
Sunday, 9/16: The final half-day of synod began with worship—a celebration of Eucharist at which the Archbishop presided and the Primate preached. Actually, for many the day began with breakfast, Make Your Own Benny (Wow), which was a hard act to follow. Still, carry on we must, and the liturgy did not disappoint. For that matter, none of the worship at Synod disappointed: the liturgies were well planned and led, the singing and accompaniment spirited.
This liturgy featured the blessing of a new ministry, that is, the ministry of the Reverend Michael Shapcott as Executive Director of Sorrento Centre. Michael’s vocational history includes research and advocacy work, especially around housing and homelessness. His research has focused on the problems of collaboration within multi-disciplinary teams, with the aim of linking academic work, public policy, and social justice. His experience did not prepare him, however, for problems with the Sorrento Centre septic system, about which he was humble.
Michael carries on the fine work of past directors at Sorrento Centre, including Bishop Barbara Andrews and most recently the interim director Melissa Green. Led by Michael and Melissa, the staff of Sorrento Centre provided most attentively for our needs as synod participants. Many thanks. And did I mention Make Your Own Benny?
Synod devoted two blocks of time to a discussion of the marriage canons. The first involved statements by the attending bishops that expressed the current positions in their home dioceses. These reflected a range of stances, as you might expect. And yet, a theme emerged, emphasizing mutual tolerance and a steady commitment to stay in communion, regardless of the outcome of the voting and maneuvering at the next General Synod beginning July 9, 2019, in Vancouver.
The Primate then responded to these presentations with comments of his own, appreciative of the consistent theme of unity expressed across the province. He further reported on work that is quietly proceeding from many quarters that aims to reassure contending parties that inclusivity is a paramount value and one that can be canonically maintained.
In the second discussion, synod members had an opportunity to process the bishop’s statements and provide feedback. Among the responses, there was widely held gratitude for the tone of cohesiveness among dioceses, and for the efforts to arrive at a position that arises from a permissive approach rather than a restrictive one.
We packed the car and headed out on the long and winding road that leads back to Vancouver. I think we were the last to leave the Centre, and it might have been tempting to stay in that now peaceful place, but we knew that the peace was soon to be shattered by a swarm of quilters. Best get going.
We could not, however, leave the area without checking out Scotch Creek. The salmon run, we had learned, was already happening there, a few kilometers around the lake. And it was true. Too true. In fact, the dead salmon were beginning to outnumber the ones still thrashing midstream. It was beautiful. It was grim. It was compelling. It was time to get home.
Before leaving the creekside, my companion spotted some bright pink salmon eggs scattered in the shallow water among the rocks and gravel. “Can you tell which ones are fertilized?” she asked. Not yet.
All photos by Eric Stroo except where noted.