|Primate Andrew Hutchison at St. Mary’s, Kerrisdale.|
Primate Andrew Hutchison, elected head of the Anglican Church of Canada six months ago, insists the Church is doing well despite its problems - and he's enjoying his new job.
"I'm having a wonderful time," he told a diocesan gathering at St. Mary's Kerrisdale on December 6, just one of many events in a packed three-day visit to the Diocese of New Westminster.
The Primate preached at Christ Church Cathedral, held the public meeting, appeared at the Vancouver School of Theology, met with representatives of congregations at odds with the rest of the diocese over the blessing of same sex unions, spoke to a gathering of clergy, visited an Iranian refugee in sanctuary at St. Michael's in East Vancouver, and held several private meetings.
The former Bishop of Montreal, originally from Toronto, spoke in French several times during services - as a matter of principle for a head of a Canadian church, he said.
Upbeat in his message, Hutchison insisted several time that, overall, the Anglican Church of Canada is doing well. Contributions are holding level; the fund drive to pay the Church's share of the residential schools settlement is doing well; and the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund last year raised more money than ever.
However he agreed there are serious divisions in the worldwide Anglican Communion. "The Communion has held together for 135 years. Will it continue to? It may not be possible," he acknowledged, adding that it's likely the Anglican Communion will at least be "looser" in the future than at present.
The "Global South" - including Africa - now has the majority of Anglicans and they're saying "our voice must be heard."
Africans especially have a different concept of episcopal leadership. "A primate in other parts of the Anglican Communion can have great authority. People line up behind him when he snaps his fingers," said Hutchison. "Well, it's not that way in Canada." Instant communications through email and the Internet have complicated matters.
"It's not easy," he said. "The Church has to think globally, but also act locally."
The diocese's decision to bless same sex unions was cited in a recent report to the Archbishop of Canterbury - the Windsor Report. Bishop Michael Ingham on behalf of the diocese has expressed regret that "bonds of affection" that hold the diocese together were breeched by that decision.
|Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, presiding at Eucharist at Christ Church Cathedral on Dec. 5. Flanking him are the Rev. Alisdair Smith, deacon, and Megan Otton, MC|
But Hutchison said there was no need for the diocese to be sorry about the decision itself. "There's no need for apology. That was a decision made in conscience."
"We must act locally with courage and integrity," he said. "You may well be doing something prophetic. That should be reassuring. This was not a wildcat move by a maverick diocese."
Hutchison predicted that the diocese would eventually be joined in blessing same sex unions by other dioceses in Canada. The Diocese of Niagara voted in November in favour, but its bishop refused to assent; the Diocese of Toronto almost voted in favour, Hutchison said.
The primate said he has hopes that a scheme for "Shared Episcopal Ministry" recommended by all but three of Canada's 38 bishops will bring a measure of accommodation to the Canadian Church.
In a meeting with Amir Kazemian, the Iranian refugee who has been holed up in St. Michael's since July, Hutchison said he had hopes he will be able to come out soon.
"We are in very close conversation with the minister [Citizenship and Immigration Minister Judy Sgro] and her staff," he said, speaking to both Kazemian and his mother, Masoumeh, who - unlike her son - has been accepted as a refugee.
"The minister recognizes that sanctuary has to be a last resort," said the Primate.
Several times Hutchison put in a plug for his series of Internet broadcasts which are entitled "Conversations with the Primate," available at www.anglican.ca. He said this was one way he hoped to keep in touch with Anglicans across the country, and that he had been encourage by the response.
One thing he hopes to do soon is send out a number of "good news stories" about what young people in the Canadian Church are doing, both at home and on missions abroad.
"They are so full of energy and good ideas, commitment and faith," he said.
The session at St. Mary's ended with a comment from the audience by Christopher Lee of St. Stephen's, West Vancouver, stating: "We can solve all our problems if we just follow the commandment to love one another."
The Primate agreed. "In the long run it's all about relationship," he said.