The Rev. John Oakes was one of five clergy delegates at the national General Synod in June.

When our new Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, gave some of his major impressions of General Synod 2007 in an address during his installation service, he began with a series of evocative phrases, which struck an immediate chord with all who had lived through the previous seven days in stormy Winnipeg with him. I am tempted to do the same. But since most "Topic" readers could not be there, it may be more helpful if I revert to my training in evangelical homiletics and offer a brief three-point summary instead!

My first and overriding gift from General Synod 2007 (apart from the 12-hour+ working days!) is likely to be a deeper appreciation of the sheer strength in diversity of the Anglican Church of Canada. As a new General Synod delegate, this was the first occasion on which I was really exposed to the cultural, geographical and theological fullness of Canadian Anglicanism and it was a powerful experience.

I was especially moved by the vital contribution of indigenous peoples, for example, by the testimonies of ministry among members of the Council of the North, and by the strength of conviction and integrity of those in very different doctrinal positions from myself.

At the same time, this was also a very divided Synod, especially over the difficult questions of human sexuality that we faced. And although, as a theological conservative, I was encouraged by the final outcome, I could not help wondering whether Parliamentary-style debate, however sensitively conducted, was always the best means of settling such issues.

So whilst I personally sensed God working through the process of Synod in sometimes quite remarkable ways, I was touched by the obvious distress of those who were alienated by some of our decisions.

In fact, I asked myself whether as sisters and brothers in Christ, we might not have done better prayerfully to seek consensus and/or mutual compromise than to indulge in the political "hardball" that was periodically manifest in some of the plenary sessions.

Bishop Michael Ingham studies some of the many resolutions put before the General Synod in Winnipeg.

Last but not least, I was grateful to be part of a diocesan delegation where we were able to stay at the table and work and relate well together despite our different backgrounds.

Many have criticized our diocese for how we have conducted ourselves in recent years and many have unfairly suggested that New Westminster does not allow for genuine diversity of opinion. But our presence at General Synod 2007 itself gave the lie to many of these allegations.

I will never forget the final day, when I moved a motion partly calling for further study of issues of human sexuality, against which Bishop Michael spoke.

As I sat down after the resolution passed, I jokingly asked whether he wanted my resignation then or later. But I could only feel safe in making such a comment at all, of course, because I knew that we live in a diocese where respectful diversity of opinion is encouraged without fear or favour.

John Oakes is rector of Holy Trinity, Vancouver, and was one of five clergy delegates. He kept a blog covering General Synod 2007, which can be found at, or through a link on his "New Vision" website at

Twelve people went to the national General Synod in Winnipeg, June 19-25. There were five clerical and five lay delegates, a youth delegate, and Bishop Michael Ingham. The Rev. John Oakes wrote this column; Neale Adams wrote an editorial. Others were asked to submit a brief account.