Archive for the ‘General Synod’ Category

last day without sex!

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I thought that might get your attention.  Today the members spent much of the day in “galley groups” – ie table groups, mixed up, not by diocese.  [there are all sorts of nautical references in this port city].  We actually did spend some time with the story of the feeding of the 5000, and then group-building exercises in the same group (from tossing one, two, three balls around the table in different patterns; to manipulating a tennis ball with a ring-on-strings — all to learn about working and communicating in groups).  These groups have members from all estates of the church and from across the country, and when we’re not going to be voting on motions (when we sit with our diocese), we’re in the galley.  My group has (besides moi, male laity from toronto), a woman priest from Newfoundland, a laywoman from the prairies, and two other laymen – one from PEI and one from BC.  There are two companions, including one from the Episcopal Church (who is apparently reading this blog – Hi Martha!).  Like all of them, its a diverse group.

We heard from the Bishop of Jerusalem and his wife, and the relationships built up between Canada and the diocese of Jerusalem (I hadn’t realised that (a) it covers five countries and (b) the Christian proportion of the population, which was about 20% in the 1940s is now down to 2%); and more work on the long-range planning of Vision 2019.

More work on financial reports and motions, and electing a prolocutor.  More of them-thar motions in about half an hour – they’re working us hard, 9-12, 2-5 and 7-9.

Tomorrow begins the sexuality discussions:  in the morning (in the galley groups) we’ll hear “a faithful reporting” – that is, bringing us up to speed on what synod has done up to now, and especially in the last triennium.  Come Monday, we’ll have the first of the discussion groups  (three galley groups together, with facilitator and rapporteur) on them thar questions.  Further bulletins as events develop.

For those who may not be up on the nature of General Synod:  it meets every three years.  There is representation from each diocese – all bishops, some laity and clergy (equal numbers of each, determined by how large the diocese is), and one youth member.  The smallest diocese gets four (one of each, bishop priest lay and youth), Toronto gets 22 – five bishops, eight each clergy and laity, and one youth.  While we are a large group, it’s not quite rep-by-pop:  Toronto has 25% of the Anglican population in the country, but only 8.5% of the members of GS.  Synod is unicameral, that is, there is only one debate, with bishops sitting with the clergy/laity.  We always vote separately on all motions, and in some cases there has to be a vote that separates clergy and laity.  The Prolocutor is the highest elected non-bishop – deputy chair of Synod, a cross between Speaker of the House, and (US Equivalent) Prez of the House of Deputies.  There’s just over 300 members of General Synod, and we’re meeting for eight days.

Time I was over at the plenary hall (aka gymnasium).  Sex tomorrow!

- – Chris in Halifax

Written by Chris

June 5th, 2010 at 2:52 pm

Posted in General Synod

First time with a red lanyard

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Hello from Halifax.

I arrived here late Wednesday evening, was met by the local synod folk and driven to St Mary’s University, the General Synod venue, in a schoolbus that had rather less room between rows of seats than my legs are long. Not as well appointed as the plane journey, but who cares? I was surprised at how many familiar faces there are – and how many people remember me. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been – this is my eighth General Synod, though my first as a member (from the diocese of Toronto).

Most of the Integrity staff team arrived Thursday about lunchtime – I was lurking near the residence registration desk to intercept them – and the (pre-shipped) display arrived at almost the same time. Normally that would have travelled as someone’s luggage, but Porter Airlines has tighter size restrictions than Air Canada- – it’s a saw-off. It was somewhat chaotic for a while there, but Bob (veteran of many General Synods) and Caleb (Patti’s son, 13, and at his first GS) got it up fairly promptly. Having done that setup task many times, I know what a chore it can be – and what a good result we get. Lots of pictures of Happy Homos in Church Settings, rainbows all over the place, done with faaabulous taste.

This year we’ve seized upon the IntegrityUSA’s phrase (and logo!) of “All the Sacraments for All the Baptised”. That sums up Integrity’s aims very well – and avoids the LGBTQ* alphabet soup (that you then have to explain, and it becomes in-group code). The rainbow-circles logo has pride of place in the display, (I’m relying on Patti to provide photos), on the printed literature, and we have thousands of stickers with it on to hand out. I’ve been pleased to note the appearance of those stickers on diverse people already.

The first big event was the opening service at All Saints Cathedral (where my seminary roommate Paul is the Dean – now THAT makes me feel old). Integrity staff people (wearing yellow lanyards [exhibitors] on their nametags) were sitting somewhere in the space (I didn’t see them at all), but Synod members [for the first time including yr scribe, with a red lanyard] were marshaled in various parish halls and processed in to sit in various places. Somehow half the rowdies (my diocesan team) ended in the almost-back rows, me next to my rector. I’m not sure if that added to our not behaving in a buttoned-up fashion, but fun was had, from being amused at the contradiction between hymn words “gift of finest wheat” and “the communion bread is all gluten-free” to sotto voce mutterings about anthems going on and on and on and delaying communion [“get on with it! I’m hungry!”], but I think it was more feeling at home, in OUR church, even though we are in a different time-zone. We were the last row of synod members, behind us were local arrangements people, and one of them whispering at some point “I want to go to YOUR church- you have fun!”. I take that as a compliment. I realize, though, that just about everyone there DOES have fun at their church – wherever in the country that might be, across five timezones and 15deg of latitude. This church is important to us, or we wouldn’t be spending ten or twelve days away from home to be here.

Not only fun, but joy. I found myself tearing up a few times – both in the cathedral, and next morning at the opening worship. The same sail-shaped banners moved up and down aisles, and we sang about feeling the winds of God. It’s a responsibility, trying to discern the best direction for the church to advance the Commonwealth of God here – and sometimes that’s NOT just preserving the institution status-quo. Sometimes it’s going to be difficult and painful. The opening service preacher (I’ve lost my order of service, so I can’t give you his name), the bishop of Uruguay and Cuba, was talking on the metaphor of vine-dressing, pruning and encouraging growth, and said, “We cannot do nothing”.

Back to SMU, and the first social evening. This – in the corridors and over meals and in the non-structured get-together time in the evenings – is when a lot of the very important work of Synod happens. It’s not just the legislative stuff, sitting in plenary or in committees; but the face-time, talking to other people from all over, that the connections and learnings are made. Integrity, like the other displayers, I’m glad to say has a lot of access this time around at this venue (unlike some synods, where smaller dining rooms have kept us outside at very valuable contact-times).

Yesterday, the formalities (we have quorum, the 39th General Synod declared in session); group-building and getting-to-know-you exercises; and then some housekeeping and some substantive governance stuff. One of the getting-to-know activities had us changing nametags and milling about – I was at various points impersonating Anne, a laywoman from Qu’Appelle (Saskatchewan), Felix from Quebec, and the bishop of Yukon. I’m not sure WHO was pretending to be me (and my nametag isn’t telling me), but that weaving is a good metaphor for our time together, placing ourselves in the situation of people from all over the country.

The sexuality discussions will take place over five days in different groupings – Sunday to Thursday. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile it’s off to breakfast, and then another full day.

Written by Chris

June 5th, 2010 at 3:31 am

Posted in General Synod

Day 1: June 4

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With the end of the first full day at General Synod, it’s been a busy day and half. The display arrived via courier without incident, so yesterday’s labour was focussed on getting it set up, complete with gumball machine for the distribution of candy. The display area is in the mezzanine above the plenary hall, making it readily accessible to members of Synod and very easy for displayers to hear and see what is going on below. As well, Integrity is located right at the entry to the area, both from the outside of the building and the hall. Once I figure out how to upload photos, you’ll see the display in all its splendour.

The focus of the morning session was the Presidential address, in which the Primate introduced the theme of this General Synod, “Feeling the Winds of God: Charting a New Course,” emphasizing the relationship between wind and the Holy Spirit. In this context, Archbishop Hiltz laid out some of the major areas that the 2010 General Synod will examine. For complete text of the address, look here:

The section of particular relevance to Integrity is, of course, the one covering the six scheduled sessions, beginning on Sunday and entitled “Sexuality Discernment.”  Archbishop Hiltz said:

A considerable amount of time in Synod is devoted to the issue of the blessing of samesex 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.

A section reflecting on the draft Covenant followed, with the Primate’s reaction to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Pentecost letter. Archbishop Hiltz commented on the Covenant:

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?

To the Archbishop of Canterbury’s letter, the Primate responded fairly strongly:

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 crossborder 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.

To close today’s entry, I quote Samuel Pepys’s Diary: “So back and home, and there to supper, and so to bed.”

Written by Patti

June 4th, 2010 at 7:30 pm

Posted in General Synod

Integrity at General Synod 2010

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The Anglican Church of Canada will be meeting in General Synod in Halifax NS from 3-11 June 2010. This is the triennial national meeting of the Anglican Church of Canada, and again the role and presence of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Anglicans in the life of the church will be discussed.

Integrity Canada, the LGBT justice movement within the Anglican Church, has had a presence at General Synod since 1983, and will be in Halifax to talk to Synod members from across the country, and to work for full inclusion – All the Sacraments, for all the baptized.

Written by Paul

June 2nd, 2010 at 12:27 pm

Posted in General Synod