The General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada met in July for six days. The September Anglican Journal presented comprehensive coverage. However, the Niagara Anglican sought the unique impressions, findings, experiences and perspectives of the delegates representing Niagara Diocese. Here are samplings of their responses, edited because of space.
NA: What impressed you most about General Synod?
Susan Little: I found the visual impact of the meeting space a powerful dimension, including tripods with three nine-foot tall walking sticks, hand fashioned from young trees culled from Niagara and Ottawa dioceses. They decorated the main stage, where guest speakers or worship leaders stood, as well as the perimeters of the large display screens or main altar. Designer Elizabeth Adams, St. George’s Guelph, said the clustered walking sticks depicted people gathered, ready to hear and move with the Spirit acting on God’s initiative. Their upper sections were bent in unconventional, unique and whimsical shapes and coloured in many shades to suggest our diversity.
The Reverend Bill Mous: We were surrounded by the faithful witness of all parts of the church; through General Synod’s membership, its partners, visitors, observers, displayers and by those who held the synod and its work in their prayers. The scriptural theme “You are my witnesses” permeated all aspects of the synod and grounded our time together. The many reports received and resolutions considered during the week certainly bore witness to the Anglican Church of Canada’s work on important issues such as indigenous self-determination, principled investing, liturgical renewal and the full inclusion of LGBTQ2 members.
Sister Heather: I was impressed by our Primate Fred Hiltz. His calm, loving, respectful and strong chairing of the Synod in incredibly difficult circumstances was an example to all.
Andrew Clinkard: I was most impressed by what I’d have to characterize as “peace, order and good church.” Order—in terms of the extensive work and planning that clearly went on behind the scenes to organize the agenda, liturgy and music, and kept most everything moving according to the published schedule. Good church —in the form of the thoughtfulness and deep Christian faith exemplified by those attending, no matter where they stood on the issue of same sex marriage. Peace—as evidenced during the evensong following the shock of the initial “No” vote on the marriage canon. The majority were hurting, but Synod carried on.
Archdeacon Max Woolaver: I remembered a dream I had a long time ago. I was walking on a beach, late afternoon, with a small group. We were informally, yet purposefully, following Jesus, about six metres ahead. His footprints were visible in the sand. The dream was powerful, not only because of who we were following but also for that mysterious sense of “moment” and deep joy of belonging. I only wanted to belong. I felt precisely that sense of moment—the dignity of purpose and humbling joy of belonging—at General Synod; its depth of holy earnestness is what impressed me most.
NA: What was a disappointment or low point for you?
Susan Little: I was disappointed when the Resolution concerning same-sex marriages failed to pass on Monday night because there was not a two-thirds majority among the clergy. I was prepared for the Resolution to fail among the House of Bishops. The next day’s reversal of the vote, passing the Resolution, was also a low point. Even with one more vote, I am not convinced that the slim majority is sufficient evidence to move ahead with confidence.
The Reverend Bill Mous: I struggled to hear some remarks made during the legislative sessions regarding the proposed change to the Marriage Canon. Being reminded that parts of our Church are deeply homophobic was a low point. So too was the synod’s collective capacity for sound biblical exegesis and theological reflection related to this matter. I was deeply disappointed with issues related to the integrity of our voting system, which made for a procedural and emotional roller coaster during the final two days of the synod.
Sister Heather: I think the hardest part for me was the closing Eucharist. At what should have been a joy-filled sending back into the world, I could not get past the many empty seats of those who had walked out.
Andrew Clinkard: The hotel rooms, food and banquet facilities were excellent, and it was close to major highways, but there was no parkland/natural space adjacent to the conference centre. I would have benefited spiritually and mentally from some green space close by, or a church to experience God and provide spiritual support. The delegates from elsewhere in Canada must have felt it more keenly than I, Toronto born and raised. It felt to me we were toiling away on the business of the church “in the dungeons of Southern Ontario,” not in a sacred space, despite the efforts to make it such.
Archdeacon Max Woolaver: In opposition to the general integrity, I was saddened by the prejudicial attitude on the part of individuals I spoke with in one of our small groups. There were people who came to General Synod with no intention of being open to what the Holy Spirit might say to the gathered community. I found this deeply disturbing.
NA: What did you bring back from General Synod that will help in your parish or Niagara Diocese?
Andrew Clinkard: A greater understanding, appreciation and respect for the depth and breadth of the Christian faith exemplified by The Anglican Church of Canada, and a similar appreciation, understanding and respect for differences at the local church and diocesan levels. We are all unique, but it wasn’t until General Synod that I saw first-hand how some more conservative dioceses worship. The First Nations peoples in particular employ a very old yet practical style of worship, and also hold gospel jamborees. My spirit soared during their gospel jamboree, and I saw how big the Anglican Church tent is, and I love it!
Archdeacon Max Woolaver: I feel proud of our national community. I feel confirmed as a disciple of Jesus Christ and made stronger in my faith. The earnest prayers of General Synod are an example of the graced nature of our struggle to bring a living Gospel to the times in which we live. The Diocese of Niagara has an important role to play in the embodiment of that proclamation.
Susan Little: The most important part I bring back is the importance dialogue plays in the Canadian Church. I returned with a commitment to more effort as a diocese toward the initiatives demonstrated through General Synod’s motions and deliberations. Communication is always important, but face-to-face communication with people involved in the issues was a wonderful learning experience. Having experienced growth in the understanding of diverse viewpoints throughout discussions about our Indigenous people, our international relationships, principles of ethical investments as well as social and ecological justice developments, I appreciate the “bigger picture” of our life as Anglicans in Niagara.
The Reverend Bill Mous: I brought back a deeper appreciation for our diversity as Canadian Anglicans and being part of the global Anglican Communion, and more particularly, a great deal of learning around Indigenous ministry and the Church’s work towards healing and reconciliation.
Sister Heather: I came back from Synod with an appreciation for the strong, committed, articulate youth delegates. At that age, I would not have had half their courage in coming to the microphones and making their voices heard. The future of the church is in great hands.
NA: What decisions will impact Niagara and how?
Sister Heather: I think it is not so much the decisions taken by the Synod that the diocese of Niagara has to deal with. With Bishop Michael’s courageous leadership we know where we will be going. What we need to work on is how to respond to the fallout of our actions – how to help in the healings of the hurts and the divisions we are all facing. As ever, as Anglicans we are called to unity in diversity, with charity to all – how do we regain our sense of being one as the Anglican Church of Canada?
The Reverend Bill Mous: The decision related to the Marriage Canon already has had an impact. Notwithstanding Bishop Michael’s decision to make the sacrament of marriage available to all qualified couples, much work remains to be done to create positive space within our diocese. The decision to engage in formal ecumenical dialogues with the Mennonite Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada may bring us closer to neighbouring churches and foster new ministry partnerships. Synod received the Iona report, which includes competencies for the diaconate and requested a review of the Ordinal with an eye towards a possible revision to this liturgy.
Andrew Clinkard: The initial “no” vote on changing the marriage canon led to Bishop Michael’s bold move announcing his intention to proceed with same-sex marriages. I recall well the festive atmosphere in the Bishop’s suite that night in light of his courageous statement in the face of adversity. In many respects that initial result allowed our Bishop and similar minded diocesan bishops the freedom to proceed in a way that might not have been possible with a “yes” vote that Monday evening. I hope and pray those clergy and congregations not in favour will be respected and loved by all in Niagara.
Archdeacon Max Woolaver: The deeper inclusion of First Nations people in our national gathering is a powerful witness to the Diocese of Niagara. We have much work to do here in Niagara to help heal the sad history of Canada’s treatment of native peoples. I was in fact worried that the focus on the Marriage Canon would overshadow the presence of our native peoples. The Anglican Church has the opportunity to help heal our country.
Susan Little: One of the most important decisions affecting Niagara is our commitment to dialogue with our parishes and people about the sanctioning of same-sex marriages.
Another concerns the self-determination of our Indigenous people. The recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission spell out what are our next steps: for our part, dialogue and educational events about the issues faced by our Indigenous youth and young families.
Finally, our ongoing commitment to the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund needs fuller support across our parishes. The fund is a concrete way of saying “YES” to international need on a local level.
If you wish to read the delegates’ full replies, contact the Editor who will forward your request to the individuals so they can respond to you directly.