The major highlight happened on the last night of business when the Anglican Council of Indigenous People (ACIP) presented a series of visual updates of their work across the country. At its conclusion, the NationalIndigenous Bishop, Chris Harper, led us in a reflection based on the gospel of Mark. He explained the importance of community which is the common humanity that binds us all together. In his usual gentle and encouraging way, he got us to do what he said Indigenous folk do when celebrating together. He asked us all to move to the sides of our large meeting area and then to hold hands. One small group began circling the altar in the middle of the gym while the outside circle moved to the rhythm of a drum. Soon the whole body of General Synod joined hands and danced together, forming circles within circles. What fun we had! Slowly and rhythmically, we moved, one overlapping area of the circle emerged slowly on its own and broke open into a new space, circling and following parallel to the rest of the larger circle. Gradually, as more and more circles emerged, all the circles moving about in the gym were connected. How triumphant we felt when the music ended and we had created a magnificent tightly-knit circle: God’s people, unified together and having fun.A true community!
The Spirit was at work when we took time to get to know other delegates around us. We found amazing connections to others we had never met and discovered common strengths we share in our churches. Similarly, we got to know firsthand the many different kinds of church settings where delegates come from, catching a glimpse of the challenges they face and how the Spirit enlivens the gospel through particular ministries across Canada.
Although we would have liked our Primate to continue until the next General Synod in 2025, certain voices that seemed contrary to good governance were able to defeat the motion. Trying to not take it personally, in her concluding remarks, Archbishop Linda was very gracious. As an old and flawed institution, the Church must remain vigilant to work against biases, yes, even fifty years after the first Canadian ordinations. The most inspiring moment occurred when we participated in a smudging ceremony. Standing outdoors beyond the building where we would soon convene opening worship for General Synod, National Indigenous AnglicanArchbishop Chris Harper led us in the smudging with an open dish of charcoal, burning tobacco, sage and sweetgrass. He taught us how to respond to the smoke, making it clear there were no ‘wrong’ ways of entering this sanctifying tradition. It was awesome!
The authorization of new“Pastoral Liturgies for Journeys of Gender Transition and Affirmation” created more debate than expected. Some members of General Synod shared stories about the need for such steps in order to minister fully to marginalized people, to heal and even save lives. Although the resolution passed, the discussion was not without pain. Some bishops and clergy expressed reluctance to use any new resources, thereby ostensibly ignoring our 2SLGBTQI+communities. Archbishop Linda had emphasized that we need transparency and “respectful conversations” if we are to be accountable and committed to one another”, but obviously no tall are ready.