November 6, 2009 -- The fall meeting of the House of Bishops was held Nov. 2 to 6 at Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre in Niagara Falls Ont. where we were joined by the Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC). We were also joined by two Pastoral Visitors — Bishop Colin Bennetts, retired bishop of Coventry and Bishop Chad Gandiya of Harare. The Pastoral Visitors are partners from the Anglican Communion appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to observe our proceedings and to report their observations to him as well as to offer reflections to us. We were enriched by their presence. We also always value the presence, experiences and contributions of our full communion Lutheran partners at our once-a-year joint meetings.
We welcomed three new bishops to the House — Terry Dance of Huron, Barbara Andrews of the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior and Fraser Lawton of Athabasca. We also said good bye to Bishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee who was attending his last meeting before retirement and to ELCIC Bishop Gerhard Preibisch who is also retiring. We honored the ministries of Alyson Barnett-Cowan who is leaving her position as director of General Synod's Department of Faith, Worship and Ministry for a new position with the Anglican Communion and of Paul Johnson, assistant to ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson.
At the invitation of the Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, we spent some time this meeting reflecting on how we meet and discussing the purpose of our meetings both when the House meets alone and when we meet with our Lutheran colleagues. In his opening reflection, the Primate noted that it is an opportune time to do this, since there has been considerable feedback on our recent meetings which were largely taken up by people making presentations to us rather than by us discussing Episcopal ministry among ourselves. The Primate also noted that for the first time in more than a decade, the Church now has four new Metropolitans — Archbishops John Privett of British Columbia and Yukon, David Ashdown of Ruperts' Land, Colin Johnson of Ontario and Claude Miller of Canada. The Primate told us that he feels it is essential that the Metropolitans form a cohesive team and announced that they would gather in a retreat this winter to reflect on this.
In this context, we received a request from the Primate that a task force be established that would include a bishop from each Ecclesiastical Province to reflect on the leadership role of the House of Bishops, and to strengthen links between the national house and provincial houses.
Both the Primate and the National Bishop have now been in office for a little more than two years and both reflected on the fact that the two churches are engaged in similar processes of structural renewal in light of declining members and declining finances — a process which Bishop Johnson described as "creative, scary exciting work."
We were introduced to Kristin Jenkins, the new Editor of the Anglican Journal, who arranged for us a half-day workshop on declining membership in the Anglican Church of Canada, lead by the Rev. Dr. Gary Nicolosi, congregational development officer for the diocese of British Columbia. In a wide-ranging presentation, Dr. Nicolosi challenged us to think about new approaches to ministry and to being church that can assist us to focus on congregational development and growth.
We heard a number of other presentations that consisted of advance briefings on work that will be before the Council of General Synod (CoGS) when it meets next week.
The Governance Working Group updated us on the work they have been doing on the "National Indigenous Ministry" file and on work mandated by General Synod 2007 which asked for a conversation on issues relating to church structures and how they facilitate the mission of the Anglican Church of Canada. We also received a draft report from the Governance Working Group.
We heard a presentation by members of the Vision 2019 working group and received a draft report which will also be presented at CoGS. We were invited to offer first-blush reactions to some of the report's key recommendations. Vision 2019 is a project that asked Canadian Anglicans to describe where they see their church as being today and where they would like it to be in the year 2019.
We are encouraged by the tone and content of this meeting which allowed us to focus more on broad themes of leadership and mission than we have done in the past. Considerably less time was spent on hearing reports and more time was spent engaging each other on matters of concern in our ministry. We feel that several conversations have begun that will be worth pursuing in subsequent meetings.
October 31, 2008 -- The following statement was released by the House of Bishops at the conclusion of its meeting in Niagara Falls, Ont.
A Statement from the House of Bishops
We being many are one body for we all share in one bread. (1 Cor 10:17)
The meeting of the Canadian House of Bishops which concluded today was our first time together since we were in England at the Lambeth Conference last summer. We spent considerable time -- more than two days -- sharing impressions of the conference, discussing events in the Canadian Church since Lambeth, and seeking agreement among ourselves on a way forward for our Church and its dioceses in the context of the proceedings at Lambeth.
During this extended discussion, the Conference of Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, our partner in Full Communion, accompanied us in conversation, bible study, prayer and mutual support. We are grateful for their presence and contributions.
We acknowledged with gratitude the key role played by the Archbishop of Canterbury in leading us at Lambeth. In particular we noted with thanksgiving the retreat addresses and the three presidential addresses. We share with him the understanding that the Anglican Communion is a gift from God and commit ourselves to working together. We also rejoiced in the clear sense from the bishops gathered at Lambeth that we wished to continue to walk together while addressing the theological issues arising from discussions about same-sex unions.
One of our main topics of conversation was the agreement by many bishops at Lambeth on three moratoria: on the blessing of same-sex unions, on the ordination to the episcopate of people in same-sex relationships and on cross-border interventions. This discussion was in the context of decisions made recently by several diocesan synods in the Canadian Church that asked their bishop to prepare and authorize rites for the blessing of same-sex couples.
Our discussion initially comprised two parts. The first consisted of reports to the House from several bishops of whom such requests have been made -- Ottawa, Montreal, Niagara, Huron, and the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior -- as well as bishops from other dioceses who anticipate such requests in the not-too-distant future and bishops whose dioceses have received unnecessary and unwelcomed "cross-border interventions."
For the second part, we formed an indaba group to reflect on what we had heard in the previous session. (Indaba -- a model for discussion used at Lambeth -- is an African word meaning "a gathering for purposeful conversation among equals.") Several themes emerged in this discussion.
- Some dioceses have not yet engaged in the listening and discernment process and some are just beginning;
- Some have been listening and discerning for many years and have reached differing conclusions;
- Even in the face of difference, there was a desire expressed to "stay at the family table."
It became clear during this process that many individual bishops wanted something from the House as a whole "to take home" with them to share with members of the church.
In response to that request, we added to our agenda a third session on this vitally important topic. In April, 2005 at its meeting in Windsor Ontario, this House responded to a number of requests made in the Windsor Report including a commitment to the moratoria proposed in that document until General Synod makes a decision.
In this third session, the House heard from the Primate who set out for us his understanding of what was being requested of us by Lambeth and the Archbishop of Canterbury. He noted the Pastoral letter from the House of Bishops to General Synod in 2007 which asked for the greatest pastoral generosity possible to gays and lesbians, consistent with the current teaching of the church. He also reminded us of our agreement in 2004 for a process of Shared Episcopal Ministry (SEM) and indicated to us his desire for "gracious restraint," to use the language of the Archbishop of Canterbury, on the matter of same-sex blessings.
The Primate said to us:
"I come to this meeting of the House of Bishops mindful of our Canadian context and the call for authorization of public rites for the blessings of same sex-unions in a number of our dioceses. I am also mindful of the place of the Anglican Church of Canada in our worldwide Communion.
"I trust the House of Bishops will support my call for respect for due process through the General Synod in this matter. In 2007, General Synod concurred with the opinion of the St. Michael Report (produced by the Primate’s Theological Commission) that the blessing of same-sex unions is a matter of doctrine. It is not creedal in nature but nonetheless it is doctrine. The same General Synod called for further work by the Primate’s Theological Commission in assisting the Church to determine if this matter of blessings is a Spirit-led development of doctrine. I believe that these deliberations across the church will have a significant impact on discussion at General Synod in 2010 and on the subsequent authority of dioceses through due synodical process to proceed with blessings.
"Please know that I am mindful of the continuing havoc created in several of our dioceses through cross-border interventions on the part of Primates and bishops from other jurisdictions. I believe we must call them to account. They too must honour the Lambeth call for ‘gracious restraint.’ I remain committed to addressing this issue within the Communion. "
We spent several hours in conversation on the implications of the appeal from the Primate.
As a result of these conversations a large majority of the House can affirm the following:
A continued commitment to the greatest extent possible to the three moratoria -- on the blessing of same-sex unions, on the ordination to the episcopate of people in same-sex relationships and on cross-border interventions -- until General Synod 2010. Members of this House, while recognizing the difficulty that this commitment represents for dioceses that in conscience have made decisions on these matters, commit themselves to continue walking together and to hold each other in prayer.
The House also affirms:
A commitment to establishing diocesan commissions to discuss the matter of same-sex blessings in preparation for conversations at General Synod 2010.
Continued commitment to exercise the greatest level of pastoral generosity in keeping with provisions approved by this House in Spring, 2007 and continued commitment to the Shared Episcopal Ministry document approved in Fall, 2004.
We ask for your continuing prayers as we steadfastly seek to discern the mind and heart of Christ for the wholesome care of all members of his Body, the Church. We share a deep hope that though we may never come to consensus over this matter of the blessing of same-sex unions, we will live with differences in a manner that is marked by grace and generosity of spirit, one toward another.
A year ago, we met in this same place under a different Primate and in the company of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is hard, as Archbishop Fred Hiltz, our new Primate, said in his opening reflections, not to be mindful of all the changes that a year can bring. Changes are always with us. In our opening session, we welcomed two new members -- Bishops Linda Nicholls of Toronto, and Jane Alexander of Edmonton -- and in a rare but fortunate event, we re-welcomed Bishop Gordon Beardy who left us several years ago and who returns to the House as assistant Bishop of Keewatin. We welcomed retired Archbishop Terry Finlay of Toronto who has agreed to be our chaplain. We offered congratulations and prayers to Bishop Victoria Matthews on her election as Bishop of Christchurch, New Zealand. We welcomed the appointment of Bishop Nicholls to the Primate's Theological Commission. And we said goodbye to Bishop Charles Arthurson, who was attending his last meeting of the House of Bishops.
The meeting just ended exemplifies the many roles that we, the Bishops of the Church, play. We dealt with the business of the church, hearing reports on residential schools, on pensions, from the International Anglican Women's Network and on theological education. We also spent a full day together privately, sharing our experiences of the many difficult aspects of Episcopal ministry.
On the first evening of our gathering, we heard a report and some reflections from Archbishop Fred Hiltz, now nearing the end of his first year as Primate. Archbishop Fred gave us a printed report on his activities and travels, which have been considerable, and supplemented the report with what he called "snapshots" -- moments that have remained with him in memory. We were struck by two phrases that he used again and again. He described people in meetings and communities and other places he visited as "being as one" in their love for the church and he also spoke again and again of people who share with him their pride in being Anglican and engaged in God's mission.
On our first full day of this gathering, we met in a private session to consider the life and unity of the Canadian Church and of the Anglican Communion of which we are a part. This was a day of deep reflection and sharing, a day that brought some pain, but also a day of hope as we listened to each others' stories and were reminded once again of all that we share and of the deep affection we have one for another. It was good to listen to each others' stories and, in so doing, to encourage each other. We responded to a letter from Bishop Donald Harvey on behalf of the Anglican Network in Canada. In the midst of these challenges, we repeat that we have put in place a process for shared episcopal ministry, and that we continue to be a Church to which all are welcome.
The day also included presentations by Canadian members of the Covenant Design Group, charged by the Archbishop of Canterbury with drafting a covenant for the approval of the member provinces of the Communion. The covenant is meant to be an expression of our Communion and is now in its second draft, which we agree, is an improvement over the first. We were also briefed by Bishop George Bruce on the Canadian response to the drafts of the Covenant and we shared our responses with him. A document on the Canadian response will go to the Council of General Synod next month.
Not surprisingly, since this is the last time we will gather as a House before this summer's Lambeth Conference of all the bishops of the Communion, we spent considerable time talking about that and hearing from those who have attended before. This was a sweeping conversation covering everything from the agenda and available bursaries to proper attire and what the living accommodations are like.
The last time we met, we instituted a practice of inviting several bishops per meeting to introduce their dioceses to us, and to tell us of the challenges and joys that they experience. This time we heard profiles on the dioceses of Central Newfoundland, Ontario and Brandon.
We also heard a report from Bishop Mark MacDonald, now well into his second year as National Indigenous Bishop. We were heartened to hear him tell us that it appears that in the creation of the position of National Indigenous Bishop, the "Anglican Church of Canada understood a primal reality of indigenous life and unleashed imagination that we had never anticipated."
We were given an update on residential schools and on the work being done in support of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission whose members have yet to be announced by the federal Government. We heard from Archbishop Fred about the church leaders' tour that he was involved in to raise public awareness of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We were struck by the tremendous debt of gratitude that we and the Church owe to General Synod Archivist Nancy Hurn, and other diocesan archivists, who are involved in challenging and ground-breaking work in making sure that the Church lives up to its obligations in providing access to information contained in documents in its possession.
A staff delegation from the Primate's World Relief and Development Fund briefed us on the history, work and mission of this Anglican ministry and shared with us some of the ambitious plans they are making to celebrate the Primate's Fund's 50th anniversary in less than two years. The Primate's Fund exemplifies the very best work that a church can do in reaching out to the developing world and in responding to natural and human disasters.
Our days, when we meet, are framed by prayer. We begin the day with Eucharist, followed by morning prayer and Bible study. We end with night prayers. We continue to be grateful to God for the privilege of being in ministry with the whole Church.
That the June 1992 meeting of the House of Bishops include an educational component and that the spouses of the bishops be invited to participate in the educational programme; and
That the Planning Committee for the June 1992 meeting should include some wives to assist in the planning, and be in touch with St. George's Church, St. Catharines, and be available to work with St. George's Church on the development of the agenda.
That this motion be tabled and brought forward later at this meeting. CARRIED
Bishop Asbil informed the House of an invitation which has been extended by St. George's Church, St. Catharines, for the bishops and their spouses to meet in St. Catharines in June, 1992. It is hoped that the bishops and their wives would arrive in St. Catharines on Saturday, June 13th, and depart for Toronto on Thursday, June 18th to register for General Synod. The suggested venue is Brock University.
Bishop Asbil reviewed a suggested pattern for the meeting, noting two major areas of concern in Niagara Diocese are the use of agricultural land and pollution.
Remembering the major contribution which the bishops' wives made at the meetings of the House in Brandon and Corner Brook, it was unanimously agreed that wives should take an active part in the educational component of the meeting.
That we accept the invitation to have the meeting of the House of Bishops in St. Catharines in June, 1992. CARRIED
That this House of Bishops accepts with gratitude the sum of $10,000 from the Assessment Budget toward the costs of the spouses attending the national House of Bishops educational event in June, 1992. Additional costs to allow the spouses to attend this important event will be raised by members of the House.
We recognize the fact that this is an educational and training event for the spouses and the bishops together. For this reason we apply to have all costs for all bishops and their spouses to attend the training event in 1995. This means that the Administration and Finance Committee of the General Synod should be alerted to this immediately so that the budgetary considerations for the future may be met. CARRIED
Bishop Pryce reported that the planning group of Bishop Walmsley, Bishop Donovan, the Rev. Richard Chang, the Rev. Pat Mauney, the Rev. Michael Ingham, and himself met in June.
Bishop Pryce reviewed a suggested format for the meeting. He said that a second planning meeting is to be held in January. Further enquiries are to be made into possible locations.
He reported that the estimated attendance would be forty-five bishops from each House, with a total of one hundred persons. The projected date is February 13-16, 1993. The ECUSA bishops would return home on the 17th and the Canadian bishops would continue until the 19th to work on their own agenda.
A suggested theme is "The Gospel in a Changing Church and in a Changing Culture." Among the topics suggested for study were Anglican Identity and Authority, Structures in the Anglican Communion, Multiculturalism, Racial Issues, Pastoral Issues, Justice and Peace, Roles of Bishops and Churches in solidarity with Women. Community would be built with daily Bible study in small groups.
That we thank the committee and approve the plan as outlined. CARRIED
Bishop Lemmon was pleased to extend an invitation for the bishops to hold their Fall meeting in 1995 in Fredericton, noting that in 1995 the Diocese of Fredericton is to celebrate its 150th anniversary. He suggested that the Fall meeting might be held in October.
That we accept, in principle, the invitation and ask for further discussion between the Diocese and the Bishops. CARRIED