The general synod of the Anglican Church of Canada meets next month at a time, in the words of its leaders, when values and issues are changing rapidly and the "very possibility of `faith' as a credible stance of life has been questioned."
The comment of the long-range planning committee in its introductions to reports to the 26th synod, meeting in Regina May 3-11, is underlined by Archbishop Edward W. Scott, primate of the church.
In a report prepared for the assembly he says if Anglicans are to respond to the demanding issues before them and to give leadership in complex situations they will need, among other things, "a greater sensitivity to the leading of the Holy Spirit" and to display "greater willingness to make hard decisions." He may expand upon this when he officially opens the assembly in St. Paul's Cathedral May 3.
About 290 members of synod, clerical and lay, from the 28 dioceses of the church will attend the sessions in Regina's Hotel Saskatchewan.
Four main topics or themes have been set out for discussion: quality of life and community, of faith, of ministry and of the church. The themes provide opportunity for debate and decision on a wide range of social problems disturbing the church and the country in the 1970s.
A preamble, prepared by Dean Herbert O'Driscoll, to a report of the long-range planning committee says:
"To some extent it could be said that the criteria of faith in previous decades were quantitative. The strength of the church tended to be judged by quantities (that is, activities, budget) and faith tended to be seen in terms of private piety and attendance at worship...
Such categories have been found, not so much to be discredited, but to be inadequate...Between us and the comparative innocence of the late '50s too much has been said, too many paperbacks written, too many tides of opinion have flowed for everything to remain as it was.
In the 1970s the many options of a plural society vary from actual alternatives to the Christian faith to a whole spectrum of attitude and styles within the Christian faith itself...
Faith is no longer a piece of familiar furniture placed securely in the living room of the mind."
The committee says further, in another report on the quality of life and community, that the rate of change in the world "continues to be a major factor in challenging individuals and institutions to be flexible."
The free-wheeling tone of the committee's observations may typify the free and frank discussion expected at this synod with members participating more fully than in the past.
Six sessions - totalling 13 hours - have been scheduled for group discussion. Each session will bear upon a particular issue. Resolutions formulated by these groups will be correlated and sent to plenary sessions for decision and policy direction. Committee reports and resolutions go directly to the plenary meetings.
The synod meets every two years. Its last meeting was in Niagara Falls, Ont., in February, 1971, when some of its sessions were held jointly with those of the general council of the United Church of Canada which also meets biennially.
It was the first time in the history of Canada's largest Protestant denominations that their highest courts had met together.
Negotiations for organic union of the churches have been under way for more than a quarter-century but no definitive move on union will be taken at this synod.
Members of synod are the 55 bishops from the four ecclesiastical provinces of Canada (Quebec and the Atlantic provinces), Ontario, Rupert's Land and British Columbia and clergy and laity chosen by the dioceses with a youth delegation of 15.
At least 25 women, seven of them from the youth delegation, are among the lay members along with eight observers from Anglican Church Women who participate in discussions but do not vote.
Among controversial topics before the synod will be that of abortion and here the views of the women are expected to be expressed freely.
A strong bloc of women commissioners forced the abortion issue to the floor of the general council of the United Church two years ago when that church went on record as accepting abortion in certain social, economic and therapeutic circumstances. The United Church is the only Christian church to take such a stand but it does not support abortion on demand.
The Anglican Church opposes abortion and one of the questions to be posed at this synod by one committee, the task force on human life, is: "What does it mean to be human if the foetus can be aborted?"
Other questions also are posed by the task force in its report on human life and community:
"Who am I if bodily organs can be transplanted?"
"What quality of life are people living in our cities?"
"Why should anyone go to the moon when there are vast needs and agonies on the earth?"
That in view of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision with regard to abortion law, we ask the Primate to appoint a small Task Force to review the Church's position on the abortion issue and to report its recommendations to the May meeting of the National Executive Council, and to the October meeting of the House of Bishops.
That the words "to appoint a small task force to review the church's position on the abortion issue" be deleted and the following inserted in their place, "to appoint a small task force to study what action needs to be taken to uphold our Church's stand on abortion in relation to changes in the abortion law".
The motion, as amended, was put and CARRIED.
The motion, as amended, is as follows:
That, in view of the Supreme Court of Canada's decision with regard to the abortion law, we ask the Primate to appoint a small task force to study what action needs to be taken to uphold our Church's stand on abortion in relation to changes in the abortion law, and to report its recommendations to the May meeting of the National Executive Council, and to the October meeting of the House of Bishops.
In response to a request from the House of Bishops (February 1988), the Primate reported he had invited Mrs. P. Creighton, Mrs. D. Marshall and Dr. J. Reed to form a Task Force to prepare a contemporary statement regarding abortion.
It was agreed that we, as Christians, must work towards the creation of a society in which every human being is welcome and recognized that we must both work for change of legislation which affects social programming.
Chancellor David Wright stated that difficulties outside the Criminal Code fall within the jurisdiction of the provinces and the federal government can enter the field only through the Criminal Code, but can control processes through funding.
That this National Executive Council:
1. express its heartfelt thanks to the members of the Task Force on Abortion;
2. endorses the report of the Task Force;
3. refers the report to the Primate for appropriate action. CARRIED #65-05-88
It was agreed that the Primate should send the report to appropriate people in the life of the church and the country.
The Primate, on behalf of the NEC, expressed thanks to Mrs. Creighton, Mrs. Marshall and Dr. Reed for their report.
That Resolution G, page 133 of the Convening Circular, be amended to read as follows:
"Whereas there are legislative changes contemplated in Canada in relation to abortion,
Whereas there is a need for a comprehensive study into matters relating to abortion, and
Whereas there has been no definite statement made by the Anglican Church of Canada regarding abortion,
THIS GENERAL SYNOD
1. Requests the Primate to set up a special study committee of theologians, parish clergy, obstetricians, doctors engaged in family practice, lawyers, and specialists in behavioural and medical sciences to prepare a statement on all aspects relating to abortion, and further
2. Authorizes the said committee to submit a brief in the name of the Anglican Church of Canada when opportunity is provided to do so by the Government of Canada." CARRIED in both Houses.
Toronto hospitals are performing abortions "without restriction," according to a prominent official of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Rev. Arthur Brown, rector of a large Toronto parish and a member of the National Executive Council of General Synod made the charge in connection with deliberations on a forthcoming report by a Task Force on Human Life.
The report is not expected to be completed until the end of 1973 and Father Brown said he and other pastors are impatiently awaiting it for guidance on new and complex moral situations.
He told bishops and other delegates from across Canada to the executive council that "all kinds of girls are going through our hospitals in metropolitan Toronto being aborted of pregnancies." His information, he said, comes from nurses and other hospital staff.
Father Brown claimed that staffs in some Toronto hospitals are aborting without restriction "under the guise of it being good for the total health of the mother."
Five years ago, he said, one Toronto hospital listed 28 abortions. Last year, the number was over 300, "ten times as many, or more."
He said "doctors are compromised by the destruction of human life" in this abortion situation. On becoming doctors, he said, they swear an oath to preserve life but due to the present situation "they are placed in a major compromised situation."
Father Brown said nursing staffs are upset over having to clean up after induced miscarriages and they come to him for guidance.
Archbishop E.W. Scott, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada expressed deep sympathy towards the position described by Father Brown but said the task force's report will take another year due to the complexities of the issues involved.
"It's becoming obvious that people are feeling a need for help in making decisions in these areas," Archbishop Scott said.
"Each case has to be evaluated in terms of the health of the mother and the possible health of the child, and not only on the question of the sanctity of life but also in the area of the quality of life."
Archbishop Scott emphasized that hospital boards deciding abortion cases should include persons representing moral issues as well as medical issues.
Besides abortion, the task force is studying the whole concept of when life begins and ends in relation to euthanasia, transplants, biological engineering and the vast implications of discoveries in biochemistry. Archbishop Scott said the study has become increasingly complex as it delves into the legal, medical, moral and social aspects of life. The task force is composed of lawyers, doctors, research scientists, housewives, social workers, theologians and others. It is also consulting with similarly concerned groups in the United States, Britain and other parts of the world.
A progress report will be presented to the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada at its biennial meeting next May in Regina.
"1st printing May 1974. 2nd printing June 1974". -- verso of t.-p.
"[E]dited by Phyllis Creighton". -- verso of t,-p.
"The report, researched and edited by Phyllis Creighton" -- Foreword.
Includes bibliography, p. 38-39.
Contents: Foreword dated December 1973 / Edward W. Scott, Primate -- Introduction -- Preamble: our faith -- Why the issue of abortion is being re-examined -- Contemporary Canadian society -- Understanding the theological and moral stand taken in 1967 -- Consequences of the 1969 law reform -- Recommendations of the Task Force -- Specific recommendations for action -- Conclusion -- Short statement -- Bibliography -- Appendix.
Appendix includes: "Paragraphs 3 to 20 of the 'Brief on Abortion from the Anglican Church of Canada to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare, House of Commons', presented by delegation on Thursday, December 14, 1967, in Ottawa".
Appendix includes: "Task Force on Human Life: Interim Report", pp. 43-47 which makes brief reference to the questions of organ donation and in vitro fertilization.
Report of three person Task Force appointed by the Primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, following the January 1988 Supreme Court decision striking down Section 251 of the Criminal Code. The report was received by the National Executive Council in May 1988, and by the House of Bishops, which highly recommended it, in November 1988. Offered as a study document for the Church.
"The 'small task force' of three people, Phyllis Creighton, Diane Marshall, and the Rev. Dr. James Reed, was appointed on 7 March 1988 by the Primate, Archbishop Michael Peers". -- p. .
Contents: Forward [sic Foreword] dated June 1988 / Archbishop Michael G. Peers, Primate -- Report of the Task Force on Abortion to the National Executive Council, Anglican Church of Canada, 13 May 1988 -- The Anglican Stand on Abortion -- The 1988 Supreme Court Decision in the Morgentaler Case -- New Opportunities for the Church -- Recommendations -- Notes.
"In the spring of 1980 the subgroup of the Task Force on Human Life responsible for this report was established at the request of the House of Bishops. .... The National Executive Council received and approved this report for publication in May 1982, commending it to the church as a pastoral resource for personal and congregational study. The Task Force on Human Life published `Abortion, an Issue for Conscience' in 1974, and `The Abortion Question' is a further examination of some aspects that have since assumed importance. Abortion remains a serious and complex issue which must be of vital concern to Christians, and I hope this report will assist you in your continuing reflections". -- Foreword.
Report of the Subgroup of the Task Force on Human Life.
Contents: Foreword / Edward W. Scott -- Members of the subgroup of the Task Force on Human Life -- Preface -- Section I : The Abortion Situation in Canada Today -- Section II : Recommendations -- Endnotes.
In the light of the Government's announcement of a new Abortion Bill, the Anglican Church reaffirms its position that both the rights and needs of women, and the rights and needs of the unborn, require protection.
The Church welcomes a non-gestational approach. This accords with the Church's opposition to any arbitrary division which would make early abortion available on demand. The Church's fundamental position is that "abortion is always the taking of human life and, in our view, should never be done except for serious therapeutic reasons". However, the Church's Abortion report affirms that:
-an upper limit should be established at which "there is no reasonable prospect of viability"
- there should be a waiting period during which time counselling to women should be made available
- other alternatives to abortion explored including "social and financial supports to meet the needs of the woman, in housing accommodation, child care, employment, retraining, welfare benefits, and income support, as well as consideration of adoption of the baby expected."
The Church further affirms that there should be a conscience clause, so that "the conscientious right of health care personnel to refrain from participating in abortion procedures be guaranteed."
The Church also is "opposed in principle" to "anticipated genetic defect in the foetus as automatic grounds for abortion", because as Christians we are "called to be the voice of the voiceless and powerless (and) must speak out when those different from or less able than the norm are to be denied the full rights accorded their fellow humans".
The Church's Abortion Report also recommends legislation to "ban commercial transactions in human genetic material"; or any possibility of deliberate abortion for purposes of "foetal cell farming" for human transplants, and welcomes the recent announcement of a Royal Commission on reproductive techniques "as a vehicle to examine these concerns and develop legislative measures".
The Anglican Church sees abortion as a public justice issue, challenging Canadians to build a society that affirms human life, which values children and welcomes a new generation, and which provides legal and social protection for women caught in the trauma of problem pregnancies. Such extensive social legislation, to reduce conditions which make the choice of abortion more likely, would include:
- programs and education to combat violence against women
- more affordable housing
- pay equity for women
- a guaranteed annual income, and other financial measures
- universally accessible, publicly funded day care
- an intensified national program to collect child support payments from delinquent fathers
- better educational programs about sexuality and contraception in schools
The Church does not see abortion as simply a "woman's issue" but rather a community issue, which takes place on the battleground of women's bodies. Concerned that women are frequently forced to choose between marginalization and poverty or abortion, the Church believes that in many circumstances women are not "free" to choose to bear their children and so, because society fails to provide supportive structures, "abortion has become a means of `restructuring the woman' by emptying the womb". Many Canadian women who choose not to bear their child make their decision out of alienation and hopelessness. "True choice must involve alternatives to despair" the Report concludes.
Abortion In a New Perspective: Report of the Task Force on Abortion, is available from: The Anglican Book Centre, 600 Jarvis Street, Toronto, Ontario M4Y 2J6
For further information contact: The Reverend Michael Ingham, Principal Secretary to the Primate, 600 Jarvis Street, Toronto, Ontario, (416) 924-9192; Mrs. Diane Marshall (Family therapist, Report co-author) (416) 487-3613; Mrs. Phyllis Creighton (Research historian, Report co-author) (416) 978-2245