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?"
In Africa, says Archbishop Peers, the Primate mushrooming congregations assured a spectacular response to the Decade of Evangelism from the start.
In other parts of the world where the church is stagnant or in decline, the word has a much less dramatic meaning. "Evangelism" is, after all, a word with a lot of historical and social baggage and one which too often, in North America at least, has been associated with the bringing of bad news, rather than the Good News.
And yet, if nothing else, the Decade of Evangelism, proclaimed at Lambeth in 1988, has offered the chance for more reflection on what churches need to do if they are to survive, attract new people and grow.
In April, InterMission looks at the Canadian response to the Decade of Evangelism and at what it has meant here.
InterMission is a page prepared monthly by the Information Resources Group of General Synod and published on the inside back cover of the Anglican Journal/Journal Anglican.
Contact Sam Carriere, editor, InterMission, 416-924-9199, ext. 256; email@example.com
Includes bibliographical references(p. 400-411) and index.
Seventeen chapters on author's investigation into various religions and denominations in Canada.
Contents: Introit: The Great Perhaps -- And the Bow Shall be in the Cloud -- Not Only Looking But Seeing -- Prophets in the Wilderness -- The Lord is My Light -- The Very Rich Hours -- Come Hell or High Water -- Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea -- This Too Shall Pass -- The Raggedy Band -- Among those Dark Satanic Mills -- Saint-Soldiers -- The Lord's Song in a Strange Land -- The Bonds are Strong -- The Circulation of the Saints -- In the Vestibule of Heaven -- Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang -- Amen -- Bibliography -- Index.
Colophon: Printed and bound in Canada by T.H. Best Printing Company Limited.
OTCH Note: See chapter ten "Among those Dark Satanic Mills", pp. 223-244 for chapter which focuses on the Anglican Church of Canada.
"Research indicates that large numbers of Canadians -- well beyond the 20 to 25% who regularly attend the nation's churches -- have spiritual, personal, and relational needs. For all their current problems, Canada's religious groups are undoubtedly`best-positioned' to speak to the spiritual and moral needs of the country. Churches and Canadians, however, need to be better connected."
The article above is excerpted by permission from his most recent book, "There's Got to be More !"
The Very Rev. Bruce Stavert explained that the Long Range Planning Committee had just met. Other members of the Committee prepared to answer questions were the Ven. Gordon Hendra, the Rt. Rev. Leslie Peterson and the Rev. William Lowe.
That this National Executive Council welcome the publication of "Fragmented Gods: The Poverty and Potential of Religion in Canada", by Dr. Reginald Bibby, and commend it to the dioceses and parishes of The Anglican Church of Canada as a resource document in planning for mission and ministry in the future. CARRIED #29-10-87
"Are moral conditions in Canada worse than at the close of the last century ? Do the people as a whole accept a lower moral standard or ideal ? Is the moral tone weaker ? Do fewer people observe the Christian ethic ? It is difficult, indeed, to answer those questions by merely reciting statistics on drink, gambling, prostitution or crime in general. It is probably easier to answer the last question, for, in relation to the total population it is fairly evident that fewer people attend Church or acknowledge the authority of its standards of conduct. .... The acceptance by Christians, by members of the Churches, of lower than Christian standards among their friends and in society in general is the really serious matter. The rapid rise of the drinking habit and its widening grip in social circles indicates a lack of stamina, if for no other reason that it is regarded as `the thing to do'. The extremely rapid spread of the gambling habit in all groups of society and the insistent agitations for public sweepstakes and for wide open private lotteries is a menace to the moral fibre of our Canadian people, a challenge to the sturdy thriftiness which, on the part of our forebears, laid solid foundations for this country. Delinquency, and crime in the age groups above juveniles, indicate a lack of discipline, not only on the part of the their parents and themselves, but of much wider areas of society. These are some of the elements in the scene today which are portentous, even menacing, and which even now indicate a lowered moral tone. .... Recently, the Christian Social Council of Canada held a three-session conference on `Moral Conditions in Canada'. It was attended by clergy, social workers and members of the legal profession and police. With the courtesy of the Council, some of the papers read and discussed are given in this Bulletin". -- Foreword.
Contents: Foreword / W.W. Judd -- Moral Conditions in Canada : A Conference : What is Happening to Canadian Moral ? / W.J. Gallagher -- The Causes of Moral Decline / R.C. Chalmers -- What are the Causes of Present Trends and Conditions ? / Nora Lea -- What Should the Churches Do ? / H.R. Hunt -- Statement on Moral Conditions : Adopted at the Annual Meeting, the Canadian Council of Churches, Winnipeg, September, 1949 -- Recent Books in the Council's Library.
"In this little volume, therefore, I describe "two simple paradigms of Christian faith. One of them summarizes traditional orthodoxy, described here as old-time religion. The other, under the title risky faith, outlines the same fundamental truth in a manner that I believe communicates more effectively with a secular-minded people today and provides a lifestyle more appropriate to the modern age". -- Preface.
Contents: Preface dated Burlington, Ontario, Autumn 1993 -- Two Styles of Faith -- Our Changing Mission -- Four Temptations -- Can Christian Communities Change ? -- Can Bishops Change ? -- Sex, Marriage, and Family -- A Secret Formula -- Challenge and Response -- Our Prevailing Sin ? -- Anglican Caterpillars -- Three Mysteries -- Apocalypse Now ? -- Epilogue.
Author is the former Bishop of Niagara and Metropolitan of Ontario.