MONTREAL (May 22) -- Archbishop Michael Peers, Primate of Canada, has urged more than 300 members of the church's chief governing body to give greater heed to minority voices in society, including Canada's francophone population, members of indigenous communities and those marginalized because of gender, sexuality or age.
In an opening address to the church's General Synod meeting here for nine days, Archbishop Peers, spiritual head of Canada's 750,000 Anglicans, also called on church members to address issues such as the impact of globalization and multinational trade agreements, international and third-world debt, and the widening gulf between the world's rich and poor.
Drawing on the Biblical vision of the "Jubilee" year, in which debts were to be forgiven and wealth redistributed, Archbishop Peers said he hoped the idea of debt cancellation for some of the world's poorest nations could be explored to mark the millennium.
General Synod meets every three years, drawing members from across each of the country's 30 Anglican dioceses, to discuss issues relating to church and society.
In his address, Archbishop Peers also spoke of the on-going conversations with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and expressed the hope that deliberations here would lead to acceptance of full-communion between the two churches by the next time synod meets in the year 2001.
("Full communion" is not a merger of the two churches, but means that they recognize each other's rites, services and clerical orders.)
"Lutherans and Anglicans have come to a point in which there is a friendship that holds the promise of genuine partnership," Archbishop Peers told synod members.
Archbishop Peers linked the theme of General Synod -- "Lift every voice -- Faisons entendre nos voix" -- to a theme of "connectedness". He noted that it has been 39 years since General Synod last met in Montreal. "The voice least heard in our midst is that of Quebec and francophone Canada," he said. "I suggest that for many in this assembly, the discipline of listening with care to that voice will be among our most serious challenges."
He also referred to matters such as social and justice issues and the cancellation of third-world debt, issues that are also likely to occupy more than 800 Anglican bishops from around the world when they meet in England at the Lambeth Conference later this summer.
In all their deliberations and debates in the next nine days, Archbishop Peers told members to avoid becoming "as those whose world is so far removed from the realities of most citizens of this planet that they cannot see or do not care about what happens to those whose lives they affect".
Among other tasks facing General Synod members, Archbishop Peers noted, is evaluating progress made since the last gathering in Ottawa in 1995, where the church decided to shift priorities at the national level away from domestic work in favor of developing and nurturing overseas partnerships.
Members are also expected to address:
- Issues relating to euthanasia and assisted suicide;
- Issues related to cloning and reproductive technologies;
- The place of indigenous peoples in the Anglican Church of Canada;
- Issues relating to human rights and
- Church legislation dealing with the authority of bishops over priests.
Members will also meet in a number of forums addressing topics such as the church's relationship with overseas partners, relations with other faiths and denominations, social justice issues and relations between the 30 dioceses and the national church.
The Anglican Church of Canada is the country's third largest Christian denomination.
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Contact: Sam Carriere or Lorie Chortyk, General Synod News Room (514) 398-5192; Cell phones: (514) 953-7981 (Carriere) or (514) 953-8091 (Chortyk)
A new style of decision-making will be tried by the Anglican Church of Canada when its General Synod meets in Regina, May 3-11.
The 290 delegates - bishops, clergy, laymen and women, and youth - representing parishes and dioceses from coast to coast, the Yukon, the Arctic, and Labrador, are already gathering hometown opinion and feelings to bring to the Regina session.
Policy-making plenary sessions will be interspersed with centering on four major themes: Quality of Life and Community, Quality of Faith, Quality of Ministry, and Quality of the Church. They will be dealing with issues such as ordination of women, overseas policy, public social responsibility, the condition and needs of the Church in the North including the state of affairs surrounding the James Bay hydro development project. They will also deal with a proposed new rite of Christian initiation, combining the rites of baptism and confirmation, community issues in the contemporary parish, long range planning, and current program.
They will also hear a progress report from the Task Force on Human Life, set up at General Synod in 1971 in Niagara Falls, to explore dimensions of when life begins and ends as they relate to abortion, euthanasia, genetic engineering, and half a dozen other aspects of the whole range of morals and ethics affecting respect for human life.
Special guests representing indigenous churches overseas, or Anglican mission outside Canada had been invited by General Synod to take part in the consideration and policy-making process of General Synod. They include Bishop J.W.A. Howe, Secretary-General of the Anglican Consultative Council, London, England. Bishop Howe is the world-wide fieldman for mission conducted by the Anglican Communion and will be giving the theme address on the Quality of Ministry as it relates to overseas policy; Bishop David Goto, Bishop of Tokyo and Chairman of the National Council of Nippon Sei Ko Kai (Primate) of the indigenous sister church in Japan; Bishop Clive Abdulah of Trinidad, Bishop Antonio Ramos of Costa Rice, Dean Martin Mbwana of Dar Es Salam, Tanzania, Rev. Walter Lini of New Hebrides, Rev. Edmundo Desueza of the Dominican Republic, Rev. Welby Walker, recently returned from the Windward Islands, and Miss Dorothy Robinson, recently returned from Uganda. Their role will be largely in a reflection process with Canadians about mission policies, and Canada's trade and aid with the Third World.
The tone of General Synod's deliberations will be set by the Primate, Archbishop E.W. Scott, in an address during the opening service at St. Paul's Cathedral on the evening of Thursday, May 3. The address will be, in part, a "state of the union" message, setting out where Archbishop Scott sees the Church as it is functioning in Canada and in part, a "speech from the throne" setting out the responsibilities of General Synod in its deliberations as he sees them.
Following the service, there will be an address of welcome by the Hon. Stephen Worbetz, Lt.-Gov. of Saskatchewan. The Mayor of Regina, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Regina, the President of the Regina Ministerial Association, the President of the Saskatchewan Conference of the United Church of Canada, and representatives of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the Orthodox Church will attend the opening session on Friday morning.
Business sessions begin the following morning. In the meantime, delegates will be receiving advance copies of reports and resolutions in the next ten days and background material for the issue discussion groups by early April. They are urged to caucus as diocesan groups to discuss the issues and to formulate opinions at their particular stand on issues and resolutions. They are also urged to contact parish groups, other community groups and to bring to the discussion a broad perception of the opinions and mood of the people in their areas. Officially, each delegate will vote as an individual but is encouraged to bring as broad a range as possible of opinion representing his or her area.
Advance materials will include a cassette tape outlining the themes of General Synod, some of the issues, and a description of the role and responsibilities of delegates, to set an atmosphere of involvement and commitment prior to arrival at Regina.
The decision-making process differs primarily in two ways: in the prior discussion and opinion-gathering at home, and in the use of issue-discussion groups at General Synod.
In the course of synod, delegates will spend thirteen hours in six sessions of issue-discussion groups. The groups will formulate the resolutions on those issues which will be correlated and brought to the floor of the plenary sessions for decision and policy direction. Committee reports and their resolutions will go directly to the plenary sessions.
On the evening of May 9, an ecumenical Festival of Faith service will be held at the Saskatchewan Centre for the Arts. It will be a community service, involving General Synod delegates, laymen and clergy from the broader community of Regina and the district. Dean Herbert O'Driscoll of New Westminster diocese is designing the program of service, music and film, to express the Christian faith in various art forms. It is expected that 2,500 persons will attend.
On the evening of May 5, delegates will be guests at the production of a drama, "the Trial of Louis Riel," to give them a taste of the history and pioneer mood of the Canadian Prairies. In addition, delegates will have a part in the Centennial Celebrations of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and will delve into the issues before them through a series of movies and audio-visual presentations.
Archbishop G.F.C. Jackson of Qu'Appelle (Regina) is in charge of local arrangements for General Synod and for the extra-agenda items.
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Note to Editors:
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