“This kind of behaviour is not appropriate,” says Archbishop Fred Hiltz when informed that some members are feeling “unsafe” in their group discussions. Photo: Art Babych
Richmond Hill, Ont.
In an impromptu speech and prayer that lasted nearly 20 minutes, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, sternly reminded members of General Synod to show “holy manners” toward one another when discussing same-sex marriage in their neighbourhood groups.
“Some of the neighbourhood groups, as I understand it, have worked very well, and indeed are eager to get back together,” he said.
“For some, there was more of a challenge, and for some, very difficult experiences. And it has come to my attention, as a pastor to this community and this church, that some of the behaviour that’s been exhibited has been less than the standard set out in these norms,” Hiltz said, referring to the eight guidelines members were instructed to follow to ensure a respectful level of debate in their groups.
“Some members of synod have experienced bullying. Some members of our synod are deeply hurt. Some of them are deeply offended. Some are feeling unsafe to continue to speak lest they be reprimanded, and so they’re feeling silenced,” Hiltz said.
“This kind of behaviour is not appropriate,” he said. “It’s unacceptable. And it ought not, and I pray will not, be tolerated.”
Hiltz was speaking not from his customary position at General Synod, at the head table, but from the altar that has been set up in the middle of the conference room where synod is meeting. Minutes earlier, after discussing the business of the day from the head table, Hiltz had announced, “I need...as the chair of synod, to say a little more about holy manners—and I am not going to do that from this table. I am going to the table of the Lord.” He then arose from his chair and proceeded to the altar.
Hiltz began his address by comparing members of General Synod to Christ’s disciples in the upper room after the resurrection of Christ, “awaiting an outpouring of the Holy Spirit,” and told them they were in sacred space. He said he recognized that at this point in the life of the church, there may never be agreement on same-sex marriage, but he pleaded with members confronted with opinions at odds with their own to try to exercise what he called “good disagreement.”
This, Hiltz said, “means that we try to speak as graciously as we can, in a way that respects other people, their mind, their heart, their soul—as a place where the Spirit dwells. We talked about holy manners, and I pleaded with you that we exercise holy manners...We are God’s people. We belong to Jesus, all of us. No matter where we come from, no matter what our theological perspective is, what our sexual orientation is, what our deep desires are. We belong to him...The amazing thing about Christ and the gospel is that we’re given to one another.
“We’re given to one another by the love of those outstretched arms on the cross. That’s how we’re brought together...By the love of the crucified, the love of the risen Lord. Think about that. Christ, our high priest, living this day to make intercession for this community, and so we we’re called to exercise holy manners.”
Hiltz then asked General Synod to reread the norms with him, before resuming his address.
“Surely we can model a better way of grappling with deep disagreement,” he said. He then quoted the description of love by St. Paul in First Corinthians 1.
“That love of which Paul speaks...is the very love it seems to me with which Christ would have us love when he says to his disciples, ‘This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.'"
Hiltz then read to General Synod an excerpt from the rule of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an Anglican religious order. He invited members to join him in singing “Ubi Caritas,” and prayed that the Holy Spirit guide the day’s discussions.
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Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.
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