Council holds last meeting before General Synod

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Better palliative care, not permitting euthanasia or physician assisted suicide, should be the focus of medical care for the dying, is the recommendation of a group of experts and staff to the Anglican Church.

Commended for study throughout the church, the Care in Dying document was one of several policy proposals brought to the last meeting of the Council of General Synod before May’s meeting of the full synod in Montreal.

The paper, which the council has forwarded to General Synod for adoption as policy, says “both the request for assistance in committing suicide, and the provision of such assistance must be taken seriously as a failure of human community.”

The panel, chaired by Fredericton physician Arthur Kristofferson, expressed concern that legalizing euthanasia would put elderly and disabled people at risk and says changing the law while “at a time when health services are being cut back and costs downloaded onto patients and their families is inappropriate.”

Instead, it said more effort should be put into palliative care and pain management.

The committee of Faith, Worship and Ministry which oversaw the Care in Dying document also brought forward new liturgies which will be passed on to General Synod for debate. If approved, the rites, two of which avoid referring to God the Father in the eucharistic prayer, will be permitted to be used on a trial basis where authorized by the diocesan bishop.

Another item that will likely be hotly debated at synod and was commended by council is the proposed clergy licensing canon. The proposal presented to council would give a bishop the right to limit the term of any clergy appointment and to terminate any appointment he or she wished. Under the terms of the proposed canon, there would be no appeal from the bishop’s decision, although there is provision for an arbitration panel to settle disputes over any settlement in lieu of notice. The canon would also mean a priest or deacon whose licence is terminated by the bishop under the canon would be forced out of ordained ministry in that diocese.

The council also authorized national staff to continue negotiations on the possible redevelopment of the church’s national office at 600 Jarvis St. in Toronto. A local developer has offered to buy the property for about $9 million to build a 16-storey condominium. About $5.5 million would go to St. Paul’s Church, Bloor Street, which owns part of the property, and $3.5 to the General Synod. The development would be a condominium complex with the church being a corporate member. Council also said the Anglican Book Centre store should have a street-front position in order to attract sidewalk traffic.

An area of financial concern discussed was a proposed change in the way the national church budget is funded. The plan, developed in consultation with dioceses, calls for basing diocesan contributions on diocesan income, not parish income as is currently the case. The change would substantially affect what some dioceses give. Quebec, for example, would have to pay almost $100,000 more than its 1997 giving of $38,000 and Toronto would add more than $300,000. Huron and Ottawa, on the other hand, would see their contributions drop more than $200,000.

In other business, council:

  • appointed Jim Cullen treasurer of General Synod. Mr. Cullen is the new director of financial management and development.
  • discussed recent consultations between the national church and diocese
  • approved changes to the structure of the Information Resources committee, including restructuring the five-member advisory boards for the Anglican Book Centre, Anglican Journal and Archives into four standing subcommittees of four members each to deal with: Anglican Journal editorial issues; information services, such as archives, library and database management; merchandising and distribution, primarily focusing on ABC store and mail sales; and resource production, which includes video productions, ABC book publishing and the publication MinistryMatters.
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