General Synod passes justice resolutions, receives apology at July 13 session

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Vancouver

General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada passed four resolutions on the evening of July 13, following presentations from Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the Anglican Foundation of Canada and the Council of the North. The subject of the previous day’s vote on same-sex marriage also briefly returned to the floor.

Each resolution heard in the post-dinner legislative session related to the church’s public witness for social and ecological justice and was on the synod’s no-debate list—meaning the resolutions were presented, moved and then immediately voted upon. They all passed with limited opposition.

General Synod first passed “A200 – Amendment to Public Witness of Social and Ecological Justice Coordinating Committee Terms of Reference,” which adjusts the terms of reference by which said committee operates.

Afterward, the synod passed “A201 – Single-use Plastics” and “A202 – The Season of Creation,” both of which recommend the church adopt new ecological practices. A201 encourages dioceses and parishes to curtail their purchase of single-use plastics, with the aim of ending their use by 2023 (with an exception for accessibility needs). It also asks individual Anglicans to reduce their reliance on such plastics, and calls upon the Anglican Church of Canada to “develop and promote resources aimed at supporting local efforts toward plastics reduction.”

Likewise, General Synod resolved, via A202, to adopt the Season of Creation in the church as “an annual time of prayer, education and action from September 1 – October 4.” It also encourages dioceses to engage with the season, developing initiatives, resources and suitably authorized liturgies for use during the season, and it directs the “Creation Matters Working Group to monitor, network and share Season of Creation initiatives through the General Synod website and in other ways.”

Finally, by passing “A203 – The United Nations Global Goals for Sustainable Development,” General Synod opted to encourage use of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, which the resolution’s explanatory text says “build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals.”

The explanation says that “SDGs work in the spirit of partnership and pragmatism to make the right choices now to improve life, in a sustainable way, for future generations. They provide clear guidelines and targets for all countries to adopt in accordance with their own priorities and the environmental challenges of the world at large. The SDGs are an inclusive agenda. They tackle the root causes of poverty and unite us together to make a positive change for both people and planet.”

The resolution welcomes the goals and encourages engagement with them across the church’s structures, from dioceses to the national church and PWRDF.

Staggeringly diverse ministries’

Earlier in the evening, the body saw presentations from the Anglican Foundation of Canada and PWRDF. The foundation offered a video presentation about the organization’s work and the projects it funds.

Canon Judy Rois, executive director of the Anglican Foundation, told General Synod that more than $800,000 disbursed by the foundation had supported Anglican churches in 2018. She also discussed plans to help the church fight climate change. “The foundation will be giving 20 gifts of $2,500 for those of you who are addressing the crisis of climate change in your ministry setting,” she said. “We are all aware that our climate is in peril—that we need to reduce our carbon footprint, we need to foster sustainability and plant seeds for a greener Canada. And so the foundation wants to help you with some seed money to begin or continue this process.”

PWRDF presented a video about its work and its 60th anniversary. Will Postma, PWRDF’s executive director, spoke about the organization’s 2019-2024 strategic plan. “It has been shaped by consultation with partners—both developing partners overseas and you, Anglicans in Canada, who steadfastly support and share in the work of PWRDF. It is also shaped by national and global commitments to development and relief, in particular, the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals for 2015-2030.”

Postma explained how PWRDF would address those goals.

General Synod also heard from the chair of the Council of the North, Bishop William Cliff of the diocese of Brandon, who presented a report on the council’s work.

Cliff told the body he had “recently completed a 3,600-kilometer confirmation tour in Northern Manitoba” over a week’s time, he said. “This is just a small way of explaining the challenges that face the Council of the North dioceses. We represent 85% of Canada’s land mass [and] are home to 15% of the country’s population.

“So, in some ways, we are thinly buttered toast,” he said in jest, calling to mind National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop Mark MacDonald’s July 10 sermon in which he said, “If God doesn’t show up, we’re toast”—a phrase that has echoed through synod’s gathering. “However, we represent staggeringly diverse ministries, opinions and understandings of church. It’s as varied as the terrain, with cultures and languages and different methods of proclaiming the gospel.” The report is available online.

A brief return to same-sex marriage

The evening session kicked off, however, with a return to the subject of same-sex marriage—though not for any legislative action or discussion. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he had consulted with the chancellor, “and the guidance from the chair, which I expect you to abide by, is that resolutions coming out of last evening’s session need to go to the chair of the resolutions committee” by 30 minutes after the end of night prayer. As of writing, any such resolutions have not been heard on the floor.

Hiltz also said the House of Bishops was working very hard “to be able to prepare and convey a message from the house to the General Synod.”

The primate then said Bishop David Parsons of the diocese of the Arctic had asked to make an apology to the synod.

During the debate on the marriage canon amendment on July 12, Parsons approached a microphone after a motion to vote on closing the debate, once members standing at the mikes were heard, was made on the floor. Parsons had not been in the queue, and in an exchange between Hiltz and Parsons, the Arctic bishop became visibly and audibly agitated.

“I’m deeply ashamed of my reactions last evening, and I’m sorry for disrespecting General Synod by the way I acted and the words that I said,” Parsons told the synod. “I apologized to my diocesan representatives last night, immediately after I sat down, and I apologize for bringing disrespect to the diocese of the Arctic. And I ask for this opportunity to publicly apologize—I was wrong. Archbishop Fred, I’m sorry for not obeying you when you asked me to step back. I should have stepped back in silence.”

Applause followed the apology.

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Matthew Townsend
Matthew Townsend has worked in editorial, journalistic, and web development roles with a variety of organizations, including the The Living Church, the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester, NY, and the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida. He is a member of Episcopal Communicators and has consulted with a variety of ecumenical organizations, including Atlantic School of Theology, the Presbyterian Endowment Network, and the Associated Church Press.

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