A number of issues now confronting the Anglican Church of Canada, ranging from discussions on the marriage canon to the question of a self-determining Indigenous church, are calling it to be more attentive than ever to its purpose, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the church, said Friday, November 10.
“More than ever we need to be mindful of who we are and what we are about—who we are as the body of Christ, and what that means for our regard for one another, how we work together, how we enable the church’s commitment to God’s mission in the world,” Hiltz said in a report to Council of General Synod (CoGS).
Hiltz made the comment in an address that began and ended by wondering what St. Paul might think of the church, what advice he might give it and how he might pray for it.
On the church’s deliberation over changing its marriage canon to allow same-sex marriage, for example, Paul might remind it of his counsel to the Ephesians to be “humble and gentle and patient with one another, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:2-3),” he said.
In an interview with the Anglican Journal, Hiltz said it was partly the idea of the importance of good leadership in the church at this point in its history that had prompted him to imagine what the apostle might think if he were to look at it “with a penetrating eye.”
Said Hiltz, “We’re at a time in our church when the leadership is really very critical on a number of fronts—What kind of leadership do we provide to the church in terms of its engagement around the marriage canon? What kind of leadership are we providing in terms of self-determination initiatives? What kind of leadership are we offering around being the church in the world in the public square? What kind of leadership are we offering in terms of a discipleship that’s mature, fulsome, growing, committed to life?”
Hiltz’s address touched on a number of events in the church since the last meeting of CoGS in June, including a visit from a delegation from the Council of Anglican Provinces of Africa (CAPA); a meeting of Indigenous Anglicans from around the world in southern Ontario and his own visit last week to the synod of the diocese of Ottawa.
Hiltz also spoke of a great diversity of views expressed about the church in the correspondence he receives. Some of this correspondence commends the church for its work on issues of public concern, such as Bill C262, a bill now before the House of Commons which would align the laws of Canada with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Other correspondence he gets, he said, is critical of his leadership and is even “nasty, rude and quite hateful.” But all of these forms of feedback, he said, can be seen as useful.
“Whatever the nature of the correspondence, respectful or not, it is a read on the church; it’s a read on where our priorities are, it’s a read on our leadership,” he said.
Hiltz concluded his address by speculating that St. Paul might pray for the Canadian church as he prayed for the Ephesians, “that we understand the incredible greatness of God’s power—that we might have power to comprehend how wide, and how long, and how high and how deep is God’s love for us in Christ; that we be filled with that knowledge and in and through it live our lives and do the work to which God calls us.”