Primate calls for church to show ‘humble humanity,’ practice ‘good disagreement’ in marriage canon discussions


“There is, in truth, a continuing place for everyone in this church,” Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, told CoGS November 23. Photo: Tali Folkins

Mississauga, Ont.

The church should embrace a “humble humanity” and a “way of living together that is more respectful of our dignity as children of God,” Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said Friday in a report to Council of General Synod (CoGS).

The primate, who will step down in July, said the phrase was drawn from an address given by Archbishop Suheil Dawani, of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, during a 10-day trip to Jerusalem Hiltz took three weeks previously. Dawani spoke of Jesus as God incarnate, taking on human likeness “in order to teach us the divine concept of our true humanity,” said Hiltz. “It is a picture far removed from all hatred and envy. It is a humanity that is loving and sacrificial towards others. It is a humble humanity.”
Hiltz, who opened the meeting which runs November 23 to 25, said this concept of humble humanity is “the real hope for any advancement” of sustainable development goals such as poverty and hunger reduction, clean water and sanitation, gender equality, responsible consumption and production and economic growth.

Hiltz also related this ideal to his hope that the Anglican Church of Canada would practice “good disagreement” in upcoming discussions of the proposed amendment to the marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriage, which will be discussed at CoGS and then be subject to a vote during General Synod in July 2019.

“In good Christian disagreement, no one is made to feel their position is of no value.

No one feels belittled. No one feels walked over and no one feels pushed out,” said Hiltz. “There is, in truth, a continuing place for everyone in this church.”

Hiltz also said that he had observed “huge efforts being made” to listen more intently to one another in regards to the proposed amendment. “It is my observation, and maybe I have rose-coloured glasses, but I think people are a little less harsh. I think we’re just a little less strident. I think we’re less quick to label, less quick to belittle, less quick to judge and dismiss,” said Hiltz. “I think people in our church are looking for a way ahead that honours a variety of perspectives on this matter, that allows us to be together as one family.”

Hiltz also spoke about the upcoming meeting of the primates of the Americas and the Caribbean, scheduled for later this month in Toronto. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is expected to attend. That meeting, one of several gatherings of primates that will take place around the world, will help shape the subjects to be discussed at the upcoming Lambeth Conference in Canterbury in 2020.

“I take the Canadian contribution to that conversation very seriously,” said Hiltz. “The Lambeth Conference is for all the bishops, not for the primates to shape the agenda.” At the House of Bishops meeting in October, Hiltz said, Canadian bishops gave input into the topics they would like to see discussed, which included intentional discipleship, “living more gracefully with difference,” human trafficking, gender-based violence and the environment.

The primate provided a report of his activities since the last meeting of CoGS, noting that he had visited 10 dioceses and attended three provincial synods, five episcopal ordinations and the installation of two new metropolitans.

Hiltz also noted the launch of the Heartbeat of the Church initiative in September, saying that “the take-up…has been generally very good,” and that he hopes to see a surge of people using the conversation tool in the Advent season.

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Joelle Kidd

Joelle Kidd

Joelle Kidd joined the Anglican Journal in 2017 as staff writer. She has worked as an editor and writer for the Winnipeg-based Fanfare Magazine Group and as freelance copy editor for Naida Communications.

3 Responses

  1. CoGS has danced around the issue of same sex marriage for a several cycles, properly . . . or not.

    Whatever’s your opinion there is a point when, ‘the-rubber-hits-the-road’ and a vote taken. Come what come may.

    Weather or not the ACC (a donor driven organization) is inclusive, is a decision about business survival, as much as religious philosophy. Look at the numbers of losses affecting not only Anglicans, but every other main stream ecclesiastical org in Canada today. So go ahead and philosophize and prognosticate, there soon will not be a platform on which to perform those functions unless inclusion and unity are embraced from a business sense.

    Kudos to the Rectors Wardens considering these questions in hand-wringing fashion in Canada today.

  2. Any answer has to be based on the new testament & what JESUS said about it. Anything that goes about trying to bring it to human latest ideas is wrong as far as I am concerned. If you bring to the level of human need- anything goes. So if you live in a moslem country multiple wives are OK and can you do it there as a Christian ? Or in a third world country living as mistress due to poverty alright or even having a prostitute (minor) for an evening or two alright ? If there no absolutes life is alright whatever you do. Yes we invite Christ into our lives & repent of our sinfulness & as Christians invite all to see the GRACE of CHRIST but not approve of sinful behaviour . Sorry that the CHURCH still keeps on harping about this subject. If that is the way it is going would it approve of what went on in the residential schools ?

  3. (Please excuse me if I double-posted this–blame the computer.) I would like to comment on this post and a previous one from November 23, 2018—‘Primate calls for church to show ‘humble humanity.’ In that article the Primate says he feels that people “are a little less harsh” recently in regard to the marriage canon and other topics. My experiences suggest he is right and that his own patient example helps explain part of this positive change. Thank you.
    I think that another statement—often repeated—may need urgent consideration. When our Primate says, “There is, in truth, a continuing place for everyone in this church” he is expressing the hope of our own congregation, too. However much we say we have “open doors, open hearts, open minds” and that we are a “big-tent” church, there is still a matter that is a larger elephant in the closet that the marriage canon and that is, I maintain, the way in which the church structure leaves out the laity. Often the Anglican news services contain almost entirely clergy-related items. When people say or act as if “the bishop is the diocese” or the “bishops are the church”, a large part of the Anglican church is marginalized. Until there are what the Americans would call a system of “checks and balances” in relation to the exercise of episcopal authorities, laity is reduced to a “poor third.”
    I understand that these comments may cause extreme discomfort or even anger because it seems to be in the marrow of the bones of many/most Anglicans that episcopal structure may only be imagined as functioning in the way it presently does. I have to try to express these ideas here, because there are few if any forums in which to do so: synods have their agendas largely determined by bishops and some congregations experience clergy-determined agendas, too. The one “doctrine” that should unite us all is the person of Jesus Christ, whose authority was that of service.

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