On their first day of school in September, our children were asked to share with the class how they had spent the summer. At the risk of doing that myself, I’d like to share two highlights of the summer of 2019.
Firstly, I attended General Synod in July. Some parts of that Synod were filled with great joy. We elected a new Primate – the first woman to hold this office – and we are delighted that Archbishop Linda Nicholls, who served our diocese for most of her ordained ministry, will now be returning to Toronto, at least for part of the time. Please pray for Archbishop Linda as she takes on this ministry. She is a great gift to our Church.
We also had the joy of affirming various resolutions that will allow the emerging Indigenous Church to be more autonomous and self-governing. Among the changes, the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop assumes the title of Archbishop, and new efforts will be made by our Church to strengthen our commitment to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. After Synod adopted the various changes, the room erupted in “How Great Thou Art.” It was a moment of joyful celebration, not only for our Indigenous siblings, but for our whole Church.
Of course, General Synod also brought moments of deep pain. The second reading on the proposed changes to Canon 21 (the Marriage Canon) narrowly failed to receive the required two-thirds support in the House of Bishops, though it passed easily in the other two Houses. This was heartbreaking for many people on the floor of Synod and across the country, particularly for those of us in the LGBTQ2S+ community. Many are questioning whether there is still room for us in the Anglican Church of Canada in light of the decision to leave the Marriage Canon unchanged. Our Church needs to acknowledge that many LGBTQ2S+ Anglicans are deeply hurt.
At the same time, I am proud of our own diocese. Bishop Asbil has said that same-sex marriages will continue to be celebrated according to the 2016 pastoral guidelines, and I’m aware that a number of parishes are in the process of requesting approval. Elsewhere in the Canadian Church, several dioceses have made the decision to move forward with same-sex marriage in accordance with the “local option” that was affirmed by General Synod. While some Anglicans have asked how a handful of bishops could have thwarted the will of the vast majority of General Synod members, even here we may see some positive change, as these governance questions will be taken up by the Council of General Synod in the coming triennium. So, I pray that much good will come out of a difficult General Synod.
Secondly, within days of the conclusion of General Synod, my spouse and I accepted the Archbishop of Canterbury’s invitation to be his guests at Lambeth Palace in London. While we were there, Mohan and I had a good and frank conversation with Archbishop Justin Welby about his decision to exclude same-sex spouses from next year’s Lambeth Conference. We look forward to continuing that conversation with him between now and next summer.
One of the things that emerged from the decision to exclude same-sex spouses was an invitation for me to join an international consultation of “Anglican Bishops in Dialogue.” The consultation brings together approximately 30 bishops from across the Communion. We met in Liverpool in June, and will meet again in Tanzania in February. I have deeply valued the building of new relationships with African bishops in particular, and I believe our work together is already bearing fruit for the unity of our Church.
I often hear that these ongoing conversations about sexuality and marriage are a distraction for us, and that the Church needs to just get on with the real business of mission and ministry. While I take the point, I believe that the inclusion and welcome of all God’s people is the work of mission and ministry. It’s at the core of our calling in Jesus Christ. Through times of joy and challenge, may we grow more deeply into our baptismal calling to be those who strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.