Synod 2015

The Rev. Andrew Federle of St. Clement, Eglinton (left) Carmen Rosa and the Rev. Hernan Astudillo of San Lorenzo, Dufferin Avenue, and Vilma Caceres of AURA gather in the display area of Synod.
 on January 1, 2016
Michael Hudson

The diocese’s 156th regular session of Synod was held Nov. 13-14 at the Sheraton Parkway Toronto North Hotel & Suites in Richmond Hill. The theme of the Synod was “Treasures New and Old” from Matthew 13:52. Each day began worship, followed by a business session and “Missional Moments,” in which Anglicans described how they were connecting with people in their communities. Just over 600 voting and non-voting members attended Synod. Here are some of the highlights, in chronological order:



Archbishop delivers Charge

In his Charge to Synod, Archbishop Colin Johnson spoke about how leaders in the church, both clergy and lay, need to draw on both the traditional and the new as they “stand on the edge of chaos, seeking what was, and is, and is to come.” (See pages 8-9 for the full text.)

New canons named

Archbishop Johnson named the following honorary canons of St. James Cathedral. They will be installed on Jan. 10 at 4:30 p.m. at St. James Cathedral.

  • The Rev. Canon Andrew Wesley
  • The Rev. Canon Beth Benson
  • The Rev. Canon Clair Wade
  • The Rev. Canon Janet Read-Hockin
  • The Rev. Canon Jenny Andison
  • The Rev. Canon Judy Paulsen
  • The Rev. Canon Nicola Skinner
  • The Rev. Canon Paul J. Walker
  • The Rev. Canon Simon Li
  • The Rev. Canon Stephen Vail

Missional Moment: Just Reach Out

Sue Savage from the Parish of Penetanguishene spoke about its free community breakfast, funded by a diocesan Reach Grant. The breakfast averages 27-35 guests a month. The parish was recently approached by a nearby church, and the breakfast now happens on two Thursdays a month instead of one. Ms. Savage encouraged others to approach their priest or their bishop with ideas. She said that when you can put a smile on someone’s face first thing in the morning, you know your mission is successful.

No mandatory retirement for office holders

Synod approved changes to the Constitution and Canons that abolished mandatory retirement for office holders in the diocese (clergy, the secretary of Synod, the registrar, the chancellor, the vice-chancellors and the diocese’s solicitor).

Synod defeats motion to reduce size of membership

Synod defeated a motion that would have reduced the size of its membership. A number of members spoke against the motion, saying it would have excluded too many clergy and laity from the decision-making body. Archbishop Johnson said the opposition to the proposed changes showed how much many members valued Synod and their participation in it. He said some of the proposed items in the motion that did not need canonical change, such as the creation of Synod Forum days, might still be considered. He said the matter would go back to Diocesan Council.

Missional Moment: We Walk by Faith, Not by Sight

James Liu of St. James Cathedral and Morning Wang of St. George on Yonge spoke about the diocese’s Mandarin ministry. Their goal is to attract people into the church building and bring them to Christ, in an Anglican context. Starting in 2014 with no staff and a little budget, they now enjoy the support of four parishes and many volunteers of all ages. They have used events such as prayer services, Station of the Cross, Doors Open Toronto and reading the Book of Proverbs to teach Mandarin-speaking people about the Anglican Church. Ms. Wang said they use everything that can be used to share the Gospel in order to invite more people to walk into our faith.

Committee composition revised

Synod has agreed that half of the membership of committees of Synod and Diocesan Council can be comprised of people who are not members of Synod, provided they are Anglican and members of a vestry in the diocese or a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and a vestry in the diocese. The change was made to expand the pool of expertise available to the committees.

Electoral Synod time frame lengthened

Synod approved a change to the Constitution and Canons regarding a vacancy in the See (the position of a Diocesan Bishop). If a vacancy occurs in the See and there is no Coadjutor Bishop, an electoral Synod to elect a new Diocesan Bishop will be held within six months. Previously, it had to be held within four weeks.

Missional Moment: I’ll Be Outside With Jesus

The Rev. Maggie Helwig spoke about ministry to marginalized and low-income people at St. Stephen in-the-Fields, Toronto, with the goal of creating a radically inclusive community. St. Stephen’s serves breakfast to 200-300 marginalized people every weekend followed by morning prayer, hosts a fresh expressions service every Saturday night, and hosts events that prioritize street ministry and social justice as they intersect with the arts. Ms. Helwig said St. Stephen’s strives to be a church open to complexity and challenge.

Synod prays for massacre victims

Synod paused to pray for the victims of the massacres in Paris on Nov. 13.

Priests called to consider school chaplaincy

Bishop Linda Nicholls and the Rev. Canon Susan Bell spoke about the ministry of school chaplains in the diocese and introduced a new video calling priests to consider chaplaincy. Seven independent schools within the diocese have chaplains, whose roles can include leading regular prayer services, teaching religious education classes and providing pastoral support to their school communities.

Bishop speaks about Commission on Marriage Canon

Bishop Linda Nicholls, the area bishop of Trent-Durham, spoke to Synod about the work of the Commission on the Marriage Canon, of which she is a member. The commission was created in response to a motion from General Synod 2013 to change Canon XXI on marriage to allow for the marriage of same-sex couples in the same way as opposite-sex couples. “The one plea I have made in every presentation I have been asked to give, is please, please, please read the whole report,” said Bishop Nicholls. “Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.” She said the report is only one part of a larger discernment that will take place at General Synod next summer. She asked Synod members to pray for all those, both in the diocese and across Canada, involved in the discernment process, and for General Synod when it meets in Toronto next summer. “This is an important and difficult discernment for us as a church,” she said. “We will find ourselves in different places, and there will be pain in the conversations. Pray that we will know the mind of Christ, that we will love one another in the process, and that we will, together, seek to do what is good and best for God’s church.” The work of the Commission on the Marriage Canon, including the commission’s final report and submissions from individuals, dioceses, parishes and others, is on the national church’s website,

Suzanne Lawson reports on Provincial Synod

Suzanne Lawson, a parishioner of St. Peter, Cobourg and a member of Provincial Synod, reported on the work of Provincial Synod, which convened in Toronto in October. She said Provincial Synod re-elected Archbishop Johnson as Metropolitan, elected Laura Walton of Christ Church, Batteau, as prolocutor and appointed Jean Bedard of the Diocese of Ontario as its new chancellor. In addition, members heard from Provincial Synod’s executive officers, attended workshops, listened to speakers, including the Primate, and approved reports. She said several aspects of the meeting gave her hope, including the theme – “Re-imagining Church in the Public Square” – a talk by Premier Kathleen Wynne and how the dioceses that comprise the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario are cooperating on matters of importance.



Synod receives reports, statements

Synod received the following documents: Priorities and Plans 2013-2015 – Report Card; Financial Report for 2014; Audited Financial Statements for the Incorporated Synod for 2014; and the Audited Financial Statements for the Cemetery Fund for 2014.

Auditors appointed

Synod appointed the firm of Grant Thornton LLP, Chartered Accountants, to conduct the audit of the Financial Statements of Synod, the Consolidated Trust Fund and the Cemetery Fund for the year ending Dec. 31, 2015, at a fee to be approved by the Audit Committee.

Synod approves diocesan priorities, budget

Synod received the documents Priorities and Plans 2015-2017 and the Financial Budget 2016-2017 and approved the priorities and financial plans contained therein. Diocesan Council will implement and report back to Synod on the plans and take corrective measures from time to time as best serves the needs of the diocese.

Parish assessment rate approved

In order to meet the revenue needs of the Diocese for 2016 and 2017, in accordance with its priorities and plans for 2015-2017, Synod approved an assessment rate for parishes of 24.85 per cent for 2016 and 24.70 per cent for 2017. The assessment rate for parishes in 2015 is 24.85 per cent.

Synod applauds action on environment

Synod passed a motion acknowledging and applauding the efforts being made by its

Investment Committee to withdraw from the most environmentally damaging of the Diocese’s investments, particularly those in tar sands oil. Synod encouraged the continuation of these efforts, in co-operation with its ecumenical partners and with national church structures.

Women invited to live in ‘God’s rhythm’

The Rev. Canon Sister Constance Joanna Gefvert of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine made a presentation about the formation of a new monastic community within the sisterhood. The initiative, called “Spend a Year Living in God’s Rhythm: Companions on the Way,” invites up to 10 women, age 22 to 40, to live with the sisters at St. John’s Convent in Toronto, where they will experience the Benedictine life of prayer, study, recreation and service to others. Visit

Synod marks consecration of former Wycliffe principal

Synod paused to pray as the Rev. Canon Dr. George Sumner, the former principal of Wycliffe College, was due to be consecrated the Diocesan Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese Dallas, Texas on Nov. 14.

Synod elects General Synod members

The following were elected to be members of General Synod:

  • The Rev. Riscylla Walsh Shaw
  • The Rev. Canon Jenny Andison
  • The Rev. Canon Susan Bell
  • The Rev. Canon Douglas Graydon
  • The Rev. Canon David Harrison
  • The Rev. Canon Mark Kinghan
  • The Rev. Canon Heather McCance
  • The Rev. Canon Kevin Robertson
  • Chris Ambidge ODT
  • Lawrence Barker
  • Matt Koovisk
  • Kennedy Marshall
  • Israel Newell ODT
  • Ryan Ramsden
  • Marion Thompson
  • Laura Walton
  • (Mr. Peter Bennett is the substitute lay member.)
  • (The Rev. David Giffen, the Rev. Canon Barry Parker, the Rev. Susan Spicer, the Rev. Sherman Hesselgrave, the Rev. Jordan Wellington and the Rev. Keith Joyce are substitute clergy members.)

Archbishop reflects on Paris violence in wrap-up

In his reflection at the end of Synod, Archbishop Johnson spoke about the massacres in Paris on Nov. 13. “I call on all of us to remember in our prayers those who have been victims of senseless violence. Not to lessen in any sense the violence that has occurred in Paris, but we need to remind ourselves that this sort of senseless violence happens in many places in our world on a daily basis, and to do what we can to lessen those challenges that people act out in violent ways. We’re also called to build communities of reconciliation that would otherwise be communities at loggerheads, to reach out to unlikely people, where we can make connections for the sake of the Kingdom of God. It’s very easy to stereotype all people of a particular class or circumstance. Muslims will be no more happy with being identified with ISIS as we as Christians would be happy about being identified as Nazis or Ku Klux Klan. We’re called to act with reason and compassion.” He read a passage from Second Corinthians.

Chris Ambidge thanked

Archbishop Johnson thanked Chris Ambidge, ODT, for his service as the Honorary Lay Secretary of Synod since 2009. Mr. Ambidge was stepping down from that role. Synod members gave him a standing ovation.


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