Synod 2017

Two people sitting together laugh and smile with hundreds of others in the background.
Brian Suggs, the York-Simcoe Area Youth Coordinator, and Johanna Pak enjoy Synod.
 on January 1, 2018
Michael Hudson

The Diocese of Toronto’s 157th Regular Session of Synod was held on Nov. 24-25 at the Sheraton Parkway Toronto North Hotel & Suites in Richmond Hill. The theme of Synod was “Growing in Christ,” which is also the name of the diocese’s new strategic plan for the next four years. The name was taken from Ephesians 4:15: “But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Here are the highlights of Synod, in chronological order:


Day 1

Synod begins with Eucharist
Synod began with a Eucharist, followed by lunch and the business session. During the worship service, Synod acknowledged it was meeting on traditional First Nations’ land. It also prayed for those who had died since the last regular session of Synod in 2015. One of the hymns in the service, We Sing New Songs of Hope and Expectation, was written by the Rev. Sherman Hesselgrave, the incumbent of Holy Trinity, Trinity Square, Toronto. There were 633 voting and non-voting members in attendance on the first day.

New canons, archdeacon named
Archbishop Colin Johnson announced new canons and an archdeacon. They are:

  • The Rev. Canon Byron Gilmour, Christ Church, Brampton
  • The Rev. Canon Christopher (Kit) Greaves, Christ Memorial, Oshawa
  • The Rev. Canon Gary van der Meer, St. Anne, Gladstone Ave., Toronto
  • Deacon Canon Jacqueline Boutheon, Christ Church, Scarborough
  • The Rev. Canon Joan Cavanagh-Clark, Parish of Kinmount, Minden and Maple Lake
  • The Rev. Canon Joanne Davies, chaplain at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and St. John Rehabilitation Hospital, Toronto
  • The Rev. Canon Philip Der, St. Christopher, Richmond Hill
  • Canon Mary Conliffe, Diocesan Executive Assistant to the Archbishop
  • The Ven. Kyn Barker, the diocese’s coordinator of Deacons, Archdeacon of Toronto

The installation of canons and archdeacon will be held on Jan. 21 at 4:30 p.m. at St. James Cathedral.

A first for Synod
For the first time, Synod had a social media wall – a large screen that showed a loop of posts about Synod from Twitter and Instagram. To see their posts on the wall, Synod members used the hashtag #synodTO with their messages and photos.

Archbishop delivers Charge
In his Charge to Synod, Archbishop Johnson spoke about Bishop John Strachan’s contributions to the diocese, the diocese’s new strategic plan, his thoughts about the diocese since General Synod 2016, his coming retirement and his request for the election of a coadjutor bishop.

Members practise electronic voting
As in previous Synods, members used electronic devices, called response pads, to vote. They were given instructions and took part in a few test polls to practise. In a light-hearted moment, Synod was asked to vote on a mock motion that Synod be adjourned. Seventy per cent voted in favour and 30 per cent were opposed.

Executive Director introduced
Archbishop Johnson introduced Angela Hantoumakos, the diocese’s new Executive Director.

A Christian community in the making
In Synod’s first Missional and Outreach Moment, the Rev. Jeff Potter told the story of St. Stephen, Maple, a new church plant that is a year old. The original St. Stephen’s closed in 2008 and the building was deconsecrated. However, the land was kept and eventually a reboot was imagined. The church was in need of repair “but we could feel the potential,” he said. In time, a small group came together and on Oct. 30 of last year Bishop Peter Fenty reconsecrated the church. The first public service followed on the first Sunday in Advent and was a great occasion. Since then, the church has grown and word continues to spread, reflecting the church’s motto, “a Christian community in the making.” Mr. Potter thanked the many people who were involved in this reboot, especially the Rev. Canon Susan Bell, the diocese’s Canon Missioner.

Constitution, canon changes approved
Synod approved changes to the Constitution that would give the Secretary of Synod the authority to deal with late registrations at Synod. Synod also approved revisions to Canon 10 – Clerical Appointments, Exchanges, Retirements and Terminations, to allow the combination of a churchwarden and deputy churchwarden to be members of a parish selection committee. Finally, Synod approved revisions to Canon 15 – Churchwardens, to allow for flexibility when the collecting and counting of the offerings of a congregation are conducted. There will be a two-step process whereby the churchwardens confirm the custody of envelopes, loose cash and cheques and then ensure that the formal count is conducted within a specified time frame. Churchwardens will be required to forward a copy of the annual budget with the statistical and financial returns to the Secretary of Synod.

Coadjutor election likely in June
Synod approved a motion to have an election of a coadjutor bishop in 2018. In September, Archbishop Johnson announced that he was retiring and informed Diocesan Council that he would be asking Synod to concur with his request for the election of a coadjutor bishop for the Diocese of Toronto. He said the electoral will likely be held on June 9, 2018.

Synod debates proposed election changes
Synod debated a motion that proposed amendments to sections 10 and 11 of the Constitution, which deal with the way bishops are elected. The amendments would have required a diocesan bishop or coadjutor bishop to be elected by two-thirds of the total votes cast in both the Order of Clergy and the Order of Laity. (Currently, only a majority of the total votes cast in each order are needed for the election of a bishop.) Furthermore, the name of the candidate with the lowest number of votes in the combined orders would have been eliminated in each round of voting, except when there were fewer than four candidates remaining or the candidate with the lowest total number of votes in the combined orders received 10 or more votes in each order.

The proposed changes applied only to the election of a diocesan bishop or a coadjutor bishop; the election of a suffragan bishop would continue to require a simple majority in each order.

A background note to the motion gave the rationale for the proposed changes. It stated that some other dioceses have a two-thirds threshold among clergy and laity for the election of a diocesan bishop. This ensures that the cleric elected has broad support across the Diocese and was able to represent that diversity within the Anglican Church of Canada and the wider Communion.

Diocesan Council had forwarded the motion to Synod with the recommendation that it be adopted.

After debate, Synod voted on the motion. Because it was a proposed change to the Constitution, it required 75 per cent approval to come into effect immediately. It received 68 per cent approval. Therefore, it will be required to come to the next regular session of Synod for it to be passed. The next regular session of Synod will be held Nov. 9-10, 2018.

Advice sought for marriage canon discussions
After wide consultation, Archbishop Johnson has convened a group to create a process for the diocese to discuss the proposed changes to General Synod’s Marriage Canon, which would allow for same-sex marriage in the Anglican Church of Canada. General Synod voted on the proposed changes last year and will do so again in 2019. In the meantime, it has referred the matter to diocesan and provincial Synods for their consideration.

The group consists of Marg Watters Knebel (chair), Chris Ambidge, the Rev. Canon Susan Bell, Pamela Boisvert, the Rev. Chris Harper, the Rev. Canon Philip Hobson, the Rev. Ian LaFleur, Ryan Ramsden, the Rev. Mark Regis, and it is facilitated by Janet Marshall. Its mandate is to formulate a process for the diocese that started at this Synod and will continue at the diocese’s next regular session of Synod on Nov. 9-10 2018.

Archbishop Johnson called on Ms. Watters Knebel, the Rev. Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, Mr. Harper and Mr. Regis to speak to Synod. A hard copy of their presentations was also made available to Synod members.

Ms. Watters Knebel said that both Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the Primate, and Archbishop Johnson have written pastoral responses that set the tone for the process. In a statement dated July 14, 2016, the Primate wrote: “More than ever we must make efforts not to turn away from one another, but rather to one another, not to ignore but to recognize one another, not to walk apart but together.” In a pastoral statement dated Sept. 27, 2017, which was published in the November issue of The Anglican and is available on the diocese’s website,, Archbishop Johnson wrote: “All of us need to extend to each other the most generous Christian charity that Jesus our Redeemer calls us to exercise as we, together, seek to discern and live out God’s will.”

Ms. Watters Knebel stressed the importance of the process not just to the diocese but the wider Church. “What we do here in the Toronto diocese is quite important,” she said. “It will be noticed. As the largest and most multicultural Canadian diocese, we have a distinct voice within the Canadian church. We have an opportunity to be a beacon of hope for the wider Church, by responding in a way that models unity in diversity, celebrates the strengths and gifts of diversity and reflects our common commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ and the mission of the Church. Our process may be of help to others and it will certainly be of interest as the national church prepares for General Synod 2019.

“The mandate before us is open-ended. Each diocese has been given the opportunity to consider the proposed change to the Marriage Canon in a way that makes sense for them. We have been given no specific directions or deliverables, and there is to be no vote. Our discussions and conversations need not be brought to any conclusion or decision. How we consider this is up to us.

“This afternoon we ask for the help of this body in creating a process that will serve you, your parishes and the diocese. We want our plans to reflect your ideas and wishes.”

To further set the context for the table discussions that followed, Mr. Harper, Canon Barnett-Cowan and Mr. Regis were invited to speak. Mr. Harper, the diocese’s Indigenous Native Priest, called the diocese “the poster child of diversity” with its many people and churches. “It is our diversity that we should celebrate with one voice, for in our diversity God reveals His glory and depth of love, for the love of the world He gave His Son,” he said. “In our diversity we are all called and named as children of creation and God knows us, and we are called to be His peace to the world. And as hope was given to us in faith, we are to witness hope to all that we encounter in all what we think, say and do.

“So I call you for a short time: express love, peace and hope as only you can, as a child of God’s calling. Set aside the divisive chains of politics and our own personal sensitivities, so that we might walk together and respectfully see each other for who we have been called to be… a child of God in the family of God, created in diversity.”

Canon Barnett-Cowan, who has held senior positions in the Canadian Church and the Anglican Communion, recounted some of the key moments in the Church’s discussions on homosexuality, same-sex blessings and same-sex marriage over the past 40 years. She said that at every point there has been an attempt to understand all points of view and to honour differences.

“When (the Church) is at its best has been when it has truly focused on listening: listening to the Scriptures, listening to the experience of gay and lesbian people, listening to those who come from different cultural and theological contexts, listening to those who truly do not know what is right, listening to those who are convinced that they are right,” she said.

She spoke about some of the times when the Canadian Church seemed to coalesce and find a common mind, describing the work of General Synods in 1995, 2004 and 2010.

“I could easily list the times when the opposite has happened, when process got in the way of discernment instead of serving it, and when people felt that they had been rudely overruled by a majority,” she said. “Moreover, many in the Church have expressed anguish about the length of time that this process has taken, and the personal cost to them.

“But I would rather you lift up your heads to consider that the path of dialogue, far from keeping the Church from doing anything at all, is in fact the only path it can follow if it is to maintain its unity and seek the truth in all honesty.”

Ms. Regis, an associate priest at St. Paul, Bloor Street, spoke about how Archbishop Johnson, following the contentious vote at General Synod in 2016, called a series of meetings with clergy who hold to the historic definition of marriage, to hear their concerns. Close to 70 clergy in the diocese voiced their concerns officially, along with many lay people, he said, culminating in facilitated discussions over two days with Archbishop Johnson and a group of representative clergy in August. These discussions were facilitated by Canon Barnett-Cowan and Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon, the current Secretary General of the Communion. “During those discussions, a refreshed commitment to the validity of the historic understanding of marriage and those so convicted was affirmed, and a shared desire to move forward together as a Diocese was upheld,” he said. “This aim is reflected in the Archbishop’s recent pastoral statement which can be found on the diocesan website.”

Mr. Regis ended by saying: “The Canadian Church is in a process of discernment, and as this discernment continues, we in the Diocese of Toronto have a unique opportunity and possibly even a charism to engage and model a gracious way where divergent understandings of marriage and other significant matters of faith can faithfully bear with one another. Ongoing dialogue is essential in living this out… Let us continue in prayer as we listen for God’s voice in mission, asking for renewal within a time of great cultural and ecclesiastical change.”

After their presentations, Ms. Watters Knebel asked Synod members to discuss at their tables this question:

“There will be a Regular Session of Synod in 2018 where proposed changes to General Synod’s Marriage Canon will be discussed. What would be most helpful to you and the Diocese in preparing for that conversation?” (It was noted that in 2018 there will be a diocesan discussion, not a vote.)

After 15 minutes of discussions, Synod members were asked to individually record their ideas and suggestions on a piece of paper. The committee will use those suggestions as it designs a process for the conversation. The committee members said they would compile the suggestions and would report back on the second day of Synod.

Dinner features Sister Act
Synod enjoyed a hot meal and was entertained by Sister Act, a group of singers from the Parish of Kinmount, Minden and Maple Lake.

Synod’s sponsors thanked
Gratitude was expressed to Synod’s sponsors, who helped offset the costs of the event. They include:

  • CGOV Asset Management and Letko Brosseau (dinner co-sponsors)
  • Canso Investment Counsel Limited and Northleaf Capital Partners (refreshment sponsors)
  • The Dalton Company (WiFi sponsor)
  • AON (reception supporter)
  • Ecclesiastical Insurance and Marsh Limited (refreshment supporters)
  • Trinity College and Wycliffe College (worship sponsors)

Strategic plan lays out vision
After dinner, Synod members listened to a presentation about the diocese’s new strategic plan, Growing in Christ. The plan lays out a bold five-year vision (2016-2021) and sets the foundations for how we will work together to build healthy, missional Anglican communities that engage faithfully with the world and share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here are the main parts of the plan:

Our vision: “An Anglican community committed to proclaiming and embodying Jesus Christ through compassionate service, intelligent faith and Godly worship.”

Our mission: “We build healthy, missional Anglican communities that engage faithfully with the world and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Our values: “Faith, compassion, collaboration, accountability, boldness.”

The plan has identified five Focus Areas to guide and determine the priorities for the diocese’s resources over the coming years: leadership and formation, trust and culture, innovation based on evidence, governance and decision-making, and stewardship of resources

Susan Abell, ODT, the Diocese’s interim Chief Administrative Officer, led the presentation. She introduced a video of an interview with Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric, speaking on leadership, vision, mission, and energizing people.

After the video, Ms. Abell encouraged Synod members to read the Growing in Christ document in full. “We need to remind ourselves that the vision is something that will not change through time,” she said. “Our mission is what we are called to do today to realize the vision.”

She said a strategic plan helps Anglicans have a way of thinking and talking together. She said the conversations have been very rich. “It gives permission and support to lift things up and think together,” she said.

Synod heard from representatives of the working groups talk about their progress. At the end of the presentation, Ms. Abell asked Synod members to sit quietly for a moment and then write down on a notepad what impressed or interested them today about the plan, and what they would like to take back to their parishes to pursue further. They were encouraged to drop their ideas into a basket on the way out of the plenary hall, and to also take one of their comments back home with them as a reminder.

Synod ends day with prayer
Synod ended for the day with closing prayers led by the Rev. David Bryan Hoopes, OHC, the Synod chaplain.


Day 2

Synod opens with worship
The second day of Synod began at 9 a.m. on Nov. 25 with worship. About 638 voting and non-voting members attended the second day of Synod.

The Faith Hub reaches out
In the second Missional and Outreach Moment, the Very Rev. Andrew Asbil, rector of St. James Cathedral and dean of Toronto, spoke about drug use and homelessness in the area around the cathedral. He spoke about the outstanding work of the cathedral’s drop-in to address the needs. He spoke about how people from the nearby Roman Catholic, United and Anglican churches and others have come together to create The Faith Hub, to walk with and learn from those on the streets and living in poverty. He said the group hopes to create circles of support. He asked Synod members to pray for all those involved in The Faith Hub and invited people to join as volunteers.

Synod hears about Provincial Synod
Laura Walton, a Synod member and the Prolocutor of Provincial Synod, gave a report on the Provincial Synod for the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario, which took place Oct. 13-16, 2015 in Toronto, and has continued its work over the past two years.

She said Provincial Synod has the unique ability to liaise with the provincial government on many issues and interact with regulatory bodies dealing with cemeteries and historical designations and competencies.

She said the Provincial Synod has worked hard in the past two years to increase the utilization of its members’ gifts. It is working towards a more effective and engaging strategy that lets those on Council continue Provincial Synod’s work between their twice-yearly meetings. There are currently three working groups focused on homelessness, eldercare and engaging OPCOTE in discussions about what the theological colleges are doing in regards to working on actions named by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Provincial Synod is also working with the senior management teams of the seven dioceses in the Ecclesiastical Province, with an eye toward joint management and shared costs rather than each diocese paying for the same item. It moves toward its next meeting in October 2018 in Ottawa with a focus on creating a 10-year plan that supports all the dioceses of the Province.

Reports, financial statements approved
Synod received and approved the following documents:

  • Priorities and Plans, 2015-2017 – Narrative Report. This report contains notable accomplishments as the diocese transitioned to its new strategic plan, Growing in Christ.
  • Diocesan Council’s Report to Synod. This report contains a list of members, a summary of all policy and major items discussed or approved by Council, and a summary of grants, loans and other funding. One highlight of this report is that more than $19 million in grants and loans were awarded from 37 granting and funding streams from July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2017.
  • Financial Report for 2016, the Audited Financial Statements for the Incorporated Synod for 2016 and the Audited Financial Statements for the Cemetery Fund for 2016.

Town pitches in for refugees
In the third Missional and Outreach Moment, the Rev. Canon David Barker spoke of how the Rev. Canon Anne Moore and others at St. George, Haliburton contacted AURA in 2015 to help refugees. They held a town meeting and 95 people showed up. People joined committees on life skills, health, ESL and many more to help the refugee family. They received more than $64,000 in donations. A Syrian family of 11 had been selected to come and they arrived in September 2016. The family knew no English and the whole community helped to get them settled. The family got involved in the community. It was the small army of volunteers who helped on a daily basis to make it a success, said Canon Barker. It has been two years since the people of Haliburton started and they’ve all be changed by the experience, he added.

Synod prays following attack
Synod prayed following the attacks on Nov. 24 on a mosque in Egypt, killing more than 300.

Auditors appointed
Synod appointed the firm 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, 2017, at a fee to be approved by the Audit Committee.

Synod hears 2017 update
Kathryn Rogers, the diocese’s Treasurer and Director of Finance, gave a financial update for 2017. She said that due to a number of unforeseen circumstances, which were for the most part one-time situations, the diocese was looking at ending the year with a small deficit. She said revenue was static and expenditures were, for the most part, under budget or in line, with the exception of higher than normal legal costs, and costs for relocation and retraining, which are expenses incurred to assist clergy during transitional periods. As well, the capital budget would be higher than expected. The plan was to replace the roof of the Synod Office in 2018 but rain leaking in forced that to be moved ahead to 2017.

Synod learns about work in Africa
Elin Goulden, the diocese’s Social Justice and Advocacy consultant, spoke about the diocese’s $500,000 gift to PWRDF in 2017 to help with work in Africa to improve maternal, newborn and child health, and to provide food security. She spoke about her trip in Tanzania to see this work, and said it has met with great success. Synod members watched a video about the work in Africa. William Postma, the executive director of PWRDF, thanked Synod and the diocese for its support. He said the $500,000 from the diocese has enabled PWRDF to receive more than $2 million from other sources for further work.

A Safe Place for LGBTQ youth
In the fourth Missional and Outreach Moment, the Rev. Erin Martin and Kit Woods talked about A Safe Place, a regular gathering at St. James, Sharon for LGBTQ youth in the area. “Young people need a safe place to be themselves and know they’re loved and accepted for exactly who they are,” said Ms. Martin. The group averages about seven to eight LGBTQ youth and their allies at the meetings. “We’ve seen a transformation in the kids and volunteers,” said Ms. Martin. A couple of months ago, the church launched an adult version of A Safe Place, where parents can talk in safety, she said.

Synod approves priorities and budget
Synod received the document Priorities and Plans 2017-2019 and the Financial Budgets for 2018-2019, and approved the diocese’s 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
Synod approved an assessment rate for parishes of 24.70 per cent for 2018 and 2019. This is the same assessment rate as in 2017.

Desire to be stronger
In the fifth Missional and Outreach Moment, the Rev. Geoffrey Sangwine spoke about the amalgamation of the former St. Peter, Carlton Street and St. Simon the Apostle, Bloor Street, to become St. Peter and St. Simon the Apostle, Toronto. He spoke about the churches’ histories and ministries to their neighbourhoods. He reflected on the process that brought the churches together. At the heart of the amalgamation was their desire to be stronger as one parish rather than to be two weaker ones, he said. They focussed on getting to know each other. They are asking how they can reach out to the challenged neighbourhood around them with the hope of the gospel.

Members elected to Provincial Synod
Under the constitution of the diocese and the constitution of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario, Synod is required to elect four clergy and four lay members to serve as members of Provincial Synod. The Provincial Synod meets every three years and considers matters of interest in the provincial sphere such as theological education, social issues, government relations, chaplaincies, and vocational diaconate ministries. The next Provincial Synod will be held in 2018 in Ottawa. Clergy voted for clergy and laity voted for laity, following the rules of the diocese’s Constitution.

The following lay members were elected to be members of Provincial Synod:

  • Lawrence (Larry) Barker, St. Luke, Burnt River
  • Jean Glionna, Holy Trinity, Thornhill
  • Susan Schuschu, St. John, East Orangeville
  • Laura Walton, Christ Church, Batteau
  • (James Beckwith, St. Peter, Erindale will be a substitute lay member of Provincial Synod)

The following clergy were elected to be members of Provincial Synod:

  • The Rev. Jeff Potter, St. Stephen, Maple
  • The Rev. Canon David Harrison, St. Mary Magdalene
  • The Rev. Karen Hatch, St. Margaret in-the-Pines
  • The Rev. Canon Douglas Graydon, St. Andrew on-the-Lake

The following clergy will be substitute members of Provincial Synod:

  • The Rev. Joan Cavanaugh-Clark, Parish of Minden-Kinmount
  • The Rev. Jacqueline Boutheon, Christ Church, Scarborough
  • The Rev. Canon Mark Kinghan, St. Paul, Uxbridge
  • The Rev. Brad Smith, St. John the Evangelist, Peterborough

Lyds Keesmat-Walsh of the Parish of Fenelon Falls was elected to be the youth member of Provincial Synod. Stephen Warner of St. Peter, Erindale will be the substitute member.

Synod hears feedback on marriage canon process
Marg Watters Knebel gave feedback from the first day’s presentation about a process for discussing the proposed changes to General Synod’s marriage canon. There were more than 500 suggestions from Synod members, she said, which will be collated and used to shape the process. She said there was a deep desire for prayerful listening across differences. Among the requests was the inclusion of youth, LGBTQ, and Indigenous people in the conversations. There were comments about the need for parish engagement in the process, and the need for resources for parishes.

Archbishop asks four questions
Archbishop Johnson thanked the Rev. Canon Claire Wade, who was stepping down as the honorary secretary of Synod. She was presented with flowers and received a standing ovation.

Speaking to Synod, Archbishop Johnson said, “You are an amazing group of people” who provide enormous leadership in the Church and where they live. “I am deeply grateful for the work you do,” he said. He thanked the staff of the Synod Office.

He asked Synod members to take home and ponder four questions:

  • What are two characteristics that you have most admired in a bishop?
  • What are two critical issues that are affecting the life of this diocese and its mission?
  • What are two characteristics that a bishop should have to lead this diocese in its mission in the next decade?
  • What would you need in the process of the election to figure out if a candidate had those characteristics?

He asked members to email the answers to his office. Synod ended with prayers, a hymn and a blessing.


For more information on Synod, including motions, reports and financial documents, visit the Synod page on the diocese’s website,


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