General Synod is the legislative body of the Anglican Church of Canada, which meets every three years, with representatives from each diocese. Just as there are varieties of interests, opinions, strengths and needs in our own diocese, so there are in the Anglican Church of Canada.
Not everyone sees eye to eye on every topic that is brought up for discussion and that can cause hurt on different sides of the topic. This was the case this summer at General Synod, with the vote to amend the Canon on Marriage in the Church. Whereas many dioceses were ready to be inclusive of same-gender marriage, not everyone – and especially not all bishops – could support it. Change happens slowly and not all dioceses – or parishes – are ready for this change. Sadly, the news headlines made our church look cruel and unwelcoming.
Conflict and disagreement have always been part of our church history. So has a shared sense of God’s call. General Synod affirmed that we are determined to find a way to walk together respectfully and to continue to be the church and assume good faith even if we disagree. Here is an excerpt from my Charge to Diocesan Synod:
“Our Diocese is called to grow in partnership and love with one another as we work through our own changing times and conditions. Instead of competing with each other, I believe that we are to share our strengths and gifts and faith with one another and consider how we can serve the mission of the church more creatively and faithfully.” (Bishop’s Charge to Diocesan Synod 2019)
How do we want our church and our congregations to appear? What message do we want to give to those around us? What can we agree on and focus on?
The second letter to the Corinthians, chapter 4 describes some very discouraging conditions in the early Church. It also offers a helpful perspective: “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” 2 Cor. 4:7
The mission of the church and our attitude in any difficulty ought to be focussed “so that grace, as it extends to more and more people, may increase thanksgiving to the glory of God”. 2 Cor. 4:15
There is still work to be done as our Anglican Church of Canada grows and goes forward in this century.
One of my priorities is that the Anglican Diocese of Montreal continue to work to be a welcoming and affirming place for all. Another is that we grow as disciples of Jesus Christ. Growing, and being disciples, inevitably involves change and disagreement. I invite all of us to do that respectfully, praying blessings on those with whom we find ourselves in disagreement, and assuming that each of us is doing our best to listen to the Spirit.