A once and coming spirit’

Published June 1, 2009

A ONCE AND coming spirit.” That’s how New Testament scholar Raymond Brown describes the Holy Spirit – poured out on the apostles gathered in an upper room on the day of Pentecost, and on gatherings of the Church through time.

Members of the Council of General Synod considered reports from the Primates’ Theological Commission and the faith, worship and ministry committee on work related to issues of sexuality given to them by General Synod 2007. They engaged in frank and open dialogue and they listened with intent and respect to one another.

Together they discerned that now is not the time to consider amendments to the marriage canon to allow for the marriage of same-sex couples. They identified a need for further work to be done in relation to the Galilee Report (on whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, spirit-led development of doctrine), and the Rothesay Report (on a theological rationale for amending the marriage canon to allow for the marriage of all legally qualified persons).

They celebrated in conversations initiatied within Canada and internationally about sexuality, taking into account Scripture, reason, tradition and current scientific understanding. They called for affirmation of the house of bishops’ “Guidelines for Pastoral Generosity.”

Together, council members worked long and hard to seek consensus in the text of “A Word to The Church.” One could not help but feel that the “once and coming spirit” was in our midst.

At the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) meeting in Jamaica delegates considered a draft for an Anglican Communion Covenant. It addresses our inheritance of faith, our vocation in the service of God’s mission and issues of our common life in Christ. It also speaks to principles of autonomy and accountability. Just exactly how that principle – “The communion guides, each church decides” – is understood, applied and respected, requires continuing attention. The “once and coming spirit” was in the midst of that council’s deliberations.

Pray that in all our gatherings we may be graced and guided by the wisdom of that same spirit, “leading us into all the truth and declaring things that are to come.” (John 16: 13-14)

Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.


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