The synod of the diocese of the Arctic, meeting in Iqaluit, Nunavut from May 27 to June 3, passed a motion criticizing decisions by four dioceses of the Anglican Church of Canada that support blessing same-sex unions.
“Synod expressed great disappointment as some diocesan synods have decided to move forward with approving the blessing of same-sex civil marriages, after General Synod 2007 (made) it clear that this would not be allowed until the Lambeth Conference had time to discuss the issues this summer,” said a press release issued by the diocese of the Arctic synod. “This then indicates that Canadians are not serious about unity elements that hold the church together.”
It also passed a motion expressing “strong support … for those in the Southern Cone dioceses, recognizing them as members of the Anglican Communion.”
The diocesan bishop of the Arctic, Andrew Atagotaaluk, said the synod wanted to express that, while some Canadian Anglicans have left their parishes and joined the province of the Southern Cone, “that doesn’t say that they’re separated from the Anglican Church as a whole; they’re still part of the Communion.” (Since November, 15 parishes have broken away to join the church of the province of the Southern Cone (which consists of the southern part of South America), citing the Canadian church’s liberal stance regarding the issue of human sexuality.)
In an interview, Bishop Atagotaaluk said the decision by the synods of the dioceses of Ottawa, Montreal, Niagara and Huron to ask their bishops to give clergy permission to bless homosexual marriages “kind of let us down from trusting that we had a process that everybody can work with.” He added that since the 2007 General Synod defeated the motion affirming the authority of dioceses to offer same-sex blessings, “there was no message saying that we could all go our own way.”
Bishop Atagotaaluk said the synod also had lengthy discussions on the issue of human sexuality, in response to General Synod’s request for dioceses and churches to have more effective dialogue about the issue. “This was the most extensive (discussion) where people could break out into groups and talk about situations in their communities,” he said. “It opened a lot of awareness of what might really be involved even if you’re living in a small community where (it) has been a hush-hush issue for many, many years.”
The synod invited as speakers Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, who made a presentation on “Thinking as Christians about our intimate personal relationships;” Rev. Stephen Andrews, president of Thorneloe University and prolocutor of General Synod, who gave a presentation on the principles for interpreting the Bible; Bishop Larry Robertson, who talked about the biblical basis for marriage; and Rev. Dawn MacDonald, who made a presentation on the Zaccheus Fellowship, which consists of people who experience same-sex attraction but “hold to the church’s historic view on sexuality,” according to its Web site.
The welfare of youth was also high on synod’s agenda, with a workshop on “Taking back our youth,” given by Canon Martin Brokenleg, director of Native Ministries programs at the Vancouver School of Theology. The workshop “has helped church members to be more sensitive to issues that young people might be facing,” said Bishop Atagotaaluk, adding that at its previous synod, delegates had discussed suicide prevention.
“We have serious housing issues – we used to provide housing for clergy and they’re all aging and need to be replaced or renovated and there are no funds available for that kind of work,” he said. He said that efforts remain focused on raising funds for the rebuilding of St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit, which was damaged by arson in 2005 and demolished in 2006. The diocese has been able to raise $2.2 million, which is still $3.8 million short of its goal.
During the synod a draft of the new English/Inuktitut hymnbook, Voices of Worship, was distributed to delegates and used for the duration of the meeting. Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, who visited the Arctic for the first time, attended the synod.
The diocese of the Arctic spans the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and Nunavik (Arctic Quebec), and has several language groups, including three dialects of the Inuit people, Gwichin, Dogrib, North and South Slavey, Cree, English and French.