Bishops focus on schools crisis

Published December 1, 2000

For or against Huldah? Bishops Ann Tottenham of Toronto, Anthony Burton of Saskatchewan, Gordon Beardy of Keewatin, and Peter Mason of Ontario, discussed the merits of including the obscure and, as it turned out, controversial prophet in a new eucharistic prayer. The final vote belied the heated debate.

Canadian Anglican bishops got an update on the residential schools crisis, discussed liturgy changes, Lutherans, and the Primate’s fund – and engaged in a lively debate on the female prophet Huldah, at their regular fall meeting.

Archdeacon Jim Boyles, general secretary of General Synod, told the bishops gathered in October in Mississauga, Ont., that the church is in the midst of a trial in British Columbia involving eight plaintiffs who attended the Lytton school.

“One of the plaintiffs has named us. The other seven we are in because the government named us as a third party. There has been an agreement on liability; now we are in discussion on damages,” he said.

The Diocese of Cariboo can no longer afford representation at that trial, Mr. Boyles added, but General Synod continues to be present.

He said a judgment involving a Lytton complainant that went against the church and the government last year is being appealed and that new evidence is being introduced.

“We are appealing the finding of the judge that there were two employers (the federal government and the church). We say there was one – the federal government. We are also appealing the finding of the judge that there was a cover-up,” Mr. Boyles told the bishops.

He noted that 50 test cases are going ahead in Alberta courts and, out of 12 test cases in Saskatchewan, the Anglican church is involved in one. A class action filed in Ontario attempts to include as plaintiffs everyone who went to a residential school anywhere, but that case has not moved ahead since it was filed, he said.

There are nine alternate dispute resolution procedures up and running, he said, although the goal was 12 by this time. The primate, Archbishop Michael Peers, met with Matthew Coon Come, Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, at the end of September, to listen to native concerns about the churches’ meetings with Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray.

Archbishop David Crawley, metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon, said a “political organizer” hired several months ago has been “highly effective.”

Gordon Moore, the organizer, contacted people in dioceses who were personally acquainted with Members of Parliament, especially cabinet ministers, to present the church’s case on the residential schools issue.

Archbishop Crawley, who is chair of a national church steering committee on the schools issue, said the committee also decided that it would not urge Anglicans to bring up the issue at all-candidates meetings during the election campaign. “If it happens spontaneously, fine, but if it’s organized, that might upset the government,” he said.

Church finances

Jim Cullen, the national church’s treasurer, told the house of bishops that General Synod has insured its annuity portfolio in order to safeguard the income of donors. He reported that costs associated with residential school lawsuits have hit $650,000 so far this year.

Revenue for the year 2000 is “about $600,000 off budget and diocesan contributions are $450,000 less than expected,” he said. He added, however, “We will balance our operating budget this year before residential school costs and it is our intent to balance the budget next year excluding residential schools costs.”

On a positive note, he said some of the larger dioceses will increase their giving to General Synod by 5 to 7 per cent next year. However, investment income will be down, he said.

The Anglican Appeal is going well, but “if the congregations lose faith in the future of General Synod and the ability to use this money, we may have a problem,” he added. “The reality is we are budgeting for less than we have last year,” Mr. Cullen said.

Andrew Ignatieff, director of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, told the bishops that contributions to the fund are down.


Mr. Boyles described plans for General Synod in Waterloo, Ont., next July and noted that several events will be held jointly with the National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, which will take place at the same time, also in Waterloo. Five of Canada’s six Lutheran bishops attended the Anglican house of bishops meeting in Mississauga, participating in a joint session on relations between the two churches.

The Canadian Anglican and Lutheran churches will vote on a closer relationship called “full communion” at next summer’s national gatherings.

Marriage canon

Bishop Taylor Pryce of Toronto provided an update on the work of a task force considering revisions to the rules, or canons, for marriage in the Anglican church.

“It is the likely indication that common- law marriages will not be blessed, but such couples be encouraged to marry,” he said. There will probably be some relaxation of the rule requiring marriages to be performed in church buildings, he added, so that couples can have an Anglican wedding in a garden or other appropriate setting.

Huldah the prophet

The bishops also decided to vote on three new eucharistic prayers for the Book of Alternative Services and two new services of the word that are being developed under the leadership of the national faith, worship and ministry committee.

In one of the proposed eucharistic prayers, the prophets Huldah and Micah are mentioned and the inclusion of the female prophet came in for some criticism. “She is an important figure for some,” said Bishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee, “and a cult figure for some.”

Bishop Peter Mason of Ontario moved that Huldah be replaced in the prayer, but Bishop Victoria Matthews of Edmonton noted, “We are making a point when we name a woman who has been ignored.”

Bishop Ann Tottenham of Toronto, commented: “I’m in there with Huldah. … There are many women in the scriptures who are unknown because we never paid them any attention.”

It was suggested that the biblical passage be read and Bishop Edward Marsh of Central Newfoundland pulled out his Bible and read from 2 Kings, chapter 22:14-20, where Huldah tells the Israelites to worship one God only.

Bishop Gordon Beardy of Keewatin noted that “all scripture is written for our learning. I’m learning something so I vote for Huldah.”

Bishop Anthony Burton of Saskatchewan said he is “not in favor of special-interest eucharistic prayers,” nevertheless added that “when I hear the women bishops speak for Huldah, I will vote for Huldah and against the whole thing.”

The vote was called and shouts of surprised laughter greeted the fact that all hands but one – Bishop Mason’s – were raised in support of Huldah.

The three eucharistic prayers and two services were also passed and will be sent to the Council of General Synod for consideration.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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