SPECIAL REPORT: HOUSE OF BISHOPS
Bishop David Torraville of Central Newfoundland greets Archbishop Fred Hiltz. Photo: Harvey Shepherd
There has been too much sex (as a topic of discussion) and too much lobbying by special interest groups at gatherings of Canada’s Anglican bishops in recent years.
Instead, a statement issued at the Oct. 22-25 joint meeting here of the Anglican House of Bishops and the Lutheran Conference of Bishops outlines plainly that bishops want more education and theological discussion and less show-and-tell from outside groups. And media by invitation only.
“We do not wish to hear presentations from outside groups unless they have a clear purpose, other than informational, in appearing before us,” they wrote in the statement. “We do not wish to be lobbied.
“We wish to have the freedom to exchange ideas and feelings without scrutiny by the media, and there was a consensus that media should attend our meetings only when invited. This confirms a policy that has existed for several years now.”
Calling this fall’s meeting “one of the most holy and historic meetings the House of Bishops has had,” Archbishop Fred Hiltz added: “You (bishops) are claiming your identity, your authority and your voice. You are starting to come away from these meetings refreshed and renewed. That’s a change for Anglicans.”
The primate said that in the past, there has been too little focus on “who we are as leaders in God’s mission.” In an interview with the Anglican Journal, he said there needs to be greater emphasis placed on cultivating “holiness, a genuine desire to grow together in Christ and [in] our relationship with God and with one another as servants of God.”
The joint meeting included 42 Anglican bishops and six bishops in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.
Until recently, said the primate, there has been less and less time for bishops’ own continuing education and spiritual refreshment. The twice-yearly meetings of the House have been devoted largely to accommodating representatives of interest groups and devoting what time was left to discussions of sexuality.
“For a number of years that issue dominated,” said Archbishop Hiltz, noting that “although it’s going to continue to be there, now it’s not dominating.”
He said this week, the bishops’ discussion extended to deeper questions of what it means to be a bishop-and a Christian. Some participants said bishops need to take another look at what the ordination service for bishops says about their role. The primate said Christians in general could, similarly, look more closely at their baptismal vows.
“Who are we as the Church in the 21st century?” asked Archbishop Hiltz. “We are being re-formed and re-shaped.”
The bishops’ statement also noted that while codified statements define where bishops fit into the Lutheran church, the role and place of Anglican bishops is less defined. “The Canadian House of Bishops is unlike other church structure in that it is neither a committee nor a board and without formal lines of reporting,” the statement said. “As a house, we frequently make statements, but we do not legislate.”