Bishops welcome ‘first step’

Published December 1, 2001

Anglican Archbishop Michael Peers asks the congregation at All Saints’ Cathedral to affirm Anglican/Lutheran full communion.


Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada, at their regular fall meeting, discussed the residential schools situation in open and closed sessions, considered whether bishops should be able to minister in another diocese and celebrated a new, closer relationship with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada.

The bishops produced a statement reacting to a government announcement that it would pay 70 per cent of proven out-of-court settlements in residential schools cases. After a bit of wrangling over whether the statement should refer to an attempt at “assimilation” of native people, the concept was deleted.

In their statement, the bishops welcomed the government’s announcement as a “first step toward an agreement that will enable us all to work together at restoring our society.”

It also added: “The prolonged negotiations with the government and the continuing cost of litigation are wearing down both our capacity and our resolve to respond to need.”

It said the church wants to compensate those who suffered specific abuse and can do that “if we can assure Anglicans that support for bringing this new vision into reality will not be used to pay litigation costs.”

The bishops also asked Anglicans “to reach across cultural boundaries and build friendships with one another that together we may work for justice and healing.”

Archdeacon Jim Boyles, general secretary of General Synod, noted that the initial reaction to the government’s move from the church’s lawyers was “there’s something here we can work with.”

He noted that church and government negotiators held their sixth meeting in Ottawa Oct. 23-25 and reiterated the church’s dissatisfaction with the legal process, noting that it is adversarial. “When we win, aboriginal people lose.”

In a recent court decision, he said, 100 of 108 plaintiffs in Manitoba suing the Anglican church had their cases dismissed because of a 30-year statute of limitations. “Eight people got their claims in before the 30-year deadline. Aboriginal people in Manitoba are angry about that,” he said.

He also said that Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray is strongly against giving churches credit for “service-in-kind,” feeling that counseling is what churches do normally. The announcement’s spin, he said, is that the government is taking the high moral ground, responding to native plaintiffs and that the churches are blocking the process.

However, the church’s main concern continues to be healing and reconciliation with native people, he added.

General Synod’s communications consultant, Tony Whittingham, brought the bishops up to date on the national church’s media relations program. He asked the bishops to prepare an “inventory of good works” in their dioceses – homeless shelters for instance – to demonstrate what the church contributes to Canadian society.

Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director of faith, worship and ministry with General Synod, asked the bishops to discuss the question of alternate episcopal oversight – the possibility of a bishop ministering to a parish in another diocese that has a serious disagreement with its own diocesan bishop.

The question arose at General Synod last summer when Bishop Michael Ingham of the diocese of New Westminster, which has considered the blessing of homosexual relationships, asked his colleagues to consider whether alternate episcopal oversight is desirable in the Canadian church.

Bishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee said he would like the discussion to continue, since it “could become a fairly live issue.” Bishop Barry Hollowell, of Calgary, noting that “some in my diocese are fanning the flames of AMiA (Anglican Mission in America, a breakaway group),” also said the discussion should continue.

Archbishop Michael Peers, the primate, reported to bishops on a trip to the Middle East and on recent travel to England and in Canada. He also touched on the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, saying, “My heart went out to all those who had to preach the Sunday after,” seeking to “answer the unanswerable.”


  • Solange DeSantis

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

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