Upon returning from an end-of-November trip to the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said that he hopes the two churches are on their way to a “formal, global partner relationship” within the Anglican Communion.
“I think what we’re going to see out of this trip is a re-emergence of a strong province-to-province relationship,” said Hiltz in an interview, noting that the churches share many similarities.
“We’re very diverse theologically; we’re very diverse geographically. Both our contexts face a lot of challenges in regards to an increasingly secular society, [and] both churches are being transformed by their work with social justice issues, gender-based violence and climate change.”
Over the course of the weeklong trip, Hiltz and Bishop Francisco de Assiz da Silva, primate of Brazil, travelled around the dioceses of Amazonia and Brasilia and met with leaders, clergy and lay people in the Brazilian church, as well as with the Canadian ambassador and the secretary of state for human rights.
Hiltz said members of the Brazilian church, which is currently wrestling with questions regarding human sexuality, were very interested in hearing about how conversations around same-sex blessings have happened in Canada. There was also great interest in learning more about the Canadian church’s experience with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
“They were very interested in what I was able to share with them about our work with Indigenous peoples, and our Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the 94 Calls to Action, and the church’s response to those,” Hiltz said, noting that while Brazil does not have the same kind of residential school history as Canada, Indigenous peoples are still struggling to have their rights recognized.
“They have some of the same issues around wanting to be able to express their spirituality, their language, their cultures…but they have not had anything like a Truth and Reconciliation Commission…so when we met with that Indigenous council, they were very interested in that stuff.”
But Brazil also sees eye-to-eye with Canada when it comes to questions around the unity of the Anglican Communion, according to Hiltz.
“In the life of the Communion, Brazil would be in a similar kind of place to Canada-in the sense that we care about the Communion; we do our best to make a good contribution to the life and witness of the Communion; we’re concerned when we hear people talk about how broken the Communion is,” he said. “I would say their church and ours sing from a similar song sheet when it comes to the need for informed and respectful dialogue when we’re talking controversial matters.”
The Canadian and Brazilian churches have developed close ties over the years. Hiltz noted that in addition to past diocesan companion relationships involving Montreal and Ottawa, and the ones that currently exist between, respectively, the diocese of Huron and the diocese of Amazonia and the diocese of Ontario and the diocese of South-Western Brazil, there has been a lot of interaction between the churches over the years.
“We do have a long history with Brazil,” he said. “We’ve had volunteers in mission in Brazil; theological students have gone there for international internship programs; they’ve had students come here; and through PWRDF, we’ve had connections in Brazil, too.”
The visit has gone both ways: in October 2014, da Silva was at the national offices of the Canadian church and gave a talk at the synod of the diocese of Ontario about the church’s role in transforming the world.