Archbishop Andrew Hutchison addressed the two legislative bodies of ECUSA’s General Convention. He was among more than a dozen Canadian observers who attended the U.S. church’s national meeting in anticipation of the Canadian church’s General Synod in 2007.
A dozen or so visitors from the Anglican Church of Canada, including the primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, attended the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA) in various capacities and viewed the triennial meeting from a unique perspective.
As their American colleagues wrestled with such issues as homosexuality, conflict in the Middle East and the tragic history of American slavery, Canadians looking toward their General Synod in 2007 will also engage some of these issues, notably sexuality. ECUSA’s election of its first female presiding bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, also roiled some conservative waters.
Archbishop Hutchison addressed the convention’s two legislative bodies. He spoke to the bishops the day after the church chose Bishop Jefferts Schori, and shortly after Bishop Jack Iker, of Fort Worth (Tex.), who does not ordain women, said his diocese would seek “alternative primatial oversight” from the Archbishop of Canterbury.
“I welcomed the new presiding bishop and expressed concern that some members of the house found that extremely difficult. I reminded them that in 2004 we (the Canadian church) had a female candidate for primate and I have every reason to believe it will happen again in 2007,” Archbishop Hutchison said, referring to next year’s meeting of General Synod. Bishop Jefferts Schori’s election will probably not have a direct effect on next year’s primatial election in Canada, “but the fallout from it might give a few Canadians concern,” he said.
Archbishop Hutchison noted also that the Canadian church is “struggling” with the Windsor Report, an international document that made recommendations on how the worldwide church can remain in communion amid deep divisions over issues like sexuality. He said in an interview, “I also told them about the St. Michael Report (a report from the Canadian Primate’s Theological Commis-sion which declared same-sex blessings a matter of doctrine, but not core doctrine) and how we need to deal with that. We are watching this convention very carefully and seeing if we can learn something from their process, although we are in a very different space (concerning sexuality issues).”
Bishop Michael Ingham, of New Westminster, sat with the American house of bishops in their legislative sessions. He is the Canadian liaison who attends meetings of the church’s executive council, which governs the church between General Conventions. He was permitted to speak during the meeting, but had no vote.
Dean Peter Elliott of Vancouver’s Christ Church Cathedral sat in the house of deputies (clergy and lay delegates). Dean Elliott is also the prolocutor of General Synod, a position roughly equivalent to the Episcopal president of the house of deputies, Dean Werner; Dean Elliott had no vote.
In an interview, Bishop Ingham and Dean Elliott commented upon the agonizing sexuality debate and analyzed similarities and differences between the two churches in relation to their governing meetings.
In Columbus, crafting a response to the Windsor Report occupied days of lengthy deliberations and Bishop Ingham commented, “My sense is that the Episcopal Church wants to send a signal that they are very much members of the (international) Anglican Communion. They are trying to find a way to affirm Windsor as far as possible without retreating from their decisions.” The 2003 General Convention approved the election of openly-gay Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire and acknowledged that same-sex blessing ceremonies are taking place in some dioceses.
[pullquote]Canadian Anglicans who hold conservative views on homosexuality represented the Essentials group in Columbus as observers. They included Canon Charles Masters and Canon Mark McDermott of the diocese of Niagara, Rev. Brett Cane of Winnipeg and writer Michael Daley.
Following the ECUSA decision to respond to the Windsor Report by asking dioceses “to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of a candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church,” Essentials Canada said the move means the U.S. church intends to “walk apart” from the Anglican Communion. It also said ECUSA’s actions “have increased greatly our concern for the Anglican Church of Canada, which has also been called to address and respond to the recommendations of the Windsor Report at our General Synod in 2007.”
Compared to the Canadian synod, which usually attracts 400 to 450 delegates, exhibitors, journalists and guests, more than 7,000 people attended the American gathering, including 1,400 voting bishops, clergy and lay delegates.
Two houses – bishops and deputies (clergy and laity) – met separately and passed legislation separately, although they had to pass it in the same form. At the Canadian synod, bishops sit with their diocesan delegation in one house and resolutions are handled in a single setting.
Archbishop Hutchison’s principal secretary, Archdeacon Paul Feheley and the general secretary of General Synod, Archdeacon Michael Pollesel, also attended as observers.
Canadian Anglican women were represented by Canon Alice Medcof, co-ordinator of the International Anglican Women’s Network; Kathleen Snow, president of the Mother’s Union in Canada; and Heather Carr, president of Anglican Church Women.