Canadians to sit on sidelines of meeting

Published June 1, 2005

General Synod staffer Dianne Izzard and General Secretary Jim Boyles sing between business sessions of the meeting of CoGS.

Mississauga, Ont.

Council of General Synod (CoGS) has instructed the Anglican Church of Canada’s representatives to “attend but not participate fully” in the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) scheduled in Nottingham, England next month.

“Our duly elected members of the Anglican Consultative Council will be in Nottingham for listening, learning and conversation but will not participate in the 2005 meeting,” CoGS said in a “message for the church” issued at the end of its meeting, held May 6 – 8. “We affirm our membership in the (ACC) and our rightful place within the Anglican Communion.”

The decision was made following a request by Anglican primates last February that the Canadian and American churches “voluntarily withdraw” from the ACC as a step towards restoring unity within an Anglican Communion fractured by the issue of same-sex blessings in New Westminster and the ordination of a gay bishop in New Hampshire.

Archbishop Andrew Hutch-ison, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said CoGS’ decision complies with the primates’ request, which was made in a communiqu© released at a February meeting in Northern Ireland. He said voluntary withdrawal did not necessarily mean total absence from the meeting since the North American churches were invited to send representatives to a “consultation” process (the primates called it a “hearing.”)

CoGS’ message also confirmed its financial commitment to support the ACC “despite the $415,000 cut to our budget.” (See related story). The 2005 budget provides for a $105,000 contribution to the ACC, plus $7,000 to support travel for Canadian members.

CoGS – the church’s governing body between triennial meetings of General Synod – also agreed to send representatives to the “consultation” at the ACC and asked the primate to name the participants.

Each church has been given 90 minutes to “set out the thinking behind the recent actions of their provinces” on human sexuality. The Episcopal Church in the United States (ECUSA) similarly voted last month to voluntarily withdraw its members from “official participation” in the Nottingham meeting but it said its members would be present “to listen to reports on the life and ministry we share across the Communion and to be available for conversation and consultation.”

“I’m pleased that we’re going. I thought I was hearing that we should not go at all,” said Sue Moxley, suffragan bishop of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island and the church’s episcopal (bishop) delegate to the ACC. “I think I’ve heard enough people’s concerns about having to make the symbolic gesture to the Communion, that we’ve heard (their concerns).”

Canon Allen Box, the clergy representative, said he was “quite comfortable” but “a little disappointed” about attending without full participation.

CoGS voted 20-12 to an amended motion affirming “the membership of the Anglican Church of Canada in the Anglican Consultative Council with the expectation that duly elected members attend but not participate fully in the June 2005 meeting of the Council.”

The original motion, submitted by Dean Peter Wall of the diocese of Niagara and Bishop Michael Ingham of the diocese of New Westminster, had urged CoGS to decline the primates’ request. Canon Robert Falby of Toronto and Archbishop John Clarke of Rupert’s Land introduced the amendment that recommended otherwise.

The vote was taken after presentations from various committees and interest groups, table group discussions, and a sometimes anguished debate on the merits of sending or not sending representatives to the ACC – the only international Anglican body where lay members are represented.

Mr. Falby said the church was “inviting rejection” of a position taken by primates discouraging cross-boundary interventions among provinces if it declined their request. “The communiqu© has to be read in whole, it’s not a menu where we can say we will participate in the hearing but reject the other parts,” he said.

Archbishop Hutchison urged CoGS to follow ECUSA’s “strategic decision to take the high road” by complying with the primates’ request. He said that he worried about the possibility of “our members taking their place at the table and some African delegates leaving the table.”

(A week and a half earlier, a senior Anglican Communion official had advised the Canadian church that the ACC would respect any decision reached by CoGS. Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, who was in Canada to attend part of a joint meeting of Canadian and American bishops, said, “the ACC always tries to respect various rules and processes of each province.”)

Bishop Ingham, however, warned that acceding to the primates’ request could open the floodgates to future demands. “There will be further requests to repent, to turn our backs on gays and lesbians,” he said.

He urged members of CoGS to assume the “prophetic role” he said God had set out for the Canadian church to play within the Anglican Communion. “I think we are living at a moment in history which probably none of us wants to choose but here we are,” he said. Bishop Ingham added that as a former member of the ACC he knew that unlike the primates’ meeting, the ACC “is more open and curious and has been less quick” to make judgments about human sexuality.

Archbishop Caleb Lawrence of Moosonee, meanwhile, said he struggled with his decision. “There’s absolutely no doubt that we have the right and the obligation to attend … But having the right to do it, does it mean it’s right to do it?” he wondered. Archbishop Lawrence said he felt that “in light of the communiqu©,” and for “pastoral reasons” it was best to withdraw from the ACC.

Rev. James Robinson of the diocese of Calgary spoke in favour of acceding to the primates’ request, saying that, “maybe the voice of prophecy is found not just in the wealthy north, maybe it is in the growing churches in the South.”

Archdeacon Dennis Drainville of the diocese of Quebec voted against withdrawal saying that the “breathing space” being called for by the primates was unnecessary. “Breathing space for what? The reality is there are those people who have already decided the issue.”

The Council was established in 1969 after the 1968 Lambeth Conference (a once-per-decade international meeting of bishops) decided the church needed a more representative body that could meet more frequently.

Each of the 38 Anglican provinces (self-governing churches that may include one or more countries) sends up to three members representing lay, clergy and bishops.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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