Change and challenges

By on June 1, 2004

This is my first message to you as the 12th primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, still very much in the wake of the General Synod in St. Catharines, Ont. It is a time of radical transition, both personally, and in the life of our church. After 14 years as bishop of Montreal, I find myself, with my wife Lois, preparing for a move to Toronto, and the beginning of a new life and ministry. “See, I make all things new” was the theme of General Synod, and already that has a very personal ring to it in our household.

But that is also an emerging reality in the household of faith. The once familiar Church House at 600 Jarvis St. is no more. As I write, the national staff is on the move to a new headquarters at 80 Hayden St. And there are changes in the staff that will occupy our new home. Our long-time treasurer, Jim Cullen, moves into retirement this summer, and we welcome Peter Blachford as his successor. Rev. Michael Thompson has moved back into parish ministry in the diocese of Niagara. I am fortunate to welcome in his place Archdeacon Paul Feheley of the diocese of Toronto, as principal secretary to the primate. If change brings challenge, it also brings new energy and fresh ideas – “See, I make all things new.”

General Synod has set aside a decision on same-sex blessings to permit further study. This allows time to hear the outcome of the Lambeth Commission, and time for our own reflection on whether such a change is a matter of doctrine or not. The church across the country is encouraged to continue the dialogue. In the meantime, as a message of affirmation to those who will be distressed by the delay, the synod passed an amendment to its original motion in effect giving sanctuary and recognition to Anglicans now living in same-gender relationships. The choice of words in that amendment is offensive to many conservatives. The motion, however, which “affirms the sanctity and integrity” of relationships, was presented, we were assured, with no doctrinal or theological intent, but as a pastoral statement. It does not change the resolve of synod to defer a decision until 2007. I would urge you, as did nine bishops in a letter they intend to send to the church, not to walk away from this issue, but to stay with it and involve yourselves in the dialogue as it moves towards resolution in 2007.

Clearly there are other issues of enormous importance before us, though they attract little media attention. The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund presented the synod a major challenge in a moving address by Stephen Lewis on the AIDS pandemic and its devastating effects on the African continent. The archbishop of Capetown challenges the church for its negligence in responding to date.

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General Synod welcomed a challenging new framework for the mission and ministry of our church, together with a long-range funding proposal – Letting Down the Nets. It was introduced in an imaginative video by 22-year-old Tim Morgan. The involvement of youth, and the challenge of youth were much in evidence in the synod, causing Bishop Duleep de Chickera of Sri Lanka to comment “(They) spoke as the voices of 8th century prophets.” The synod also affirmed our continuing walk with indigenous Anglicans towards a new relationship of mutual responsibility. “See, I make all things new.”

Seldom has a synod been so widely prayed for as this one meeting in the days surrounding Pentecost – the celebration of God’s first gift to the church, the Holy Spirit. Pray that the Spirit will lead us into truth, and empower us to live into our resolve to proclaim the Lord who does indeed make all things new.

The world awaits!

Archbishop and Primate

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