At this year’s first meeting of the Council of General Synod (CoGS), members heard of progress made by leaders, committee members and staff of the Anglican Church of Canada towards goals established at General Synod 2019—and the ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has introduced new challenges in this triennium.
The one-day, online meeting was held on Zoom on Feb. 20, about halfway between the previous meeting of General Synod and the next, in 2022. The day began with remarks from Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, who briefly reflected on the pandemic’s impacts on Anglicans. “We got through Christmas, which was a challenge for many because so many of us were in full lockdown and unable to be with family and friends, and still living with all the uncertainties of COVID,” she said. A new year had brought with it a continuing shutdown. “But there is hope on the horizon,” Nicholls added.
As the day progressed, CoGS members heard several reports on how the church is working to develop plans and new structures for the future. Among the key topics reviewed were the church’s efforts at strategic planning, constitutional review and the further self-determination of the Indigenous church, all priorities that emerged at the previous General Synod.
Strategic Planning Working Group (SPWG) chair Judith Moses said the group had now received feedback from CoGS on the listening groups formed after the onset of the pandemic, and possible priorities for CoGS to consider. With this work complete, the SPWG had entered the second phase of its work, Moses said, which involves looking at the implications of these potential priorities.
Moses said that although a strategic plan similar to Vision 2019 will be “simply not possible” in 2022, Anglicans will receive an overarching plan for the national church.
Like the SPWG, Indigenous Ministries has seen changes in its work and plans, especially regarding this year’s Sacred Circle gathering, National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald said.
Its focus now, he said, is preparing the constitution and canons—the “covenant” and “way of life”—of the self-governing Indigenous church. Sacred Circle, he said, will meet online this summer—with a series of regional sacred circles also planned to allow discussion of these documents.
MacDonald also told CoGS of the pandemic-related deaths of several senior clergy involved in Indigenous ministry, which he called a “horrible situation.” He noted “that on a good day, we are stretched very thin.” Thus, the deaths have brought both grief and further constraints to ministry during the pandemic.
Other initiatives of Indigenous Ministries include its online gospel jams; work on gospel-based discipleship; lay ministers’ training and training for ordination; and support groups for youth suicide prevention, MacDonald said. Canon Murray Still, co-chair of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), reported on an ongoing partnership between ACIP and the Red Cross that had led to joint organizing of suicide prevention workshops, in Winnipeg and elsewhere.
CoGS, meanwhile, is reviewing the Anglican Church of Canada’s constitution. Chancellor Canon (lay) David Jones said that over the past year, CoGS has received five memoranda from the Governance Working Group (GWG) to flesh out what concerns and possible changes might emerge from the constitutional review proposed at General Synod 2019. GWG plans to bring to the May meeting of CoGS the proposals it might recommend for CoGS to take forward to General Synod in 2022, he said.
The council also passed a resolution extending thanks to Dale Drozda, who decided to withdraw from CoGS. Clare Urquhart will take Drozda’s place on the council.
The next meeting of CoGS was scheduled to take place on March 13, followed by a three-day meeting from May 7-9.