CoGS members reflect on role of laity, Indigenous justice

Katie Puxley says lay Council of General Synod members face barriers to participation in national church governance. Photo: André Forget
Katie Puxley says lay Council of General Synod members face barriers to participation in national church governance. Photo: André Forget
Published November 24, 2016

Mississauga, Ont.

The Anglican Church of Canada needs to recognize the unique challenges lay people face in participating in church at the national level, Katie Puxley told Council of General Synod (CoGS) in her November 20 reflection.

“It is extremely difficult for people who are not clergy to be here, and there are a lot of young people here who are making sacrifices to be present,” Puxley, a CoGS member from the ecclesiastical province of Canada said. “It is so important for laity to be raised up and given a place at the table.”

Puxley’s comments came during a reflection session on the final afternoon of the first CoGS meeting of the 2016-2019 triennium, in which four members were asked to reflect on how the meeting had gone.

Puxley noted that she has had to put in extra work in order to get time off for CoGS, because she had already spent her vacation time for the year on General Synod. Though she was asked to serve on a committee, she does not have the vacation time to participate at the extra meetings and had to decline.

She added that this is especially true for young CoGS members, who are still in the early stages of their careers.

Moreover, while she appreciated the sense of openness and fellowship she experienced at CoGS, she felt the preponderance of clergy present (11 of the council’s 26 elected members are in holy orders) meant members were assumed to have a base level of knowledge about the bodies, structures and organization of the national church.

Puxley suggested a resource be made available to give first-time lay members a background that could inform the work they are being asked to do.

In addition to voicing her concerns about the role of laypeople in the church, Puxley commented on the importance of the work being done by the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), and in particular, on the need for adequate and appropriate translation of worship materials into Indigenous languages.

This theme that also came up in the reflections of Bishop Larry Robertson, of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon, Canon (lay) Grace Delaney, of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, and the Rev. David Burrows, also of the ecclesiastical province of Canada.

Robertson, bishop of the diocese of Yukon, spoke passionately about his excitement over Indigenous Anglicans’ movement toward establishing a self-determining Indigenous church.

“I can’t say there isn’t fear or trepidation, but I can tell you how much I rejoice,” he said.

Robertson, who spent most of his more than 40 years of ministry working in the North, added that Indigenous people have much to teach the rest of the church about being Christian.

“Many of the northern or Indigenous values are more in line with the values of Christ than the individualistic values that I have experienced in lots of southern Canada,” he said. “I don’t know why people get so upset about adopting cultural customs into the Christian faith-we’ve been doing it for 2,000 years.”

Burrows also spoke of the importance of translation, recalling the years he spent as a child in the diocese of the Arctic listening to the gospel read in Inuktitut. However, the focus of his own reflection was on how much less divided council seemed compared to General Synod.

“Why does it happen here, in this gathering, as opposed to every other place we gather as church? There [are] no regional, geographic, theological or cultural identifiers…we acknowledge each other, and we interact with each other,” he said. “We are integrated and interrelated.”

Burrows acknowledged that the fact that council members were not required to vote “yes” or “no” on issues, but used a consensus-based model of decisions making, might have accounted for the sense of unity he experienced.

Delaney, who serves in the largely Indigenous diocese of Moosonee, compared this meeting of CoGS with her first experience on the council years before, and said the 2016 council meeting had been “very relaxing.”

She added that while patience is still required in dealing with differences in the Anglican Church of Canada, she felt the church is reaching a critical point in its ability to embrace difference.

“I am actually seeing and feeling in this circle the heartbeat of reaching a time and beginning of a journey of mutual respect and honouring one another, and a respecting of our own ethnicities and cultures which our Creator destined us to be a part of, and having the willingness to share and see one another as Christ’s,” she said.


  • André Forget

    André Forget was a staff writer for the Anglican Journal from 2014 to 2017.

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