Examine mission of church, archbishop asks Anglicans

The Provincial Synod of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada gathered for its triennial meeting June 25-28.
The Provincial Synod of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada gathered for its triennial meeting June 25-28.
Published June 27, 2015

Archbishop Percy Coffin, metropolitan (senior bishop) of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada, on June 25 urged Anglicans to examine its mission in the 21st century and to look beyond maintaining the church as an institution.

“The greatest challenge for us, who live in interesting times, is to examine ourselves, examine the mission of the Church,” Coffin told about 40 members of the provincial synod who gathered for their triennial meeting here June 25-28.

[The Province of Canada includes the dioceses of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, Central Newfoundland, Western Newfoundland, Fredericton, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Montreal and Quebec.]

The time has come, Coffin said, for the church “to leave behind the shallow waters of maintaining the institution and launch out into the deep waters of evangelization.”

In order to become authentic, “the church needs to return to Jesus,” he said, adding that the church’s mission is “to manifest the deeds of Jesus.” The mission of Jesus in the world “is one of making the culture of the Good Samaritan our own, feeling as our own the pain of the oppressed, getting close to them and freeing them,” he added.

Coffin’s remarks came as the synod grappled with the question of whether it should maintain its governance structure or whether change is necessary. “Does our current structure support the current needs and ministry of the 21st century?” was a question posed to members during a group discussion held later. It is a question that has been echoed in other governance bodies as the church struggles with the reality of dwindling membership, declining finances and staying relevant in a secular society.

The church, Coffin said, “will stand a chance of converting the world not by argument but by example.” It has to “reach out to the displaced, the periphery, to the new missionary frontiers of the contemporary world,” he added.

While doctrinal issues are important, “people will be attracted by the humanity of Christians, the example of those who live by faith, those who radiate the joy of being fully human, fully alive,” said Coffin. “What if we exhibited such care and compassion as Jesus did? What if we reached out to people with such genuine interest that they sat up and took notice? What if we were seen, not as self-righteous and judgmental, but as a breath of fresh air? What if we came across as not having all the answers but as having doubts and fears?”

But a “culture of compassion” cannot be developed, “nor can we implicate ourselves in the reality of the suffering if we do not act out of love…as did the Good Samaritan,” said Coffin.

The church also cannot afford to close the door to dialogue, he said. “The church does not have nor ever had a monopoly on truth nor does it have the right to pontificate on matters, or hold positions denoting arrogance or superiority. Instead the church needs to look into the common arena, plainly and humbly, and share in the common search for truth.”

Editor’s note: A correction has been made to this story. The Province of Canada also includes the dioceses of Montreal and Fredericton.





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