General Synod has overwhelmingly approved five priorities or “transformational aspirations” prepared by the Strategic Planning Working Group (SPWG) to serve as the basis for the Anglican Church of Canada’s new strategic plan.
Members voted June 29 in favour of an amended version of Resolution A102, by which General Synod received with gratitude the SPWG’s report and adopted the five transformational aspirations as “transformational commitments to guide planning, priority-setting, resource allocation and collaboration with provinces and dioceses in the 2023-25 biennium.” The resolution also directed Council of General Synod to establish a group for implementation.
As adopted by General Synod, the five transformational aspirations call for the Anglican Church of Canada to be a church that “invites and deepens life in Christ”; “champions the dignity of every human being; works to dismantle racism and colonialism”; “embraces mutual interdependence with the Indigenous church (Sacred Circle)”; nurtures right relationships among people of faith in local, national and global communities and networks”; and “stewards and renews God’s creation; protects and sustains the earth; pursues justice for all.”
SPWG chair Judith Moses moved the original version of Resolution A102 for discussion and a vote. Bishop Sandra Fyfe of the diocese of Nova Scotia and P.E.I. proposed an amendment to clarify that General Synod was adopting the five transformational aspirations “as transformational commitments.”
Fyfe said her amendment was based on a discussion the previous day regarding a motion on anti-racism, which she said highlighted “the need for clarity in our language so that we are indicating that we plan to move forward and we are committed to action rather than continuing explanation.” The amendment passed.
Debate followed as members spoke for and against the amended resolution and five transformational aspirations, the product of nation-wide consultations by the SPWG.
Opponents included the Rev. Jesse Zink of the diocese of Montreal, who said he agreed with a fellow member of General Synod who had described the aspirations to him as “inoffensive.” Zink added, “I do not see in these transformational commitments the kind of rough edge that the gospel brings that this society so desperately needs to hear.”
Others not in favour of A102 included Dean Iain Luke of the diocese of Saskatchewan, who noted the similarity of the strategic planning outcome to the Five Marks of Mission; and Bishop David Parsons of the diocese of the Arctic, who said his diocese already had strategic plans.
“Respectfully, we do not have the time or resources to do what the national church wants,” Parsons said, adding, “We are the Anglican Church of Canada and we are seeking to be faithful to the call of God upon our lives. In our hopes and aspirations, we do not want to be deterred and distracted from what we’re already doing.”
The Rev. Molly Finlay of the diocese of Toronto, meanwhile, spoke in favour of Resolution A102. “I think it is a wonderful plan and I want to thank [the SPWG] for the hard work that you have done in putting this together,” Finlay said. She highlighted the centrality of the aspiration to be a church that “invites and deepens life in Christ.”
Bishop Stephen London of the diocese of Edmonton also spoke in favour of the resolution, praising its content as “evangelistic.”
“I think every generation of the church has themes, themes that it takes very seriously,” London said. “What does it mean to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ in this day and in this time?” The themes outlined in the transformational aspirations, he said, are the themes “Jesus is calling us to,” the themes he had heard at the Lambeth Conference, in the World Council of Churches and in his own diocese.
“These are the themes that we are committing to—that this is what gospel life looks like,” London added. “In our diocese, many people who come to the church, they want the church to speak about these issues, to show that they care about the world that we live in. That’s why I’m voting in favour of this, because these resonate so strongly with what we’re doing in Edmonton. I think this is what the love of Jesus looks like in our day and time.”
The resolution required a simple majority to pass. In the end the vast majority of General Synod members voted in favour of A102 in its amended version, with a small number voting against.
Following the vote Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, thanked the SPWG and said 2019-2023 had been an “extremely difficult quadrennium” in light of challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Trying to ask for the kind of definitive strategic plan at a time when people were worried about survival, about their jobs, about life, was a challenge at a time when we could not define what resources would be available and what the church would look like on the other side of the pandemic,” Nicholls said.
She also thanked those who offered criticisms and acknowledged that dioceses would need to work out the transformational aspirations in their own local contexts.
“Each diocese will need to discern how these aspirations assist and connect with your own strategic plans and goals,” the primate added. “But these will help us as a national staff to set those particular priorities in the work that is done on your behalf and to support the work you are doing.” Criticisms of the SPWG, she said, would be “good comments for the Council of General Synod to consider as it moves forward.”