General Synod not a priority

Published October 1, 2002

A survey conducted by the Environics consulting firm that describes how Canadian Anglicans feel about their church and details the issues they think important shows a troubled institution in which members have grown skeptical about the value of a national embodiment of the church.

Although the survey does not include statistics, it appears from the narrative that most respondents value their church primarily at the local level. Many appear to have little understanding of the work done at the national level and see the national church primarily as an organization that asks for money.

The survey, to be released next month, also shows that although Anglicans care about the residential schools crisis, they do so in terms of its financial impact on the church rather than in terms of the effects the schools had on native peoples. They also feel that the issue is out of their hands and now has to be settled by the courts. And they think that healing and reconciliation cannot begin until after the lawsuits are settled.

The survey was commissioned by General Synod as part of the ?intentional listening? process mandated at its last meeting in 2001, aimed at forming the basis for a new national plan for the church when the governing body next meets in 2004.

The survey is limited in its scope, attempting to assess the range of issues important to Anglicans rather than the weight attached to them by the people surveyed. (A second report due for release later this fall, will attempt to ?quantify? the opinions revealed in the first installment.)

The survey is based on 11 focus groups representing samples of clergy and laity from all four ecclesiastical provinces. In addition, the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, the Council of General Synod and a youth synod held in the diocese of Huron also participated.

The report stresses that the people involved in the focus groups value their faith community highly and want it to continue to exist. However, there is a considerable opinion to the effect that a national organization is not required for this to happen.

Part of the national church?s failing, the report says, is that it has not managed to communicate its own importance or the importance of its work to parishioners and priests.

In a section of the report that aims to synthesize key opinions common to all the groups surveyed, the Environics writer says: ?Clergy and parishioners expressed a need for communications, leadership and vision from the national church on issues both internal and external to the church.?

People who participated in the focus groups felt the national church should play a stronger role on issues of social justice; that it should act as a ?conduit for information sharing across Anglican communities of faith;? and that it should do more to communicate the value of the church?s diversity.

Most of all, the report adds, ?the Anglican Church of Canada needs to hurry up. The speed at which decisions and deliberations are made is, in many cases, unacceptable to individuals and church communities.?

Other than residential schools and the value of General Synod, participants in the study were also asked their views on a host of topics and issues of traditional interest to Anglicans.

On residential schools litigation, Environics found an awareness of the issue as it relates to its financial impact on the church, but little understanding of how the schools have impacted the lives of native people. Some communities are most sensitive to their own survival and would be willing to leave the national church to distance themselves from the financial consequences of the lawsuits.

Focus groups were held in Red Deer, Alta., Vancouver, Toronto and St. John?s, Nfld.

The Environics report will be published next month by the Anglican Book Centre under the title Stained Glass, Sweet Grass, Hosanna and Songs: A Snapshot of Anglican Issues and Visions in Canada.


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