Episcopal Church of Cuba’s Bishop Griselda Delgado Del Carpio updated Canadian bishops on the struggles of the Cuban church at their spring meeting. Photo: Vianney Carriere
Is the Anglican Church of Canada making the best use of its resources for God’s mission? And what about General Synod? Is it time to review its powers, jurisdiction and authority? Should it be smaller?
Questions of structural reform dominated discussion at the meeting of the House of Bishops April 16 to 20 at Mount Carmel Spiritual Centre in Niagara Falls, Ont. “We are talking about more effective use of our resources, both human and financial, to do the work that God is calling us to do,” said Archbishop Fred Hiltz in an interview following the meeting.
Input from the House of Bishops will contribute to conversations coming up at Council of General Synod (CoGS) in May “as we move forward with Vision 2019," said the primate. Four bishops sit on CoGS.
In discussion of the role of General Synod, the bishops asked what this 350-member body can do for the life and witness of the Anglican Church of Canada that dioceses and parishes cannot. More clearly defining synod’s precise role and raison d’etre in 2012 would appear to be a good jumping-off point. "We work with a document that is many, many years old,” said Hiltz, asking, “Does that need to be examined and freshened up?"
Within the purview of this 350-member body are matters of doctrine, competencies and theological education, as well as Anglican relations with other churches in Canada, within the Anglican Communion and with other faith traditions. Will the synod’s membership be reduced? "There’s a strong chance," said Hiltz, but no number has been determined.
The bishops also heard reports on the Anglican Covenant process in Canada and the work that has yet to be done in preparing a progress report for this November’s meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in New Zealand.
Chancellor David Jones and National Anglican Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald provided an update on the Sacred Circle gathering scheduled for this summer and plans for the circle to consider the 2011 Mississauga Declaration. This manifesto of self-determination highlights the call of aboriginal peoples for self-governance, the righting of wrongs and the formation of new indigenous ministries within the church-perhaps even a fifth ecclesiastical province.
In other talks, the bishops broadened the discussion of eucharistic hospitality away from Open Table (in which some would allow non-baptized people to receive Holy Communion) to the larger context of Christian hospitality and discipleship. This culminated in the bishops asking the primate to set up a task force to explore Christian hospitality, initiation and formation. "The driving force is not to make a case for Open Table but to look at the bigger picture," said Hiltz, noting that the bishops want to be mindful of the way in which the Anglican church is engaged in conversations with other churches about the nature of the eucharist.
The primate’s working group will also include, theologians, indigenous people and experts in congregational development who will work on guidelines for presentation at the fall meeting of the house. "The bishops are taking this subject very seriously," said Hiltz.
The bishops also welcomed as their special guest Bishop Griselda Delgado Del Carpio, head of the Episcopal Church of Cuba. She briefed them on the opportunities and challenges for mission facing the church there, before visiting Cuba’s companion diocese of Niagara.