House of bishops’ ‘message to the church’ covers wide range of topics

Published April 24, 2009

Niagara Falls, Ont.
The Canadian house of bishops, at the end of its five-day spring meeting, issued a “message to the church” stating that it had discussed a range of topics including mission, the effects of the current economic crisis in their communities, residential schools, and, in the lead up to the 2010 General Synod, the issue of same-sex blessings.

The bishops also stated, “with regret,” that clergy and laity who are members of the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC) “should not be given permission to exercise a leadership role in the Cursillo movement of the Anglican Church of Canada.” (The ANiC includes clergy and laity who have left the Canadian Anglican church because of theological differences over sexuality and other issues.)

The bishops said they were stating their opinion in response to a “call for clarification” from the National Cursillo Secretariat. “It was noted that diocesan bishops have the authority to decide who may serve on Cursillo teams,” they said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury “has stated in writing that his office and the Anglican Communion Office recognize one ecclesial body in Canada as a constitutive member of the communion, the Anglican Church of Canada,” they added. “We affirm this statement. We cherish our communion with the See of Canterbury and remain committed to the life and witness of the Anglican Communion in the service of the Gospel.”

The bishops’ discussions on same-sex blessings were held “in camera” (behind closed doors). The bishops merely stated in the message that they had “reviewed motions by General Synod 2007 concerning same-sex blessings.” At that meeting, General Synod delegates voted to seek further study on the issue of “whether the blessing of same-sex unions is a faithful, Spirit-led development of Christian doctrine.” They also voted to study revising the marriage canon (church law) to allow Anglican priests to marry all legally qualified persons. Marriage for gay couples has been legal in Canada since 2005.

In an open session, the bishops were informed of an initiative to link some Canadian dioceses with some African dioceses for dialogue around the issue of sexuality. The links are being established by Canon Isaac Kawuki-Mukasa, co-ordinator for dialogue, ethics, congregational development and inter-faith relations for the Anglican Church of Canada’s faith, worship and ministry department.”

The bishops noted that the establishment of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) “has been delayed for a long time by both procedural and internal difficulties,” and expressed “the strong desire that the commission’s hearings can begin soon.” They also noted concerns that the TRC hearings be “comprehensive and that they include former staff and all former students who wish to tell their stories.”

The bishops said they were “committed to encouraging our congregations to offer their prayers and every possible support to those affected by loss of employment and income.” They urged governments at all levels “not to lose sight of their commitment to the most vulnerable in society, including the working poor, women and children in poverty, and the homeless.”

Several bishops indicated that the global economic meltdown has affected some dioceses. The bishop of New Westminster said his diocesan synod office has had to lay off four of its 17 staff because its investment income declined sharply. The bishop of Caledonia, Bill Anderson, also talked about lay offs in his diocesan office.

The bishops said it had focused the first part of its meeting, held at the Mt. Carmel Spiritual Centre, discussing mission, with the help of Ellie Johnson, former director of the partnerships department at the church’s national office. Ms. Johnson guided the bishops in several reflections and exercises in small Bible study groups. “Our conversations helped us to see how we as bishops can help to ‘light a fire in people’s hearts so that they too become active in mission.’”

The bishops received briefings on planned initiatives by the department of philanthropy, youth ministry, the ministry of the Bishop Ordinary to the Canadian Forces, the ministry to seafarers, the 50th anniversary of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), and the Fresh Expressions Canada initiative that “presents the Gospel in new context.”


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