While General Synod’s strategic planning working group gathers feedback from across the church on Vision 2019, the Journal spoke with two senior church leaders for their reflections.
Archdeacon Michael Thompson, while not a member of the Vision 2019 task force, was engaged to write the document, and, as general secretary of General Synod since 2011, supervised the day-to-day workings of the national church for almost all of the time covered by the plan. Thompson says that among the virtues of Vision 2019 was its optimistic spirit, which still fuels the church.
“There was a kind of hopefulness to Vision 2019 that I don’t think has been betrayed,” he says. “People who are close to Vision 2019 say it established a kind of a mood and a direction for ministries of General Synod that continues to be valuable.”
Thompson says the church has made progress in some of the areas Vision 2019 outlined—and in other areas not included in the plan.
“I think there are some really bright spots in the fulfillment of Vision 2019; and I also think there are some ways in which we have done things that ought to have been in Vision 2019,” he says.
Among the church’s accomplishments, Thompson notes that in the decade since Vision 2019 was adopted, the Indigenous Anglican church has become much more prominent. And in 2017, after having created the new part-time position of church statistician, the church got a full set of statistics from the dioceses for the first time in many years, highlights of which were released this fall. Another “win,” he says, is the progress the church has made in bridge-building, despite the many differences that exist within the Anglican Church of Canada— which Thompson calls “more a quilt than a blanket.”
In this, Thompson says, former primate Archbishop Fred Hiltz and National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald set an important example, by working together “across very different formation and experiences of church, and of privilege and racism.”
“I think those two in particular held up for us an image of a church in which we would encounter one another’s strangeness as welcome diversity, and not as threat,” he says.
The church also accomplished some things that could have been foreseen but weren’t in Vision 2019, he says, such as its work on ecological justice, poverty and resource extraction.
Among the weaknesses of the plan, Thompson says, was an absence of “deep consultation and deep integration with diocesan ministries.” He says he hopes the church’s next strategic plan will engage the dioceses more fully. He also believes the church fell short of implementing the kind of restructuring envisioned by the plan (reductions of the number of committees, for example, proposed by a January 2013 consultation).
Thompson also says that, though he recognizes the church’s structure at the diocesan level is outside the jurisdiction of General Synod, important discussions about it may be necessary.
“It’s kind of thin ice for the general secretary of the General Synod to have a lot to say about something that really is a matter of diocesan and provincial jurisdiction, but I wouldn’t be the first person to notice that there are questions about whether the existing structures of dioceses, and the number of them, and how they’re constituted is…the most effective way to carry out God’s mission, and on that particular part of the land,” he says.
National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald praises both the concept and the execution of Vision 2019 as a valuable spur to the emergence of the self-determining Indigenous Anglican church.
“From an Indigenous perspective, which is I think the only one I can speak from with some authority, the plan was very good,” MacDonald says. “I remember when it was developed that goals for Indigenous ministry seemed, even to me, to be kind of far away. But after we had been in it for a few years, it seemed dead on.”
The goals Vision 2019 set out for Indigenous ministry in the church, he said, served both to encourage Indigenous Anglicans in their work toward self-determination, and also helped explain its importance to the broader church.
“Having that out there in front of people when some of the things that we were advocating for were challenging to people, we could point to the strategic planning of 2019 and say ‘Well, you know, this is what a broad spectrum of people in the church thought was a good idea.’ So I think it was helpful,” he says.
Vision 2019: A summary
- Develop leadership education for mission, evangelism and ministry
- Support ministry through the Council of the North
- Walk with Indigenous peoples on a journey of healing and wholeness
- Work toward peace and justice
- Engage young people in mutual growth for mission
- Enliven our worship
- Be leaders in the Anglican Communion and in ecumenical actions
- Create structures that work for the church now and for God’s mission
- Improve and enliven communications
- Keep an eye on statistical trends
- Gather financial resources to equip ministry across Canada
- Build bridges, not fences