Meltdown in Montreal

Published July 1, 1998

In nine days of meeting on McGill University campus here at the end of May, the Anglican Church’s chief governing body approved legislation bringing the church closer to Lutherans and opposing euthanasia and cloning.

Under sweltering conditions, the church expressed support for partner churches in several oppressed or war-torn countries.

In the first meeting it has held in Montreal in 30 years, the 300-member General Synod also spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on “nation and identity” and on what it means to be a minority voice in a society as diverse as Canada’s.

The theme of this synod – Lift Every Voice … Faisons entendre nos voix – was meant to help members focus on those who are often ignored or unheard.

In his opening address, Archbishop Michael Peers, the Primate, set the tone when he told delegates that one of the least heard voices in the Canadian Anglican church was that of French Canada.

Synod members spent a whole evening listening to panel members representing different voices or geographical parts of the country speak about what it means to be a part of the Canadian whole.

Synod also heard a presentation from Indigenous church members, a group that is working on a plan to give Natives greater autonomy in the church.

Host bishop Andrew Hutchison of Montreal delivered a major address in which he expressed the difficulties involved in leading a church that represents a very small number of Anglophones in an overwhelmingly Francophone province.

In his speech, Bishop Hutchison argued that while the church has no mandate to play a role in partisan politics, it is bound by conscience to take strong positions on matters involving principles such as peace, justice and reconciliation.

Synod members took his words to heart, passing more than a dozen resolutions affirming the Canadian church’s stand against oppression, injustice, violence and war in several parts of the world.

Through some of these resolutions, the church offered expressions of solidarity to partner churches and the people of Kenya, Sudan and Columbia who suffer from war or political oppression.

They asked the church’s ecojustice committee to produce resources to help congregations “study the Just War theory and its implications for Christian response to war and militarism.”

Members also called on the federal government to initiate broad public consultation whenever it negotiates multilateral agreements on investment and trade and to consider the implications of such pacts, especially on the most disadvantaged members of society such as the elderly, very young and Indigenous peoples.

Synod also asked the Prime Minister to apologize to Inuit displaced from traditional hunting areas on the east coast of Hudson Bay and Baffin Island to the High Arctic in the 1950s.

In the area of social policy, General Synod said it could not support euthanasia or assisted suicide, referring to such measures as “a failure of human community.”

The church also called on Ottawa to prohibit the cloning of human beings.

The resolution with likely the broadest impact for the Anglican community was one commending a study report urging full communion in the year 2001 between Anglicans and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.


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