At its inaugural meeting last fall, the Council of General Synod (CoGS) elected last summer, wrestled with how to continue guiding the church through the residential schools crisis as well as with contingency plans if negotiations with Ottawa fail.
CoGS approved a hold-the-line budget for 2002 and heard that General Synod will, in all likelihood, remain solvent until at least the end of 2002.
Archdeacon Jim Boyles, General Secretary of General Synod, reported to CoGS that although they are continuing, negotiations with the federal government have been a “pretty discouraging enterprise.”
CoGS, which governs the church between the triennial General Synods, meets twice a year.
Next steps are being planned in case negotiations fail, Mr. Boyles said. Dean Peter Elliott of the diocese of New Westminster is heading up a task force to develop an alternative Anglican proposal to present to government if the talks fall apart.
“The task force will also make clear the implications should the government fail to respond, and the General Synod exhaust its reserves on litigation,” Mr. Boyles said.
Members agreed to continue a mandate given to the officers of General Synod to make decisions on the future of the church. The officers were given decision-making powers over residential schools litigation, negotiations with the federal government and the church’s financial viability.
The officers were also authorized to continue negotiations and approve agreements connected with the redevelopment of the national office property, which has been sold.
In other matters, CoGS:
.Approved a study on clergy and staff wellness, and created a new task force to ensure implementation of a new statement of principles, approved at General Synod, on church treatment of parishioners and staff. The wellness study will be led by Bishop Fred Hiltz, the newly elected diocesan bishop of Nova Scotia. Bishop Hiltz heads up a task group already charged with studying support and training for ordained people in the first five years of ministry. The group will report at the next CoGs meeting next May.
.Another task group was approved to develop a program to help dioceses implement a statement of principles on Dignity, Inclusion and Fair Treatment (DIFT) approved at General Synod. DIFT is a declaration of principles on how the church treats parishioners and employees. Each diocese is expected to implement the principles and report back to General Synod in 2004. The first two members of the task group will be prolocutor Dorothy Davies-Flindall and Alison Bent, a member of the group that formulated the principles.
. CoGs approved a motion to continue funding support for ministry normally handled by the diocese of Cariboo, which was expected to wrap up administrative operations at the end of December, by directing responsibility to the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon.
. It approved a motion naming a small task group with indigenous and non-indigenous participants to study direct indigenous representation in national church government.
. A project to disperse information resource binders to be prepared and sent to key contacts in every diocese was affirmed. Binders were chosen because many indigenous communities in Canada do not have access to fax or email. The binders are designed to help parishes and dioceses establish a new relationship with native Anglicans based on justice and healing. Binders will include a list of videos for loan or purchase, and a list of people with skills and expertise in non-adversarial decision-making processes.
. CoGs passed a motion to commend the Volunteers in Mission program to the Canadian dioceses. (The program has suffered a drop in numbers of volunteers applying for the overseas program due to fears over national church bankruptcy.)
. A motion to “call upon all dioceses to encourage regular prayer for the leadership and members of the Canadian Forces and their families” and for their chaplains, was passed.
. CoGS agreed that the Primate’s World Relief and Development fund, now separately incorporated, will have an observer at all future meetings.