International and local observers at General Synod not only brought greetings from their churches and organizations but most also commented to the gathering on the issue of human sexuality that has divided Anglicans in Canada and around the world.
In his remarks, Archbishop of York and primate of England John Sentamu urged delegates to exercise “gracious magnanimity” when dealing with the divisive issue of whether homosexual unions should be blessed by the church.
Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, urged Canadian Anglicans to “take time to stand back from the Anglican Communion” where the focus has been about schism over the issue of human sexuality. Instead, he urged them to “rejoice in the wonderful family of which we are all a part and to celebrate the wonderful ministry that is being done in many parts of the world.”
Canon Kearon, who has visited the Anglican Church of Canada on past occasions, said he was interested in General Synod’s discussion on the Windsor Report. That report, produced in 2004 by an international Anglican commission, outlined ways of healing rifts within the Anglican Communion over human sexuality. Among its recommendations was a moratorium on public rites of same-sex blessings and the election of homosexuals to the episcopate, as well as the adoption of a common Anglican Covenant. (Please see related story, Windsor)
Canon Kearon said one of the effects of the Windsor Report has been “to push us all to ask the questions, ‘what does being a member of the Anglican Communion mean to each one of us? Why do we think it should be valuable?” He noted that, “for some, membership in the Anglican Communion has become a frustrating encumbrance, but for others, especially those of you who have experienced other parts of the communion, it’s a wonderful gift of fellowship.”
He said that Anglicans should not be asking, “what do we have to do to stay in the Anglican Communion?” Rather, they should be asking, “how do I act responsibly to my fellow Christians in the body of Christ? And even more deeply, what does responsibility to my fellow Christians in the Body of Christ mean in our current context?”
Archbishop Sentamu said that to be “graciously magnanimous,” a church must have “a responsibility to both affirm moral standards and to ensure that its rules don’t seem rigorous to the point of inhumanity.”
Emilius Goulet, Archbishop of St. Boniface, brought greetings from the Roman and Eastern Catholic churches and assured Synod that the Roman Catholic church was committed to remaining in dialogue with the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Communion as it grapples with the difficulty issue of human sexuality.
The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church in the U.S., Katharine Jefferts Schori, did not make any references to the sexuality debate that her church is also dealing with, but simply said that she looked forward to “continued and growing partnership” with Canadian Anglicans. “I think we share a good deal more than a common border. I believe we share an increasing passion for mission in this wider church to those who are not well-represented in the halls of power,” she said.
Other overseas and local partners who addressed Synod were Karen Hamilton of the Canadian Council of Churches, Rev. Sonja Free of Evangelical Church in Canada, Gail Allen of the United Church of Canada, Susan Brown of the Canadian Conference of (Roman) Catholic Bishops, and Canon Petero Sabune of the Episcopal Church in the U.S.