Bishop Sebastian Bakare of Zimbabwe
GENERAL Synod got both sharp criticism and complimentary feedback from its visiting partners – people invited from the indigenous community, the ecumenical faith community, and from overseas to act as its “outside eyes and ears.”
The following is a sample of comments to synod during periods of time set aside for partners’ refletions.
Sr. Donna Geernaert, ecumenical officer for the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, used the approval of Anglican-Lutheran full communion to reflect on divisions between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.
No one, she added, should be surprised when long stretches of time pass without agreement between these two.
Noting that Anglican and Lutherans have never experienced a formal separation from one another (since the 16th century), “if it takes this long to work out an arrangement ?let’s not be surprised when it takes longer where there has been a formal separation (such as that between the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches.)”
Indigenous partner Laureen Plante from the diocese of Caledonia brought greetings from the Nisga’a Nation. While the residential schools stories need to be related, she said, “We must also talk about the positive side. I never encountered abuse, and felt privileged to have gone to school and to get an education.”
Partners do not vote at General Synod, but do participate in home groups, and regular discussions. They are asked to give feedback to the entire synod.
Dr. Gary Walsh, president of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, said the joint worship service between Anglicans and Lutherans made him think, “something global was going on.”
To laughter, he added that evangelicals often see Anglicans as “wooden in their worship, but after watching your primate dance around at the end of the Sunday service I will be taking a different story back.”
International partners took care to describe the culture, history and religious conditions in their home countries. Bishop Sebastian Bakare of the diocese of Manicaland, Zimbabwe, said he saw many parallels between “your first nations and the way my people in Zimbabwe were dispossessed.”
He spoke of his own childhood experience of being taken away with his parents to a reserve, and having to leave a screaming puppy behind. “Our colonial laws uprooted people from their culture, which led to split identity.” Education in Christian schools was an attempt to give the natives a new identity, Bishop Bakare said.
Commenting on the Canadian church, he said it “openly apologized and forgave, thereby giving room to heal.” In his country, the issue has never been addressed.