Primate calls for church to show ‘humble humanity,’ practice ‘good disagreement’ in marriage canon discussions

“There is, in truth, a continuing place for everyone in this church,” Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, told CoGS November 23. Photo: Tali Folkins
Published November 23, 2018

Mississauga, Ont.

The church should embrace a “humble humanity” and a “way of living together that is more respectful of our dignity as children of God,” Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said Friday in a report to Council of General Synod (CoGS).

The primate, who will step down in July, said the phrase was drawn from an address given by Archbishop Suheil Dawani, of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, during a 10-day trip to Jerusalem Hiltz took three weeks previously. Dawani spoke of Jesus as God incarnate, taking on human likeness “in order to teach us the divine concept of our true humanity,” said Hiltz. “It is a picture far removed from all hatred and envy. It is a humanity that is loving and sacrificial towards others. It is a humble humanity.”
Hiltz, who opened the meeting which runs November 23 to 25, said this concept of humble humanity is “the real hope for any advancement” of sustainable development goals such as poverty and hunger reduction, clean water and sanitation, gender equality, responsible consumption and production and economic growth.

Hiltz also related this ideal to his hope that the Anglican Church of Canada would practice “good disagreement” in upcoming discussions of the proposed amendment to the marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriage, which will be discussed at CoGS and then be subject to a vote during General Synod in July 2019.

“In good Christian disagreement, no one is made to feel their position is of no value.

No one feels belittled. No one feels walked over and no one feels pushed out,” said Hiltz. “There is, in truth, a continuing place for everyone in this church.”

Hiltz also said that he had observed “huge efforts being made” to listen more intently to one another in regards to the proposed amendment. “It is my observation, and maybe I have rose-coloured glasses, but I think people are a little less harsh. I think we’re just a little less strident. I think we’re less quick to label, less quick to belittle, less quick to judge and dismiss,” said Hiltz. “I think people in our church are looking for a way ahead that honours a variety of perspectives on this matter, that allows us to be together as one family.”

Hiltz also spoke about the upcoming meeting of the primates of the Americas and the Caribbean, scheduled for later this month in Toronto. Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is expected to attend. That meeting, one of several gatherings of primates that will take place around the world, will help shape the subjects to be discussed at the upcoming Lambeth Conference in Canterbury in 2020.

“I take the Canadian contribution to that conversation very seriously,” said Hiltz. “The Lambeth Conference is for all the bishops, not for the primates to shape the agenda.” At the House of Bishops meeting in October, Hiltz said, Canadian bishops gave input into the topics they would like to see discussed, which included intentional discipleship, “living more gracefully with difference,” human trafficking, gender-based violence and the environment.

The primate provided a report of his activities since the last meeting of CoGS, noting that he had visited 10 dioceses and attended three provincial synods, five episcopal ordinations and the installation of two new metropolitans.

Hiltz also noted the launch of the Heartbeat of the Church initiative in September, saying that “the take-up…has been generally very good,” and that he hopes to see a surge of people using the conversation tool in the Advent season.


  • Joelle Kidd

    Joelle Kidd was a staff writer for the Anglican Journal from 2017 to 2021.

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