Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, delivered a presidential address to the members of General Synod that offered snapshots of what’s happening in the church across the country, some of the challenges that lie ahead and the reasons why he is full of hope.
Hiltz began by sharing a few highlights from across the country. In Winnipeg, St. Matthew’s Anglican Church is transforming its historic buildings to include 25 units of affordable rental housing, a neighbourhood resource centre and a worship space.
The Northern Ontario Area Mission is asking this General Synod to consent to the creation of a new diocese in northern Ontario. “Hope abounds in these First Nations communities-the dream of the elders taking on flesh and bone and soul and spirit,” said the primate.
The primate travelled to the diocese of Edmonton when it launched its 100th centenary celebrations at Pentecost. About 1,300 Anglicans from across the diocese attended a praise and prayer event at the Winspear Centre concert hall in Edmonton.
Hiltz said he rejoices that the Five Marks of Mission “have become household language in the family of our church.” New generations of Anglicans will be able to learn about them in a new Sunday school curriculum, ?The Compendium of the Church Mice.’
He also praised the work of The Primate’s Commission on Theological Education, which has produced a report on the qualities, skills and charisms that can reasonably be expected of those called to priestly ministry. “I believe it holds great hope for consistency of standards across the church. I trust the Synod will heartily endorse the report and its several recommendations. ”
Also in keeping with decisions from General Synod 2010, the primate said he convened a national consultation to “identify desirable changes in the structures of the General Synod, that would enable the national church to effectively carry out its national and international ministries.” That consultation was held in January and facilitated by Janet Marshall. The report from a steering group, “Embodying God’s Call,” is to be presented to General Synod.
Hiltz paid tribute to all those who serve in the north. “While all our ministries across the whole church are sacrificial in nature, those who serve in the north make particular sacrifices. They live with challenges in geography, huge distances between communities, issues associated with isolation, the high cost of food, particularly perishable food and numerous social challenges. Bishops and clergy receive a bare minimum stipend. Many clergy receive no stipend. I can only stand in awe of their deep devotion to Christ, their labours of love among those they serve.”
The primate said he thought there is still some distance to go, but he believes the church is making “good progress” in walking with indigenous peoples.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the church’s apology for its role in running Indian residential schools. National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald and the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples have advised the primate on ways to mark the anniversary. Plans are being made to pay tribute to Archbishop Michael Peers “for his leadership, which was truly humble and holy, compassionate and courageous, far-sighted and firm. He set us on a trajectory toward healing and reconciliation from which we have not, nor ever will, turn back,” Hiltz explained.
The primate said he is also prepared to establish a commission that will follow through on actions associated with the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery by General Synod 2010, but that he has prayerfully discerned that the mandate should be broadened. The primate said the commission should also examine a question posed by Truth and Reconciliation Commission chair Justice Murray Sinclair to all parties in the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, “What is reconciliation?” It should also consider “the church’s commitment to addressing longstanding injustices borne by indigenous peoples in Canada” and racism within our society.