Primate urges new focus for Canadian church

Published November 1, 2007

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, is urging Canadian Anglicans to find a balance between addressing issues that “consume us internally” such as human sexuality and those that call them to “serve the needs of the world.”

“We can’t allow one side of the scale to consume our energy,” Archbishop Hiltz told members of the Council of the North during its fall meeting, which he attended for the first time since his election as primate (national archbishop) last June. “What are we as a church doing about poverty, AIDS, justice, peace and ecology? Do we have a voice in Canadian society and the world?”

[pullquote]The primate suggested that Canadian Anglicans have been too focused on issues of sexuality, unity and governance. He said that during his recent travels since assuming the primacy, he sensed that “people are at a point in their lives where they are really committed to being a church that makes a difference in the world.” He added: “As someone wrote recently, they hope that the bishops, clergy and laity of the church would claim an authority that’s grounded and rooted in the compassion of Jesus. That’s where I’d like to see us go.”

In an interview, Archbishop Hiltz said he intends to steer the church in this direction, particularly during meetings of the house of bishops and the Council of General Synod, the church’s governing body between the triennial meetings of General Synod. “If I have some input, which I trust I will, let’s have an agenda that addresses the important internal issues within the church and let’s balance that with other important issues that we are called to address as Gospel people.”

Archbishop Hiltz also said that he intends not just to chair these meetings but also to “build a pastoral relationship” with people. He added that a “planning study” at the church’s national office in Toronto would help identify the church’s short-term and long-term goals.

The primate also pledged his support for the Council of the North, a grouping of financially-assisted dioceses, saying he would exercise “a ministry of presence, promotion and prayer.”

He told the council gathering, “In your report to General Synod, I couldn’t help but be moved by the challenges that you’re facing – harsh climates, sparse populations, diminishing resources, and high incidence of exhaustion among clergy.” He said it is evident that the church is committed to continuing the ministry of the church in the North, citing General Synod’s support for resolutions guaranteeing steady funding for the next five years and allowing it to conduct its own fundraising efforts.

Archbishop Hiltz said that he was in for a “steep learning curve” when it comes to the Council of the North. He would like to learn more about the council’s relationship with the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP).

“What’s the interplay between the council and ACIP?” he wondered, noting that the territory that both groupings cover “is in the same piece of geography.” He said that he wanted some clarity about the role and functions of groups and “how they are complementary; how they work for the good of the church.” (Please see related story, p. 8.)

Archbishop Hiltz said that he has also been in discussions with the National Anglican Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald about his (MacDonald’s) “emerging role and function, how he relates to the council, ACIP and diocesan bishops” and “how he can be a resource in these challenging times.”

Archbishop Hiltz also intends to make visits to the Council of the North dioceses a priority during his term. The Council includes the dioceses of the Arctic, Athabasca, Brandon, Caledonia, Cariboo, the deanery of Labrador (in the diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador), Keewatin, Moosonee, Quebec, Saskatchewan, Yukon and the parishes of the Central Interior (formerly known as the diocese of Cariboo).

Archbishop Hiltz also announced that he will travel to England’s Lambeth Palace where he will meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on Oct. 16, his first time as primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.

“There’s a custom around new primates having that opportunity to meet with the Archbishop of Canterbury,” said Archbishop Hiltz. “It will be an opportunity for me to reflect with him on the events around General Synod.” Archbishop Hiltz will also visit the Anglican Communion office and meet with Canon Gregory Cameron, deputy secretary general of the Anglican Communion.


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