Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has urged Canadian Anglicans to remember that while there is “great tension” in the church over issues of sexuality, “there is far more that draws us together than can ever tear us apart.”
In a New Year’s Day sermon at Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa, Archbishop Hiltz also drew attention to other issues involving the church, including reconciliation efforts with Canada’s aboriginal peoples, the plight of non-stipendiary priests, the church’s mission in the North and its commitment to Full Communion with Lutherans as well as to dialogue with other faiths and denominations.
“I think particularly of those who serve in the most remote and isolated areas of Canada, where pastoral demands are very high and resources so very limited. In making known the Lord’s healing love and peace, they are, ‘modest, humble and constant in their labours,’ often to the point of exhaustion,” Archbishop Hiltz said. “Many of them exercise their ministry without stipend; they are indeed among the exemplary of the servants of the Lord in this land.”
Archbishop Hiltz announced that he was joining church leaders from other denominations in a Sacred Walk to raise awareness about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that will be established by the federal government as part of the revised Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Anglicans are hosting the event in Vancouver in conjunction with a meeting of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), he said.
Archbishop Hiltz also urged Canadian Anglicans to look beyond challenges facing the church and address issues affecting the world, including poverty, peace, and injustice.
Like many people around the world, the primate said, “we are horrified by the assassination of Benazir Bhutto on December 27, just 12 days before national elections were to take place in Pakistan. A champion of democracy, she was a woman of great courage whose ‘duty became her passion.’ We join, especially with Canadians of Pakistani origin in offering prayers for Bhutto, her family and the people she desired to serve.”
The primate also asked the faithful to remember the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces serving on peacekeeping missions abroad, particularly in Afghanistan. “However one feels about our continuing presence there, three things must be acknowledged,” he said. “First, the courage and commitment of those who serve; second, the struggle and worry of their families; third, the recognition by all Canadians of the loss of life.”
Archbishop Hiltz noted that as of Jan. 1, 74 Canadian soldiers have died, and many more “will suffer for life the trauma of their experience in Afghanistan.” He also paid tribute to Peter Coffin, the Bishop Ordinary to the Armed Forces, and to the chaplains who tend to the spiritual needs of soldiers and their families.
On the issue of sexuality, which has deeply divided Anglicans not just in Canada but around the world, Archbishop Hiltz urged Canadian Anglicans to remember that they are drawn together by the commonly-held Instruments of Communion – the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lambeth Conference, the primates’ meeting, and the Anglican Consultative Council. “To these four, Canadian priest and liturgist Paul Gibson has suggested a fifth – not legislated but real – the Eucharist,” he said. “I would also add the Cycles of Prayer used within dioceses, provinces and the Communion; companion diocese relationships that span the globe; and churches acting together in relief, development, and justice work throughout the world.”
Archbishop Hiltz said he was “convinced that in Canada we are discussing the matter of the blessing of same-sex unions in a manner that is comprehensive and respectful of diversity of perspective.”
While it was “regrettable” that some members have left the church because of the issue, Archbishop Hiltz noted that, “a great many more, even in the midst of personal struggle, choose to remain within our fellowship.” He stressed that, “It is important that we recognize and honour their intentions.”
(The Anglican Province of the Southern Cone has indicated that it would welcome conservative Canadian congregations in “serious theological dispute” with their dioceses over homosexuality. Two retired Canadian bishop recently resigned their orders and joined that province under Archbishop Gregory Venables.)
Archbishop Hiltz also talked about the upcoming Lambeth Conference, the decennial meeting of the world’s Anglican bishops scheduled July 16-Aug.4 in Canterbury, England.
“My hope and prayer is that in the midst of tensions over sexuality and unity, we will remain focused on the missional role of those called to apostolic ministry,” he said. “For this call to be Christ-centered and mission-minded, I ask the prayers of the whole church.”
In the six months since he began his primacy in June, Archbishop Hiltz said that he has visited many dioceses and has seen “evidence of the very things that Canadian priest and evangelist Harold Percy names as marks of the vitality in the church: visionary leadership, inspirational worship, training for discipleship, authentic community and loving outreach.”
He recalled the Sesquicentennial Celebration in the diocese of Huron to mark the 150th anniversary of the election and consecration of Huron’s first bishop, Benjamin Cronyn. He noted that 9,000 Anglicans had gathered to join the house of bishops in a Eucharist at the John Labatt Centre in London, Ont.
The full text of the primate’s sermon is available at the Anglican Church of Canada Web site, www.anglican.ca