Strengthen provinces and abolish General Synod, says prolocutor

Published November 1, 2008

The Canadian church would be better served if it abolished General Synod and worked only through provincial synods, said an observer at the provincial council meeting of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada.

(The Anglican Church of Canada comprises four ecclesiastical provinces, each of which includes several dioceses.)

Rev. Peter Yeung, prolocutor of the Province of Rupert’s Land, made the observation at the Sept. 26 meeting here and noted that the opinion was his own and not the official position of his synod.

The province of Canada invites an observer from one of the other three provinces to all of its meetings and Mr. Yeung was a member of a panel that presented its views on the question of governance and the mission of the church to the council. The panel arose in response to a request from the primate (national archbishop) to diocesan bishops that they examine the place of dioceses and provinces in fulfilling the mission of the church. The members of the panel included Bishop Sue Moxley and chancellor (legal advisor) Anthony Chapman, both of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island; chancellor David Eramian of Montreal; provincial prolocutor Alan Perry and Mr. Yeung. It was chaired by the provincial chancellor Charles Ferris.

The panel discussed how the provincial canons or church laws address the question of mission. Bishop Moxley, who is a member of a General Synod working group looking at church’s governance, suggested that dioceses and provinces do not want to give up their control over their own matters to a central power. She said the question is how to make General Synod more effective so everyone can serve God well.

Another concern, added Bishop Moxley, is where the national indigenous Anglican Bishop (currently Mark MacDonald) fits into the structures of the church; it remains unclear who he reports to and if he can or should ordain and license clergy.

Among Mr. Yeung’s reasons for abolishing General Synod were the cost of travel for the meeting of General Synod, differences across the country on the question of human sexuality and the fact that the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund and the church’s national pension office are all corporations outside General Synod. He stated that provincial council membership is smaller, less diverse and reminded council members that when it looked like the General Synod might fold due to lawsuits around the native residential schools it was the plan that the provinces were to be the safety net to keep the church going.

Bishop Moxley suggested that the next synod feature a visioning session and wondered, “can we have a different structure and still be Anglican?” The Canadian church’s structures are based on an English model and “we can learn a huge amount from how other Anglican churches work.”

James Sweeny is editor of Diocesan Gazette, the newspaper of the diocese of Quebec.   


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