Of all the dioceses that have convened special synods meeting in January and February to consider General Synod’s agreement with the federal government on residential schools, Algoma has given itself the heaviest agenda.
It also plans to tackle same-sex blessings at the same meeting.
Archdeacon Harry Huskins said Algoma’s executive committee decided to move up its regular synod from May to Jan. 22-23 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., to deal with the residential schools agreement. Same-sex blessings was to have been a major agenda item, so the topic got moved to the January agenda too, he said.
Bishop Ron Ferris of Algoma has spoken strongly against same-sex blessings.
According to the agreement with the federal government, which the 30 dioceses must ratify before a formal signing, the church will contribute $25 million over five years toward a litigation settlement fund.
Algoma’s share of the settlement is about $150,000 a year for five years, Archdeacon Huskins said, or about half the amount it normally contributes to General Synod.
That figure could change, he added, if some dioceses decide they can’t sign on right away because of lack of funds. “There could be some fast scurrying? Algoma would be considering giving some additional power to the officers and the bishop if some additional funds were needed (to assist other dioceses).”
Algoma is not legally obliged to hold a synod to ratify the agreement, Archdeacon Huskins added, but decided to do so anyway.
“We felt the decision on the settlement should be made by the people in the parishes. It’s their church, it’s their diocese and it’s their dollar.”
With regards to same-sex blessings, Archdeacon Huskins said, the plan was for people to have their say on the issue and on its constitutionality.
At its October meeting, the house of bishops pronounced itself divided on the issue and agreed to ask General Synod to consider it in 2004.
“Our delegates who will be going to General Synod need to sit and listen and hear what people of Algoma are saying and take those concerns to General Synod.”
Bishop Ferris is considered a leader of the group of 13 Canadian bishops who issued a public statement last June, condemning the decision to allow same-sex blessings in New Westminster and calling on the diocese to withhold implementation.
The bishop wrote a column in the October issue of the Algoma Anglican with an elaborate condemnation of same-sex blessings.
In his conclusion, he wrote: “The church cannot condone, bless, advocate or promote homosexual, lesbian or bi-sexual relationships…. For the church to ally itself with the faith statements and agenda of the gay rights movement is an unacceptable abandonment of the values explicit in the New Testament.”