It will be a tight and very busy General Synod in Winnipeg in 2007, since the meeting is scheduled to be a day shorter than previous gatherings, Dean Peter Wall, chair of the General Synod planning committee told Council of General Synod (CoGS) at its fall meeting.
“We have a lot of work to do,” said Dean Wall, noting that among other items General Synod delegates will be faced with:
- electing a new primate;
- deciding on the issue of same-sex blessings and address other matters related to the issue of sexuality (including the St. Michael Report and the Windsor Report);
- addressing the issue of governance;
- listening to reports from church partners;
- conducting diocesan and provincial caucuses.
Time has also been allotted for an official welcome for the new national indigenous bishop (to be announced later this month) as well as for farewell ceremonies for the outgoing primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison. Dean Wall said that the local indigenous elders and the national chief in Winnipeg have been informed about Synod and arrangements are being made for a commemoration of National Aboriginal Day on June 21.
A day has been allotted for spending time with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), whose national convention in Winnipeg overlaps General Synod. The Anglican Church of Canada and ELCIC have been in full communion since 2001.
As a result of the tight schedule, no parish visits or free evenings are being scheduled. Dean Wall said it was “hard” to give up the parish visits but to make up for this, all Anglicans in the diocese will be invited to attend the installation ceremony for the new primate.
Dean Wall also announced that the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, will preach at the installation ceremony for the new primate, who will be elected by General Synod members during the meeting, scheduled for June 19 to 25. When he was elected in 2005 as Archbishop of York (considered the second-highest post in the Church of England), Archbishop Sentamu became the Church of England’s first black archbishop.
Canon Kenneth Kearon, general secretary of the Anglican Communion, will also attend the gathering, which will host about 450 delegates, exhibitors, staff and guests.
Dean Wall said that Synod activities will also reflect the historical connection of Winnipeg to the Anglican Church of Canada. Winnipeg is the birthplace of the Anglican church in Western Canada. Archbishop Robert Machray, who served as bishop of Rupert’s Land for almost 40 years, became the first primate of the Church of England in Canada in 1893.
Some CoGS members who attended a focus group to discuss General Synod 2007 were asked to express their hopes and fears about the meeting of the national church’s triennial governing body. Among the fears expressed were that there will not be enough time “to hear all the debate” on issues, that “there will be polarization” regarding resolutions on human sexuality, that “there will be a walk out” similar to what happened when the diocese of New Westminster approved the blessing of same-sex unions in 2002 and that some delegates will come unprepared. Concerns were also expressed about the presence of the Essentials Network, a group of conservative Canadian Anglicans opposed to same-sex blessings, which has reserved space at the Radisson, one of the hotels to be occupied by General Synod delegates. (Plenary sessions are scheduled at the Marlborough Hotel, near the Radisson). “I’m concerned about the divisive interference from lobby groups who will be renting space in our hotel,” said Canon Robert Falby from the diocese of Toronto.
Margaret Shawyer, co-ordinator of General Synod planning, said members of the synod planning committee are scheduled to have a dialogue with Essentials.
Most of the hopes expressed also revolved around the issue of sexuality, with one stating, “That we will be able to continue to work together as a church no matter what happens regarding same-sex blessings,” and another stating that the church would “renew our sense of connectedness with the Anglican Communion.” Others hoped that the gathering would result in “real growth and understanding for the church.”