General Synod approved the Anglican Church of Canada’s framework or strategic plan for the next six years after some debate about where the money will come from to pursue the proposed goals.The plan, Serving God’s World: Strengthening the Church, spells out the following priorities for the church:
- Anglican identity for mission and servanthood,
- partnerships at home for growth in mission and justice,
- developing and living the New Agape,
- local communities for local witness to the gospel,
- international partnerships for local witness to the gospel, and
- stewardship to build our financial capacity for mission.
“It’s a flexible plan for the next six years,” said Dean Peter Elliot, then deputy prolocutor (he was later elected prolocutor), who was among those who introduced the framework. “It’s ambitious and far-reaching.” He said that all the required resources are not yet in place and will be addressed by the stewardship program Letting Down the Nets (See related story.) The plan was developed after nearly three years of consultations, focus group discussions and telephone interviews conducted with individuals and dioceses in winter and spring of 2003 by Environics, a research and consulting firm. The company was hired to take the pulse of Anglicans around the area of which direction they want their church to go. “Anglicans care deeply about the life of their local parish community and are looking for more support for congregational life. We heard concern over declining attendance and aging membership,” according to a report explaining the framework, which was distributed to General Synod delegates. “We heard a concern for youth and a desire to increase their involvement in the life of the church. We heard that our members value activities that help to build community and to strengthen parish life.” Volunteer Marion Jenkins, who spoke about the consultation process, said that, “There was a high level of dissatisfaction with the national church; The most frequent critique was that General Synod was out of sync with the local community and there should be better communication.” The consultations also showed that, “While most Anglicans feel the church’s responsibility is to minister directly to those in need (charity), they also feel that the church has a largely unfulfilled role as an advocate for social justice,” the report said. It added: “Our members acknowledge that stewardship and the financial viability of the church are essential for it to carry out its mission, and there was a widespread desire for General Synod to address stewardship and financial concerns, especially through the provision of resources for stewardship education.” Debate on the framework centred mostly on where the funds will come from to support the plan. Nonetheless, there was great support for the plan. “I have grave concern about the capacity to generate resources,” said Rev. Steve Hopkins of the diocese of Niagara. “But I also have no doubt it’s the right way to go. Strong parishes make a strong church. Regardless of my doubts, I have to say that we need to work to make it real.”Bishop Barry Hollowell of Calgary expressed his support: “It’s got our priorities straight. It will better enable us to serve God’s world. It’s flexible and adaptable. It emerges from the lived and listened experiences of Anglicans across the country and it calls us into accountability. The path ahead is not easy but there are no simple answers ahead of us.”