How is the church doing?
Three years ago, General Synod approved a new strategic plan for the church as it readies itself for the 21st century.
Essentially, the plan proposed that General Synod concentrate on the programs and policies it does best and leave to dioceses and parishes other work best done at the local level.
With a theme of Lift Every Voice, the upcoming nine-day General Synod in Montreal will help assess how that plan, Preparing the Way, is evolving. The synod, expected to draw more than 450 people – bishops, clergy, lay people, visitors, church support staff and others – will be held at McGill University, May 21-29.
This will be the fourth time General Synod has been held in Montreal. And because it is being held in Québec, a special feature this year will be a presentation devoted to Nation and Identity, which will include an address by Bishop Andrew Hutchison, a panel discussion and participation by synod members.
Synod organizers say efforts have been made to make this General Synod more consultative, more open ended, and more free-flowing; a synod seeking the voices of the members of the church.
Rather than just receiving a report on a particular topic, synod members will be given the opportunity to share their stories and engage others in dialogue.
To this end, a series of forums will be held to provide General Synod members the opportunity to discuss concerns and issues that have arisen related to the strategic plan and the seven goal areas.
One topic is the diocesan response to the strategic plan. Other topics including partnerships, the North, Anglican identity, services to dioceses, ecumenical relations, and social justice are structured to cover seven goal areas of the strategic plan.
It has been said that this synod has all the makings of a sleeper because, unlike some previous synods, there is no one issue dominating pre-synod discussion and debate.
However, a policy paper on human rights principles from the church’s ecojustice committee could spark intense debate.
As directed by last General Synod, the ecojustice committee has been reworking the paper on human rights within the church. The principle that all church members are entitled to various services and to sit on the church’s governing bodies regardless of such things as age, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation is expected to be approved.
What could cause a fuss is the section on employment. The eco-justice committee notes that the church is “not of one mind” about the employment of gays and lesbians in positions requiring ordination.
The committee goes on to say that, because of that, the farthest it can go is to say that people in positions not requiring ordination should be free from discrimination on the grounds of age, sex, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
A resolution, also from the ecojustice committee, calls on General Synod to press the Canadian government to hold public hearings before any decision is made on the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, which has “enormous implications for our whole life in Canada.”
Other issues coming before General Synod include:
- the Care in Dying document, which expresses concern that legalizing euthanasia would put elderly and disabled people at risk as it calls for more effort to be put into palliative care and pain management;
- new liturgies that, if approved, will contain two rites that avoid referring to God the Father in the eucharistic prayer (these will be permitted for use on a trial basis where authorized by the diocesan bishop);
- a proposed clergy licensing canon that would give a bishop the right to limit the term of any clergy appointment and to terminate any appointment he or she wished.