Rev. Diane Guilford, of St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in East Kildonan, Man., at a worship service with participants of a food justice camp held in Winnipeg during the summer of 2005.
Delegates to the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod 2007 in Winnipeg will get progress reports on two linked initiatives – the six-year national strategic plan called The Framework and a financial-development program called Letting Down The Nets.
As of late December, organizers of the triennial governing convention were still working on the agenda, but General Secretary Michael Pollesel said what is envisioned is an “information forum,” where small groups aided by a facilitator would receive reports and have an opportunity to discuss and ask questions. “More people get to speak” than in a plenary session, he noted. About 300 delegates will gather on the convention floor from June 19 to 25.
The General Synod of 2004 approved The Framework, more properly called Serving God’s World, Strengthening the Church, in which the church committed to supporting a number of areas of Christian mission: Anglican identity, congregational development including youth ministry, communications, improved relations with native people, stewardship, national and international partnerships.
Since The Framework’s mandate runs until 2010, it is not anticipated that the 2007 convention will need to vote on it. Dean Peter Elliott, of Christ Church Cathedral in the Vancouver-based diocese of New Westminster, said delegates will hear that “lots of pieces (of The Framework) have found their way into the life of the church” in the last three years.
“The focus on youth ministry, for instance. The primate (Archbishop Andrew Hutchison) identified it as a priority of his, personally. Now, there is a half-time (youth co-ordinator) staff position and the new Generation Web site is up and running,” said Dean Elliott who is also prolocutor of General Synod, a member of the executive who chairs national meetings in the absence of the primate.
Other work includes “justice camps” that have taken place in the dioceses of Ottawa and Rupert’s Land, bringing international justice issues to the grassroots level for awareness and discussion, he noted. Canon Linda Nicholls, co-ordinator for dialogue at the national faith, worship and ministry department in Toronto, is planning a gathering in March of leaders in congregational development, he said.
In terms of relationships with native people, Dean Elliott said the church’s commitment to native ministry is being “given expression through the appointment of the national indigenous bishop.”
Much of the work encompassed by The Framework was already being done at the national office in Toronto, but new areas such as youth, stewardship and congregational-development initiatives, needed new funding and a companion program called Letting Down the Nets was established by the 2004 Synod.
Delegates to the 2007 convention are scheduled to see a ten-minute video on the progress of Letting Down the Nets, receive a written update and hear a report from co-ordinator Geoff Jackson.
He said he would stress the program’s work in helping dioceses strategize and in providing training in fundraising and congregational growth. “I want General Synod (the convention) to realize that we have found a way for General Synod (the national office) and dioceses to work in a true partnership,” he said in an interview.
For more than a year, Mr. Jackson and several other consultants have been working with six dioceses – Ottawa, Western Newfoundland, Nova Scotia/PEI, Fredericton, Rupert’s Land (based in Winnipeg) and Edmonton – and these “pilot projects” have received enthusiastic endorsement from bishops.
“Becoming a pilot project with Letting Down the Nets is already raising awareness about stewardship in the diocese,” wrote Bishop Sue Moxley, suffragan bishop of Nova Scotia/PEI.
Bishop Donald Phillips of Rupert’s Land wrote, “when our diocese first engaged representatives of the Letting Down the Nets initiative, we were looking for expertise and motivation to become intentional about stewardship development, but we have received much more … what had begun as an exploratory consultation became a very insightful and helpful ‘audit’ of the ministry and mission for our diocese … one of our priests said, ‘Now that’s the kind of thing the national church should be doing!'”
Each diocese has different issues concerning financial health. In Nova Scotia/PEI, Mr. Jackson and Rob Waller, a member of the Nets steering committee, met with the diocesan executive council, key staff and clergy. On the surface, it might look as if that diocese did not need stewardship help, since its capital campaign called Leap for Faith had so far raised $2.77 million toward a $3.3 million goal. However, said Mr. Jackson, “they were concerned about the aftermath of a successful campaign and how to do stewardship on a continuing basis, transforming people’s hearts to include stewardship as a way of life, not just as a fundraiser.”
Mr. Jackson and Mr. Waller spent four days in Halifax, helping diocesan leaders form a picture of the diocese. “What were people willing to support financially? Where are the roadblocks and resistance?” said Mr. Jackson. Subsequently, diocesan leaders formed a stewardship committee on the diocesan level and have implemented stewardship training programs in parishes in three areas of the diocese. Such training includes learning about various financial vehicles and investments that can benefit the church and ways to approach major donors
While its work in the dioceses is receiving praise, funding its own operation and communicating its purpose to the wider church has been less successful for Letting Down The Nets, whose single staff member, Mr. Jackson, works at the financial management and development department in Toronto.
In its autumn, 2006 progress report, the steering committee reported that “when Letting Down the Nets was approved at General Synod in 2004, it was on the understanding that funding would have to flow from sources outside the General Synod annual budget.” However, within the last two years, the program has borrowed $100,000 from General Synod and received permission to access $250,000 in undesignated bequests to General Synod. It is also seeking financial help from dioceses and plans to approach foundations and individual donors.
In addition, Nets was intended to fund new General Synod work mentioned in The Framework, such as increased emphasis on youth. The part-time youth co-ordinator position was funded from the proceeds of a fundraising dinner held last fall by Archbishop Hutchison.
Rob Dickson, former chair of the national financial management and development committee and currently business manager of the diocese of New Westminster, acknowledged the work done with dioceses, but said the program has “not caught the imagination of the Anglican community” and “has not generated the necessary cash.”
Work with the dioceses has occupied a major portion of time, said Mr. Jackson. “We haven’t had the time to cultivate (major donors). We have to step up the cultivation part, he said, adding that, “my hope is to go to General Synod with a fair amount of cash in the bank, to say this is working.”
Mr. Dickson said that in the next few months “the financial management and development committee and Council of General Synod and the executive need to look at (Letting Down the Nets) very seriously and bring a recommendation to General Synod that is a positive request for a direction and get an endorsement from General Synod.”
Dean Elliott also noted that the anticipated implementation this year of a new native residential schools settlement agreement that is less financially-burdensome to the church means “there is going to be new money freed up to support the work of the church that The Framework envisaged.”