Monday, 7 June 2010

Canadian Primate on SS blessings and Covenant

Although the Presidential Address of the Canadian primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, has already been linked on TA in the course of covering the Canadian General Synod meeting, I think it is worth noting separately the section of his remarks on same-sex blessings and on the Anglican Covenant. It is copied out below the fold. This includes his comments on the Pentecost letter of Archbishop Williams. The full text is over here.

…A considerable amount of time in Synod is devoted to the issue of the blessing of same-sex unions. My observation is that wherever the majority of us are with respect to a theological position on this matter, there is less passion for resolving it through resolution and heated debate, and much deeper commitment to respectful dialogue and continuing discernment together. I have witnessed this shift in the House of Bishops, in the Council of General Synod, and in the context of many discussions during diocesan visits. I believe the Spirit has called us into this space for a time. We shall begin our work on this issue in the Synod with A Faithful Reporting on behalf of the Faith, Worship and Ministry Committee, the Primate’s Theological Commission, and the House of Bishops, and International Conversations. Rapporteurs will record our conversations then meet and report back to the Synod the common themes. Each time we meet in prayerful conversation, we will build upon the themes emerging. I ask all members of Synod to enter into these conversations in a Spirit of humility and a genuine commitment to listen and to learn from one another. I know that our deliberations on these matters will be watched by many within Canada and around the world. I hope they see no evidence of rejection, condemnation, or demonization but every evidence of respect, charity, and patience. I hope they see a Church sensitive to the variety of contexts in which we are called to meet the pastoral and sacramental needs of those we serve. I hope they see a capacity for pastoral generosity. I hope they see us striving to live together with difference and to do it gracefully. I hope they see us “bearing one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3)

I come to this Synod mindful of the comments made by the Pastoral Visitors, appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury to visit the House of Bishops last fall. In their report to the Archbishop, they said, “General Synod will, indeed, be a watershed, both for the Anglican Church of Canada and for its wider relations within the Anglican Communion. At its worst it could lead to internal anarchy. At its best it could help us all to appreciate and practice a properly Christian style of inclusiveness.” I pray, of course, for the latter.

My earnest hope is that we will emerge from this Synod with a Pastoral Statement reflecting the mind and heart of the Canadian Church on this matter at this moment in time. I hope it can reflect our determination to never walk apart, but always to walk together, in that love Christ wills and prays for us and for the whole Church.

Another major topic before the Synod is the Anglican Communion Covenant. We are one of the first provinces to consider the final text. We are blessed to have had an Anglican Communion Working Group guiding our study of the drafts of the Covenant and inviting our input by way of critique and revision. And I know that those comments from our Church have been viewed by many within the Communion as constructive and helpful.

Section IV, Our Covenanted Life Together, continues to be challenging for many in the Communion. On the one hand it speaks of respect for the autonomy and integrity of each province in making decisions according to the polity reflected in its Constitution and Canons. On the other, it speaks of relational consequences for a Church should it make decisions deemed incompatible with the Covenant. These consequences could range from limited participation to suspension from dialogues, commissions and councils within the Communion. In my opinion, they reflect principles of exclusion with which many in the Communion are very uneasy. For if one is excluded from a table, how can one be part of a conversation? How can our voice be heard, how can we hear the voices of others, how can we struggle together to hear the voice of the Spirit? How can we hope to restore communion in our relationships if any one of us cannot or will not be heard?

In his 2010 Pentecost letter, the Archbishop of Canterbury speaks of “particular provinces being contacted about the outworking of these relational consequences.” To date we cannot be identified as “a Province that has formally through their Synod or House of Bishops adopted policies that breach any of the moratoria requested by the Instruments of Communion and recently affirmed by the Standing Committee and the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith, and Order”. However the Archbishop’s letter also refers to “some provinces that have within them dioceses that are committed to policies that neither the province as a whole nor The Communion has sanctioned”. One is left wondering if provinces whose Primates continue to interfere in the internal life of other provinces and extend their pastoral jurisdiction through cross-border interventions will be contacted. To date I have seen no real measure to address that concern within The Communion. I maintain and have publicly declared my belief that those interventions have created more havoc in the Church, resulting in schism, than any honest and transparent theological dialogue on issues of sexuality through due synodical process in dioceses and in the General Synod. I also wonder when I see the word “formally” italicized in the Archbishop’s letter. It leaves me wondering about places where the moratoria on the blessing of same sex unions is in fact ignored. The blessings happen but not “formally”. As you will have detected I have some significant concerns about imposing discipline consistent with provisions in the Covenant before it is even adopted; and about consistency in the exercise of discipline throughout one Communion. There are also lingering concerns in Section IV on monitoring discipline and procedures for restoring membership in our covenanted life together.

All that being said, I have every hope that our Church will embrace the request to consider the Covenant. Our Anglican Communion Working Group is committed to providing educational resources to aid our study. Bishop George Bruce will give us a brief overview of those materials in the course of Synod. I have every confidence we will use them faithfully and that we will offer valuable comments in response to the request for a Communion-wide Progress Report on the Covenant at the next meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council in 2012.

All of our work in this regard is in keeping with our commitment as a member church with The Communion.

“This commitment”, as our Pastoral Visitors commented, “is much more than an exercise of duty. It is accompanied by and springs from a genuine sense of affection which we found deeply moving … Canadians really do want to play their full part and play it well.”

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Monday, 7 June 2010 at 8:31am BST | TrackBack
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Comments

"One is left wondering if provinces whose Primates continue to interfere in the internal life of other provinces and extend their pastoral jurisdiction through cross-border interventions will be contacted. To date I have seen no real measure to address that concern within The Communion. I maintain and have publicly declared my belief that those interventions have created more havoc in the Church, resulting in schism, than any honest and transparent theological dialogue on issues of sexuality through due synodical process in dioceses and in the General Synod." - Archbishop Fred Hiltz, ACC GS -

Altogether an honest appraisal of matters which divide the Communion at present. Abp.Hiltz states clearly his opinion that the invasion of inter-Provincial boundaries by Global South Provinces, which have caused schismatic action in the Communion, is more of a problem than the pursuit by individual Provinces of what they discern to be a Gospel imperative within their own Provinces.

This statement, together with the reference to an expressed desire to continue theological studies on the rightful place of sexuality in the Church, should give heart to others who believe that the proposed 'Section IV' Covenant provisions for the discipline of Provinces that seek the full inclusion of same-sex relationships within the Church, has no place in the life of an Anglican ethos of 'Unity in Diversity'.

This is not a call for separation but for a more understanding and enlightened Church.

Posted by: Father Ron Smith on Monday, 7 June 2010 at 10:50am BST

The Primate, Archbishop Hiltz, in a sermon delivered yesterday (Sunday June 9th) during a tricentennial celebration in Nova Scotia , made an interesting observation about service or diakonia. He talked about a distinction between "pastoral diakonia" and "prophetic diakonia". The later he noted (and I'm paraphrasing from memory) is about justice, and being called in a way that makes us UNCOMFORTABLE (+ Hiltz's chosen word) at times, to speak for those who are victims of injustice. I believe he mentioned, as an example, the church in Latin America, with which he has gained some familiarity. As I listened, I thought again about the notion of getting our own house in order. Let's work at a justice issue where the church has immediate jurisdiction and influence on outcomes--i.e. the way it treats our fellow baptized. Finally, as if beating a dead horse, I want to re-iterate that the process being used to engage gender/sexuality issues at the General Synod ( and I've been a delegate to two of these), the process the primate is lauding, is seen, by some of us at least, to be designed to let the Anglican Church off the hook, and achieve detente with conservatives (some of them quite destructive) at home and abroad, at the expense of the courage required to move towards full inclusion. There is a tendency to pit debate at synod against some sort of "process" adored by consultants. Open debate at synod is in fact a form of dialogue--it just happens to be one that is less open to control by standing committees, hierarchies, and bureaucrats.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 7 June 2010 at 2:10pm BST

that should read Sunday june 6th, not 9th

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Monday, 7 June 2010 at 4:53pm BST

What do you actually want to do with conservatives, Rod?

Posted by: Tim Chesterton on Monday, 7 June 2010 at 9:45pm BST

Weeelll ... it seems a bit clearer, what we do not wish to do with conservatives than what we ought to do with them ... i.e., clearly we cannot allow conservative Anglicans to (A) continue preaching flat earth stuff about queer folks, uninvestigated and unchallenged as a closed matter of doctrine exhaustively presupposed to be final truth; plus (B) we cannot follow conservative Anglicans down the punitive road of being unfair, prejudiced, and violent towards the queer folks among our work teams or family networks or friends at church; plus (C) we cannot allow conservative Anglicans to dress all this overt prejudice and flat earthism (let alone the violence which regularly and reliably accompanies such traditional-orthodoxist beliefs) by taking its claims at any face value when it preeningly declares that such witness is not innately antigay.

Once we stop in these domains, perhaps the question of what do to with conservative Anglican believers and church leaders who so often and so unwidely seem to be putting ALL their salvation and faith eggs in the antigay basket will start to become understandable, if not answerable?

Alas, Lord have mercy.

Posted by: drdanfee on Tuesday, 8 June 2010 at 12:08am BST

Tim Chesterton asks, what do you want to actually do with conservatives Rod? Are you kidding me Tim? The Canadian Church has tried a live and let live approach for decades,from the conscience clause on the ordination of women, maintaining two prayer books, holding for two patterns of Christian initiation, alternative episcopal oversight for opponents of female bishops, and a largely failed attempt at advancing gay and lesbian rights via local option, and these are just the big ticket items. None of these provisions has been received in a spirit of conciliation by hard liners. The return has been mostly a vilification of even the most moderate voices. Yet, the current move to full inclusion is stalled for fear of incurring the wrath of conservative forces within and without the Province of Canada. Your question is misplaced. It's not up to the rest of us to do anything with these lads (its pretty much a patriarchal phenomena). I'd like us to stop being a corporate dysfunctional anxiety host, and let the conservatives do something about themselves. They have tender consciences. Fine.They ought to take responsibility for their conscience,instead of expecting the structure to give priority of place to their self defined "orthodoxy". If GS 2010 opts out of taking a stand on an issue, then I have to find a way as a member of the church to live with it.I'll continue to express my opinion, but I don't expect the Christian society to create a virtual world for my particular theological needs. Lots of people with conservative views articulate their position and still have the flexibility and grace to make relationships with the wider tradition work. But you'll have to pardon me, my highlander ancestry emerges when I get on this subject, and I'm just plum out of patience.

Posted by: Rod Gillis on Tuesday, 8 June 2010 at 2:34am BST
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