The text of the Presidential Address delivered by Archbishop Andrew Hutchison at the opening service of General Synod in the Cathedral Church of St. John in Winnipeg can be read here.
St. Michael Report:
Following the last Synod, and at its request, I asked the Primate’s Theological Commission to consider whether the blessing of same-sex relationships is a matter of doctrine or not, and to report their findings to the Council of General Synod. Their conclusions are in the St. Michael Report, which comes before you with a motion commended to us by the Council.
Our department of Faith, Worship & Ministry, under the direction of Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, has been kept particularly busy during the triennium staffing both the Theological Commission and the Windsor Response Group, supervising a new Youth Ministry Coordinator, and organizing an excellent national conference on healthy parishes.
Issues Related to Blessings:
Certainly one of the most difficult items for our discernment will be the question of how to proceed on the issue of same-gender relationships. Related to it are other questions. One is the deeper question of how Anglicans receive and understand Scriptures in the light of modern scholarship and contemporary experience. Another is how our decisions will impact our sister churches in the Anglican Communion. And beside that is a question as to the nature of the Communion, and the appropriate relationship between provincial autonomy and global interdependence.
Another way of putting that is, how do we wish authority to be exercised or limited within our family of churches? And perhaps most important, how will our decisions witness to the Good News of God in Jesus Christ for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters within the Church and outside it. There are of course many other questions to consider in the hard work of discernment over this issue. We are taught that the first principle of moral theology is obedience to conscience, and I ask each of you to embrace that principle, and with it the ethic of respect for the conscience of those who disagree with your own. The second principle of moral theology is to inform your conscience to bring it, if possible, into line with the teaching of the Church. And here careful listening using the Anglican approach of Scripture, Tradition and Reason will be helpful.
At the end of the day, when decisions are made, they will not be unanimous. Differences will remain, but the unanimous opinion of the Theological Commission (and of many other sources) is that the question of same-gender blessings should not be a communion breaking issue. So the alternative to that is that in keeping with a long Anglican tradition, we make room at the table for those whose views we do not share. For the table is the Lord’s and not our own. And it is He who invites us to share the life that is offered there for the sins of the whole world….
…The Structures of the Communion:
These are indeed difficult days as the traditional structures of our Church are challenged and their roles called into question. Faith and order have always gone hand in hand in the life of the Church. And Anglican order has been both distinctive and clear. The Lambeth Quadrilateral, adopted by the Lambeth Conference in 1888 sets out both faith and order as essential elements for the reunification of the Churches. The Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and the Creeds — both Apostles’ and the Nicene — are the essentials of faith. The faithful practice of the dominical sacraments (Baptism and the Eucharist) and maintaining the historic episcopate, locally adapted, are the essentials of order. It is within that framework that we are a family of autonomous churches held together by bonds of affection that have frequently been strained, and often mended. It is within that framework that we have achieved full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. It is within that framework that the Church of England maintains full communion with the Church in Sweden, under the Porvoo Agreement, and with the Old Catholic Church in Europe despite differences in belief and practice. (Both churches have authorized public rites of blessing for same-sex couples) A serious question before us is how is our present discussion, we can honour both the faith and the order that define who we are.