Presidential Address, General Synod 2013

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, gave the Presidential Address to the 40th General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada on July 4, 2013, in Ottawa during the 2013 Joint Assembly.


(as written)

“We give thanks to God always for you all…remembering before our God and Father your wok of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 (1 Thessalonians 1:1-3)

There is no greater joy in my ministry than to travel our beloved Church.  In the last six years I have visited almost every diocese, a few of them several times.  I have visited many, many parishes.  I appreciate these invitations, the warmth of your welcome and every opportunity to preach and preside at the Eucharist.  I especially like those town hall gatherings when you ask the real questions you want addressed.  I enjoy the fellowship we share over potluck dinners and I am deeply grateful for every assurance of your prayers for me, week by week.

En route home, I reflect on all I’ve heard and seen – beauty and good order in worship, joy and diligence in teaching, love and devotion in pastoral care, generosity in outreach, and boldness in advocacy for what is just and right in the affairs of the world.

Your ministry in communities along our coastlines, in hill country and lake districts, across the prairies and nestled in the mountains, in huge urban centres and in remote communities across Arctic tundra makes this Anglican Church of Canada what it is.

– Vast and very diverse, yet one in Christ and his Gospel!

I come to this Synod filled with much hope.  Let me share a few snapshots with you.

A couple of years ago I was at St. James Cathedral in downtown Toronto for Tuesday Drop-In in the third week of Advent.  Because Cathedral Hall was under a massive renovation Tuesday Drop In was to take place in the Cathedral.  To accommodate the program all the pews in the north side of the Cathedral had been removed and a number of stations had been set up.  Sixty people who live on the streets were welcomed by the Vicar, David Brinton.  Out of the cold they could get a hot drink, a sandwich, and a piece of fresh fruit.  There was a barber cutting hair and a couple of nurses providing foot care.  Scarves and hats and mittens were available.  So were cards for those who wanted to wish family or friends a Merry Christmas.  There was a festive atmosphere, someone played the piano and some gathered round to sing.  Some just sat and enjoyed the music.  I watched people gazing up at the painted ceiling or standing in front of a story in stained glass.  I saw some sitting quietly with their heads bowed in prayer for mercies I can only imagine.

At Evensong we sang the Magnificat and I thought how in these very courts of the Lord, “the hungry had been fed, the humble lifted high”, the hope of the poor not forgotten!

Let me take you to the east coast – to St. John’s, Newfoundland.  There the Anglo Catholic Parish of St. Michael and All Angels discerned a call to re-locate to the urban sprawl surrounding the city – a church plant in the making, a congregation growing, the Church’s presence felt in wonderful ways in a new part of town.

In an inner city neighbourhood of central Winnipeg, historic St. Matthew’s Church in converting its building into a multi-purpose complex called the West End Commons.  It will have a beautiful worship space, twenty-five units of affordable rental housing for families, and a neighborhood Resource Centre – all of this exciting work in the spirit of the parish prayer.

“Let our church be like a great tree giving shade and shelter to all who come under its branches let the people rest in your grace and be – rooted in your kingdom’s work.”

On the west coast The Diocese of British Columbia under the guidance of Bishop James Cowan has completely re-mapped itself for mission.  That work in Synod was not without struggle, pain or grief, but overall the strategy of hubs for mission and ministry is moving the Church forward.

Last year I was at the Synod of The Diocese of the Arctic and what a time it was. The famous Igloo Cathedral, St. Jude’s, which had been completely destroyed by fire in November 2005 and re-built through the generosity of Anglicans all over the country, was dedicated to the Glory of God, a Northern Light re-kindled!  Two new bishops, David Parsons and Darren McCartney were elected and consecrated within the eight days of the Synod.

The complete translation of the scriptures into Inuktitut was celebrated.  Local translators working with The Canadian Bible Society presented their 33 year labour of love to Bishop Andrew Atagataaluk.  The Bibles were blessed and distributed.  As one woman received her copy, she danced down the aisle saying, “God speaks my language.”

Earlier this year I visited The Diocese of New Westminster.  It was styled by the Bishop’s Missioner for St. Matthew’s, Abbotsford; St. Matthias and St. Luke; and St. John’s, Shaughnessy as a pastoral visit – an opportunity to meet the people, to hear their story, to pray with them.  Listening to them I felt their heartache over the intense divisions within their congregations, and their pain in seeing so many leave their churches – among them family members and friends. There was a sadness but there was no contempt, no malice, no animosity.  They spoke of their desire to remain within the diocesan family. They also spoke of their respect for their bishop Michael Ingham and for the great care he had taken to represent the diocese in court, for the clear and courteous manner with which he articulated our polity as a Church and our fiduciary responsibility in holding all properties dedicated for the ministry of The Anglican Church of Canada.  In each gathering I heard of a deep resolve not to rebuild what was but to plant something new – a new way of being Church.  Trusting that with careful nurture and watering, God will give them growth.  These are people of hope.

Let me take you now to The Diocese of Moosonee.  When Bishop Tom Corston retires at the end of the year, Moosonee will come under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan of The Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario.  This is a story of courageous episcopal leadership.  It’s a story of focussed conversations in Synod and a faithful assessment of its capacity to sustain ministry through the vast expanse of that huge diocese.  It’s a story of emerging partnerships that will provide for all, the administrative, pastoral, and episcopal needs of the Church there.  The lights are not going out in Moosonee.  They are twinkling with renewed hope.

Moving westward I see another story of hope in The Diocese of Keewatin.  In the spirit of honoring the desire of indigenous peoples for self-determination with respect to leadership and structures within the churches in their communities, an area mission was created in Northern Ontario and the church made provision for the election of a bishop in keeping with aboriginal ways of discernment.  Through the leadership of Bishop Lydia Mamakwa.  The Northern Ontario Area Mission has so grown in its capacity for self-determination and self-sufficiency that this Synod will be asked to give consent to the creation of a new diocese in Northern Ontario.  Hope abounds in these First Nations communities – the dream of the elders taking on flesh and bone and soul and spirit.

In Saskatchewan a hope was realized in the election of an Indigenous bishop to work with the diocesan bishop.  Their partnership in ministry is a wonderful reflection of “Mamuwe isi Miywachimowin” meaning “Together in the Gospel”.  Bishop Michael Hawkins and Bishop Adam Halket are living the prayer of the faithful across the diocese, “O Great Spirit, grant us strength and dignity to walk a New Trail.”

Now I take you into the interior of British Columbia.  At the time that The Diocese of Cariboo was going bankrupt through litigation arising from abuses in The Indian Residential Schools, the then bishop, Jim Cruickshank through tears of his own said “No self pity , no blaming”.  He called the Church to re-imagine itself without all the usual structures of governance we know.  Through Jim’s leadership and the guidance of the Chancellor Bud Smith ACPI struggled into life.  It’s first few gasps of breath were a struggle but now it is enjoying a life and vitality that is quite amazing.   I was in Kamloops just a few weeks ago to present Bud with the Anglican Award of Merit for his outstanding commitment to help ACPI walk in new ways with indigenous peoples.  At the same service Bishop Barbara Andrews installed four pastoral elders – Jim, Laura, Amy, and Jimmy.  All received crosses and blankets.  To the beat of drum songs spirits soared.  ACPI is a story of a people whose mourning is turning to dancing.  Hope abounds.

I was in The Diocese of Edmonton for Pentecost this year.  Convinced that the believers should all be in one place, devoting themselves to praise and prayer, and expecting a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Bishop Jane Alexander invited all the parishes to come together in the beautiful Winspear Centre concert hall.  1300 Anglicans came from across the diocese and what a gathering it was, launching the diocese into its centenary celebrations.  There was a good spirit in that place – “a sweet, sweet spirit” and every one knew it was the spirit of the Lord!

These friends, are but a sampling of so many places where I see hope in and through the Church local.

I also see a lot of hope in how we are the Church together across the country.

In General Synod, and this is the fortieth in our history, we are re-connected, and re-minded of our identity as a national Church.

The most incredible way in which we are the Church together is our deep and abiding commitment to The Marks of Mission.  I know you know them.

I rejoice that these Marks of Mission – “tell, teach tend, transform, treasure” – in the most abbreviated form I’ve found them yet, have become household language in the family of our Church.  Parishes and dioceses are using them in their ministry plans.  A Sunday School Curriculum, “Church Mice Compendium” has been built around them.  The Anglican Journal has featured Mission Stories and Anglican Video has captured Mission Moments with friends throughout the country.

These Marks of Mission inspired all the conversations that shaped the priorities and practices within Vision 2019, adopted by General Synod in 2010 as a guiding document for the Council of General Synod in shaping and resourcing the ministries of the national Church.

Both The Marks of Mission and Vision 2019 will be showcased in this Synod.  I know you will be energized by the go-forward enthusiasm that marks the spirit and pace of these dynamic presentations.

There is in our Church a clear shift from a culture of membership to discipleship.

In Vision 2019 we describe ourselves as “a people seeking to know love and know Jesus in serving God’s mission in the world”.

“There is” writes Bishop Mark MacDonald “a new sense of vocation in the Church, a calling to a level of individual and corporate discipleship that has not been common in the period of late Christendom.  It is a discipleship in which the whole Church develops a capacity for humble and constant spiritual discernment – the prayerful listening for God’s word in scripture, in one another “and in creation”.

In a recent publication of the World Council of Churches we read “At the heart of the Church’s vocation in the world is the proclamation of the kingdom of God inaugurated in Jesus the Lord, crucified and risen.  Through its internal life of Eucharistic worship, thanksgiving, intercessory prayer, through planning for mission and evangelism, through a daily life-style of solidarity with poor, through advocacy even to confrontation with the powers that oppress human beings, the churches are trying to fulfil this evangelistic vocation.”

In this past triennium, The Primate’s Commission on Theological Education has focussed its work on Competencies for Presbyteral Ministry”.   The Report sets before us the qualities, skills and charisms we can reasonably expect in those called to priestly ministry.  It is an impressive piece of work and I believe it holds great hope for consistency of standards across the Church.  I trust the Synod will heartily endorse the Report and its several recommendations.

We are also turning our attention to the Diaconate.  This distinct order of ministry is a precious gift and a powerful agent in the call to be a Servant Church – in and for the world.  In my travels I have seen the incredibly amazing ministries of deacons – on the streets, in shelters for the homeless, in safe houses, in hospitals, prisons, halfway houses and in the legal aid system.  But in its fullness, diakonia takes the form not only of compassionate care and accompaniment, but also prophetic witness and advocacy for human rights – social, cultural, and economic.  “The tremendous economic inequalities that plague the human family need to be abiding concern for the Church…our faith impels us to work for a just social order”.  Commitment to that work represents hope for millions of people.

In engaging youth we work together across the Church.  My experience and I know it is yours that wherever young people gather, in diocesan conference, in Stronger Together, at ASK or IMAGINE or at a one thousand strong CLAY Event, they are eager to use their faith to reshape the world in the design of God’s love and justice for all people.

This fall the BCYAYM, the oldest continuing youth movement in our Church celebrates its 100th anniversary in a Gala Event in Abbotsford.  This won’t just be a recalling of the glory days of the past but a real celebration of the new thing the Lord continues to do in making this youth movement as strong and vibrant as ever.  With the theme “Bridging the Generations” they are moving on.

The Council of the North describes our being together as a Church in this way.  “Nowhere in the Canadian church is the interdependence in the Gospel more evident than in the way in which we work together to provide pastoral and sacramental ministry to the remote and isolated areas of our vast nation.

I want to pay tribute to all who serve in The North – the bishops, the clergy, the lay readers, and catechists.  While all our ministries across the whole Church are sacrificial in nature, those who serve in The North make particular sacrifices.  They live with challenges in geography, great distances between communities, issues associated with isolation, the high cost of food, particularly perishable food and numerous social challenges.  Bishops and clergy receive a bare minimum stipend.  Many clergy receive no stipend.  One can only stand in awe of their deep devotion to Christ, their labours of love among those they serve.  As beautiful as the stars that light up the night sky, so are their ministries across a northern landscape, each one a story of hope.

More than ever dear friends, we are together as a Church in walking with indigenous peoples.  I believe we are making good progress in the Journey of Spiritual Renewal to which the 1994 Covenant called us.  We are “Walking The Dream”.

I have had the privilege to be a guest at the last couple of Sacred Circles.  My role there is to listen and what I hear is an emerging hope.  I hear it in conversations over meals, in stories by the Sacred Fire, and in discussions under the tent.

I think that hope is shaped by what many see as a deep commitment on the part of our Church to live as faithfully as we can the words of The Apology delivered by Archbishop Michael Peers in 1993.

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of The Apology.  Having sought the counsel of the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop and the guidance of ACIP I have been advised that in keeping the anniversary two things should be considered.

First – an opportunity to pay tribute to Archbishop Peers for his leadership which was truly humble and holy, compassionate and courageous, far-sighted and firm.  He set us on a trajectory toward healing and reconciliation from which we have not, nor ever will, turn back.

Second – a Commission to be established by the Primate to enable our Church to follow through on the actions associated with The Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery by General Synod in 2010.  Having considered this request, I am quite prepared to act in establishing a Commission, but I have prayerfully discerned that the mandate be broadened such that it addresses not only the Doctrine of Discovery but two other important matters as well.   First the question Mr. Justice Sinclair, Chair of the TRC has put before all the parties to The Settlement Agreement, “What is reconciliation?”  Second the church’s commitment to addressing longstanding injustices borne by indigenous peoples in Canada.

I will seek the advice of the Chancellor, the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop and the Co-ordinator for Indigenous Ministries in drafting Terms of Reference for The Commission.  I will ask ACIP for guidance in naming the Commissioners.  I pledge my prayers for the sacred work entrusted to them and will request a final report for General Synod 2016.

Since General Synod in 2010 our Church has been deeply engaged in supporting the work of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.  At every event I have attended I have been overwhelmed by the stories shared by the survivors of The Schools.  I have learned much about the impact of their experiences in their own lives, those of their families, their children and grandchildren.  I come away mindful of so many years of “lost love”.  I also come away with moments of joy that by their very nature are healing, moments that signal hope for a brighter future.

At all the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Events, gestures of reconciliation are offered by churches, community based agencies, government services and more recently by schools and universities committed to include in their history courses the story of the Indian Residential Schools.  One of the most moving of these gestures at the Quebec National Event in Montreal held in April, was the presentation of a suitcase by a survivor from northern Quebec – the very suitcase he took with him to residential school.  Most of what he had taken to school was taken from him.  He described taking it home empty but in a sense overflowing with hurt and loss, and anger, and grief.  Through the years he has emptied it of those things and in it he placed, with the support of his church and community symbols of personal healing and reconciliation with others, signs of hope including the Apology offered by Michael Peers in 1993.  It was a powerful moment in that National Event – one rich in every hope that in “Remembering the Children” this country be guided on a new and different path.

This Synod will feature a number of stories of how The General Synod and the dioceses are partnered in a variety of ministries.  One of the oldest of course is the relationship of the Journal and the diocesan newspapers.  One of the more recent is the national “Together in Mission” initiative.  A number of dioceses are engaged in feasibility studies, and a few in developing a case for support including ministries of The General Synod.  Ottawa and Toronto have had their own very successful financial campaigns from which The General Synod has enjoyed generous support.  All of the dioceses are benefiting from the ministry of our Regional Planned Giving Consultants, their work being borne by a cost sharing arrangement with General Synod.

At the call of General Synod 2010 to explore a government relations presence in Ottawa, The General Synod and The Diocese of Ottawa have partnered in the appointment of a Special Advisor for Government Relations.  This office, held by The Rev. Laurette Glasgow has been of great help in assisting me and other Church House staff to address Government on matters of poverty in Canada, chaplaincy within federal prisons, health benefits for refugees, changes in immigration policies, global food security, climate change and the One Thousand Day Countdown to the realization of the Millennium Development Goals in 2015.  This office is enabling me to exercise a stronger prophetic voice on behalf of our Church.

Faith, Worship and Ministry has networks in liturgy, theological education, congregational development and ecumenism all across the country.  The Treasurer of General Synod gathers all the financial officers in a meeting every couple of years.  These have proven to be very helpful with respect to exchange around best practices.  The Chancellor of General Synod hosted a meeting of all the Provincial and Diocesan Chancellors this year reflecting on their work in serving the bishops and synods of our Church.  Staff who work in Communication are in constant contact with one another.  Through General Synod’s Creation Matters Working Group about forty parishes across the country are engaged in church energy audits, greening Anglican spaces, and cultivating Church lands for community gardens supplying fresh produce for local food banks.

General Synod 2010 requested me to convene a National Consultation to identify desirable changes in the structures of The General Synod enabling us to effectively carry out our national and international ministries.  That consultation was held in January and facilitated by Janet Marshall.  The finding were considered by a Steering Group chaired by Monica Patten.  Their Report entitled “Embodying God’s Call” is before this Synod as are a number of resolutions.

May I simply say, that I believe the direction of doing more of our work through task forces and commissions with very clearly defined mandates and measurable results is wise counsel for The General Synod.

Under the theme of working together across the Church I would be remiss if I did not note that within the past three years, there has been a concerted effort and with good success to increased collaboration among all the related entities in the ministry of The Anglican Church of Canada – The Anglican Foundation, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund and the Pension Office.  A wonderful expression of this growing collaboration is the Gifts for Mission Catalogue.  It is clear that more and more people appreciate this opportunity to support ministries of the Church that are particularly close to their heart.

The Anglican Foundation takes a great interest in new and innovative ways of being Church, in theological education, in worship and the sacred arts, in making our buildings accessible, in resourcing youth initiatives and in supporting our Church’s public witness for justice and peace.

With its vision for “a truly just healthy and peaceful world”, PWRDF has a very close relationship with our Global Relations Staff, carefully mapping where our Church is at work in the world and joining forces in advocacy for human rights.

As hopeful as I am for the ways we are working in the Church local, and in the Church national, I am also hopeful for the Church global.

A number of dioceses – 18 – I believe are in Companion Relationships across The Communion.  The General Synod has historic relationships with a number of Provinces – The Philippines, the Solomon Islands, Cuba, and Jerusalem, the Conference of Anglican Provinces in Africa.

I want to highlight our abiding commitment to the Church in Cuba.  The Primate chairs the Metropolitan Council of Cuba.  Global Relations staff visit frequently.  We support a couple of faculty positions at the Seminary in Matanzas.  We support an Annual Diocesan Wide Music Camp.  We assist with clergy stipends and we are working with The Episcopal Church to secure an adequate pension for retired clergy.  A visit by PWRDF staff person José Zarate led to a proposal for a development office for the diocese.  PWRDF and ERD have partnered in making grants to fund this office for three years.  The Development Officer is working with Bishop Griselda and her leadership team to assist parishes with community development initiatives.  Our national relationship with Cuba is complimented by a growing relationship with The Diocese of Niagara centered in farm projects.  Bishop Griselda has been in many parts of Canada.  She herself is an excellent ambassador, a woman of vision and unwavering hope in God’s purposes for the Church in Cuba.

You will recall that General Synod 2010 called for a strengthening of ties with The Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East.  It gives me great delight to see how the Companion relationship with Ottawa continues to flourish.  I am pleased to note that our Church has made a generous commitment to provide for the next three years the stipend for The Rev. Canon John Organ, who is serving as Chaplain to Bishop Suheil Dawani.  John is a retired chaplain of The Canadian Forces, a priest of our church.  His ministry in Jerusalem is very well received.  And I am also pleased to say that the number of Canadian Companions of Jerusalem – individuals, parishes and dioceses is growing.  As companions we are eager to learn more about the Church’s work in the Holy City, in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and Syria.  We are committed to support the Church’s witness through hospitality, health care, education and reconciliation for lasting peace.  All of these developments give great hope to Christians in the Holy Land who long for relationship with their brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world.

Historically we have enjoyed wonderful partnerships with a number of Provinces through Africa.  We have also known the pain of considerable strain in some of those relationships notably over matters of sexuality.  One of the signs of great hope for renewed relations is the Canadian African Bishops Dialogue.  Assuming friendship in Christ, respecting diversity in theological perspective, and learning abut the cultural context in which they are serving the people of God, these conversations continue to be marked by grace, good will and growth in Christ.  In no small measure this dialogue contributes much to what I see as a renewed humility and hope throughout The Anglican Communion.

A good number of Canadian Anglicans are giving extraordinary leadership in The Communion.

I think of

  • Alyson Barnett-Cowan who is as the Director of Unity, Faith and Order
  • of our delegates to the Anglican Consultative Council, Suzanne Lawson, Peter Elliott and Su Moxley
  • of all those serving on Communion wide commission for Liturgy, Evangelism, Church Growth, Theological Education; and Communication.  On Ecumenical Dialogues; on Networks empowering women’s ministries, and indigenous peoples ministries, health care and the environmental; and on those serving The Alliance for Anglican Relief and Development Agencies.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of The Anglican Congress held in Toronto in 1963.  From that great global gathering of Anglicans emerged the principle of Mutual Responsibility and Interdependence in The Body of Christ.  It has been reaffirmed time and again through the Anglican Consultative Council and expanded into the Ten Principles of Partnership adopted in 1993.  These principles enshrine the ethos and guide the way we work together across the world.

As the life and witness of The communion goes forward, we are deeply grateful for the new Archbishop of Canterbury’s passion for evangelism and renewal, his commitment to reconciliation and building up The Body of Christ, and his principled approach to faith in the public square.  In the bonds of affection we share in Christ we uphold Archbishop Justin in our prayers, day by day.

As Anglicans across Canada and around the world we do well it seems to me to remember that wherever we are we are but pieces of clay, in the hands of the potter, the Holy One, whose design is to make of this church a vessel of grace and blessing in and for the world.

I am coming to Synod with a lot of hope.

I pray that you’ll feel something of the hope I feel and that you’ll be able to carry it home to all those places where you love and serve The Lord.

The song writer Colin Gibson puts our life in Christ ever so simply, yet fully

“He came singing hope
and he lived singing hope;
he died singing hope.
He arose in silence…
for the hope to go on
we must make it our song:
You and I be the singers.”





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