July 18, 2019 – A Letter to the Congregation of The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist from Dean Scott at the completion of the 42nd General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada

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My Dear People of God,

Greetings from Vancouver BC, where I just finished attending General Synod as a delegate from the Diocese of Saskatoon, and Sarah was present as an Observer. The Diocese was also represented by Bishop Chris Harper, Archdeacon Ken Watts, Chris Wood and Ruth Skinner and Alexa Wallace. 

Some of you may have been following the events at General Synod on the Anglican Church of Canada website or our own Diocesan website. I will not attempt in this letter to summarize all that has happened since last Wednesday but I do encourage you to update yourselves on some of the very significant decisions that have been made – all links, documents and video are available at https://gs2019.anglican.ca/category/news/

In an historic vote, General Synod decided almost unanimously on Thursday July 12 to approve changes to Canon XXII that enable a self-determining Indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada, and to bestow the title of ‘Archbishop’ upon National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald, a position which now ranks among the metropolitans. And in a profoundly moving moment our Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, offered a sincere and humble apology for the spiritual harm the Church inflicted on the indigenous peoples of this country. Members of General Synod rose to their feet upon hearing this apology to join together in sincerely supporting this statement. 

Reporting on this moment, the Anglican Journal stated that “delivering his apology to the gathering of General Synod July 11, Hiltz laid out a confession of the ways the Anglican church demonized, dismissed and actively discouraged traditional Indigenous spiritual practices.

“For such shameful behaviours, I am very sorry. We were so full of our own self-importance. To quote the Book of Common Prayer, we followed ‘too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.’ We were ignorant. We were insensitive. We offended you. And I believe we offended God.” See here for full article: https://www.anglicanjournal.com/primate-apologizes-for-spiritual-harm-inflicted-on-indigenous-peoples/amp/

This apology was accepted by indigenous elders on the closing day of Synod – a very important moment in the long process of healing and reconciliation.  

The first part of Friday contained some very encouraging decisions. General Synod passed – by 85% – a document called “A Word to the Church” and can be found here:https://gs2019.anglican.ca/wp-content/uploads/A-Word-to-the-Church-Considering-the-proposed-amendment-of-Marriage-Canon-XXI.pdf

This wide ranging and generous statement, recognizing that many Anglican laity, clergy and bishops have differing understandings and beliefs regarding the sacrament of marriage and who this sacrament can be shared with, seemed to us to have the inclusivity to engage all communities. Please take the time to read this document. 

Given the wide support for this document by the vast majority of those in General Synod, many of us were deeply shocked and saddened when GS failed to pass a resolution amending the marriage canon, which would have allowed for the solemnization of same-sex marriage. A very thorough article describing this day and some possible options as we move forward can be found here: https://www.anglicanjournal.com/church-grapples-with-pain-after-marriage-canon-vote/

Saturday at the Eucharist prior to the election of our new Primate: The following is a portion of an article published in the Anglican Journal that does a very good job summarizing part of Bishop Lynne’s sermon:

“In her sermon at Christ Church Cathedral the morning after the marriage canon vote, Bishop Lynne McNaughton described the day’s reading from Ezekiel 34 as “an indictment of shepherds who don’t care for their sheep.” Jesus, she said, views himself as the “good shepherd who came to bind up the broken-hearted, seek the lost, rescue the scattered and the outcast. The good shepherd calls us each by name…. The namer whispers to the broken-hearted, ‘You are precious, honoured and loved.’”

“How do we hear this?” she asked. “How do we hear this as we get up after an agonizing night at General Synod when we move from the high of yesterday morning moving to the Indigenous self-determination, through the afternoon of making affirmations of how we can live well in our diversity, to the excruciating pain of last night’s close vote?”

McNaughton moved onto the subject of bishops, a relevant topic for many upset about the vote results. While the Order of Laity and Order of Clergy both saw the required two-thirds majority in favour of the marriage canon amendment, the Order of Bishops did not meet that threshold.

“Church leaders have taken on the pastoral metaphor from scripture that pastors and bishops are shepherds…. There’s a danger when human beings take on this metaphor and forget that Jesus is the good shepherd,” McNaughton said.

As this article was being written, the House of Bishops had met together at General Synod and were reportedly preparing a joint statement on the marriage canon vote.”  (End of AJ article)

Please see their statement here: https://gs2019.anglican.ca/atsynod/a-message-from-hob/

Speaking for myself, I was deeply aware that on Friday night many of us General Synod were struggling.  We were struggling with a Church who says, “All are welcome…..but…”. “All are welcome but…if you are part of the LGBTQ2S+ you are not fullywelcome.’” This part of the Church community that is asking to be fully and pastorally welcomed, ought to have rightful access to all the sacraments of the church and this includes the Sacrament of Marriage.  That’s what full inclusion means!  Many of the members of Synod were in deep pain because of the conversations held on that day.  The announcement of the results left many Synod members in shock.  Many were hurt and disillusioned by the failure of Synod to pass the motion to amend the Marriage Canon.  I was one of those persons.  Many of us were frustrated that the motion passed with strong majorities in the Orders of Laity and Clergy, but not on the Order of Bishops – they were short three votes. When the resolution did not receive the required two-thirds votes in the Order of Bishops some people among us – many of them our younger Synod delegates – left the room in tears.  “Our children are crying” said our Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, as he asked us to be mindful of the immense hurt and pain in the room that night. 

But as Archbishop Fred Hiltz said two days later in his sermon at Christ Church Cathedral, “We are not finished yet!” and asked for prayers to find a way to make provisions to allow same-sex marriage so that we can continue as one church and make room for one another across our differences, and that we can accommodate the diversity in people’s understanding of marriage.  

Several clergy responded with a statement of our own in the following – and I was one of the signatories to this statement:

A Statement from Clergy and Lay Delegates of General Synod 2019

July 15, 2019.

The clergy and lay delegates of General Synod 2019 have by overwhelming majorities voted in favour of the proposed change to the marriage canon to explicitly permit same sex marriage (Resolution A52-R2) and the affirmations of “A Word to the Church” (Resolution A101-R1).  We are saddened and dismayed that the change to the marriage canon was blocked by the vote in the order of bishops, though we are heartened that a strong majority of bishops (62%) voted in favour.

Therefore we affirm:

1. The full inclusion of LGBTQ2S+ people in the life, leadership, liturgies and sacraments, including marriage, of the Anglican Church of Canada

2. That in accordance with the affirmations found in “A Word to the Church”, same sex marriage can and will proceed by local option.

3. That we regret and lament the hurt and harm that has been caused by the actions of this Synod and by our church to LGBTQ2S+ people.  We apologize, and call on our Church to end the harm. (End of statement)

In our own diocese we were given a local option by Bishop David Irving to marry same sex couples after consulting with the bishop and it is my hope that this “local option” will continue in the future. As the Cathedral of our diocese I want our community to be a welcoming, safe and inclusive place for ALL of God’s children. 

But I don’t want to leave the impression that this was the only issue discussed during our week together. On Saturday following the morning Eucharist where we heard Bishop Lynne’s sermon we gathered to elect our next Primate. 

Linda Nicholls, bishop of the diocese of Huron, was elected fourteenth primate of the Anglican Church of Canada on July 13, becoming the first woman in the history of the Anglican Church of Canada and the second woman ever to hold the office of Primate.

“You have bestowed on me an honour that I can hardly imagine, and it is terrifying. But it is also a gift, to be able to walk with the whole of the Anglican Church of Canada from coast to coast to coast,” Nicholls said in a brief impromptu speech on her arrival, after the vote at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, where the election was held. For the full article from the Anglican Journal please visit: https://www.anglicanjournal.com/linda-nicholls-elected-primate/

I believe we have been blessed in past years with a wise, loving, gentle and strong Primate in Archbishop Hiltz and as a Cathedral community we will continue to pray for Archbishop Nicholls in the years to come. 

There are so many other important statements and decisions that were made during our 7 days together – more than can be included here. But I did want to be in touch with you all to assure you that as a community of faith we will continue to be the eyes, ears, hands and feet of Christ in our world – in the heart of Saskatoon – at St. John’s Cathedral. Slowly but surely, God’s transformative Love is shaping us into being the loving, generous and gracious people we were created to be. 

May this God continue to bless you all,

Dean Scott Pittendrigh 

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