Monday, June 25, 2007

Reflections on General Synod

To some extent these reflections are premature. Having narrowly defeated offering to the dioceses the option to decide whether to allow the blessing of same sex unions, it still has to be debated and decided whether the Diocese of New Westminster will be allowed to continue its practice of allowing seven parishes to do so.

But I have heard enough to want to comment. I did not hear much of the theological debate on whether the blessing of same sex unions was not in conflict with the core doctrine of the Anglican Church. The unseemly delaying tactics imposed on Synod on the Saturday evening debate by essentialists and their sympathizers meant that this debate took place on Sunday morning, at the time of the Eucharist in Montreal. In fact I believe I would not have heard it any way: technical problems have plagued the webcast. In time of easy global communication by internet and satellite it projects a very poor image of our church when we fail in a rather simple process.

But I was able to follow the debate on the practical issue on Sunday afternoon. In this discussion, aside from a few comments based on a naïve Biblicism which has never been part of the Anglican Tradition, I heard little theological argument. Instead, despite a few eloquent sermonettes, I heard a debate driven by fear. Two main fears were expressed. One was that a decision in favor of the blessing of same sex union would cause people to leave the church in droves, and destroy the already fragile remnant. The second was that to allow this to proceed would cause the demise of the world wide Anglican Communion. It seems it was the Bishops who most persuaded by this fear mongering.

And so once again the institution triumphs over the Gospel. The Gospel I receive from our scriptures is good news about the possibility of a life and a society based on love and justice, inclusion and acceptance, faith and compassion. In the name of keeping the church together and maintaining our institution, we have, I believe, denied the gospel. If I have a concern it is not so much that people would leave the church in droves because we pronounced God’s blessing on some marginalized couples who need so much our compassion. (I think there are some present members who will leave because we have failed to make that decision.). My concern is rather that thousands will continue estranged from and remain totally indifferent to a church which has no message, no courage and no vision of a new way of being human in a violent, unjust and self-destructive world.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Keeping Track of Synod

A Meditation (from Prayers for General Synod)

Holy One, Author of all creation,
the circles of our lives are drawn together
in your wisdom, joy and self-giving love.

Draw us together in compassion,
that we may behold one another in Christ.
Give us humility to confront, confess and forgive
all that falls short of your vision.

As you ever widen the circle of Jesus’ embrace,
make us one in your healing and reconciling grace.
With boldness may we seek your peace,
do your justice, and tend the wounds of your world
till the circle is unbroken in the eternal dance of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Rev. Tim Smart sent the following list of sources for information on General Synod. Thank you, Tim. Let's keep all the delegates in our prayers.

The Anglican Journal
The Anglican Journal will provide its readers with up-to-the-minute coverage of General Synod on June 19-25 through its Web site,

In addition to regular online news updates, readers will be able to download and print copies of an eight-page daily newspaper, which will be made available to General Synod delegates.

Readers may also subscribe to receive news stories by e-mail at

The Journal is also producing an eight-page supplement of coverage of General Synod 2007, which will be included in a special summer issues, and be mailed in the first week of July.

The General Synod 2007 Website
The main site for General Synod is here:

“Anglicans from across Canada and around the world will be watching General Synod 2007 live by web stream. For more coverage and analysis, viewers can check out “Synod on Demand”, a daily analysis piece hosted by Tim Morgan of Winnipeg. Featuring interviews, synod highlights, and commentary by Tim and others, “Synod on Demand” is a must-see for General Synod followers.

You may also be interested in reading a recent statement by six retired archbishops of the Anglican Church of Canada in which they recommend Synod accept same-sex blessings.

There is also a helpful Q&A on the Blessing of Same-Sex Relationships.

Information about the Primatial Election scheduled for Friday, June 22nd is here.

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison reflects on these past three years as Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada

And just for fun, General Synod has produced some humorous posters that are sure to become collectors items.

I hope you enjoy your General Synod from the comfort of your armchair!

The Rev. Tim Smart

Director of Lay Education in the Diocese of Montreal.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Humility and Chutzpah

Last Friday night, we attended the ordination of a friend to the diaconate. Since it took place in New Hampshire, the presiding bishop was the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, doing what he was elected to do and loves best: simply being a bishop. (As he often remarks, if anyone wants to see what the church would be like when we've put the current issues behind us, they should come to New Hampshire...)

Characteristically, Gene reminded the candidate and the congregation that bishops, priests, and deacons are, in his opinion, the least among the ministries of the baptized. "Being ordained actually limits your opportunities for ministry," he remarked, standing in the center aisle only a few feet from the wide-eyed candidate and speaking directly to him, "because 99% of the ministry that is done in the world is done by them" - and he gestured toward the congregation. "Your job is to empower, help, and support them in recognizing and doing that work."

He went on to describe the work of a deacon as a combination of humility and chutzpah. The humility comes from recognizing oneself as a servant -- one whose job is to serve the poor, those in prison, those who are suffering. The chutzpah comes from having the courage to remind the rest of us that the poor, the friendless and the needy not only exist, but need our attention. Doing justice, and calling the Church to the work of justice, requires both humility and chutzpah.

Using one's gifts fully is part of our responsibility as God's children, he added. Being humble doesn't mean hiding our gifts, but using them appropriately and in balance - in other words, knowing one's place in the world and acting out of that knowledge. That's true for ordained people, and also true for those of us who have already been ordained to the priesthood of all believers by virtue of our baptism - the "ordination" he considers most important of all.

Gene was speaking about the concept of servant leadership, an idea that comes from Jesus's own comments about himself being "the least among you" when the disciples, to his dismay, began squabbling over who would get to sit on his right hand in heaven. 2000 years of Institutional Church later, servant leadership is still a pretty radical concept, but one that is gaining ground among both clergy and laity. There are plenty of clergy who are very threatened by the concept of sharing their traditional authority -- let alone ceding some of it --to the laity, and who do not see the work of the laity as primary at all. But as seminary enrollment declines, churches close, and the world becomes a more anxious and chaotic place, it seems to me that ALL of us bear increasing responsibility for sharing "the priesthood of all believers" and seeing our whole lives as opportunities for ministry.

Do you agree? If you are clergy, how do you see the changing role of those in ordained ministry? If you are a lay person, do you see aspects of your life as ministry? What sort of support do you need or want in order to do this work more effectively in today's world?

--Beth Adams