General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada begins its 41st session

By General Synod Communications

The first day of General Synod commenced on July 7, 2016 with the opening worship at the Sheraton Parkway North Toronto Hotel and Suites in Richmond Hill, Ontario.

Prior to the opening procession, members received an official welcome to Richmond Hill from Mayor Dave Barrow. The General Secretary Michael Thompson noted that this year’s General Synod was the first following the establishment of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh, the ministry of which members warmly applauded. Bishop Bruce Myers, the coadjutor bishop of the Diocese of Quebec, welcomed ecumenical and interfaith guests who were present for the evening but would not be staying for the entire Synod.

Following the opening procession and asperges, the first Bible reading at the worship service was Isaiah 43, the passage that inspired the theme of this year’s General Synod, “You Are My Witnesses.” A subsequent reading consisted of a passage from the Gospel of Luke, in which Jesus refers to those who have perceived his resurrection as his witnesses.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, reflected on the theme in his opening sermon. He recalled the history of the Anglican Church of Canada, looking at moments when its witness had been strong and fulfilled its mission, but also when it had been misguided. Throughout that history, Archbishop Hiltz said, the church had struggled with disagreements often centred around inclusion—the place of women, of young people, of different religious communities, of Indigenous Peoples, and of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, and questioning people and their equality of access to all ministrations of the church, including marriage.

With so many in the church at large looking over the coming five days to the members of General Synod, the Primate asked members to conduct themselves with the sense of grace and goodwill epitomized by the Sexuality Discernment Statement from General Synod 2010 in Halifax, which stated that despite disagreements, members were committed to walking together in their common life within the church.

The Primate then offered a prayer seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Church leaders from across the country led the Prayers to the People, speaking in a multitude of languages including Cantonese, French, Oji-Cree, Spanish, Portuguese, and Inuktitut. Hundreds of General Synod members, guests, and observers celebrated the Eucharist together.

Following opening worship, those in attendance gathered in the Grand Richmond room for an opening reception. Members and guests conversed while enjoying drinks and food from the West Indies, China, and other cultures over the sound of live music featuring steel drums. At the end of the reception, they departed for the night, resting up in preparation for the work of the days ahead.

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