Fingering in the Anglican Church of Canada

The Anglican Church of Canada seems to be on the way to making decisions by consensus rather than voting. To this end, delegates are holding up fingers – from five to zero – to register their level of agreement with a motion.

Extreme disagreement would be indicated by a single middle finger.

Since “consensus” means a “judgment arrived at by most of those concerned”, and is something generally determined by voting, I can’t help suspecting that this new piece of Anglican fudge is an attempt to sow just the right amount of diverse and inclusive confusion to keep the remaining conservatives studiously fiddling with their fingers while the latest piece of nonsensical sexual legislation slithers passed them into the church canons.

From here:

Discussed and practiced, for some votes, decision-making by consensus. Instead of simply voting for or against a motion, members showed their level of support for it using their fingers, with five fingers meaning strong support, for example, and no fingers indicating a need to discuss the matter in more detail. In a discussion on consensus decision-making, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he hoped CoGS in this triennium would move beyond a “yearning” for alternatives (such as consensus) to the more traditional parliamentary form of decision-making.

Still talking about same-sex marriage

The Anglican Church cannot stop talking about same-sex marriage. The more words that are spoken, the less that is said, an endless stream of fustian vacuities circling the certain knowledge that the outcome is inevitable; a gathering of CoGS clergy weaving an elaborate pretence of impartial objectivity, willing puppets, eyes blinkered and strings pulled by the spirit of our age.

It’s not unlike a description from Anthony Powell’s masterpiece, A Dance to the Music of Time:

The image of Time brought thoughts of mortality of human beings, facing outward like the Seasons, moving hand in hand in intricate measure, stepping slowly, methodically sometimes a trifle awkwardly, in evolutions that take recognisable shape: or breaking into seemingly meaningless gyrations, while partners disappear only to reappear again, once more giving pattern to the spectacle: unable to control the melody, unable, perhaps, to control the steps of the dance.

Here is a more prosaic account from the Journal:

Despite hopes expressed by some members that the Council of General Synod (CoGS) will be able to shift its focus away from same-sex marriage during the next triennium,  this did not happen just yet.

The Council spent much of the second day of its fall meeting brainstorming how it can ensure that productive discussions of the motion to amend the marriage canon will happen on the provincial and diocesan level over the next three years.

The motion passed its first reading at the July meeting of General Synod, but because same-sex marriage is a matter of doctrine, it requires a two-thirds majority vote at two consecutive General Synods. In preparation for the next General Synod in 2019, dioceses and ecclesiastical provinces have been asked to continue to study the motion in preparation for the second and final vote. CoGS has been mandated to support this work.

As several members noted over the course of the day, it might not be a straightforward task.

The church remains deeply divided on the issue. There are those who believe same-sex marriage has been put off for far too long already, those who insist that homosexuality is a serious sin and those who believe some accommodation for gay and lesbian Anglicans is necessary, but aren’t yet ready for marriage.

Some CoGS members, among them, the Rev. Lynne McNaughton, of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon, said their dioceses have already held meetings to discuss the next three years. Others, like John Rye of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land, compared debates over same-sex marriage to the film Groundhog Day, in which the protagonist re-lives the same day over and over again.

The Rev. Vincent Solomon, of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land, said people need to learn how to listen to each other if healthy discussions are to be had—a point that the Rev. David Burrows, a CoGS member from the ecclesiastical province of Canada, agreed with.

Highlights from the Council of General Synod

The Council of General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada met in May to discuss, among other things, anti-racism, repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, Vision 2019, and how to mangle the Marriage Canon.

The complete highlights can read here, but for those who are reluctant to wade through that ponderous document and would like a summary of how effectively these deliberations will further the Kingdom of Christ in the twenty first century, the following extract will suffice:

Council members took a short coffee break from 10:15 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

The Anglican Church of Canada is “restructuring”

Read all about it here.

In what I can only assume was an unguarded moment, Archbishop Colin Johnson let slip the real reason for the reorganisation: not to spread the Gospel more effectively or even to dabble more fervently in a spot of “ecojustice”, but to survive. After all, no church, no clergy stipend.

Archbishop Colin Johnson, diocesan bishop of the diocese of Toronto and metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of Ontario, said the work of restructuring was “a lot like trying to lose weight.” Even losing a few pounds by giving up on some sweets, cutting down on meat and potatoes, and exercising more means one “will last longer,” said Johnson, who is also a member of the structures working group.

Anglican Church of Canada’s third quarter deficit is $680,000

Not even sitting in a sacred circle could console members of the Council of General Synod as they pondered their growing deficit: there was even talk of layoffs. Compassionate layoffs. A layoff that is “done with compassion, understanding, kindness and thankfulness” is one where the person being laid off has the compassion not to swear at his superior, the understanding that there is nothing he can do, the kindness not to sue the church for wrongful dismissal and the thankfulness that his impending unemployment is contributing to the financial well-being of his former employer.

Luckily for CoGS the Rev. Dr. Christopher Duraisingh, professor at Episcopal Divinity School, was on hand to explain that:

Jesus’s baptism was not baptism for forgiveness of sins, but an identity marker as being enlisted in the kingdom of God’s movement. We’ve turned baptism into sin-management rite. We need to put our baptism in line with Jesus’s baptism.

Perhaps it’s my not being a Rev. Dr. professor that prevents from me seeing this as anything other than a restatement of Pelagianism – the heresy that Man is born without original sin. To “put our baptism in line with Jesus’s baptism”, we would have to be sinless as he was.

Duraisingh went on to opine that “COGS must be like a midwife as this movement is born”. I fear that the only movement being born in the Anglican Church of Canada, is one that bears less resemblance to a movement of the Spirit than it does to a movement of the bowels.

CoGS doesn’t want to discuss the Covenant

From here:

The Anglican Church of Canada needs more clarity around what the “relational consequences” would be for not adopting the proposed Anglican Communion Covenant.

The solution is obvious: just like the moratorium on same-sex blessings, agree to it on paper and ignore it in practise.

Although a comprehensive study guide on the covenant was prepared and recommended for Canadian Anglicans, “there’s not much interest in discussing it,” reported members of one CoGS discussion group. “We’re not sure why,” they added.

Obviously CoGS needs to get in touch with its feelings. Or perhaps the problem is that many ACoC priests are too in touch with their feelings and are fiercely opposed to something that threatens to curtail their expeditions into the increasingly familiar territory of homoeroticism.

The real reason comes at the end of the article: the church wants to engage in a little prophetic social justice making by waiting to see what TEC does.

The Episcopal Church in the U.S. will consider the covenant at its General Convention this July. The Anglican Church of Canada will decide whether to adopt or reject it at General Synod 2013.

Anglican Church of Canada CoGS is out of ideas

From here:

Emerging from daylong discussions on May 25 about the future of the Anglican Church of Canada, members of the Council of General Synod (CoGS) appeared to lack ideas about what the next steps should be.

In fact, members expressed feeling “overwhelmed” by the question of how to renew church structures.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said that instead of hearing new ideas, he heard a lot of familiar ones following reports coming out of small group discussion. Further, he said he wasn’t convinced that members were grasping the urgency of our situation.

I have a new idea for the Anglican Church of Canada: give Christianity a try.

What won’t work is more of the same nonsense as typified by the questions CoGS was asked to ponder:

* How might God be using the current financial situation of General Synod to tell us about our future in carrying out Vision 2019?

* What might the Holy Spirit be telling us about ourselves as we grapple with the complexities of our current governance and structural challenges?

* How might Jesus be leading us on a journey of spiritual renewal through the presence of indigenous peoples among us, and their witness in the Mississauga Declaration.

Some bright spark thought the church should “clearly and proactively articulate its unique mission and ministry”. Leaving aside the obvious thought that anyone who uses the word “proactive” is mentally constipated, it goes without saying that a church that has no “unique mission and ministry”  is wasting its time trying to find ways to articulate it.

It all ended in a sacred circle in which the obstinately blinkered Colin Johnson declared that the church “is not any more broken than it ever was”. He said much the same in 2008 when parishes started leaving the ACoC; then there were 19 ANiC parishes, now there are 47. The ACoC is running out of money. No-one knows what to do. CoGS is “overwhelmed”. The situation, according the primate, Fred Hiltz, is “urgent”. Crisis? What crisis?