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Highlights from Day 2 of Synod

Synod opens with worship
The second day of Synod began at 9 a.m. on Nov. 10 with worship.

Missional & Outreach Moment #3
Ginnie Wong and the Rev. Jordan Wellington spoke about St. John, Willowdale’s Summer Sports Night. This is a softball ministry with two other Anglican churches. They showed a video that tells the story of that ministry. About 50 people took part in the ministry, both from St. John’s and the wider community. The congregation has become excited about parish ministry through this initiative. Ms. Wong said, “Our God is a God of relationships.” They said the ministry was primarily for families. “It wasn’t just about softball, it was about sharing meals afterward as well.”

Synod convenes. Photo by Michael Hudson

Archbishop prays for fallen soldiers and for peace
Tomorrow marks the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. Archbishop Johnson offered prayers for those who have died in wars, and for peace.

Marriage Canon Dialogue process resumes
Marge Watters-Knebel and Chris Ambidge, ODT, spoke about the Marriage Canon Dialogue. Here is a summary of what they said in their presentation:  

We are about to start the final session of our work on the potential changes to the Marriage Canon. Synod members are reminded of the norms for the conversations. Through the triad conversations we have had, we have practiced what it means to truly listen – something we don’t often have time to do. Some of you have had two conversations, others have had three. Now we will take time to collect what you’ve heard.

This process will take place in your table groups. You will notice that there is a new person at each table. Their task is to facilitate and record your feedback.

They will invite each person at your table to share “what you’ve heard” in the triad sessions you have been part of. We will use a talking-stick to help remember that one person will speak at a time. Once again, the focus is on listening – we aren’t debating, rather we are offering feedback.

The scribe will take notes of what each person says. These will be collated and become part of our message to the Council of General Synod, along with the other resources we have collected and written which are found on the diocese’s website.

At the conclusion of the table feedback, the scribes will meet with Archbishop Johnson and Bishop Asbil to prepare a brief report of what was heard. This will be shared with you before you leave Synod this afternoon.

The question to guide our feedback is “What have you heard?” with particular reference to the second question asked: “No matter the results of General Synod’s vote in summer 2019, it will be met by both joy and hurt. How can we face this? What does it mean to be a diverse people of God?

In relating what you have heard, we acknowledge that we are sharing other people’s ideas and commitments, some of which may be very different from our own.

Synod members were then asked to continue their discussions.

Synod receives financial statements
Synod received the Financial Report for 2017, the Audited Financial Statements for the Incorporated Synod for 2017 and the Audited Financial Statements for the Cemetery Fund for 2017. 

Provincial Synod highlights provided
Laura Walton reported on the work of Provincial Synod. A summary of her presentation follows:

The Synod of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario was hosted at the beginning of October by Bishop John Chapman and the Diocese of Ottawa. Our province is made up of seven dioceses: Toronto, Niagara, Huron, Ottawa, Ontario, Algoma and Moosonee, all of whom sent four clergy, four lay people and their bishops to meet in Ottawa for the meeting.

The theme for the Synod was A Hopeful Church in a Changing Times, with the focus centered on learning about and discussing our ministries in the province.  We are looking at new ways to function in an era of change while making sure we are relevant and working towards social justice and advocacy in our true mission as a gospel Church. We are searching for and trying new ways of looking at ministry and finances while continuing meaningful work across all seven of our dioceses, both functionally and programmatically.

Our keynote speaker was Bishop William Cliff of the Diocese of Brandon, who filled his talks with humour, grace and depth and led us to think more critically about what we are working towards as a mission-filled Church and province.

Synod reviewed our three priorities for the past triennium. We did substantial work on eldercare, homelessness and OPCOTE, with regards to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We have a list of further items that members suggested that we will discuss, build on and work towards in our next triennium. Some will be the same and others new.

We spent time discussing changes to the Marriage Canon. We were joined by the General Synod Chancellor David Jones, who worked with us through various scenarios and talked in small groups. We heard from PWRDF on their 60th anniversary, had a panel discussion around a hopeful Church, a presentation from the New England Company and we presented substantial work that had happened with our senior staff management consultations. This group, made up of senior staff from all seven dioceses, is significant as they will move a plan forward that will study and discuss consolidation of services across the dioceses and sometimes the province.

Along with business there were celebrations. Our Primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, joined us for the whole Synod and spoke about the work of General Synod. He presided at the installation of our Prolocutor and new Metropolitan and spoke with true grace and warmth at the thank-you and retirement dinner of our own Archbishop. We also had an evening to celebrate Archbishop Colin and his wife Ellen.

Archbishop Anne Germond from the Diocese of Algoma was elected on the first ballot as our new Metropolitan and Bishop of Moosonee. Provincial Synod will continue to work on the quieter issues of historical designations, cemeteries and government works. 

Missional & Outreach Moment #4
The Rev. Michael Van Dusen talked about St. Aidan, Toronto’s participation in a canoe pilgrimage. He began by acknowledging that Synod is meeting on traditional First Nations land. He said the acknowledgment resonates with those who went on the canoe pilgrimage, which went from Midland to Montreal – 850 km over 25 days – in the summer of 2017. He said it took place within the context of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to actions, and that early Jesuit missionaries to the Huron Wendat travelled the route in the 1600s. Paddlers on the pilgrimage ranged from 18-75 years of age, from every cultural background, including Indigenous people. Some people from St. Aidan’s took part in the pilgrimage.

Diocesan Council’s Report to Synod received
Synod received Diocesan Council’s Report to Synod, which can be found in Section B of the Convening Circular.

Synod hears about strategic plan’s progress
The Rev. Ian LaFleur, the honorary clerical secretary of Synod, gave an update on the diocese’s strategic plan, Growing in Christ. Here is a summary of his presentation:

As you aware, in 2016 the Diocesan Council approved Growing in Christ as the Diocesan Strategic Plan for 2016-2021. Over the past two years, five working groups have been formed to assist in the implementation of the plan.

The diocese is in a time of profound change, both in its internal and external environments. Demographic shifts and changing societal attitudes continue to shape the environment in which the diocese operates. This changing environment presents new opportunities and challenges which require the diocese to adopt new and innovative ways of operating. Some of this change can be informed by emerging best practices and thought leadership, and other changes will need to be informed by collaboration and feedback from parishes and other stakeholders.

The diocesan leadership team identified the need to take a focused and measured approach to the rollout of our strategic plan that would enable us to focus our efforts on the delivery of two priorities in 2018. The two priorities identified were Governance and Clergy Remuneration–issues we have wrestled with for many years and collectively recognize need change. Over the past 10 months, we have focused on drafting recommendations for these priorities that will now be shared with various groups for input and recommendations as the working groups continue to rework their recommendations.

The remaining working groups are at varying stages of deliverable development.

The Governance working group membership is comprised of individuals who bring depth of subject matter expertise in multiple disciplines, including corporate governance within the Church, for-profit and not-for-profit environments.

We know that fundamental change must be supported by an efficient governance and decision-making structure to enable the diocese to be more nimble and flexible, by optimally using the time and talents of the diocesan volunteers and staff. Decision-making is overly complex and encumbered by many levels of approval. Our canons are perceived to be cumbersome and our structure is complex.

In developing its proposal, the working group, which has met 20 times since it was formed, heeded the advice that it received to think outside the existing canonical framework to develop a nimble and flexible governance structure. The framework the working group will recommend is geared to optimize staff and volunteer subject matter expertise while balancing relevant principles from corporate governance structures within our unique polity as a Church.

Committee members elicited input from Diocesan Council, the College of Bishops, the Archbishop and the Chancellor regarding the efficacy of existing governing bodies and the level of members’ engagement. They also observed the working of Area Councils and Executive Board and Trust Committee.

Four models were considered. The proposed governance structure recommended by the working group is a more streamlined structure with fewer layers, committees with depth of subject matter expertise and delegated decision-making authority to be established by Synod.

The working group has commenced the consultation process with various groups across the diocese to elicit input regarding the proposed model. This began with a presentation to Diocesan Council in October, followed by a presentation to the meeting of Regional Deans the same month. It will continue between now and spring of 2019, expanding to include Area Councils, the ACW and chairs of the various working groups. This information will be reflected in the next iteration of the governance model, targeted for presentation to Diocesan Council next June. This will be followed by presentations at pre-Synod meetings in the fall, and a proposed pilot will be presented at next year’s Synod.

The second focus area for the current year has been Clergy Remuneration. We recognized that it is time to revisit clergy remuneration, which was last assessed over 20 years ago by KPMG, to address some of the inequities that have arisen over the years.

The working group membership is comprised of both clergy and volunteers with multi-functional expertise. The work undertaken by the committee is theologically grounded and incorporates much discussion, consultation and learnings from other dioceses “right-adjusted” to our diocese.

The consideration included all aspects of clergy remuneration: stipends, rectory/housing allowances, utility cost, continuing education, stole fees, payment for specialized ministries, pay for merit, vacation, sabbaticals, moving expenses and related processes, with the understanding that the model has pension and EI implications.

The guiding principles adopted by the working group include:

  • Current active clergy will not suffer financially within the new system.
  • Clergy should have the primary responsibility for their own financial and retirement planning.
  • Remuneration of clergy should demonstrate justice and fairness across the diocese.
  • Significant changes will be tested, evaluated, adjusted and then rolled out.
  • Recommendations are designed to build relationships and not harm or diminish them.

The consultation process was broad and included the College of Bishops, Regional Deans, Executive Board, Diocesan Council, selected parishes in each episcopal area and groups of clergy with special concerns, including associates, rural clergy deacons, part-time and interim and retired clergy. Calgary, Kootenay and New Westminster dioceses and the Property Working Group were also consulted.

The working group continues to ensure that all aspects of remuneration are considered. It continues to work through matters of concern such as urban/rural differentials, housing allowances paid and different results arising in compensation as a result of varying negotiating skills of clergy.

it is anticipated that there will be canonical implications for some of the recommendations, and we expect that these will be piloted to test how they work out prior to fuller implementation.

The final draft of the clergy remuneration report is targeted for completion by early 2019.

The mandate of the Leadership and Formation Group focuses on the goal to provide for life-long and continual growth in Christ by equipping and empowering clerical and lay leaders to engage in the mission of the diocese; to expand the availability and practice of continuous education and to adopt new models of formation and diversity in leadership.

The committee met eight times over the past 19 months. Leadership & Formation has considered its mandate first by reflecting theologically on Christian leadership. It has collated a list of resources on the nature of leadership, commenced an inventory of existing diocesan-endorsed resources for formation (both internally and externally produced), and reviewed current programs, for example, Momentum, Fresh Start, Postulancy and the Parish Leaders Workshops.

The committee has consulted with several representative groups. Members from the former LOGOS program shared the history of that valuable formation program in our diocese. Presentations were made by the Archbishop’s Youth Ministry Team and the intercultural working group to share more about their work, ministry and formation needs. Representatives of the theological colleges discussed practices of field education with the chairs and staff of the Leadership & Formation Working Group together with the College of Bishops and will meet the Doctrine & Worship Committee. The following are the key recommendations arising from the committee’s work to date:

For Clergy:  that an expectation of continuing Christian education and life-long formation be articulated, promoted and provided for throughout the Diocese of Toronto, and that resources for learning and educational opportunities receive investment and support. Additionally, that the Community of Deacons in particular receive dedicated resources for their training and ongoing formation.

For Lay Leaders: that resources for specific ministries (churchwardens’ training, children and youth ministry, etc.) be developed and provided, and that resources for general discipleship and learning opportunities be promoted and provided in every congregation for all the baptized to grow in their faith.

The Leadership & Formation Working Group will strike a Curriculum Subcommittee in the coming months to holistically review the content of the modules of the Postulancy, Momentum and Fresh Start programs and to reorganize all the content in a way that makes sense for each stage of clergy formation.

The group will work with the Congregational Development Department to consider another diocesan-wide Lenten program (a follow-up to “Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John”) to respond to our baptismal call to continue growing in Christ. 

The mandate of the Trust and Culture working group is to help build a collaborative and trusting culture by promoting mutually beneficial collaboration based on shared values and vision; help strengthen respectful relationships and communication across the entire diocese; and develop guiding principles for the way we interact and communicate with each other.

As part of its process of evaluation, there was a review and analysis of the findings arising from the clergy and staff engagement survey that was undertaken earlier this year, as well as a survey that was sent to clergy and staff asking the question, “If you had the ability to change one thing that you believe would improve the level of trust between the parishes and the Synod Office, what would that one thing be?” The issues identified continue to be discussed and the working group is focused on extracting themes from the data and correlating it to the results of the engagement survey.

This has led the group to rethink the terms of reference developed at the time the working group was initially created so that the Trust and Culture working group would act as a barometer for the other groups. This would entail developing a checklist of criteria that would be used by the other working groups to evaluate whether their recommendations help build a more collaborative culture and improve trust across the diocese.

The mandate of the Innovation Based on Evidence Working Group is focused on defining clear deliverables that will enable the diocese to mitigate risk through adoption of best practices with respect to how data will be used to measure outcomes for continuous improvement. Because of significant turnover, this group will be reconfigured early in the New Year to continue its work.

The Property Working Group is mandated to help us to better track, manage and leverage our real estate resources. By year-end, we will have a comprehensive inventory of all our real estate holdings, a project we undertook last year with N. Barry Lyons Consultants. In January of 2018, a Request for Proposal was put out to market for engineering consulting services to assist us with a diocese-wide building condition assessment project. In the procurement phase of the engagement we have received positive responses from some of the country’s pre-eminent engineering consulting firms. There is considerably more work to be done in this complex area but it is well underway.

Missional & Outreach Moment #5
The Rev. Samantha Caravan and Cormac Culkeen spoke about the Space Youth Drop-In at St. John, West Toronto. They said this ministry is flourishing at St. John’s. In the neighbourhood are a lot of schools, so the church started an after-school ministry, and now 100-150 youth come to the church every Wednesday. It took months getting to know the kids, starting by providing food outside the church after school. Now many of the kids call the church their parish home. They talk about Jesus all the time with the kids. The kids see the church as a place where they belong. The ministry is one of several projects for those in the neighbourhood. They showed a video of the ministry.

Synod members speak
During Members Time, Synod members spoke about the following subjects:

  • Archbishop Oscar Romero
  • SSJD’s Companion program
  • Parish administrators retreat
  • The place of youth in the Church
  • Praise for Archbishop Johnson and Bishop Asbil’s comments to Synod last night.
  • Bridge-building between parish churches
  • What more can the diocese do to provide mentoring and pastoral care for young adults
  • The pain that the LGBTQ community will feel if the Marriage Canon changes are not approved at General Synod
  • The seventh annual Children’s Ministry Conference had more than 350 registrant this year
  • What would humility look like in the Diocese of Toronto
  • Donate to a church and school in Haiti

Election results announced
The results of yesterday’s election of General Synod nominees were announced. The following were elected:

Lay members:

  • Chris Ambidge, ODT – Church of the Redeemer, Bloor St.
  • Joyce Badley, ODT – St. George by the Grange, Toronto
  • Leslie Hadju, ODT – St. George, Pickering Village
  • Ryan Ramsden – Grace Church in Scarborough
  • Marion Thompson – St. Mark, Port Hope
  • Mary Walsh, ODT – St. John the Baptist, Oak Ridges
  • Laura Walton, ODT – Holy Trinity, Clearview
  • Christian (Kit) Woods – St. James the Apostle, Sharon

Clerical members:

  • The Rev. Julie Burn – Church of the Resurrection, Toronto
  • The Rev. Canon Philip Der – St. Christopher, Richmond Hill
  • The Rev. Dr. Alison Falby – St. Martin, Bay Ridges, Pickering
  • The Rev. Molly Finlay – All Saints, Whitby
  • The Rev. Canon David Harrison – St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto
  • The Rev. Canon Janet Read-Hockin – St. Nicholas, Birch Cliff
  • The Rev. Mark Regis – St. Paul, Bloor Street
  • The Rev. Nicola Skinner – Grace Church, Markham

Youth member

  • Lyds Keesmaat-Walsh – Redeemer, Bloor St.

Bishops report on Marriage Canon Dialogue conversations
Archbishop Johnson and Bishop Asbil shared some of the feedback from the Marriage Canon Dialogue conversations that Synod members have been having today and yesterday. The report that will be sent from the diocese to the Council of General Synod will be posted on the diocese’s website when it is available. The report will include an overview of what has been heard in the discussions at Synod and a summary of the responses from the data gathered. In the meantime, Archbishop Johnson and Bishop Asbil reported on some of the issues that were raised in the discussion groups. They include:

  • A feeling of weariness
  • Fear of what the vote at General Synod 2019 will mean, both in the diocese and in the rest of the Communion
  • In spite of the fear, we want to stay together.
  • Need to include the insights of youth and children
  • Need to care for those who are feeling left out
  • There is a deep longing and need to talk about scripture and theology
  • There is a need to have resources, and to have pastoral care that is contextualized
  • People feel polarized but they do so within the Big Tent
  • Concerns about our international relationships
  • There is a degree of pain avoidance
  • Anxiety about being labelled
  • We’re already living with diversity and we need to hold up that we’re unified in Jesus Christ
  • While there is weariness and fear, there is a need to move on with courage and hope and faith

Synod wraps up
It was Archbishop Johnson’s last time as chair of the diocese’s Synod. He said he may attend Synod in retirement but will not exercise his vote. As a way of thanks for his leadership, Synod gave him a standing ovation. He thanked Sarah MacDonald, ODT, who was stepping down as the Honorary Lay Secretary of Synod. Synod ended with prayer.