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Highlights from Day 2 of Synod

Synod begins with worship
Synod reconvened at 8:30 a.m. on Nov. 9, and the meeting began with worship, including prayers and a moment of silence for those who have lost their lives in the wars.  

The youngest person at Synod with her mother. Photos by Michael Hudson

Synod agrees to time-saving measures
Synod had too many agenda items to finish by 1 p.m., so it agreed to the following time-saving measures: the presentation on General Synod will be posted on the diocese’s website; the Clergy Remuneration Working Group’s Report to the Bishop will be finished and then it will be presented at workshops in 2020 after consultation and with the support of the working group; Motion #16 has been withdrawn.

Bishop hears thoughts on same-sex marriage
“A Word to the Bishop” was an hour-long, “open mic” session, much like Members Hour, specifically on the topic of same-sex marriage in the Church. It was intended to allow people to speak directly and openly to Bishop Andrew Asbil on the subject as he seeks to have new guidelines in place for the diocese by Pentecost 2020. Members were also invited to send written comments to him if they wished. Many people spoke. Here are some of the comments:

  • The words spoken by Bishop Asbil yesterday in his Charge, “Home” and “equal” for LGBTQ people, meant the world to us.
  • The world is changing and we need to change. We need to look forward. We have to have it in our heart to move forward.
  • Thank you for holding this time and space for us to do this. As a youth who is questioning, it’s very important to have these spaces for these conversations, especially in rural communities where there are few opportunities to do this.
  • As a queer women, I left the Catholic Church because of the issue of same- sex marriage. I love the Anglican Church and want to stay, but I came because of the hope of equal marriage. Please let us have that – equal sacraments.
  • Loving your neighbour means loving your LGBTQ neighbours, not only here but in places where there is no “local option”.
  • I am a gay man but I also believe in traditional marriage. I believe marriage is between one man and one woman. I felt it was important to speak because as space is being made for communities, I don’t often feel there is space made for me. My community is diverse on such things, and I ask that space be made for us
  • Social media has become an extension of my ministry. Every day I get at least two or three messages from somewhere in the world, from people who are reaching out to me because I’m the only openly gay, Christian, ordained person they know. Thank you to the diocese and all those who have done the difficult work to welcome us home.
  • Advocates for Changing the Marriage Canon is a Facebook group that has 1,500 members across Canada and is attracting people from around the world.
  • There are people like me who are unable to give up the Church’s traditional teaching on marriage. I am happy to know there will be a place for people like me in this diocese. I am committed to praying with members of the LGBTQ community and have already begun to do so. I would encourage others to do so as well.
  • We have a church group with about 20 LGBTQ youth. Some want us to marry them someday, and I’m really looking forward to the day when I don’t have to hesitate before I answer them.
  • I love that my Church is struggling with this. I want my Church to be spacious and life-giving for all of us.
  • I am grateful for the friendship of those who disagree with me.
Members of St. Martin, Bay Ridges talk about their online ministry in a Missional and Outreach Moment.

Missional and Outreach Moment
The Rev. Christian Harvey and Cormac Culkeen spoke about the diocese’s Youth Ministry Apprenticeship Program, which equips and prepares potential leaders for youth ministry positions in the diocese. Since the program started in 2009, there have been 37 graduates. Mr. Harvey was one of the co-founders of the program and Synod gave him a standing ovation for his leadership over the years. He is stepping down as co coordinator of the program to be the executive director of the Warming Room in Peterborough. After thanking Mr. Harvey for his efforts, Bishop Jenny Andison announced that Cormac Culkeen will be the coordinator of the program for the eastern half of the diocese while Alexandra McIntosh will be the coordinator for it in the western half of the diocese.

Financial reports and statements approved
Synod received and approved the Financial Report for 2018, the Audited Financial Statements for the Incorporated Synod for 2018 and the Audited Financial Statements for the Cemetery Fund for 2018, all of which can be found in Section C of the Convening Circular.

Auditors appointed
Synod appointed the firm Grant Thornton LLP, Chartered Accountants, to conduct the audit of the financial statements of Synod, the Consolidated Trust Fund and the Cemetery Fund for the year ending Dec. 31, 2019, at a fee to be approved by the Audit Committee.

Synod hears financial update
Lilian Qian, the diocese’s Treasurer and Director of Finance, presented the financial update for 2019. As of Aug. 30, 2019, the diocese had an operating surplus of $118,900, which is favorable to the revised forecast by $105,116. She said the main drivers for this favourable result are: timing differences for expenses such as curacy grants, area council and Synod; and she anticipates that the diocese will achieve the forecast 2019 budget target.

Synod votes on diocese’s priorities and plans
Synod voted in favour of the diocese’s Priorities and Plans 2019-2021, which can be found in Section D of the Convening Circular. The motion was as follows:

Motion #7A(i)
It will be MOVED by the Rev. Ian LaFleur and SECONDED by Peter Newell that Synod:

  1. receive and approve the document Priorities and Plans 2019-2021 (other than the Pilot Governance Project as described in motion 7(a)(ii)); and
  2. shall receive a report about the Priorities and Plans 2019-2021 (other than the Pilot Governance Project as described in motion 7(a)(ii)) at the next Regular Session of Synod.

Synod votes on Financial Budgets 2020-2021
Rob Saffrey, the diocese’s Executive Director, said the budgets for 2020 and 2021 support the five priority areas that are set out in the diocese’s strategic plan: Leadership and Formation; Trust and Culture; Innovation Based on Evidence; Governance and Decision-Making; and Stewardship of Resources. He said the resources to support these priorities are spread throughout the six distinct program categories: Episcopal Care and Leadership; Church Growth and Development; Amalgamations, Closures and Property Support; Support for the Wider Church; Corporate Governance and Support Services; and Supporting Ordained Leaders. Ms. Qian walked Synod members through the budget details, including the revenue that supports this work. She said there will be no change to the Assessment Rate. Synod voted in favour of the budgets. The motion was as follows:

Motion #7B
It is MOVED by the Rev. Ian LaFleur and SECONDED by Peter Newell that Synod receive and approve the document Financial Budget 2020-2021 as set out in Section D of the Convening Circular.

Parish assessment rate approved
Synod approved an assessment rate for parishes of 24.70 per cent for 2020 and 2021. This is the same assessment rate as in 2019. See the motion in Section E of the Convening Circular.

Speaking at Synod.

Synod votes on motions from Synod members
Synod approved the following motions:

Motion #10
It is MOVED by the Rev. Canon David Harrison and SECONDED by the Rev. Dr. Stephen Drakeford that this diocesan Synod:

  1. Encourages parishes to curtail their purchase of single-use plastic products, with the intention of ending their use by 2023, taking into consideration the accessibility needs of their communities.
  2. Encourages individual Anglicans to reduce their reliance on single-use plastic products.
  3. Encourage the Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care to develop and promote resources aimed at supporting local efforts toward plastics reduction.

Motion #14
It is MOVED by the Rev. Dr. Jason McKinney and SECONDED by the Rev. Canon David Harrison that this Synod request Diocesan Council (or its successor) to respond to the affordable housing crisis across the diocese by developing an Affordable Housing Plan. This plan will:

  1. determine the feasibility of building affordable housing on diocesan-owned lands;
  2. prioritize strategic partnerships with industry experts in the fields of planning, development, and affordable housing provision;
  3. establish specific achievable targets (e.g. 250 units by 2024)

The plan should be completed by Nov. 30, 2020 at which time a report to Synod and to the diocese will be made.

Motion # 15
It is MOVED by the Rev. Canon David Harrison and SECONDED by the Rev. Dr. Stephen Drakeford that Synod requests the Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care, working through a creation care lens and in the context of our developing relationship with Indigenous Peoples, to develop and propose environmental policies and resources for all diocesan operations that reflect the need to increase the use of renewable energy services and decrease our carbon footprint. In particular, Synod requests a review of and development of policies pertaining to:

  1. our spending practices;
  2. our travel policies;
  3. our land use and development;
  4. the creation of a fund to assist parishes to reduce their carbon footprint;
  5. the creation of a fund to assist clergy to purchase or lease zero emission vehicles;
  6. the curtailment of the purchase of single-use plastic products, with the intention of ending their use no later than the beginning of 2023, taking into consideration the accessibility needs of our communities;
  7. developing modules for clergy and lay formation on the connection between creation care and the Gospel; and
  8. promoting reduced consumption as part of a Christian Rule of Life.

Synod and the diocese shall be provided with a report on the work of the Bishop’s Committee on Creation Care and the progress made on these issues by June 30, 2020 and every six months thereafter until the next Regular Session of Synod.

Issues, causes raised at Members Time
During Members Time, members spoke about several issues and causes, including:

  • The Anglican Foundation of Canada.
  • The Sixth Mark of Mission, to take care of God’s creation, and the work of St. Thomas, Brooklin’s sustainability council.
  • The Centres for Spiritual Growth at St. James, Orillia and St. John the Baptist, Dixie.
  • Nuclear weapons and ratifying the nuclear ban treaty.
  • Fresh Start, a program for clergy in transition.
  • Residential school survivors and having parish partnerships with other churches in Canada to learn from Indigenous peoples.
  • The Church is failing to make disciples and the diocese should start every meeting by providing updates on the work that is being done in this area.

Provincial Synod members elected, acclaimed
The following clergy were elected to serve on Provincial Synod, which will be held in 2021.

  • The Rev. Canon Christopher Greaves (Christ Memorial, Oshawa)
  • The Rev. Dana Dickson (Trinity Church, Bradford)
  • The Rev. Canon David Harrison (St. Mary Magdalene, Toronto)
  • The Rev. Claudette Taylor (Epiphany and St. Mark, Parkdale)

The following laity were acclaimed, as there were no other nominees:

  • Bill Bickle, ODT (St. John the Evangelist, Port Hope)
  • Sandy Richmond, ODT (St. George, Allandale)
  • Mary Walsh, ODT (St. John the Baptist, Oak Ridges)
  • Laura Walton, ODT (Holy Trinity, Clearview)

Bronte Anderson of Christ Church, Stouffville was elected to be the diocese’s Youth Member of Provincial Synod.

Speaker gives closing reflection
Dr. Sylvia Keesmaat, Synod’s guest speaker, spoke about people being in a place of grief and lament, and how it is important to dwell in that place for a period of time and to remember what we have lost. She said the environmental disaster is the defining issue of our age, and we lament that the story is not turning out how we hoped. She said there are more psalms of lament in the Bible than any other. “God will respond when we cry out, because it’s in the deepest darkness that God acts,” she says. “Our story is darkness to light.”

Bishop Asbil reflects
In a closing reflection, Bishop Asbil spoke about putting trust in “the One who comes back, every day.” He spoke about churches that have returned to life because of the faith of people in them. He said that is the kind of faith that the diocese needs as we move forward together into the future.

Honorary Clerical Secretary of Synod and others thanked
Bishop Asbil thanked the Rev. Ian LaFleur as he stepped down as Honorary Clerical Secretary of Synod. He has served in this capacity since 2015. Bishop Asbil thanked Pam Boisvert, the Secretary of Synod, and many others for their efforts in running Synod.

Election of Honorary Secretaries
The following were elected for the ensuing two-year term:

  • Peter, Newell, Honorary Lay Secretary
  • The Rev. Andrew MacDonald, Honorary Clerical Secretary
  • Sheila Robson, Assistant Honorary Lay Secretary

Bishop Asbil concluded Synod with a blessing.