The following is a report from the York-Scarborough Pre-Synod meeting, held Oct. 18, 2018 at St. John, York Mills.
Bishop Kevin Robertson, the area bishop of York-Scarborough, opened the meeting with a prayer, a welcome, introductions and an overview of the agenda of the meeting.
Overview of Synod
Ms. Sarah McDonald, ODT, the Honorary Lay Secretary of Synod, provided an overview of Synod, which will be held Nov. 9-10 at the Sheraton Parkway Toronto North in Richmond Hill. She asked Synod members to familiarize themselves with the materials in the Convening Circular, which contains the Notice of Meeting, Agenda and other important information related to Synod. She encouraged Synod members, especially new Synod members, to read the document “What to Expect at Synod.” She also spoke about the motions coming to Synod, which can be found on pages 23-28 of the Convening Circular. All the information about Synod is posted on the diocese’s website at www.toronto.anglican.ca/upcomingsynod.
Since Synod 2017
Ms. Sarah McDonald spoke about Diocesan Council’s Report to Synod, which can be found in Section B of the Convening Circular. This report contains a list of Council members, a summary of all policy and major items discussed or approved by Council, and a summary of diocesan grants, loans and other funding. He highlighted two items from the report. The first was an update on Growing in Christ, the diocese’s strategic plan. The update includes the plan’s progress and the efforts of the Working Groups. The second highlight was the section on Diocesan Grants, Loans and Other Funding, which starts on Page 11 of the report. More than $8 million in grants and loans were awarded from 39 different funding and granting streams from July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018.
Bishop Robertson gave some of highlights from York-Scarborough since Synod 2017. They included: parishes using the Lenten resource “Meeting Jesus in the Gospel of John”; about 120 clergy and laity came together in March for a town hall meeting to answer the questions, “In your context, where is God calling you?” and “What are the most significant needs for your parish at this time?”; in May, there was a clergy overnight retreat and they discussed how parishes can develop realistic mission action plans; in June, Synod members gathered for an electoral Synod, and he welcomed Bishop Asbil, the coadjutor bishop; he thanked Archbishop Johnson for his ministry; he praised and thanked the churches that responded to the van rampage on Yonge Street and the mass shooting on Danforth Avenue; he thanked Sue Willougby, the Bishop’s Assistant; he thanked the area’s regional deans, the liturgical officers, the area youth coordinators, clergy and laity.
Bishop Robertson said Synod will be asked to consider the following motion: “It will be moved and seconded that Synod receive the document entitled “Diocesan Council’s Report to Synod.” Diocesan Council forwards this motion to Synod with the recommendation that it be adopted.
Notices of Motion
Chancellor Clare Burns informed Synod members of a Notice of Motion for Second Reading, which can be found in Section A, page 25 of the Convening Circular. Diocesan Council forwards the motion to Synod with the recommendation that it be adopted: “It will be moved and seconded that proposed amendments to sections 10 and 11 of the Constitution of the Diocese of Toronto be approved as set out in the Notice of Motion dated Oct. 11, 2017.”
Chancellor Burns spoke about the motion. Here are her main points:
- A Notice of Motion dated Oct. 11, 2017 was received from the Rev. Canon David Harrison and the Rev. Canon Gary van der Meer. Pursuant to Canon 1, the Notice of Motion was placed on the Agenda of the Oct. 19, 2017 meeting of Diocesan Council. The Diocesan Council forwarded the Notice of Motion to the 157th Regular Session of Synod with the recommendation that it be adopted.
- The motion was considered on Nov. 24, 2017 by Synod. According to Canon 1, section 2(5), a motion to amend The Constitution shall become effective upon having been recommended for adoption by the Diocesan Council and receiving the approval of not less than 75% of the members of Synod present and voting at the session at which it is considered and receiving the assent of the Bishop.
- The Notice of Motion did not achieve the required percentage of approval of the members of Synod present and voting at the 157th Regular Session of Synod. Therefore, pursuant to Canon 1, section 2(7), the motion must receive the approval of not less than 50% of the members of Synod present and voting at two successive Regular Sessions of Synod and receive the assent of the Bishop following the second of such approvals. Therefore, the motion will return for second reading.
- A side-by-side comparison of the relevant sections of the Constitution as currently worded versus the proposed wording has been provided in the Convening Circular on pages 27 and 28.
The Notice of Motion is as follows:
Proposed Amendments to sections 10 and 11 of the Constitution of the Diocese of Toronto
Some dioceses have a two-thirds threshold among clergy and laity for the election of a diocesan bishop. This ensures that the cleric elected has broad support across the Diocese and is able to represent that diversity within the Anglican Church of Canada and the wider Communion. In order to strengthen the mandate of the diocesan bishop to represent the diversity of the Diocese, it is proposed that the Constitution be amended to raise the threshold for election of a diocesan bishop (or a coadjutor) to two-thirds in each order. This furthers the Diocesan Strategic Plan, which commits us to “fostering a positive culture that is respectful and inclusive of all background and experiences”. (The election of suffragan bishops would continue to require a simple majority in each house.) It is also proposed that the nominee on each ballot with the lowest number of votes in the combined orders of clergy and laity be eliminated in each round unless a certain threshold of votes is cast for that nominee, or the number of nominees on the ballots has been reduced to fewer than four.
Section 10 (2) is repealed and replaced with the following text:
(2) Election of the Bishop of the Diocese or a Coadjutor Bishop.
The Bishop of the Diocese or a Coadjutor Bishop shall be elected from those nominated, by voting by Orders by ballot in the following manner:
(a) Two-thirds of the total votes validly cast in each Order shall determine the choice.
(b) The name of the candidate with the lowest number of votes in the combined Orders shall be eliminated in each round of voting except when:
(i) There are fewer than four candidates remaining; or
(ii) The candidate with the lowest total number of votes in the combined Orders receives ten or more votes in each Order.
(3) Election of a Suffragan Bishop.
A Suffragan Bishop shall be elected from those nominated, by voting by Orders by ballot in the following manner:
(a) A majority of the total votes validly cast in each Order shall determine the choice, provided at least one half of the Clergy and at least one half of the Lay Members of Synod, entitled to vote are present and vote.
(b) If fewer than one half of the Clergy or fewer than one half of the Lay Members of the Synod entitled to vote are present and vote, a cleric must secure two thirds of the votes validly cast of each such group that is deficient, in order to be elected.
(c) If, after twelve (12) successive ballots have been conducted at any one election, and no cleric has been elected as provided in subsection (a) and (b) herein, a further ballot shall be taken and the percentage of the Clergy voting thereat for each Cleric shall be added to the percentage of the Lay Members voting thereat for the same cleric, and the cleric who obtains the highest total of percentages shall be declared elected.
Section 11 (3) is repealed.
Bishop Robertson as Synod members if they had any questions about this Notice of Motion.
Q. These changes only apply to the election of a diocesan bishop or coadjutor bishop, correct?
A. (Chancellor Burns responded.) Correct.
Q. Will this be voted on as-is, or will it be broken down into sections 10 and 11?
A. (Chancellor Burns responded.) It’s an all-in-one motion. It’s possible the motion could be amended from the floor of Synod.
Q. What’s the rationale for the changes?
A. (Chancellor Burns responded.) The mover and seconder can speak to that at Synod. I think their perspective is that for such an important office or role (diocesan bishop or coadjutor bishop), you should have a bigger majority than just 50 per cent plus one. They would like a two-thirds majority in each house in order to be clear that the discernment process had worked. The majority of the dioceses in Canada have 50 per cent plus one but some require 66 per cent.
Q. What would happen if the election was deadlocked? Would the Provincial House of Bishops eventually appoint a bishop?
A. (Chancellor Burns responded.) No. We would keep voting.
Ms. Angela Hantoumakos, the diocese’s Executive Director, presented the Financial Report for 2017, the Audited Financial Statements for the Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Toronto, and the Audited Financial Statements for the Cemetery Fund of the Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Toronto, all of which are found in Section C of the Convening Circular. Synod will be asked to consider the following motions. Diocesan Council forwards these motions to Synod with the recommendation that they be adopted: “It will be moved and seconded that Synod receive the Financial Report for 2017 from the Treasurer and Director of Finance”; and “It will be moved and seconded that Synod receive the Audited Financial Statements for the Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Toronto and the Cemetery Fund for the year ended Dec. 31, 2017”; and “It will be moved and seconded that the firm Grant Thornton LLP, Chartered Accountants, be appointed to conduct the audit of the Financial Statements of the Incorporated Synod of the Diocese of Toronto and the Cemetery Fund for the year ending Dec. 31, 2018, at a fee to be approved by the Audit Committee.”
The following were elected to Diocesan Council: the Rev. Gregory Carpenter of St. Jude, Wexford; Darleen Knowlton of St. John the Baptist, Norway; and Ryan Ramsden of Grace Church in Scarborough.
Marriage Canon Dialogue
Archbishop Colin Johnson, Bishop Andrew Asbil and Chris Ambidge, ODT, gave a presentation on the Marriage Canon Dialogue, followed by small-group discussion. Here are the main points from their presentation:
- The proposed changes to Canon XXI to incorporate provision for marriage of same-sex couples in the Anglican Church of Canada were brought before General Synod 2016 for the first of two readings, and the motion was carried.
- In preparation for the second vote in the summer 2019, the Council of General Synod requested that dioceses consider the proposed changes to the canon.
- The Diocese of Toronto began this work at Synod 2017, where Synod members were asked to identify what would be most helpful to prepare them for this consideration. We collected and collated 530 suggestions. In response to these:
1. Facilitation for parish-based listening processes was made available and a few parishes asked for, and received, this support.
2. Resources and information documents were posted on the diocese’s website.
- However, by far the greatest response was a deep desire for prayerful, respectful and honest listening and dialogue across our differences in ways that can build understanding and relationships. This listening would be mindful of LGBTQ2 voices. It is this request for gracious listening that shapes our work together at these Pre-Synod meetings and at our Synod meeting.
- We do this knowing that there are many people here who have already experienced years of this discussion and are feeling exhausted and frustrated by doing this again. However, there are also those who have not had the opportunity to have conversations like these – who have not had the opportunity to listen to people whose commitments are profoundly different from their own.
- At the Pre-Synod meetings and then again at Synod, our work is to suspend our suspicions and open ourselves to finding a deeper understanding of what you and others feel and think about the potential changes to the Marriage Canon and how we can value and sustain relationships in a time of disagreement. From this sharing and listening we will gather what we’ve heard into our diocese’s message for the wider church.
- The proposed changes to the canon that we are considering is as follows: declare that Canon XXI (On Marriage in the Church) applies to all persons who are duly qualified by civil law to enter into marriage; change the wording in four places to make it gender-neutral; that it be an “opt-in” process; that it must be authorized by the diocesan bishop.
Mr. Ambidge outlined the norms for the conversations that followed, to help people listen across their difference with respect. The norms are:
- We grant that as people of faith we are all sincere our beliefs, including our reverence for Holy Scripture.
- We are neighbours now and we will continue to be neighbours after General Synod’s decision is made.
- We know that people of diverse sexuality and gender identities are present.
- We value inclusion and will strive for greater understanding of each other.
- We will speak in the first person.
- We will not use language known to be offensive to others.
- We respect the right of people to speak of their own experiences.
- We respect the privacy of others.
- We will ask no questions that we are not prepared to answer ourselves.
Synod members were then asked to form into groups of three, with people they don’t know, and introduce themselves. Each person could speak without interruption for up to seven minutes. Each person was asked to answer the following two questions:
- What would you like to say to the group about the proposed changes to the Marriage Canon? What are your hopes and fears?
- 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?
After all three people in the group spoke, they were asked as a group to summarize what they had heard. At Synod, Synod members will be invited to have two more conversations like this. What they have heard will be collected and shared with General Synod.
Bishop Robertson asked Synod members if they had any questions about this Notice of Motion.
Q. Is it possible that we could have a side-by-side comparison of the proposed changes to the Marriage Canon?
A. (Archbishop Johnson responded.) There is a PowerPoint presentation by the Chancellor of General Synod that outlines the changes. We will see what else we can do.
Q. Regarding the conversations at our Synod, will the facilitators be taking notes as well?
A. (Archbishop Johnson responded.) There will be two of these conversations that will not be facilitated, then one further table group conversation that will be facilitated and that facilitator will be taking notes.
Q. I understand that smaller groups will be part of larger groups, and that it is the larger groups that will be reporting back to Synod in summary form. Is that correct?
A. (Archbishop Johnson responded.) There will be two separate periods in Synod to have small-group conversations as you have done tonight, and then there will be an opportunity for a table-group discussion in which people will be asked that they have heard over the course of the past three conversations. Those table group discussions will be summarized and shared with me and I will report back to Synod.
Wrap-Up & Closing Prayer
Bishop Robertson thanked everyone for their contributions to today’s meeting, especially St. John’s for their hospitality. He ended the meeting with a prayer.