The following is a report from the York-Simcoe Pre-Synod meeting, held Oct. 20, 2018 at St. George, Allandale.
Bishop Peter Fenty, the area bishop of York-Simcoe, opened the meeting with a prayer, a welcome, introductions and an overview of the agenda of the meeting.
Overview of Synod
The Rev. Andrew MacDonald, Assistant Honorary Clerical Secretary of Synod, provided an overview of Synod, which will be held Nov. 9-10 at the Sheraton Parkway Toronto North in Richmond Hill. He 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. He encouraged Synod members, especially new Synod members, to read the document “What to Expect at Synod.” He 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
The Rev. Andrew MacDonald 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 Fenty gave some of highlights from York-Simcoe since Synod 2017. He spoke about the ordination of two deacons and a priest in the area and how the area continues to explore ways to be the Church, highlighting the creation of the new parish of Holy Trinity, Clearview, which is an amalgamation of three congregations. He spoke about the work of Area Council and how it supports parishes and ministries through funding, including the Mandarin ministry and the chaplaincy at Sibbald Point Provincial Park. He spoke about the new church plant in Maple and how it is growing and may need more space. He thanked the Rev. Brian Suggs, the former area youth ministry coordinator, and welcomed the area’s new area youth ministry coordinator. The area continues to support chaplaincies in the area and funds a Vacation Bible School program, which assists smaller parishes with their summer programs. He expressed his profound thanks to retired clergy who serve at parishes.
Bishop Fenty 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.
Bishop Fenty asked if there were any questions.
Q. What does the area youth coordinator do and how can we contact her?
A. (Bishop Fenty responded.) The youth ministry coordinator works with other youth leaders in parishes across the area, to encourage and provide resources. To contact the area youth ministry coordinator, please contact my office.
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.”
Bishop Fenty asked if there were any questions.
Q. Why have the legal costs gone up in 2017?
A. (Ms. Hantoumakos responded.) That is due to some property issues and some issues regarding our Cemetery Fund. Both are substantially reduced in 2018. We are keeping a very close eye on our legal expenses, and a lot of issues that we experienced in 2017 have been addressed.
The following were elected to Diocesan Council: the Rev. Erin Martin of St. James the Apostle, Sharon; Richard Paul of Good Shepherd, Stayner; and Sandy Richmond of St. George, Allandale.
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 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 Fenty asked if there were any question.
Q. Can you please explain the opt-out / opt-in process?
A. (Archbishop Johnson responded.) When the motion was first presented, it had a complex “opt-out” procedure. A diocese could opt out of it by having a motion passed at their Synod; a bishop could opt out, a parish could opt out. A much simpler process was an “opt-in” process, which clergy could opt into with the permission of the bishop.
Q. Are other dioceses considering the proposed changes as well?
A. (Archbishop Johnson responded.) The majority of dioceses are having conversations, in different ways.
Q. Archbishop, since 2016 you and two other diocesan bishops appeared to step aside from protocol or collegiality in the Anglican Church of Canada and said you were going to do something about same-sex marriage, even though it hadn’t yet gone to second reading. I think it would be helpful for everyone to understand the grounds that you based that decision on.
A. (Archbishop Johnson responded.) At the 2017 Synod I outlined in my Charge why I made that decision, and the Charge is on the diocese’s website, www.toronto.anglican.ca. The declaration of principles of the Anglican Church of Canada say that the diocesan bishop has the pastoral responsibilities for their own diocese and is able to provide pastoral liturgy where it is not otherwise provided for. In consultation and with the advice of the General Synod chancellor and other chancellors, in certain circumstances in certain places with my specific permission using a liturgy that was not a liturgy that is currently authorized by the Anglican Church of Canada, I permitted in some circumstances a pastoral provision pending the outcome of General Synod 2019.
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.
Synod members were asked if they had any questions about this Notice of Motion.
Q. Can you talk about the election of suffragan bishops?
A. (Chancellor Burns responded.) None of this applies to the election of suffragan bishops. The proposed motion is only to change the rules for the election of a diocesan or coadjutor bishop.
Q. Regarding the percentages needed, what is the attendance of past Synods?
A. (Chancellor Burns responded.) I’ve seen nine electoral Synods and I don’t think we’ve ever had less than 50 per cent in either house for an election.
Q. Given that most other dioceses still require just a simple majority, why is Diocesan Council proposing that we move to a super majority?
A. (Chancellor Burns responded.) Diocesan Council is not proposing it. It was brought as a motion by the Rev. Canon David Harrison and the Rev. Canon Gary van der Meer. Canonically, it has to go through Diocesan Council. Diocesan Council did approve it to go to the floor of Synod. It was recommended by Diocesan Council but because of the rules, in order to be enacted in one session of Synod, it had to come with the recommendation of Council. It was a way of moving it forward.
Q. What has failed us in the past, or what is broken, that we are trying to fix with these proposed changes?
A. (Chancellor Burns responded.) The mover and seconder can speak to the motion 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.
Q. Are we voting on the different parts of the motion separately?
A. (Chancellor Burns responded.) It’s all one motion.
Wrap-Up & Closing Prayer
Bishop Fenty thanked everyone for their contributions to today’s meeting, especially St. George’s for their hospitality. He ended the meeting with a prayer.