Over this week, saint ben’s members Jamie Howison and Dan Draper have been in Halifax serving as delegates to the General Synod of the Anglican Church in Canada. This is the third in a series of occasional updates.
o, we wrapped things up this morning, and I immediately headed out to a local pub to try to catch a bit of the first game of the World Cup (it was a 1-1 draw between Mexico and South Africa). It seemed a good thing to do, getting a lunch-hour pint of Strongbow cider, a bit of food and some serious soccer. I’ll tell you, it was much more fun than days and days of church meetings.
Did we achieve anything at these meetings? Well, we covered a good deal of the sort of governance stuff that a church institution requires in order to keep ticking along. Some good presentations were offered by various folks, which gave a sense of hope in difficult times. Good conversations with a wide array of people. So far, so good.
The “elephant in the room,” of course, were the questions related to the blessing of same-sex unions. Three years ago at our last General Synod, it was an extremely scrappy and contentious issue, but for a whole variety of reasons this year it just didn’t manage to break us into camps and factions.
Part of that was because the Council of General Synod had discerned that motions on the floor tend to lead to division, at least on a sensitive issue such as this one. Instead, we were walked through a small group process in which all voices were heard, and in which the determining principles were those of trust and respect. In the end, the statement that was ratified probably reads to most outsiders as being a bit vague. It would seem that nothing changes, and that the discernment and dialogue continue, apparently endlessly.
But underneath that we had a fairly important experience of people from across the spectrum listening and attending to each other, perhaps in a way that has never before happened in this church. The broad consensus, too, that gay and lesbian Christians need to be able to find a home in our churches, and the recognized need for a “continuing commitment to develop generous pastoral responses,” were significant.
Only God can tell how this will all unfold over the three years between now and the next General Synod. In the meantime, in our context at saint ben’s I think the challenge will be to listen to those with whom we disagree on such matters, and to continue to offer that “generous pastoral response” in a way that makes sense in our community life.
Now I get to transition over to the home of my sister and her family for a day or two, where my six and seven year old nieces will help me to transition from the intensity of General Synod into something more like the real world. It will be a nice change…
Looking forward to being home on Sunday.