Magazine article Anglican Journal

Bishops to Focus More on Mission

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Bishops to Focus More on Mission

Article excerpt

After three years spent in intense debate over a resolution to allow the marriage of same-sex couples, the House of Bishops intends to shift its focus to "evangelism and discipleship and mission" in the next triennium, says Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, following the house's September 22-27 meeting in Winnipeg.

"In the last number of years... the vast majority of our time in meetings was consumed by conversations about same-sex marriage," said Hiltz in an interview. "And the bishops are saying,'We've just got to have a more balanced agenda.'"

Bishop Mary Irwin-Gibson, of the diocese of Montreal, agreed, saying in an interview that the same-sex marriage debate has taken up "way too much airtime" in recent years. She said she hopes the house can "get on with the mission of the church" by making it "more vital and adept" at creating disciples.

It was a point Archbishop John Privett, metropolitan of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and the Yukon, also agreed with.

"There are huge questions about how we continue to grow disciples in these times and reflect more deeply on the mission of our church," he noted. "I am hoping that in the next three years we will have some energy and focus and time for that."

However, since it was the first meeting of bishops following July's General Synod, Hiltz said they spent the bulk of their time debriefing about synod and the fallout resulting from the provisional approval of the motion allowing same-sex marriage.

When the motion was originally declared to have been defeated, several bishops had announced they would go ahead with same-sex marriage. When the vote was reversed the next day following discovery of an error, these bishops said they would stand by their decision.

Days later, seven bishops signed a statement publicly dissenting from General Synod's same-sex marriage vote. Three Indigenous bishops also released a separate statement criticizing the vote. (See related story, page 11.)

For these reasons, many of the bishops admitted to being unsure as to how their meeting would turn out. "I expected that there would be some real tensions in the house," said Privett. "But my experience was that the conversation was respectful and... it was a very healthy engagement."

While each bishop was given the opportunity to speak their mind, Hiltz said there was a general consensus that the matter now rests with the individual dioceses and provinces to continue the discussion in advance of 2019, when the motion will be sent for second and final consideration.

"There is nothing more that the bishops need or necessarily ought to be saying [about same-sex marriage] at this point, not as a house," he explained. "In fact... I just don't know that it would be helpful."

Hiltz said no attempt was made to place a moratorium on same-sex marriages until after the second vote in 2019. What he heard from some bishops who announced their intention to allow same-sex marriages in their dioceses was that such marriages could happen, but as an "interim pastoral provision" that would require "the bishop's knowledge and permission." The bishop would also have to authorize a rite to be used to solemnize the union since the current liturgies, in the Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Alternative Services, cannot be used until the marriage canon is formally amended. When asked how this arrangement was received by the house, Hiltz said, "I didn't see any major reaction. No blow-up, no pushback." He said that the bishops understood mis as a pastoral provision. …

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