Privileged to be a delegate to General Synod 2023 in Calgary, Alberta, I was also pleased to be able to share memories and experiences from the eight previous General Synods I have attended. Our Anglican Church of Canada has seen so much change since it met in Montreal in May 1998, my first Synod experience.
The Montreal Synod 25 years ago was a nine-day meeting. Calgary was a five-day meeting. Shortening the timeline enables financial savings, reducing costs for accommodation of delegates and guests. I missed the “free” time we used to enjoy during longer meetings, time to tour the host city, or enjoy special meals with diocesan delegations.
On the campus of the University of Calgary, which accommodates 35,000 students, our Assembly of 400 people gathered in the MacEwan Students’ Center, assigned to three different dining areas and one large, windowless meeting hall on the lower level where we were oblivious to the weather outside. Our sunshine was the greetings of friends, old and new, Lutherans and Anglicans, Indigenous and nonindigenous, together addressing important challenges facing our churches. This was the second joint assembly of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada. The first joint assembly was held in Ottawa in July 2013, twelve years after the declaration of Full Communion partnership and the Waterloo Accord in 2001. I remember with joy the Waterloo Synod when Primate Michael Peers and the Rev. Telmor Sartison the national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada danced around the podium to singing, cheers and clapping. At this 2023 Assembly we celebrated together and expanded our fellowship to include the Moravian Church.
For me, the highlight of General Synod 2023 was seeing the progress of the self-determining indigenous church within the Anglican Church. With the leadership of ACIP, the Anglican Council of Indigenous People, the Sacred Circle, and the newly consecrated Indigenous Archbishop, Chris Harper, our indigenous siblings shared generously with us from the stage, around our tables, in comments from the microphones, and in inviting us to participate in a joyous round dance. We have come a long way since the Montreal Synod of 1998 when we were only beginning the work to implement a “Native Covenant” which would give our indigenous siblings greaterautonomy within the church. Now we meet together in worship and in the ongoing work of the church.
The theme, “Let There Be Greening” applied to all the hopes we share as we seek to serve our needy world. Other delegates will share their responses to the work of Dismantling Racism,, Social and Ecological Justice, Peace and Justice in Palestine and Israel and work towards “Churches Without Borders.” .Documents will be available to parishes who choose to study further, and to be guided by the new strategic plan of five transformational aspirations.
Primate Linda Nicholls addressed General Synod in a tone of energy and hope.She spoke of the resiliency, adaptability and creativity of the church during the difficult years of the pandemic.
She thanked all church leaders for their courage in meeting challenges, making changes and living their faith and witness through difficult times. Archbishop Linda received a full-hearted standing ovation from assembled delegates, who have appreciated her hard work and her witness in so many places in our world over the last four years. She has visited and served as an outstanding example of Christian leadership.
At my Lutheran/Anglican Table we took note of the diversity in our group of eight: a priest, born in India, living with his family in the Arctic, a Lutheran pastor, two indigenous members, a youth and several others who referred to me as an elder!!! They said they appreciated the historical perspective I was able to contribute to our discussions. I am so proud of our Anglican Church of Canada as it continues to focus on justice, peace and love in our ever-changing world. And I know the joy of being an elder!