General Synod Celebrates Churches Beyond Borders

By Sue Careless

The Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod celebrated Anglican-Lutheran unity in North America, heard a final synod address by Archbishop Linda Nicholls, and debated a statement it issued about relations between Israel and Palestine.

What leaders call Churches Beyond Borders marks full communion among Canadian Anglicans, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).

The two Canadian denominations have been in full communion for 22 years, and they met jointly this year for worship, fellowship, Bible study, presentations, and table discussions.

A “Memorandum of Mutual Recognition of Relations of Full Communion” (April 2022) allows clergy of all four denominations to celebrate the Eucharist in each of the member churches and to serve as clergy in one another’s parishes without reordination.

Because of the pandemic, the Episcopal Church was the last to sign the document. Health issues prevented Presiding Bishop Michael Curry from attending the synod. Bishop R. William Franklin, chairman of the Episcopal Church’s Standing Commission on Ecumenical Relations, signed for him and spoke on his behalf at a joint assembly.

Franklin, a church historian, has a long-standing passion for ecumenicism. He said that living on a border means “acknowledging and respecting differences — in government, in politics, in ways of doing things — and recognizing that although we speak a common language, we have different histories, different origin myths and legends, different DNA that shapes who we are. Not better; just different; worth knowing and respecting because that leads to deeper understanding and stronger relationships.”

He said the Eucharist “is the embodiment, the manifestation, of God’s justice. It is a shared meal of one bread and one cup, one family, one God. The many grains become one loaf; the many grapes, one cup. We come to the altar rail and hold out our hands, rich and poor, Black and brown and white, Indigenous and immigrant.”

He added: “I implore you that in these times of threat and terror, what we need is more Jesus, more Church, more faith, more real Christianity to overcome the ways in which faith has been hijacked in the service of politics and division and hate.”

In the same week, another important ecumenical milestone was reached after several decades of dialogue on key theological issues. The Anglican General Synod and ELCIC’s Special Convention voted to become full communion partners with the Moravian Church in Canada.

One Flock, One Shepherd: Lutherans, Anglicans, and Moravians — Called to Walk Together in Full Communion” is the declaration of full communion.

“There is strong potential for sharing and partnership in mission and ministry where our churches overlap,” the declaration’s supporters said, but the Moravian Church in Canada does not cover the whole nation. It has congregations in Alberta, Ontario, Newfoundland, and Labrador.

Both the Episcopal Church and the ELCA are already in full communion with the Moravian Church in North America.

The Primate Bids Synod Farewell

“This is my first and last General Synod as your primate,” Archbishop Linda Nicholls said. “Thank you for the privilege of serving in this office. I am, of course, disappointed that I will not have the opportunity to see the work of this General Synod completed and brought to General Synod 2025. Synod has spoken. Or at least the Order of Bishops has spoken on that possibility.

“I now have clarity with which to discern when I will retire, a decision I will make when I am rested and have had time for reflection and retreat. …

“As primate I have been so richly blessed by the people I have met and the places of ministry I have visited and the rich expressions of the Gospel in action I have seen.”

Then after a long pause, in which she seemed to be holding back tears, she continued:

“But the personal cost of this leadership has been very high. I am deeply grateful for the outpouring of support I have received during my ministry as primate, especially here at this General Synod and over the past four years. I am very tired. Thank you for the notes, the hugs, the emails, cards and gifts. They have been a much needed signal of encouragement in the dark times of these four years.”

Palestine and Israel

On July 2 the synod took up Resolution A160, on “Peace and Justice in Palestine and Israel,” which urged the primate and ELCIC’s national bishop “to respond to opportunities for solidarity and advocacy, including responding to specific incidents of human rights violations.”

One amendment said the Anglican church would “study and reflect upon the long history of anti-Semitism within Christianity and the ongoing legacy of anti-Semitism in our biblical interpretation and theology (Christian Supersessionism).”

The quite lengthy resolution quoted a statement from the World Council of Churches:

“We affirm the rightful place of the State of Israel in the community of nations and recognize its legitimate security needs. We affirm the State of Palestine and its right of self-determination and legitimate security needs. We condemn the Israeli blockade of Gaza, and the occupation of East Jerusalem and West Bank since 1967, including settlement construction and expansion in these territories, as illegal under international law and must be ended. We believe it is only through an end to the occupation and a just, comprehensive and lasting peace settlement that the security of both Palestinians and Israelis can be assured.”

An amendment committed the Anglican church to seeking the perspective of Jewish Canadians for its future deliberations. The amended resolution passed.


Online Archives