21 June 2010

General Synod Report

Sermon for 13 June 2010

General Synod Report

by Sharyn Hall

St. Luke’s Anglican church, Burlington

I have just returned from Halifax, where I was a delegate from our diocese of Niagara to the General Synod of the national Anglican Church of Canada. Every three years, representatives from every diocese of our national church meet to debate and determine policy for the next three years. The Synod is nine days of reports, resolutions, worship and discussion groups generally from 9 am to 9 pm. Although very tiring, the days were packed with a variety of topics from financial management to liturgical revision to international partnerships. There were many important discussions at this General Synod, which I will share with you from time to time over the summer.

Many people were waiting to see how we would deal with ‘the issue’, which is the controversy over the blessing of civilly-married same-gender couples. You will read in the media that we did not make a legislative decision, so some people will conclude that we achieved nothing. People on both sides of the controversy may be unhappy with the outcome. After hours of respectful deliberations, the delegates concluded that we are a diverse church, which is not of one mind on the issue, and if we were to insist on a definitive decision in favour or against the blessing of same-gender relationships, we would not resolve the controversy. On the contrary, we would cause more distress.

What became abundantly clear was the will of people on both sides of the issue to walk together as a church to serve the mission of Jesus in the world. Please read the statement, which is posted on our diocesan website, along with a letter from our diocesan Bishop Michael. The issue of blessing same-gender relationships does not define us as a church, nor does it define our Anglican Christian faith. We are a Christian church seeking to continue the mission of Jesus in the world today. There were many times during the Synod when this message was evident.

We had guest speakers from Uruguay, Jerusalem and the United States, who brought various perspectives on Christian mission. One of those speakers was Hellen Wangusa, who is the official Observer for the Anglican Communion to the United Nations in New York. Several faith groups have official Observer status at the United Nations, which enables them to observe and to participate in various sessions of the great number of commissions and committees of the United Nations. I have met Hellen in Toronto and New York as I have been privileged to be a member of the Canadian delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women.

Hellen is soft-spoken and mild-mannered, but her commitment to work for the well-being of people around the world is resolute. She spoke to the General Synod about the urgent need to work for the fulfillment of the Millennium Development Goals. In the year 2000, the countries of the United Nations pledged to fulfill eight Millennium Development Goals by 2015, but Hellen reminded us that before the United Nations developed goals, there were other MDG’s. They were the Mission Driven Goals of the churches and other faith groups, who insisted that the United Nations was more than an organization to solve political disputes. It was the faith groups, which presented the needs of the world before the leaders of the nations and said we need to do something. Hellen’s knowledge of world issues is extensive and she acknowledges that the Millennium Development Goals do not address all the needs of the world’s peoples, but they provide a good framework for mission.

Here at St. Luke’s, we have endeavoured to promote the MDG’s in monthly breakfasts, and we have been blessed with excellent speakers. The theme of these breakfasts is ‘What can one person do?’ On Saturday, June 19, we will host our fifth breakfast, and we will be reminded again that one person can do a great deal. There was a three-page article in the Hamilton Spectator about the work of Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese, who is our speaker. She is an obstetrician-gynecologist, who spends part of the year at St. Joseph’s Hospital and McMaster University, and the rest of the year in Uganda, where she has founded an organization to teach local people how to care for women and babies during pregnancy and childbirth.

The dangers to women and babies in developing countries are numerous, but generally preventable. While working in several clinics in East Africa, Jean realized that she could prevent many more tragic deaths by teaching the people to care for themselves. Her work is directly related to Millennium Development Goal # 5 to improve maternal health, and her work is directly related to another MDG, a mission driven goal, because Jean believes she is supported in her work by her Christian faith. God has called her to use her skills for the well-being of women and children here and half way around the world.

Few of us have the abilities to create great mission projects, but we all have the potential to contribute in some way to the well-being of others. In our baptismal covenant, we are called by God to have compassion for our neighbours. We are called to seek peace and justice for all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being. We are called to work together as we strive, and sometimes struggle, to continue the mission of Jesus. We need to open our eyes and open our hearts to the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit, for the universal Christian church does not have a mission for God. God has a mission for the Church. May God’s grace be with us all. Amen.

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