There are always many layers in nature, seen and unseen. Every human situation has many layers, physically and politically—and certainly emotionally and spiritually. Most of the time we react to surface things, but as we pay more attention—as we look, listen, touch, or step closer, the layers become more apparent and we can perceive more carefully, even more accurately.
Because the final copy of each month’s Crosstalk needs to be in the printer’s hands almost four weeks in advance of its distribution date, the last time I wrote before the summer break was in late April. So much has happened since then, and as I sit down in early August to write this September column I see many layers.
The installation of the Most Reverend Chris Harper as the National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop took place at the annual gathering of Sacred Circle near Orillia, Ont. on May 29th. I was present with many members of the Canadian House of Bishops to witness and support this historic moment. Sacred Circle is the emerging self-determining Indigenous Anglican Church within the Anglican Church of Canada. The installation was a profound expression of this new reality, reflecting layers of millennia-old Indigenous traditions and centuries-old Indigenous Anglican traditions—from every part of Canada.
In early June, the 7th Bishop of Ottawa, John Baycroft, celebrated his 90th birthday with family and friends. Bishop John and I worked closely together in the late 1990s, during a time when our church was coming to terms with many of the oppressive layers placed on gay and lesbian members. Bishop John challenged us by saying “Everyone should be able to say who they are to their family, their fellow parishioners and their parish priest without feeling afraid.”
In the years since then, more unjust layers have been removed, and our diocese is now generally considered to be an “affirming” church. However, there is in Canada and across the world an alarming increase in offensive or hateful words, actions, and political posturing directed at the 2SLGBTQI+ community. In mid-June I wrote a pastoral letter to our diocese, saying “as followers of Jesus, we are rightfully concerned and vigilant when we see any individual or group being unjustly targeted. In the Baptismal Covenant of our Church, we vow “to seek and serve Christ in all persons; to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being… Each of us are called to participate in making a safe, loving space for 2SLGBTQI+ people, and to build meaningful connections with one another.”
During the last week of June, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada met in Calgary and spent part of that time in Assembly 2023 with representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. There were moments of joy in the assembly as we experienced and deepened our relationship of full communion, finding a common voice as we advocated for peace and justice in the Holy Land, and sealing new relationships with the Moravian Church and with the Episcopal and Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America.
There were moments of joy at General Synod also (such as joining in a round dance led by members of Sacred Circle), and there were moments of frustration and consternation about substantial differences in opinion and perception about the life and work of our national church. The confluence of layers within the Anglican Church of Canada will require careful attention as we move to the next General Synod in 2025.
Refreshingly, the life and work of our diocese continues to be purposive and positive. We continue to operationalize each of the Eleven Actions from the Shape of Parish Ministry Consultation (SPMC). These actions will bring about concrete changes to enable our parish ministries to thrive. The October issue of Crosstalk will provide a thorough update on these changes and the relationships between them.
At this point, the Eleven Actions appear a bit like the apparently unconnected layers of foliage in the photograph accompanying this column—but they will also be striking and appealing, especially as we pay attention to each one—looking, listening, touching, and stepping into the positive changes they will bring.