Dear friends in Christ,
When we start our baptismal services, we profess our baptismal faith: “There is one Body and one Spirit; there is one hope in God’s call to us; one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism; one God and Father of all.” It’s easy to say this, but it can be hard to live out the reality that we in the church are united by baptism into the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our bonds are indissoluble, even if sometimes that’s hard to see.
I thought about this the last few days while I was in Vancouver, British Columbia to represent Forward Movement at the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada. We were there to display some of our wares in the exhibit hall, but during the times when our table was quiet, I sat in the observer gallery to watch General Synod do its work.
Of course, I found lots of differences, large and small, between the way General Synod works and the way General Convention works in the Episcopal Church. The scale is smaller in Canada, so there’s a more intimate feel. The orders of bishops, clergy, and laity all sit together, so that shapes the conversation—in mostly good ways, I thought. In some ways there is more formality (adding the Primate as “Your Grace”), but mostly there’s less attention paid to procedural formality.
More than differences, I noticed many similarities. In both Canada and the US, the church is contending with the end of Christendom and the decline of the church’s privileged place in society. Both Canadian Anglicans and the Episcopal Church are trying to sort out how to stay anchored in tradition while adapting for the needs of today’s world. In Canada as in the Episcopal Church, we’re talking about discipleship more—and not just talking, but putting discipleship into practice.
What impressed me most of all though about General Synod is the strong desire, professed by nearly every speaker, to be together in one church. So often, I’ve experienced people who are ready to cast off those with whom they disagree, or I’ve heard people talk about how they’ll leave if the church doesn’t go in their preferred direction. Those were rare words, indeed, in Canada. No one shied away from disagreement, but the predominant sense was to find ways to disagree while staying in relationship. I think I could learn something here, and perhaps many others could too.
When I went the church on Sunday morning, I heard a wonderful sermon by Mother Lucy Price at St. James’ Church in Vancouver. Mother Price mentioned that the newly elected Primate in Canada is fond of quoting Romans 8:38-39, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Nothing General Synod does or doesn’t do separates us from God’s love. Nothing General Convention does or doesn’t do separates us from God’s love. The church can surely hurt people—and for that, it must repent. But our baptism has united us in Christ Jesus, and that can’t be taken away. Good words to remember.
I’m grateful for a renewed sense of unity through fellowship and worship with Canadian siblings in Christ. And I’m eager to find ways to help our church and our world see that there is one Body and one Spirit; there is one hope in God’s call to us.
Image by Scott Gunn: Opening Eucharist, General Synod 2019, at Christ Church Cathedral in Vancouver, BC
Today’s Flash Sale: Walk in Love
Take a journey through The Book of Common Prayer, the Christian life, and basic beliefs of our faith, guided by two Episcopal priests – Scott Gunn and Melody Wilson Shobe. Walk through the liturgical year, the sacraments of the church, habits of daily prayer, and the teachings of Anglican Christianity. See how our prayer shapes our belief and our lives and how our beliefs lead us into a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ.
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