General Synod 2001
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Report 003D

A Call to Human Dignity: A Statement of Principles for the Anglican Church of Canada on Dignity, Inclusion, and Fair Treatment

To: Members of General Synod

During the course of General Synod you will be asked to make a decision on Resolution #A130 which calls for adoption of A Call To Human Dignity, commendation of the document to each Diocese for implementation, and reporting back to General Synod 2004.

The document has been prepared in the context of the theme of General Synod as a contribution to help us move forward as a church becoming truly inclusive.

At the time of General Synod you will have opportunities to hear more about the document, to discuss and reflect with others on it, and to cast your vote.

The group which has prepared this Call recognizes you will be considering this, along with the many other issues, in advance of attendance at the meeting. To assist you with that, we are including in this packet the following:

  • A copy of A Call to Human Dignity
  • A short History of the background to its development
  • A Bible study series entitled Offending and Belonging
  • Some Questions we have encountered

Please use them prayerfully as you prepare to participate in this General Synod.

Your colleague:

The Rev. Canon T. Allen Box
Chair, Dignity, Inclusion, and Fair Treatment Committee

A Call to Human Dignity: A Statement of Principles for the Anglican Church of Canada on Dignity, Inclusion, and Fair Treatment

We, as brothers and sisters in the Anglican Church of Canada, affirm God's call to a new humanity in Christ, a humanity that exists as one body with many parts, embracing every people, nation and language. We affirm our call to live as one body in a household where the doors are always open, and all are welcome and safe.

As further affirmation of our new humanity, we remember the covenant we made in our vows of baptism to:

Believe in God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and God the Holy Spirit;

Continue in the apostle's teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayers;

Resist evil, and whenever we fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord;

Proclaim the good news of God in Christ;

Seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbour as ourselves;

Strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.1

While committing ourselves to these vows, we acknowledge that keeping them is difficult and requires costly sacrifice on our part.

Confronted by the sins and omissions of our past, we are ashamed that we have wandered from the way and rebelled against God. We have failed to proclaim the good news. We have fallen short in service to God and to our neighbours. The church is one body; when one part is wounded, the whole body suffers. Christ took on human flesh and made us one with him. When we hurt another human being, we hurt him. Yet we know that, just as he was one with us in his suffering, we are one with him in his resurrection. We receive God's forgiveness in all its richness and rejoice in God's gifts of healing and reconciliation; we are empowered by the Holy Spirit for fullness of life.

We have a responsibility to treat everyone in a way that is faithful to our call as a Christian people. Jesus sums up the commandments when he says to us, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. " (Matthew 22:37-39)

All persons seeking spiritual care and nurture, as well as those pursuing employment and those people employed by our church shall be treated with courtesy, compassion, fairness and integrity by our church and its representatives or officials, without discrimination on the basis of age, sex, sexual orientation, family or marital status, race, colour, ethnic (or place of ) origin, ancestry, disability, creed or social-economic status.

The following guidelines are designed to enhance the sense of dignity, inclusion, and fair treatment, experienced by individuals in their dealings with our church2. We commend these procedures for implementation at all levels of our church.

1The rite for Holy Baptism, Book of Alternative Services, p. 158-9.
2Mission Statement of the Anglican Church of Canada 199?

1. Transparency of decision making.
Assumptions, expectations, and obligations concerning employees and volunteers within our church must be clear and openly shared. Our church must also work to achieve clarity about the ways in which decisions are reached and carried out.

2. Intentional listening
When relationships become fractured, our church must provide an appropriate forum in order to ensure that the complainant has the opportunity to be heard when seeking a solution to his or her complaint. Our church must respect and facilitate the individual's opportunities to be heard.

3. Sympathetic Companionship
We are one body; all are affected when one part is being wounded or destroyed. All issues and situations have an impact on the community as a whole. Therefore, systems must be in place to offer support and companionship to those who are wounded.

4. Clear and prescribed avenues for challenging decisions.
In responding to those who feel wronged or wounded, we should keep in mind what Jesus taught his disciples. In addressing conflict within the Church, Jesus highlights the importance of beginning with face to face encounter and hearing the evidence. If this is unsuccessful, a wider group is involved. Only as a last resort is the whole community engaged and the breaking of fellowship entertained. (Matthew 18: 15-17)

Bearing in mind this teaching of Jesus, clearly prescribed guidelines for hearing grievances must be available at all levels of our church, so that due process is always observed3. Each parish and diocese will establish, review and make known such a process, the details of which may vary depending on the unique circumstances within each region. Such a process should consider:

  • Opportunities for hearing grievances.
  • A clear complaints procedure.
  • Opportunities for mediation.
  • An impartial complaints committee.
  • Availability of ombudsperson(s).

5. Assurance of response.
Such a process will offer assurance of timely response to all legitimate complaints with a commitment to a clearly expressed outcome from those in a position to effect an outcome, such as apology, face to face meeting, or severance.

6. Accessibility
This process is to be known, available, accessible and affordable throughout all levels of our church.

Our church must ensure that individuals responsible for creating and facilitating such a process will receive adequate training,. The commitment of time, human resources, and expertise will reflect our church's acknowledgement of the continued need for healing.

With this affirmation and the suggested guidelines in mind, we join hands and continue on our journey. We know that all within Christ's body have been welcomed by God.

We accept the daunting challenges which lie ahead and are sustained by the Holy Spirit living within us. Therefore we step out as a church with commitment to express dignity and fair treatment for all.

Refer to the Principles of natural justice on Canon 18, part 5, Handbook of General Synod, p. 93


  1. All trials of persons charged with offenses under this Canon shall be conducted according to the principles of natural justice.

  2. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing section, all persons tried for offenses under this Canon are entitled to be:

    1. given full and complete written notice of the charge against them and the particulars of the charge,

    2. presumed innocent until the commission of the offence by them is proved on a balance of probability,

    3. heard in their own defence,

    4. represented in their defence by counsel of their own choice,

    5. present, accompanied by their counsel, when any evidence or argument concerning the allegations against them is received by the bishop, metropolitan or court inquiring into the charges,

    6. given opportunity to cross-examine, or have their counsel cross-examine under oath, witnesses who have given evidence against them,

    7. tried by persons who are not biased against them, and

    8. tried within a reasonable time.

  3. No person tried for an offence under this Canon is required to give evidence in the proceedings

  4. Disciplinary proceedings arising out of the alleged commission of an offence under this Canon shall be commenced within:

    1. 12 months from date of the alleged offence in the case of offences under section 8. a), c), g) and h), and
    2. 12 months from the time when the facts giving rise to the charge became publicly known in the case of an offence under section 8. b).

  5. No proceedings shall be taken in respect of an alleged offence under section 8. e) or f) unless 6 months notice of intent to take proceedings have been given to the bishop, priest or deacon against whom it is intended proceedings will be taken.

  6. Disciplinary proceedings arising out of the alleged commission of an offence under section 8. e) or f) shall be commenced within 12 months of the date of the notice of intent given, pursuant to section 20.

  7. All persons found to have committed an offence under this Canon are entitled to have the penalty imposed against them within 30 days of the determination that they committed an offence, subject to a stay of the imposition of a penalty in the event of an appeal.

  8. No person who has been acquitted of an offence under this Canon may be tried for the same offence a second time.

  9. No person who has been found guilty of and punished for an offence under this Canon may be tried or punished for the same offence again.

Excerpt from Handbook of the General Synod of The Anglican Church of Canada, 12th Edition, 1999
Canon XVIII - Discipline, Part 5 Nos.16-24 pp. 93-94

History of Dignity, Inclusion and Fair Treatment within the General Synod

In 1977 the General Synod of our church passed Act 43 which stated in part "That we affirm our commitment to setting our own house in order, and working for justice, freedom and peace whenever we are able to be of help"

As early as 1980 General Synod appointed a task force to consider and evaluate our own structures and practices in order that we ensure full participation from all segments of the church at all levels. These discussions and studies continued with a committee working and reporting for the next eleven years.

In preparation for the 1992 General Synod materials and draft principles were referred for study and response. As we tried to consider what it means to act justly in our broken world we were reminded that the history of concern for human dignity within Christianity is a long and complex one.

The discussion has been advanced through the General Synods of 1995 and 1998 in the form of human rights conversations and in resolutions which condemned bigotry, violence and hatred directed toward any. (Check the Frequently asked questions document included with this material for the history of the time since our 1998 synod)

Our church has also developed approaches to confront racism, and policies regarding gender discrimination. Currently our PWRDF is working on a policy document leading to a culture of inclusion.

These conversations and our reflection are advanced again through this present document which is a call to commitment to our baptismal vows.

Offending and Belonging, a bible study.

The Call to Human Dignity alluded to three passages. This study is structured to help the reader explore them more fully. They can be used separately or together, in personal reflection or as a group discussion. A. and B. can be done together in as little as half an hour. C. will take half an hour by itself. The questions attempt to stimulate interaction between the words of scripture and our situation and are not meant to be exhaustive. Additional insight or questions are welcome and should be shared in a group discussion.

A. Love: Matthew 22:37-39
He said to him, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbour as yourself.'

Some questions:
Can you describe the ways you believe God loves you?

What are some ways in which you want your neighbours to love you, particularly your neighbour in your church?

Think of a "neighbour" you find difficult to get along with. How will your behaviour change if you love that person as yourself?

What characteristics will a community that loves both God and neighbour exhibit?

B. Offending: Matthew 18:15-17
If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.

Some Questions:
Describe an incident in which you felt offended by a member of the church. What was it about? How did you feel? How do you feel now?

What concrete steps does the passage suggest in dealing with conflict?

Who beside the conflicting parties were involved? Why were they involved?

In your own incident, which step did you find the most difficult to take?

Can you imagine a different outcome if you were to overcome that difficulty?

What were some possible outcomes in each step of the resolution, if they were followed?

Can you recall how Jesus treated Gentiles and tax collectors?
Are there more than one meaning of "let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector?" What are they?

C. Belonging: 1 Corinthians 12

Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, you were enticed and led astray to idols that could not speak. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says "Let Jesus be cursed!" and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit. -1 Cor 12:1-3

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and we were all made to drink of one Spirit. 1 Cor 12:, 12, 13

How is the body formed and nourished, and how does one become a part of it?

Are there any differences in belonging or not belonging to the body?

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you," nor again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you." On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honourable we clothe with greater honour, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honour to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. -1 Cor 12:14-27

Put your self in the position of the foot. Why would it say what it says?

Put yourself in the position of the eye. Why would it say what it says?

In what way can the image of the body help us understand how we should relate as Christians?


March 2001

How does this differ from previous work?

This Call to Human Dignity represents a shift. It reflects learning from earlier experiences of discussions of rights, responsibilities, dignity, inclusion, and fair treatment. A major shift is in the language used - reflecting more strongly the "language of faith" than the "language of the courts".

This new document differs from previous work in its breadth and approach. It clarifies links to the canons of the Anglican Church of Canada. It recognizes we are on a journey of expression of the love and inclusivity we know in Jesus. It does not suggest we have reached the final destination.

How did it get here? Why did we start over again?

Following the lengthy debate at General Synod in 1998, many people expressed pain, caused by the words and the tone used in that debate. The experiences of some, particularly youth, were raised as an issue for the work of Council of General Synod. In an effort to promote dialogue, where we have strong differences, the Council worked at learning new techniques of listening and discussion which would be more effective than the pattern of debate used earlier.

From that work the Task Group on Dignity Inclusion, and Fair Treatment was formed. It worked on behalf of the Council and brought forth findings and recommendations, which developed, into the Call to Dignity presented to General Synod 2001. The Call is intended to be both a statement of our commitment and a description of the processes available in our Church.

What is the specific problem that this document seeks to resolve? Why do we need it?

In part, the Call to Human Dignity arises from our Church's struggle over many years to articulate our commitment to compassion and justice.

After General Synod in 1998, the process that was engaged during Synod was discovered to have caused pain to many. It was still festering many months later. The Council of General Synod made a commitment to address that damaging pain. It undertook to find ways to bring healing to hurts while maintaining the dignity and integrity of our differences. The Call to Human Dignity seeks to express ways in which effective listening can become integral to the life of the Church wherever we find ourselves.

It is needed to clarify our vision for compassion and justice, to bring together current policies that move us in this direction, and to assist in taking new steps in the journey to wholeness that celebrates differences and integrates compassion into our relationships within the Church.

How will this document affect the daily life of the Church?

This Call to Human Dignity will provide a guiding blueprint for creating and implementing fair

treatment principles policies within each community. It is intended to act as a common affirmation for all Anglicans of basic principles. It identifies existing procedures in canon law and indicates ways to deal with conflicts at all levels of church life. Each community is invited to apply it as appropriate to the life of that community.

What is its relationship to the policies and procedures of our Church?

This Call to Human Dignity calls attention to documents, which already exist within the Church and, in particular, to the Fundamental Principles of Natural Justice as outlined in Canon XVIII of the General Synod Canon on Discipline. It also highlights the call in our Church's Mission Statement for 'a greater diversity of membership' and towards more inclusive 'participation in ministry and leadership'. It indicates the need for more work to inform our membership of existing canonical provisions within the Church for justice, dignity, inclusion, and fair treatment. It outlines the principles, which should guide necessary revisions for the future where local and regional canons and practises remain unclear or inadequate.

What does this document do to the authority of the Bishops?

Authority is always enhanced by clarity and definition. Authority has been given by God to the whole Church, not just to the bishops. Bishops have a particular responsibility to see that authority is exercised with justice and compassion at all levels of the Church. This Call to Human Dignity is intended to enhance the efforts of bishops to exercise their own authority, and similarly, to enable others to exercise the authority they have been given in order 'to heal, and not to hurt; to build up, and not to destroy' (Ordinal, B.A.S., pg.639)

Will this document precipitate litigious procedures?

The intent is to reduce such procedures. A key contribution of the Call to Human Dignity is to indicate to everyone in the Church, that they now have the opportunity for all, including those who believe that they have never been heard in the case of injurious treatment, to take their concerns very seriously. It provides guidelines for hearing grievances and resolving conflict without recourse to litigation. The Call to Human Dignity expresses our shared commitment, a call to action within our own Church rather than recourse to litigation.

Use of the Call to Human Dignity will be important to define the parameters, structures, and procedures for hearing the grievances brought forward by members around issues of dignity, inclusion, and fair treatment. Lines of accountability and procedures for referral, as well as who, or what Church body, has final authority in hearing and making decisions in the event of grievances will have to be clear. We hope increased clarity about structures, procedures, and lines of accountability will free us for positive action rather than litigation.

Does this document provide an appropriate forum for issues of sexuality and other controversial and moral issues?

The Call to Human Dignity provides:

  1. a theological framework for fair treatment of all. It will not solve issues around sexuality but does call us to the exercise of love for all.
  2. a procedural framework for action.

They will not resolve different opinions held but do provide clarity for decisions we make in the exercise of fair treatment.

Does this document have any 'teeth'?

There are two ways that one can respond immediately to this question: No, the document does not have 'teeth' as a piece of legislation. This Call to Human Dignity does not supersede our Canadian constitution, canon law, or our established governance within the Anglican Church of Canada. It is not a piece of legislation. Its strength is in speaking to the hearts and minds of diocesan and parish leaders so that they genuinely seek ways to promote dignity, inclusion and fair treatment following along the suggested guidelines

It sets out clear guidelines for hearing and deciding upon cases of grievances brought against the Church by a member or employee against any level of the Anglican Church. Clearly, these guidelines need to be further developed and clarified following approval by the Church at General Synod. Part of its strength lies in many of the thoughts and approaches indicated in the relevant sections of the Canon Law of the Church. While containing parallel elements to those found in Canon Law, the fact that the affirmation document exists outside of Canon Law allows it a certain flexibility of interpretation and application so that grievances can be heard, decisions made, and a resolution achieved without bringing the full weight of Canon Law to bear in each case if it is not necessary.

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