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"Vision 2019 is an opportunity to say 'here's what I think our church needs to be about.'"
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Messages from the Diocese of Toronto

Message from Jeannethe L., Toronto ON

Monday, October 5th, 2009

As with many other churches the fear of disappearing makes the church to close it walls and became too much focused on maintaining its own faith. But the world requires churches to walk the fine line between keeping and nurturing its own faith and being honestly open and engaging with other beliefs. Ten years is not much but could be enough to plant the seeds for this church to be a model in the practice of ecumenism.

Message from Graham C., Diocese of Toronto

Monday, October 5th, 2009

If this is your land, where are your stories?

If we are God’s People, where are God’s stories?

We tell the stories of the kingdom through Scripture and Worship, reading & meditation.

We already tell our stories through music and singing; we can increase the use of the arts, visual and spoken, dramatic and dancing; actually promote these things through opening to the professionals, and encouraging all their work.

We must also listen to each other’s stories; we must hear about heir lives and their business the things they treasure and their worries and concerns.

We must be prepared both to speak up and to listen, and respect the integrity of those who tell their stories. We need to support the professions and occupations that people live by; encourage them by ourselves believing that all work can be seen as response to the creation God has made and sees as good.

Because there are many different stories, there are many different ways of receiving Christ and proclaiming Christ. I would see groups of parishes – deaneries or dioceses- in which there is a deliberate acceptance of different objectives in parish life: inclusive parishes always, but some practicing traditional music, some untraditional, some with traditional liturgy, some with newer and innovative liturgy. Many “places to stand” when proclaiming our love of God and Gods creation.

For myself, I would hope, even in my late eighties, to help provide drama in liturgy, dance in liturgy, innovation in church space. Graham C.

Message from Phyllis C., Toronto

Sunday, October 4th, 2009


I want a church in 2019 that

  • Welcomes children and youth, and draws on their faith, creativity, and energies to shape worship and undertake ministry and mission
  • Honours its 16th century theologian Richard Hooker and the three-fold cord of scripture, reason, and tradition, and interprets the Bible afresh by reasoning, in light of sacred and secular knowledge, to shape faith, conscience, and action in changing contexts
  • Understands that God is the Lord of all life and therefore our faith must be lived out in society, the economy, and the political domain
  • Is open to the world, helping its members apply their faith to resolve justice issues in the social, economic, and political realms, and address environmental trends putting at risk ecosystems and the commonwealth of life on Earth
  • Understands that with the invention of nuclear weapons, we can choose war, or humanity, and therefore works for the abolition of these weapons and war itself
  • Actively opposes  armed violence, and the ever-growing militarism and military expenditures that waste physical, financial, and spiritual resources
  • Seeks wholeheartedly the peace and justice envisioned in the Gospel promise that God in Christ will guide our feet into the way of peace
  • Helps its members to understand we must walk more lightly on Earth and to share its resources with the whole human family, for whom God intends to provide
  • Teaches, in its worship and prayers, the beauty and wonder of creation and our calling to stewardship
  • Works through teaching and action to stop the war on the environment (seen in deforestation, overfishing, soil exhaustion and erosion, waste of water, and so on)
  • Gives leadership to avert catastrophic climate change – a grave justice issue — by making the serious reductions in carbon emissions needed in the church at all levels, and by pressing governments to achieve meaningful targets (25 to 40 per cent cut from 1990 levels by 2020) through regulations and incentives
  • Encourages and supports the sharing of ministry between clergy and laity
  • Fosters the empowerment of women and establishes gender parity as the norm in church bodies
  • Creates groups involving clergy and laity to study critical issues, in light of faith and in dialogue with scientists,  and makes their analyses known
  • Encourages fresh liturgical expression, fostering creativity in prayer and hymnody
  • Helps both local and worldwide neighbours
  • Affirms and supports aboriginal ministries
  • Helps victims, whether of wars, environmental disasters, or human rights violations and abuse, fostering justice and compassion
  • Teaches the wonder, beauty, and joy of sexuality and of its fulfilment in faithful, loving union, whether heterosexual or homosexual
  • Supports the Anglican Communion and helps create deeper bonds with other Christian denominations in worship and action.

Message from St. James’, Orillia ON

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

A small group of people from St. James’, Orillia met one day in July for the workshop/bible study based on the publication; this was followed by a second day in September to consider where we are today and visioning the future in 2019.

Where we are today:

  • National/International
  • Financial and prayer support for two third world clergy
  • Financial support toward HIV Aids
  • 12 student scholarships in Honduras
  • Financial support of PWRDF
  • Local Outreach
    • Hosting Christmas dinners
    • Support of Jubilee house, Lighthouse
    • James Place
    • Pennywise
    • Looney Lunch
    • Community volunteers
    • Youth ministry
    • Noon music through summer and Advent seasons
    • Summer musicians on Sundays
    • Support of local food bank
  • Worship
    • Excellence in music
    • Dynamic services; variety of styles and times
  • Active involvement re: local action; education; communication and advocacy


St. James will continue to meet people where they are

In a world that knows nothing anymore about Jesus – that they can come to St. James and hear about him – and truly see Jesus embodied in us

Respond to disaster through prayer and financial support

Expanding our liturgical services and music so that the holy aspect of our worship is impacting not only our congregation but increasingly is obvious to our community that we are deeply spiritual Christians

Meet people where they are e.g. Go into the streets and byways and talk to them

Actively listen to people to share their real needs e.g. build the Christian community in and through baptism, at services supporting families with newborn infants.

Introduce parents and children in action what the Gospel is i.e. start with what this audience has need of e.g. through music or story or play

Let them engage in these familiar expressions to enable the best way to emulate the Christian mysteries and relevance to them

Advocate for those who have no voice

A spiritually alive community in the midst of the world

Ongoing growth of Christian community

Sustain and expand formal liturgy

Maintain and sustain the physical building

St. James will organize and commission a group of 10 hospital and home visitors

Welcome all comers

The church needs to resolve outstanding issues and differences and come to some kind of unity (agreement): infighting turns people away from the church

Youth more involved

More exciting programs for children and youth

Ensure continued excellence of music

Facilitate and enable youth to speak from within

St. James would reach out to the community through a Drop-in Centre

Develop programs to involve and support all members of the congregation

Develop a formal program of support for underdeveloped countries

That we be recognized by government for our work in the community

That we act out the Gospels – not tell

Help people to consent to God’s presence within

Reach out to young parents

We witness to the Gospel through cross-cultural dialogue

Continue to build up the church community with teaching, prayer and social activities

Continue the structure of the liturgy and music

To help every member of the parish to see him/herself as a volunteer/Minister: who is needed, wanted for his/her particular gifts of ministry; who will be given/allowed to do ministries that particularly suit his/her God-given gifts; who will be supported, nurtured and appreciated in those ministries; and who will be given opportunity to share and reflect with others

Make “outsiders” aware that God (in Jesus) is still with them – and that they can hear his word in their own language

That a large church group from St. James will make a faith journey to a third world country

We provide pastoral care to newcomers and young children including newly-baptized

That youth ministry will focus on reaching out to the youth where they are

Rethink financial and prayer support for overseas missions

Our thoughts were written on various coloured maple leaf shapes and placed on a large tree drawn on newsprint and placed on the wall. It was a vision of a tree in its full coloured splendour of the Fall season.

Thanks for the opportunity to share.

St. James’, Orillia ON

Message from Brian J., Toronto ON

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

To dream is to yearn for things that are not yet real, or to wonder about rebuilding something that once was. Certainly there’s no need to dream if you’ve already got what you want.

I think it’s exciting that the Primate has asked us to think of a ten year dream in terms of the Five Marks of Mission. Quickly, they are: Evangelizing non-believers, Discipling new Christians, Doing Good Works, Seeking Justice and Caring for Creation.

The weight of the Five Marks of Mission is found in the first two, evangelism and discipleship. A survey of bishops attending Lambeth discovered that they hold these two as more important than the others.

Christian mission can only be done by people who are already followers of Jesus. Only the first two marks are exclusively Christian. There are many secular agencies [like the UN] that focus on those goals or the latter three marks, but no secular agencies focus efforts on either evangelism or making disciples. That is the realm of the church, and quite properly the place to put the vast majority of our time, effort and resources.

At any rate, in asking Canadian Anglicans to dream, the Primate thinks something is broken with the church, and he’s wondering what to do? Have we not yet reached our hopes, or laid  hold of that new vision of what we might become? Or have we lost something desirable that needs to be reclaimed and rebuilt, to attain the former glory that previously we displayed?

The Primate knows the answer. Our dreams must not be in moving to new territory or in redefining ourselves, but in reestablishing our foundations, and regaining a clear vision of our leader, Jesus Christ.

Let’s look at two areas where we can begin to rebuild the ancient ruins. First, we’ll look at the role of the Bible, and secondly we’ll look at the storytelling we need to do.

= = = = =
The Anglican Church of Canada is weak on appealing to Scripture, and weak on applying Scripture.  It is weak on telling the story of Jesus, the main character and actor in the Bible. It is weak on understanding Scripture and on referring to Scripture. The evidence is that there is little evidence.

Where can we find the Bible? We could visit the national church website and look for articles that serve the spiritual needs of viewers. Is there a daily devotional or a weekly message of Bible-based encouragement? Are there talks or blog entries by the Primate that are designed to build the faith of the people over whom he is shepherd? We could look for Scripture references or examples of obvious Christian behaviour like praying or evangelizing or doing Bible studies. Maybe we could look at submissions to government officials that request changes to legislation to see if we’ve included a biblical foundation for our request. When we read the Anglican Journal we get a little Bible teaching each month. Sermons by the current Primate seem to offer a couple of verses at the beginning and end, but don’t offer much exposition. We can look for the Bible in the Anglican Church, but do we don’t find much of it. The Bible is little seen, and seldom referred to.

The dream here is to return to the basics of church life, where Scripture is attended to. We pray: “Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life.”

The dream would be to have the Anglican Church pay more attention to Scripture as the main motivator when we ask others to do things, when we start new programs, when we advocate for justice. We need to be seen attending to the truths of Scripture. Endue all departments with Biblical mandates and motivating verses. Annual efforts in evangelism could be driven by biblical examples, such as Andrew, Timothy, or Philemon. [As an counter example, the recent Toronto effort to invite people to come to church had no biblical reference point.] The Anglican Journal team could recruit Bible publishers to buy adverts by cultivating a hunger among readers for explicitly Scriptural content.

Here’s more ideas. Offer carefully selected biblical promises for every diocese. The Primate can launch an annual “Word of Life, for Life” Program that gives a certificate to people who memorize 10, 25, 50 or more verses in a year. His passion for Scripture would be clearly seen or heard when we read or listen to his sermons because Scripture texts would be at the core of his talk. He could promote annual workshops for all clergy that would review best practices for biblical exegesis in sermons. He could offer his own Scripture comment/teaching on his communications page, like a weekly blog and a short devotional. Here’s an expensive program to consider: Like the Lutherans, a custom-created study bible could be created for Anglicans to purchase and use.

The Primate could insist that a “Bible verse of the day” link be available on the church website by next weekend; he wouldn’t have to wait ten years, he wouldn’t even need to wait for the consultant’s report. Promotion of this kind of coding could be offered to all church congregation websites too.

Or a daily devotional and various Scripture verses

Or a concordance search program

So, back to Scripture. Let’s lift up the Word of God, read it regularly, carry it with us. Let’s read it, learn it, use it. For it is only within Scripture that we find the good news about Jesus Christ, that he died for us while we were yet sinners. The successful future of the Anglican Church rests on reacquainting ourselves with the Scriptures.  Consider how many of the other stories in this Vision 2019 program call for this? Why are we so little committed to taking hold of the very Word of God?

Do you think that in ten years we could be more Biblically literate than we are now? Do you think we could be more vested in the truths and authority of Scripture? That’s a dream worth pursuing that we need to chase. Let’s make it so. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

Among the Marks of Mission, cultivating a love for the Scriptures admirably supports the second mark: To teach, baptise and nurture new believers.

= = = = =
The second dream is that we would tell the gospel by including personal stories of conversion. There are many references in the Journal or even on this Dream 2019 website that suggest that we are all children of God. Sure, everyone is made in the image of God, but not all are inheritors of his Kingdom. There is confusion among Anglicans around the subject of conversion. It seems that the whole subject of sin and salvation and faith in Jesus Christ is inconsequential. How did you become a Christian? What is your testimony? Why should God let you into heaven?

These are questions that only Christians care about. The lost don’t know they are lost. No one seeks for God. We must be ambassadors and witnesses to them about sin and repentance. The overwhelming topic of the Scriptures is the person of Jesus Christ. The Bible tells us about him, about his love, about his willing sacrifice, and it tells us about the meaning of the cross and activities of the early followers of Jesus. The good news is about Jesus.

Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.  For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Life is all about Jesus. Everything we do, every breath we take. Jesus. This dream is about creating a church that wants to tell the story of Jesus, and of a relationship that we can have with him. Oh, that we would know it well, tell it clearly and share it often. When the Amazing Grace song project ran in fall 2008, the Anglican Church barely told the story of what Christ’s suffering and death was about. We wrote about singing the song, but not the meaning of the song. We thought that Wikipedia would be adequate, and we didn’t even think that was necessary at first. We created an opportunity for evangelism, and failed to follow through with the content that would enable someone to step out from the domain of darkness into a place with Christ to stand holy and blameless before him.  [And so the Project page remains- it truly begs for a footnote that explains how to become a Christian.]

I encourage myself every now and again with a peek at the end of the story – that there are people from all nations who gather around the throne of God. They proclaim the good news: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” In their worship, they proclaim, “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” [Revelation 7:12] The Kingdom of God is about salvation: “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” [Colossians 1:13,14]

This is the gospel story we must tell. It begins with our sin and our unworthiness. God’s holiness is unapproachable on our own. We need help. Jesus offers that help and gives it to us if we take it. We can be saved from our sin. We do not need to be lost. We can be born again when we trust in Christ’s substitutionary death upon the cross. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:8] “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” [Acts 16:31]

I was converted at a Christian camp when I was 11 years old. The director gave a short devotion at breakfast each day. One time he gave directions for praying to God for the first time, like you can hear from a radio evangelist. I chose to ask God into my heart, saying I was sorry for my sins, and that I trusted Jesus to deal with it all. My sins were “lifted up” and I was saved. I became a Christian. There wasn’t much of sin in my life, but it’s our nature that needs redemption. I was a slow learner too. It wasn’t until my later teen years that I realized that my confirmation at 13 was a public declaration of what had happened to me at camp, which was a fulfillment of my parent’s hope for me at my baptism in my first year.

The Primate can tell the personal story of his own conversion. He can invite testimonies from parishoners as he has invited us to share our dreams for the church. I’d like to see a section titled “• Jesus Christ” on the left hand navigation column of the national church website. It could explain who Jesus is, why we follow him, and how to get saved. The Anglican Church has many people who have been soundly saved. Those personal stories of coming to Christ can be combined with biblical material about the meaning of Christ’s death upon the cross. That’s powerful content for evangelism. Out of this passion for our Lord, the Primate could create low cost [or free!] workshops where people can learn to share their faith. He could ask every clergy to deliver them in every parish every year.

That’s a dream I have. Here’s more. By 2019, every clergy and ministry leader will have publicly shared his or her personal testimony of salvation with members of their congregation. Thus: “Here at a property committee meeting, whose turn is it to share their testimony? How did you get saved Audrey?” Or, at the end of a service: “Before the blessing, our senior warden will share with us how he got saved.” It’s easy to practice in a safe place. On the street or at work the actual evangelism is harder. But we need to start.

Clergy need to invite conversion. They need to invite parishoners to break with their past and trust Jesus to save them. Clergy need to speak about sin, and how it holds us back from a relationship with God. Clergy need to teach about the atoning blood of Jesus, and his saving work upon the cross. Clergy need to to revel in proclaiming God’s majesty in displaying his grace toward us – that his costly love in Christ is available for all, but that it must be claimed. People can believe and trust in Jesus. Many have not done so.

If the Primate were feeling bold, he would want to begin to collect a statistical record of conversions along with attendance.

Clergy, lay readers, and other worship leaders need to be careful about their language, because not everyone who attends an Anglican church has been saved. Being Anglican doesn’t necessarily also mean being Christian. We must emphasize being Christian over being Anglican.

I’ve heard frequent references to us all as being children of God, or that we are all included in the church. That’s not always helpful because it encourages people who are not saved to think that they are. Evangelism among regular church attenders can be difficult because these lost people have no sense of conviction of sin, since they think they are justified. So frequent references to our sinful nature are required, as are references to the two kingdoms. This is the business of church, to get serious about sin, and to get into tough talk, to make distinctions about who belongs and who doesn’t. People may end up feeling guilty or offended. Tough. That is the reality of all our lives when our conscience is pricked. We are all unworthy of God’s love; His wrath toward us is reasonable. There is no good work we can do to win his approval. But there is a solution to that sense of guilt and inadequacy – to know and experience Christ’s grace and to make him known.

Among the Marks of Mission, learning how to tell your testimony of salvation admirably supports the first mark: To proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.

Brian J.

Message from Suzanne L., Cobourg ON

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Contribution to Vision 2019 from Suzanne Lawson, Council of General Synod Member

While the national church since 1995 has focused its mission and ministry on doing what dioceses cannot…international partnerships and development, ecumenical relations, theological reflections/advice, holding national-wide meetings/consultations etc., it is time for a change, for a revisioning of the role of the national church.  Dioceses and parishes need more help than they are getting in areas such as conflict transformation, congregational development, fundraising, parishioner engagement, congregational merger/collaboration, clergy selection, training for practical and effective ministry, human resource management, skilled interim ministry etc. As diocesan coffers shrink, and as problems get more and more complex, bishops and the reduced diocesan professional and support staff become more swamped, burned out, and feel inadequate.  And parishes and dioceses in trouble get little help in time to do something to change their situation before it is too late.

The national church needs to get seriously into the field of provision of support to bishops, ecclesiastical provinces, dioceses and parishes (the latter at the request of dioceses).  While I understand that there is not money to do this nationally either, I do think there is a fundraising capacity available for launching supportive mechanisms to local and regional church leaders and bodies.

So, my wish for the national church is that it build and maintain a Diocesan Services hub that has a stable of experts to match with needs expressed.  And that there be national church funding for the promotion and matching functions of this.  Some of the experts in the Diocesan Services area will need to be people that are paid staff (such as currently in the Philanthropy Department);  but perhaps the better hope given our short supply of money is that these services are provided by skilled volunteers functioning like CESO volunteers in Africa, or Doctors Without Borders or like a modified Volunteers in Mission with shorter term tasks…travel, accommodation, meals provided but no fee, or telephone access to bishops when they need advice.  Some may need to be paid experts such as the Potentials organization, or various professional church consultants already on the roster in the Philanthropy Department.  There are many models that could be developed to take advantage for instance of retired folk, or underemployed/unemployed professionals who might give telephone support and advice by phone in the evenings. Retired leaders either in the church or outside could provide ongoing support to archbishops, bishops, archdeacons etc.

God has given us the gifts to manage our problems/challenges.  What is missing is our capacity to recruit these helpers, properly train them for assisting in church situations in various geographic centres across Canada, and a top-notch “matching” service centrally that can seek out the resources needed and monitor the match. There are, I’m sure, people working with the House of bishops, and with staff such as Jill Cruse and Geoff Jackson who have been doing related work,  who could set this “brokerage” role up at low cost and then ensure that the management and training needed actually happen.

Message from Jim W., Cobourg, ON

Thursday, October 1st, 2009

Vision 2019

My vision is a visual one. To change the appearance of the average Anglican church membership and congregation.  Instead of a relatively sparse collection of fairly elderly women to see it transformed into many males and females of all ages.

This is obviously much easier said than done!  However, here are just two things that might help sew the seeds.

  1. Get a copy of the book: “Why Men Hate to go to Church” into every parish.   It will help them understand some of the challenges revealed in a good, analytical discourse on how a church started by Jesus and twelve male disciples came to look the way it does today.
  2. Focus on getting far more parishes (and especially their clergy) to realize what they are missing by not using current communications techniques in distributing information to the community they serve.  Church publications and web sites (if they exist) are often pathetic!  This is also a way of challenging missing young people in our parishes to use their superior computer skills.

I won’t be around, because of my age, in 2019.  On the other hand lifelong membership as an Anglican, as a warden in three churches, membership of Toronto Diocese Executive and General Synod has, I believe, given me some useful insights — even though I may have been part of the problem!

Best wishes for success of what really is a very admirable project.

Jim W., Cobourg, Ontario

Message from A member of Church of the Redeemer, Toronto

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

My vision of the church is based on Matthew 22: 37-39 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

I am happy to say my experience in the Anglican Church, and in particular at Church of the Redeemer, is very close to what I am looking for. I am cared for by the clergy and by the community – on a personal, everyday level and on a spiritual level. The music is gorgeous with mostly classical and traditional hymns, but it ventures into gospel and other types of music (including a few services based on contemporary music such as U2). We are incredibly blessed to haveCanon Andrew Asbil as our incumbent. He is a truly gifted minister - who offers sermons week after week that intelligently blend the experiences of every day life with profound Christian messages. I am always inspired. He is also a skilled listener and spiritual counsellor who is generous with his time. His door has always been open to me in times of sorrow and joy.

My wish for the church in the future is that every Anglican could have such a wonderful experience in their parish. Everyone should have a place like this to come and learn how to love God with all their heart and mind and soul. A place that they can bring their questions and struggles. Most importantly, it should be a place to learn about the limitless love of God for themselves and the world. It should be a place that expresses the love of God in all that it does. (And yes, for me, that means it is an inclusive place that does not distinguish between people based on race, gender, ability or sexual orientation. We should continue to reach out to people who are concerned about the authority of scripture and disagree with same-sex blessings on that basis. We have to express the love of God to them too, but my own belief is that this is a matter of love and justice, and the church has to stop discriminating against gays and lesbians.)

Which brings me to the second commandment and my view of the way the church will survive and grow in the future. Love your neighbour as yourself. For me, that means we need to love the person next to us in the pew, the people we encounter in our daily lives, but especially the poor, the hurting and the oppressed in our own land and abroad. Redeemer does this well with a lunch program for the poor and marginalized in the neighbourhood, but I want to see us do more. I know that PWRDF does this globally, but I want to see us do more.

This kind of outreach is also what I believe the church needs to do to survive in the future. People in both the developed world and in developing countries are disillusioned by the injustice of current economic and political systems. We are all crying out that we want to change the world, but I think many people feel powerless and don’t know where to turn to channel their desires and efforts to make the world better. In Canada, I think it is particularly important for the church to work for justice for First Nations people and to protect the environment. I think the church needs to work with ecumenical and interfaith partners to show people that religion is a creative force for good, not division. We should gather momentum with other partners, including social justice and environmental organizations, to work for change. I know churches already do this. I want to do more, but I think we also need to get better at telling the world that this is what we are about. Maybe then they will see that the love and light they long to see in the world can be found in the church.

Message from Gordon Light, Toronto

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Where  is our Church now, and where do we want it to be in 2019?

I appreciate deeply where our church is now – wrestling, seeking, working to understand how God is calling us today, and exploring new forms of discipleship. It is easy to criticize ourselves for how we are failing – and I can be at least as critical as the next person. (Perhaps even more since I am now retired and don’t have the responsibility I once carried!) But I have to say that there is so much I cherish in the church, and I am grateful to be a member of it.

For some years I was fortunate to serve in the Diocese of Cariboo and, most recently, in the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior. When our name was ‘Cariboo’, I delighted in belonging to a family that truly was a family. When we became the Anglican Parishes of the Central Interior, that sense of belonging continued (and continues.)  But there was a wound in our life – one that resulted from the dreadful legacy of our colonial history, including that of the Residential Schools. Many persons in the schools suffered loss of identity.  When the diocese was winding up its operation, Bishop Jim Cruickshank noted that now “we would no longer have Cariboo as our name”. In some small way, we were being called to learn something of what losing identity was about. But mostly God was asking us learn to be brothers and sisters in a new way. Perhaps it took us into a place where we were discovering something about healing. I long for a church in which we understand that healing – the healing of our souls, our neighbourhoods, our church, our world – begins when we acknowledge the wounds we have caused and those we have received, admit our need and pray for mercy and grace, recognize our deep need for each other, and seek the risen life offered through the wounds of Christ. My wife loves to quote a favourite phrase from U2, ‘We get to carry each other.”  Indeed, that is what sharing in the cross is about. Resurrection finds its beginnings in wounds.  I was thankful to share in a community of persons who had experienced a deep injury in our common life, carried each other and sought to hear God’s voice of new life in the midst of that.

For nearly a year now, I have been privileged to belong to an urban Toronto parish that is seeking to grow more deeply in discipleship. Like many urban churches, it has an old and large heritage building that is immensely costly. It was built for another age when church-going was integral to the culture. Yet even with the frustrations that come with such a plant, my sense is that the primary question at the heart of the parish’s life is mission. How will we serve God in our neighbourhood and world? How will we faithfully “proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ”? Many are engaged in some form of outreach – with young people, the homeless, the hungry. And, it seems, there is a willingness to listen to what the Spirit is saying through people in the wider community. It is a kind of paying attention that assumes God is calling us through other voices outside the church and in events that take place in the neighbourhood.

Last Sunday (September 27) was billed as ‘Back to church Sunday’ in the Diocese of Toronto. Vested in copes and mitres, The Toronto bishops greeted commuters at Union Station with an invitation. With other churches, members of our parish were encouraged to invite non church-going friends (or formerly church going friends) to come and see. As it turned out, Queen Street East, the main thoroughfare on which our church is located, was going to be blocked to traffic on that Sunday from 8.00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m. for a major marathon. Travel by car or public transit was not possible. My first response was frustration and disappointment – not a particularly helpful or faithful response! But leaders in the congregation started an email conversation and turned the occasion into a moment of mission. 4000 marathoners would be running by St. Aidan’s – how could the parish reach out to them? The idea of lawn signs welcoming and encouraging them was born. Signs greeted the marathoners that had the following captions: “Is there a patron saint of blisters?” ‘”Repent. Mile 25 is coming soon”, “Hit the wall? Come in and pray”. At the bottom of each were the words “God Bless Marathoners – from St. Aidan’s”.  A lot of people saw those signs. Some of the runners paused to take pictures, others wore a broad smile. When the priest was taking the signs down after the run, a race marshal came to tell her “This was a tough part of the race, and many runners got a laugh and encouragement.” That is mission – paying attention to what is going on and speaking to it as Christians with humour and grace.

Learning to be brothers and sisters in a new way.

Carrying each other in this broken world.

Paying attention to what God is saying to us from beyond our walls.

Engaging the world with creativity and compassion.

Keeping a sense of humour.

It seems to me that these are gifts we already have – at least in seed form.  When I dream of the Church of 2019, or any age, I hope that the seeds that are already present might be nurtured and flourish so that “we and all God’s children might be free and the whole earth live to praise God’s name.” I am glad to be a member of Christ’s body engaged in this sort of mission today.

Gordon Light,
St. Aidan’s, Toronto

Message from Ronald Kydd, Cobourg ON

Wednesday, September 30th, 2009

Vision 2019

Thank you for your urgings to write and for your insistence that one may respond at any level. I joined the Anglican Church in late1998 after several decades of ministry in another denomination, and I was priested in March, 2000. I feel as though I have found a spiritual home in Anglicanism, and consequently, I am very interested in its future in Canada.

Your questions use the word “church” in two different senses. In the first it is “church,” implying a local parish. In the second it is “Anglican Church of Canada,” a denomination. My response to both questions focuses on “church” as denomination.

Where is the Anglican Church of Canada Now?

There are many signs of spiritual life in the ACC which hold promise for the future. I mention briefly the Faith Works program of the Diocese of Toronto and the fact that the word “mission” appeared in diocesan discourse recently. Faith Works has been a part of our diocese for some time, but the idea of msssion seems to have caught on perhaps having noted the way some parishes do look beyond themselves. St. Peter’s, Cobourg, under the leadership of Canon Peter Walker would be one and perhaps St. David’s, Weston, is another. I am sure there are others. Bishops in full episcopal vestments handing out invitations to church in Union Station, Toronto would be a further encouragement to mission.

In addition to these strengths, we Anglicans are blessed with a deep and rich spiritual tradition and profound liturgies. Added to this we Anglicans as a group have an extraordinary place of interest among the cultural elites of our society—journalists, politicians, and leaders in the business community. Regrettably, all of this is being seriously threatened. The threat—an extemely soft spiritual and theological centre.

This condition is being illustrated in many ways. These may be exceptions to the rule or they may be the rule to which there are expections. (1) In my hearing and in committee, an Anglican priest in the Diocese of Toronto stated that she would not permit her life to be shaped by the Bible.  (2) There is a persistent religious relativism which has appeared from the episcopal chair to the pew. (3) We have permitted societal values to shape belief and policy to a remarkable extent.

Speaking of the 1950s and 60s, Robert Bellah, Episcopal layman and renowned scholar, and associates, in their analysis of American life, outline reasons which explain “. . . the quasi-therapeutic blandness that has afflicted much of mainline Protestant religion at the parish level for over a century. . . .”[1] One was the loss of confidence among religious intellectuals. I take that to mean that the biblical and theological liberalism which dominated most North American seminaries at the time made it difficult for them to offer clear and substantial teaching regarding historic, orthodox Christianity. As a student in the 60s in two seminaries, which were not Anglican I might add, I experienced precisely this. This has left “mainline” denominations, including our own, particularly vulnerable to non-Christian influences from our society. In another place, Bellah muses about the extent to which “. . . the world in which we live so invaded and eviscerated those communities [religious communities in the United States] that they have difficulty understanding their own core meanings.”[2]

The consequences are striking. We have lost members. These are not those who “are not leaving, they’re just not coming.” They have left. The ACC reached its highest number of persons per 1000 of Canadian population in 1921. It was 160 per 1000. It began to decline then, a decline which became rapid after 1961,until it reached the number found in the 2001 census—68 persons per 1000. This has meant the undermining of parish life and outreach and the slashing of budgets. Prominent American sociologist, Rodney Stark, in an interview in 2004 was asked what he thought about churches which choose to make themselves more popular by being very undemanding in either thought or practice. Stark replied: “They’re death wishes. People value religion on the basis of cost and they don’t value the cheapest ones the most. Religions that ask nothing get nothing.”[3]

It seems to me that we are in a position in which our basic theology threatens everything we are doing. We may be able to generate some enthusiasm by promotion and intense communication, but eventually the soft theological centre will again derail us.

Where Should the Anglican Church in Canada Be in 2019?

Led by its clergy, the ACC should be embracing the historic creeds and the biblical revelation of God in Christ, resulting in more people being drawn into relationship with God through Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. There should be less reliance on old “liberal”, bultmanian modalities, and there is plenty of help available. To name only a few, The Rt. Rev. N. T. Wright, Prof. Christopher Seitz, Prof. Richard Bauckham, and Prof. Anthony Thistleton, Anglicans all, are doing brilliant work. What they are writing and saying should trouble fundamentalists of the left as well as those of the right.

The ACC should be open and receptive to all, acknowledging that all of us stand under scripture and are subject to the judgment of God. The scriptures make very clear how we are to live our lives both for God’s glory and to our own benefit. The denomination should be characterized by people committed to Jesus Christ and acknowledging him as Lord who are going into society at all levels to help others find the lives that God intends for them.

The Rev. Dr. Ronald Kydd
Honourary Assistant, St. Peter’s, Cobourg
and Research Professor of Church History,
Tyndale Seminary, Toronto

[1] Robert Bellah and Associates. Habits of the Heart: Individualism and Commitment in American Live (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996), p. 238.

[2] Bellah, The Robert Bellah Reader, Edited by Robert N. bellah and Steven N. Tipton (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006), p. 215.

[3] Posted July 22, 2004. Stark and associates expanded on this in What Americans Really Believe: New Findings from the Baylor Surveys of Religion (Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2008), p. 29-36.