Provincial Synod Reimagines Church in the Public Square

Posted October 19, 2015

Gathered in the provincial capital, Toronto, members of the 35th Provincial Synod of Ontario explored as its theme how the church is reimagining its intersection with the public square. Thus it was fitting that the Premier of Ontario, the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, helped begin the synod with an address that lauded the contribution faith communities make to the issues of our day. She noted, in particular, the role churches play in fostering belonging and adding to the public discourse on issues like poverty reduction and dying with dignity.

Provincial Synod Delegation

The Diocese of Niagara was well represented by clergy and lay leaders from across the diocese. The Reverend Canon Dr. Michael Mondloch from Grace Church, St. Catharines reflected that the synod was “a wonderful opportunity to sit at the table with Anglicans from around our province.” He was encouraged by the “breadth and depth” of conversation, particularly how “church is called to make a difference in our wider world.” He added that he was moved to “by the way in which local churches are making a difference in their communities through serving those who are marginalized.”

The Synod heard keynote addresses by former Senator Hugh Segal, Master of Massey College in Toronto, and Professor William Cavanaugh from De Paul University in Chicago. The former discussed the need for the church to always be active in the public square, and to while the latter explored political theology and the re-enchantment of the modern era. Bishop Michael Bird noted that both addresses contributed to the synod being one of the “most thought-provoking” he has attended.

In addition, a variety of workshops – from social media to affordable housing - immersed members of synod in issues arising in the public square and better equipped them to engage these issues through their ministry. Sue Carson of St. James, Dundas and co-chair of the Greening Niagara Committee attended the government relations workshop. She called the workshop “inspiring” and said she has always felt that it was more important to change the minds of politicians than it was to change our lightbulbs.

Each of the seven dioceses of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario, including Niagara, were invited to create a video to reflect upon the synod’s theme and what that means in their unique ministry context.  [Watch Niagara’s video here]

The three-day session also saw elections held for several provincial synod positions. Archbishop Colin Johnson, Diocese of Toronto and Moosonee, was re-elected to another six-year term as metropolitan for the province. Meanwhile Ms. Laura Walton, Diocese of Toronto, was elected as Prolocutor and Mr. Jean Bedard was installed as Chancellor.

The business of synod included reports by the Ontario Provincial Commission on Theological Education (OPCOTE), the Government Secretariat and the Moosonee mission area. Of note, OPCOTE - with the leadership of Canon Terry DeForest - is planning to produce a video series entitled "Ask Bigger Questions" to promote theological education throughout the province. The Primate also gave a thorough report on the ministry and work of the church national and updated members of synod about the Report on the Marriage Canon. The nearly $150,000 budget of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ontario was also passed after thorough discussion and debate. More information about all of these matters can be found on the Provincial Synod of Ontario’s website.

The next provincial synod will be hosted by the Diocese of Ottawa in 2018.