[Anglican Journal] Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada reflected on the church’s role in society in an opening address to Council of General Synod (CoGS), taking place in Mississauga. Archbishop Fred encouraged council members to look beyond the church’s quarrels and divisions to its wider calling of bringing justice to the world in areas such as indigenous rights, poverty and human trafficking.
Archbishop Fred began by quoting some thoughts on Pentecost by the Bishop of Sherborne in the UK, Karen Gorham. As the disciples saw after Pentecost “an in-between time of witness” before the coming of the Kingdom of God, so should Anglicans, he said, see Pentecost as ushering in a time when “the ordinary can be made extraordinary” for Christians as they work the world-transforming work of Christ.
“Pentecost reveals the power we present-day disciples need to continue to fulfill our calling to continue to make Christ and his gospel known,” he said. “The Ascension as described by Luke ends with the question to the disciples, ‘Why do you stand looking up toward heaven? There is work for us to do.’ ”
Archbishop Fred reflected on the phrase from the Book of Isaiah, “You are my witnesses,” which served as the theme for last July’s General Synod in Canada and for the current triennium, which lasts until 2019. In the Anglican tradition, he said, being a witness to God—evangelism—is done both through the performance of liturgy and service to the community, not through preaching what he called a “pocket-sized” gospel. “The gospel that we proclaim cannot be shoved into our pocket because it is a gospel not just about me—it is a gospel for the world,” he said. “Jesus looks at us and he says, ‘You are my witnesses, and if you are going to be my witnesses, you must be engaged in the community, you must be engaged in the world.’ ”
Bearing witness, Archbishop Fred said, also means living in true communion with one another, in “one mystical body, one holy fellowship.” He then spoke of the eighth round of the Canadian-African Bishops’ Dialogue, which ended last week with meetings in Nairobi, Kenya. Despite the presence of “very diverse political, social, culture and theological contexts,” he argued, the bishops were able to say, in effect, that “a new understanding of the Anglican Communion has led to renewed commitment to its flourishing. Myths and stereotypes, misunderstandings and propaganda have been broken down. It’s clear we have so much more in common than the issues that divide us or threaten our unity.”
The Archbishop’s strongest words were for human trafficking. In Canada, he said, ”the most vulnerable to human trafficking—much of which is for the sex trade—are women and girls, sometimes as young as 13, the poor and Indigenous people.” He recalled a recent report claiming that some sex slaves can be raped as many as 40 times a day.
“This is the ugly crime of seduction, lying, luring about a better life,” he said. “This is the ugly crime of inflicting damage on people’s bodies and minds and souls. It is the lust of the consumer being satisfied and it is the greed of the owner of the sex slave that is being satisfied.”
Other forms of trafficking, he said, feed factories where people are forced to work in inhumane conditions. “This crime, this ugly, filthy crime stalks the Earth—no country is beyond its reach,” including Canada, he said.
Though it would involve a difficult conversation, he prayed the church would mobilise its women and men in effective ways to rid the world of the “living hell” caused by modern human trafficking and slavery. Then, quoting a former Archbishop of Canterbury William Temple: “the church…that lives to itself will die to itself,” he concluded with a prayer for unity and action.
“Pray with me…that we not ever be so preoccupied…with all our joys and all our trials, all our celebrations, and all our squabbles that we lose our sight, nor our hearing, of the cries of those who look to us in the hope, the great hope of Christ’s mercy and compassion and that release and freedom of which his gospel speaks.”
He then referred once more to Bishop Karen Gorham, referring to Isaiah’s call that Christians be “transformers of a needy world.” “After all, my brothers and sisters, is that not the essence of our vocation, of our worship and our work from one week to the next?”