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For Bishop Stephen London, the highlight of the "Let there be greening" Assembly 2023 was Christians being able to celebrate a similar vision of what it means to live the Gospel today. 

There was “a lot of trepidation coming into this synod about whether it would be a continuation of antagonism between groups and a further breaking apart of the Anglican Church,” he says in reference to General Synod 2019, which was divided over a motion (defeated) to amend the marriage canon to allow the blessing of same-sex marriages.

However, the 2023 General Assembly (some of the sessions were held jointly with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada which was also holding a national gathering in Calgary) was, for the most part, different. 

Delegates were able to move beyond a potentially divisive discussion about a motion to enable Archbishop Linda Nicholls to serve as Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada until the next General Synod, which was defeated, reintroduced the next day, and defeated again.

"It was obvious that Linda took this to heart, and we are not going to have that continuity of leadership. But there were many signs of hope, and many things brought us together,” says Bishop Steve.

“At the end of the Sacred Circle presentations, Chris Harper (National Anglican Indigenous Archbishop) invited the whole church into a round dance. Chris spoke about the 2019 synod and said he never wants to see another one like it. ‘We really need to focus on the fact that we are siblings in Christ,’" he said. "That was a magic moment. You can’t script this stuff.

"We celebrated with the Indigenous church the work that they are doing that is such a blessing to us. Along with Ian Alexander (newly elected Prolocutor), I had the great privilege to write and move a motion in celebration of The Covenant and Way of Life (the founding documents for the self-determining Indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada). As I read the motion from my laptop, there was huge applause and people hugging each other.”

Although London had represented the Edmonton diocese at General Synod as a clergy delegate, in 2007, this was his first time leading the Edmonton diocesan delegation as Bishop. He was joined by the Rev. Danielle Key, the Ven. Jordan Haynie-Ware, Cathy Armstrong, Matthew Mercer-Deadman and Emily Stephen-Garneau (youth), and the Rev. Canon Dr. Scott Sharman who also works for the National Church. Canon (lay) David Jones, who is retiring as Chancellor of General Synod, is a former Chancellor of the Edmonton diocese and currently a member of Holy Trinity Anglican Church.

He says an opportunity to be part of the Nominating Committee was "a blessing," in terms of being able to see the process of electing people to the Council of General Synod (CoGS) and the standing committees. These are the people who will continue the work of the church through the biennium. It was a chance to meet people who are really involved in the church, both in their dioceses and at the national level. This experience brought both an education and an appreciation of the work being done.”

Bishop Steve returned from General Synod “excited by a convergence of thinking about what it means to live the Gospel in our day and time. 

“I think the themes articulated in the five transformational aspirations (which he spoke in favour of at General Synod), are the themes that mainline denominations are wrestling with and thinking through. They match our Baptismal Covenant, they match what came out of Lambeth, they match what came out of the National Council of Churches and, of course, they match many of the themes that we’re articulating through Finding Our Way, the strategic plan for the Edmonton diocese.

“We’re trying to bring together again what I would call a heart religion and social justice. Often, in churches, these are two separate things. But we want people to be formed in a deep relationship with Jesus Christ; to pray regularly, to have their hearts set on fire with this good news of Jesus Christ, and to work that out in the social justice calls of our church. In the past, those things have seemed to be two different visions of the church. In these themes, they’re coming together.”

The strategic vision for the Anglican Church of Canada adopted by General Synod is to:

  1. invite and deepen life in Christ;
  2. champion the dignity of every human being; works to dismantle racism and colonialism;
  3. embrace mutual interdependence with the Indigenous church (Sacred Circle);
  4. nurture right relationships among people of faith in local, national and global communities and networks;
  5. steward and renew God’s creation; protect and sustain the earth; pursue justice for all.

General Synod also voted to support the continued work of dismantling systems that perpetuate racism, bias, and discrimination in churches, institutions and communities across Canada by establishing a permanent National Advisory Council on Dismantling Racism relationships with other Christian communities. Additionally, General Synod will continue to encourage ministries “to engage with the full historical realities of the Anglican Church’s involvement” in residential schools. This includes supporting dioceses to “take steps towards addressing the continuing impacts of these practices.”

Furthering its relationships with several other Christian communities, it celebrated Churches Beyond Borders, an extension of the 2001 Waterloo Declaration, an establishment of full communion between the Anglican and Lutheran churches in Canada, as well as Called to Common Mission, an agreement establishing full communion between The Episcopal Church and the ELCA.

Anglicans and Lutherans are working together in areas of advocacy around homelessness, affordable housing, and emerging interfaith work and dialogue, and the two churches are developing resources available on – a website of resources for Canadian Christians and Canadian Muslims who want to know one another more deeply and grow in understanding of their respective faith traditions.

Anglicans and Lutherans have also now entered into full communion with the Moravian Church of Canada

“Scott (Sharman, Canon to the Ordinary and Ecumenical and Interfaith Coordinator), cleared many hurdles” to help General Synod welcome the Moravians into full communion partnership,” says Bishop Steve. “We already have two Moravian pastors in our midst," the Rev. Trina Holmberg, rector of St. Andrew’s, Camrose; and St. Mary’s, Ponoka; and Rob Key who is married to the Rev. Danielle Key, rector of Holy Trinity Old Strathcona, Edmonton. The Edmonton diocese also hopes to partner with the Moravian camping program in the near future.

Bishop Steve says General Synod’s endorsement of the use of Pastoral Liturgies for Journeys of Gender Transition and Affirmation (set o gender-themed liturgies) where authorized by the ordinary, “does my heart good. While it will be up to the individual churches to decide to use the liturgies, I hope they will. Giving people the freedom and space to explore their identities and to feel welcome in this church as they do so, points to the inclusive love of God.”

In summing up his experience of General Synod, Bishop Steve is encouraged by what he describes as being "a listening exercise across the Anglican Church of Canada, which has reaffirmed for me that we’re listening together and we’re listening rightly.”

You can see more pictures and read more about Bishop Steve’s experience of General Synod on his Facebook page.

The September issue of The Messenger will feature more news, including pictures and reflections from the General Synod delegates of the Edmonton diocese.

Pictured, l to r: Diocese of Edmonton General Synod delegates Emily Stephen-Garneau, Bishop Stephen London, Jordan Haynie-Ware, Matthew Mercer-Deadman, Danielle Key, Cathy Armstrong; Bishop Stephen London speaking to Resolution A102. Photo: Jim Tubman for the Anglican Journal