This is my first Moments of Grace since May. I took six months away from writing these reflections for a couple of reasons: firstly, another project to be published next year needed a lot of energy, and secondly, I decided to say less in the lead-up to our Diocesan Synod on November 8-10. That synod, called The Future of the Church and the Church of the Future, was unlike any gathering I have ever attended, and concluded an incredible amount of work on the report from our Diocesan Commission on Parish Renewal and Viability. During the critical six months between May and October when the members of that Commission were reflecting upon their findings from 14 months of consultations across the Diocese I said little publicly about their work because I did not want to influence their conversations, nor did I want to influence the people of our diocese as they prepared to study the report. The resulting document – Surviving or Thriving: The Future of the Church in the Diocese of Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador – is remarkable as much for its courage as it is for the way in which the voices of Anglicans across Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador have been heard. The Commission’s report, which has now been adopted by Diocesan Synod, will shape our life and ministry for the next generation and more.
In my Charge to Synod, delivered over two days, I thanked the members of the Commission for their work. In my final unscripted words to Synod, I thanked the members of Synod for the amazing way in which they engaged, debated, and decided. In those final words I told them that they had chosen a new future which we must now embrace. I immediately dissolved the Cathedral Chapter (Canons and Archdeacons) as it was constituted and I am now at work forming a different kind of Chapter for a different kind of church. In the week since Synod I have been reviewing each of the motions passed at Synod and I am occupied now on our Diocesan Budget so that our resources enable missional ministry. In the days ahead, as I move toward the first meeting of our new Diocesan Executive Committee, I will be preparing an action plan that takes seriously the decisions of Synod and begins to set in motion the requested changes. And, as I promised in my closing remarks, on January 17, 2019 – the 5th anniversary of my Consecration as Bishop – I will be releasing a letter to the church intended to bring into sharp focus the challenges ahead. I will be having many, many conversations with many, many people between now and January 17. But on this day, I am reminded of a poster from World War II that I have on my wall at home. With my apologies for its warlike imagery, it shows Prime Minister Winston Churchill with a caption of his words: “Let us go forward together.”
Sir Winston Churchill is something of a personal hero for me. I know that he was a deeply flawed individual, and history has been both kind and unkind to Churchill. But he was also a master of the English language with all of its nuances and subtleties, and to read Churchill is to encounter a finely-tuned intellect at home in the thrust and parry of political life and at ease in public debate. In more than 50 years of public life Churchill utilized language persuasively when desirable and lethally when necessary. An oft-repeated phrase of his during the dark days of World War II was, “Let us go forward together.” And while this phrase is generally associated with his wartime leadership, it actually dates back decades earlier and was a favorite of his in political speeches.
I think Churchill’s phrase, often heard on the BBC before, during, and after the war is an apt phrase for those of us who belong to this great church today. Like the British Parliament in 1939, our Diocesan Synod has also made a great resolution and we cannot turn back. Many difficult choices lie ahead, and challenging days await us, even if the big decision has already been taken by Synod. That decision was to choose a different tomorrow.
I do not know exactly what that tomorrow will look like, but I do know that this Anglican Church of ours will look and act differently in the years ahead. I ask of my church is that we move forward together. Every single Anglican, from our newest to our oldest, and everyone in between, is cherished and valued. Let us not move forward so quickly that some people are left behind, but neither should we allow the momentum generated by our Diocesan Synod to be lost. The big decision has been made; may we discover God together in the details of working out that decision. As we face a new tomorrow let us go forward together in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ and in the unity of the Holy Spirit.