The Anglican Church of Canada has published the first round of a collection of essays reckoning with the questions of life, death, faith and dignity surrounding medical assistance in dying (MAID). Faith Seeking Understanding: Medical Assistance in Dying collects thoughts from clergy, caregivers and academics within and adjacent to the Anglican community in a volume available now as a PDF or an ebook through the church’s website. Submissions remain open until Nov. 17 for proposals of further essays or reflections either adding to or responding to the content released in this initial version, reads a note in the collection’s early pages.
This collection represents the church’s first written document on MAID since In Sure and Certain Hope, a document released in 2016, the same year the practise became legal in Canada.
It contains a range of perspectives and questions on MAID from the definitions of freedom, human dignity and self-determination underlying the thinking behind the treatment to whether it is compatible with Anglican beliefs as expressed through liturgy. In their submissions, some authors argue for the church to compassionately embrace the practise while others argue Christians should speak out against it.
In her introduction to the text, the Rev. Eileen Scully, the book’s editor and General Synod’s director of faith, worship and ministry, writes that Canadian Anglicans have lived for seven years in one of the few jurisdictions where assisted death is legal. And in light of emerging and shifting questions, she adds, “We need to talk, together, about what this changed reality means for our country, for us as Christians, for the vulnerable, for health care, for social justice, for God’s gift of life and the call to care for those who suffer.”
In Sure and Certain Hope was written at a time when MAID was still being considered in the Supreme Court, she writes; now it’s time to discuss what the church has learned from the practical reality. However, she adds, the essays should not be taken as a complete or representative sample of all of the perspectives of race, socio-economic status, language and culture present in the church. That’s one reason the call will remain open for further submissions, she writes.
In her own foreword, Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, describes the essays as “a turning of the prism” to glimpse some of the spectrum of opinions that exist around the church in Canada for how Anglicans should respond to MAID and the issues it raises.
“Some accuse Anglicans of being ‘wishy-washy’ and desire a strong, clear articulated stance of opposition to MAID or of wholehearted support. My experience of Anglican discernment is that we have strong convictions about the gift of our life in Christ with a corollary recognition of the difficult contexts of human life that defy unequivocal answers,” she writes.
The collection contains submissions from:
The Rev. June Maffin, retired priest, artist and author
Cate McBurney, oblate of the Sisterhood of St. John the Divine with a doctorate in bioethics
The Rev. Trish McCarthy, priest with long experience giving and teaching pastoral care
Bruce Wheatcroft, retired church musician with personal experience of permanent disability
The Rev. Chris Salstrom, hospital chaplain specializing in complex continuing care and special needs dementia
The Rev. Donald Shields, priest, hospital chaplain and registered psychotherapist
The Rev. Bertrand Olivier, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal with a background in healthcare communications consultancy
The Rev. Marty Levesque, priest with a background in philosophy
The Rev. Miranda Sutherland, priest
Sister Kathryn Tulip, member of the Sisterhood of Saint John the Divine, spiritual carer at St. John’s Rehab Hospital
Canon. Paul Friesen, priest and theology professor
The Rev. Peter Armstrong, priest who has had parishioners opt for MAID
Canon. Maggie Helwig, priest, author, social justice activist
The Rev. Angie Hocking, deacon with 16 years experience working with homeless people in Toronto
The Prayer Book Society of Canada, organization for promotion of the Book of Common Prayer and education on Anglican theology
The Rev Chris Dow, dean of St. Jude’s Cathedral in Iqaluit
John Berkman, professor ordinarius of moral theology at Regis College, University of Toronto
The Rev. Ben Crosby, priest and PhD student in ecclesiastical history
The Rev. Ian Ritchie, priest and former professor of religion and culture, contributor to In Sure and Certain Hope
Canon Jesse Zink, principal of Montreal Diocesan Theological College and canon theologian in the diocese of Montreal
The Rev. Ephraim Radner, priest, professor of historical theology at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto, and author on human suffering
Canon Lizette Larson-Miller, canon precentor in the diocese of Huron and former chair of liturgical studies at Huron University College
The Rev. Christopher Craig Brittain, dean of divinity and chair in Anglican studies at Trinity College, University of Toronto