PERHAPS Mother Church is in fact a child. Think of your church as a teen-ager, a difficult issue; frequently exasperating, often mischievous, often disapproved of, but loved. Always loved, never forsaken. You do not blanket a child with love; nothing compels you to love every nook and cranny of another person’s soul, even your child’s. But if bestowed, love is unconditional. The child will grow, go its own way and you may condone or condemn, you may cringe, you may weep, but love is constant. And as constant as love is your support for your child. When your wisdom, your strength, your experience, even your earthly resources are sought by a needful child, these things that were forever waiting in your heart are revealed and given, because that is the product of love. Love waits for its fruits to be picked. And then, love surrenders all that it has in its own name, in the name of love. You are this way because the child is yours. You gave it life. You give it life.
There comes a time, in every parent’s life – perhaps several times – when love must engender forgiveness and move from there. Without the forgiveness, the relationship will stagnate and the love, which should be a dynamic thing, will atrophy.
Now is the time for you to love and support your church. Now is the time for you to forgive.
No one who has read this newspaper in the past several years can be ignorant of the position the Anglican church finds itself in with regards to residential schools and the ensuing lawsuits which the church’s complicity in that misguided, disastrous bit of social policy has engendered. The church has begged forgiveness for its role in residential schools, both from those directly affected and, by implication, from all its members and from society at large.
Today, the church, which has been staring at the abyss over this issue for months, may be on the brink of an agreement with the federal government, which will breathe new life into General Synod, though what a General Synod will look like in the aftermath of such an agreement remains to be seen.
The pain that this situation has engendered has been universal and ghastly. Quite apart from the pain of the survivors of residential schools, it has flowed throughout the church, touching all, from confused and saddened parishioners to exasperated General Synod staff to besieged bishops and clergy. No one has escaped and out of that pain has come a groundswell of anger that detracts from the many tasks at hand and that, unchecked, bodes as ominously for the future of this church as does the morass of lawsuits we are embroiled in. When anger strikes, the temptation, all too often, is to strike back where we think it is coming from.
Clearly, your first line of retaliation against a church that has angered and pained you is financial. You are asked to give so often and in so many ways; from the collection plate in your own church to the Anglican Appeal, the PWRDF envelopes you find near your pew, solicitations by the Journal. Planned Giving even asks you to give from beyond the grave. It is worrisome to contemplate the levels at which anger can operate. There is, for instance, the feeling expressed in several letters to this newspaper which is epitomized by the writer who said, “I want to give, but not if a penny of my gift is going to go to lawyers or Indians.” Nothing is easier, in the face of overwhelming anger, for a parent to shout out a resounding “No! No more!” But you must not.
Residential schools and their legal aftermaths are with us. They will be with us for a long time. They will be with us long after an agreement with the federal government is reached, if one is reached. Yet your church, its life, its story, its ministry goes on, for now and perhaps forever. In the end, your denial of gifts in anger over the residential schools scandal merely feeds and compounds the tragedy that is that story. This denial may have just a smidgen of the effects you wish to achieve. But in the end, who will suffer the most? Is it the lawyer representing General Synod? Is it the native victim of abuse?
Or is it the Council of the North parish that must do without a priest for one more year because there is no money to hire one? Is it the woman in Madagascar who asks for $200 for a used sewing machine that will enable her to support five children? Is it the African theological college that needs money for a pump so students don’t spend half a day carrying water from several miles away? Is it the Rwandan refugee in Nairobi who begs $5 for just one night off the street where she was raped and beaten last week?
Forgive your church its trespasses. And then re-open your heart to its work. It is the work of the church that claims your support, as it always has. All else, your anger included, ought to be ephemeral. The work is the issue, the child of the child that is your church.