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I was appalled when I read of the arrogance of the “conservative bishops and primates” who have issued an ultimatum to the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding invitations to bishops of the Episcopal Church in the United Stares and the Anglican Church of Canada to Lambeth (Archbishop unveils details for Lambeth, February). They brook no suggestion that the latter churches are pursuing God’s will of inclusiveness for all, as they see it. It must be nice to be so sure of everything. There will be no way of arresting a schism with such Pharisaic intransigence rampant. Apparently the conservative bishops have neglected to look at the differences of opinion that tore at the early church and how they were resolved. If such hardhearted judgmentalism had prevailed then, the Christian church would not be here today. I suggest that the two halves of the Communion go their own way before we tear ourselves to pieces.
It amazes and offends me that some bishops threaten to boycott the meeting of Lambeth in 2008 if the bishop of New Hampshire’s participation is expected and sought as genuinely by Canterbury as is the participation of the threatening bishops. If the Archbishop of Canterbury represents Jesus (I do not know who else he represents), the readiness of Jesus to welcome saints and sinners (those are purely human terms of evaluation, as are the terms conservative/traditional and liberal/progressive) is, I hope, the spirit behind the invitations and behind the assembly itself. If it were something else, why would any bishop go? Why would any province wish their bishops to go? Why would any of us pray for Lambeth 2008? I trust that Canterbury does not pick up a burden which rests solely with those who threaten a boycott.
Rev. John B. Hills
Grand Haven, Mich.
Spirit in our midst
Capt. Canon A. Knight’s reply (Calling, February letters) to M. Lane (Discrimination, December letters) has it half right. The Bible is the word of God. The other half is that it is written in human words. Since the church is not sinless and what we most easily hear are human voices, we are called to judge which words most faithfully echo God’s word in our situation, when we differ over how we weigh possibly conflicting texts. If we read God’s word as law, we do well to learn from our Jewish neighbours’ experience of interpreting the law. Notably today, their Society for Textual Reasoning steers between traditionalism and liberalism by taking literally the New Testament promise that, when two or three gather to hear God’s word in His name, God in Spirit is in our midst. They recognize that good judges are not those with hardened hearts but those who bring the best scholarship to bear on past readings of the texts and current knowledge of the world, then listen to different witnesses and listen for God’s voice both in their own hearts and the voices of those who disagree with them. They ask what the texts mean in Hebrew and whether they are the most pertinent text for answering present pastoral questions. When we are healed by the blood of the Lamb, we follow the Hebrew idea of sacrifice. The blood is the life. We cover our sins by accepting the offering of an untainted life on our behalf and receiving in return the breath of life through the gift of the Spirit, as known in the restoration of communion. Jesus made very clear what the priorities are when reading God’s word as law. It is a pagan idea to exalt disembodied love or to make sexual love the whole story. We are not talking about mathematical laws with only one right answer, regardless of who is being judged for what. Making sex a litmus test of true communion owes more to Freud than to the Bible.
Rev. Dr. Peter Slater
I have just read The story behind the story of church membership (February editorial). The questions you seem never to ask are “Why does the Church exist?” or “What is its purpose?” You seem to think that it has, or should have, its own existence and this is sufficient justification for being. The fact that you are looking at your declining membership and wondering what to do about it proves that you have lost the point of being a Christian. The message of Scripture is always relevant but a church seeking to maintain its traditions because that is what it is and what it does is not relevant. Do you ever look at the Sydney diocese and wonder why it is the only diocese in Australia that is growing, and why it has the largest proportion of young people of all dioceses in Australia? Other dioceses in Australia are asking the same questions you are. Yet they steadfastly refuse to consider doing the one thing we do have a commission to do.
Sins of the past
I am always frustrated when conservatives accuse liberals of following the social and moral trends of society and then come out with statements like “… a church that marries the spirit of one age will find itself a widow in the next,” (Heed the warning, January letters). Consider that since Constantine made us legal in AD 313 we have blessed battleships and armies, preached conquest and murder from our pulpits, crowned kings and emperors, and been quite willing to betray the poor and downtrodden in support of the rich and powerful. When the commercial powers wanted it, we declared usury to be acceptable, despite the fact that Scripture considers it sin and for 1,500 years the church taught the same. The Anglican church owes its existence as a separate branch of the Western church to the fact that it was willing to support a licentious king, the son of a usurper, in his desire to cast off one wife after another in his quest for an heir. The church was complicit in the state-sanctioned murder of some of these women, among the many other murders we have condoned. Why then is there the sudden turmoil over the desire of some in the church to bless that which others would say is sin? When, exactly, was this mythical time when we were not somehow wedded to the spirit of the age? Certainly not since AD 313. Until we repent of sins like those I have mentioned, how can we have the gall to criticize a society that largely finds us irrelevant to its goals? Society gives us no credibility, and for good reason.
St. John’s, Nfld.
Cut back on comforts
Re: Church eligible for better residential schools deal (January). Since when was the residential schools agreement about the Anglican church? My understanding was that it was an agreement in which the Anglican church acknowledged that it was partly responsible for carrying out governmental policies that caused emotional anguish to many in our residential schools. We also recognized that crimes of abuse were carried out by certain individuals working in those church-run schools, and that we would show in some inadequate, but concrete, way our sorrow for those actions. Part of that agreement was monetary. Part of the agreement was to work towards healing in other ways. The quotation from acting general secretary Ellie Johnson was very telling “In our case, we’ve already paid quite a bit to compensation; we don’t begrudge that. We actually did that as part of healing as well….” She added, “if the government is going to pay 100 per cent of compensation for the (Roman) Catholics, they can do that for us too, and our money could go perhaps to expand our healing work.” She states later in the article that the church’s obligation of $25 million will be reduced and this will have positive financial implications for the national church and the dioceses which have been struggling with their settlement fund obligations. So, Ms. Johnson, is that extra money going to go to expand the healing work, or back into the coffers of the national church? In my opinion, we should be struggling with our obligations and if we have to cut back on our own comforts, then that is exactly what we should do. Any amount of struggling that we may go through is nothing to the life-long struggles that these sisters and brothers are going through in their efforts towards their own healing. I may be naive in believing that such an unwieldy organization as the Anglican Church of Canada will be trustworthy in its dealings. However, by re-negotiating this agreement because others have come up with a better deal for themselves (the old “It’s not fair!” syndrome) you are asking me to be part of something which is against everything I believe in.
Cobble Hill, B.C.
Upheld in prayer
I am shocked to read that Rev. Michael Forshaw of Vancouver had to ask the permission of our bishop to speak out about his diagnosis or his health (New West priest says he is dying of AIDS, January). I cannot believe that there is a suggestion that Bishop Michael Ingham would try to cover up someone’s need for prayer and support when a person is dying. Surely we as a communion have moved beyond identifying those with AIDS as the “lepers” of our parishes. I wish Mr. Forshaw to know his health, no matter the diagnosis, has been the subject of my personal prayers for many years. I hope that all Anglicans continue to uphold him and all those who are dying in our prayers, and that we be with those who suffer in the way of Christ.
I was very interested in reading Razing of old mission house a symbol of healing (January). I served as a student minister for two summers at Lake Weagamow and I lived in the old Anglican Mission House. I am confused though; the article refers to “the demolition on Nov. 9 (2005) of a derelict building at the North Caribou Lake First Nation …” Then later, the article mentions the old Anglican Mission House at Lake Weagamow. Where was the building located, North Caribou Lake or Lake Weagamow? Unless of course, my wife’s solution is correct, that North Caribou Lake First Nation refers to an area of which Lake Weagamow is a part. I would be grateful if you would be willing to let me know what the correct version is. I have good memories of the people at Lake Weagamow.
Bolton Est, Que. Editor’s note: The diocese of Keewatin clarifies that North Caribou Lake First Nation is on Lake Weagamow.