Letters to the Editor

Published October 1, 2000

Remorse, guilt the proper responseDear editor,

Re: Bishops Lobby Government Ministers (September Journal). Shame. Any priest who openly boasts no remorse or guilt over the systematic, widespread abuse of Native people should be publicly censored by the appropriate authorities, and found therapy before any more damage is done to persons under Bishop John Clarke’s influence.

Robert Cross

Niagara Falls, Ont.

Employment system failed kids

Dear editor,

Rt. Rev. John Clarke, Bishop of Athabasca has spoken, maybe not for just himself but for many other leaders in the Anglican Church. He was not abused and he was not an abuser, just the same as many other Anglican leaders.

The question has to be asked: What system or organization was responsible for the employment of the perverts that made it a hell on earth for some young people?

Many of these criminals were ordained. They had passed through the screen of baptism, confirmation and ordination, all in full view of the bishops.

It doesn’t take much spiritual discernment to spot the fakes if spiritual discernment is present.

We have our covenant theology that not only endorses and promises salvation to all Anglicans, it helps to make bishops just like John Clarke.

His statement is so lacking in the knowledge of what is causing the dismantling of the Anglican Church, that Paul’s admonishment “make sure that you are in the faith” looms ominously in Bishop Clarke’s case.

Covenant theology is what governs the Anglican church. This is what has caused all of our woes and is what I hope Bishop Clarke will be able to apologize for at a later time. We should all know by what we are governed.

These little children had no strength to fight or resist these monsters and yet the power that they now have is bringing the whole Canadian Anglican Church down in ruins. This is God’s way isn’t it?

Bill Chandler

North Vancouver

Church should defend itself

Dear editor,

September’s Anglican Journal is, yet again, full of dreary, sickening and near-hopeless accounts of the continuing devastation being inflicted upon the current-day church by the hundreds of Aboriginal lawsuits brought against us because of the sins of our forefathers in residential schools. Imminent diocesan bankruptcies, national staff layoffs and more.

While the church will of course survive – and even thrive – in its essential forms despite what the courts continue to do to us, this is still utter disaster!

And, remarkably, at the leadership level, we continue to lie down and play dead!

Many, if not most, of these suits are undoubtedly well-justified by the many injustices and horrifying abuses inflicted upon many.

But what of the suits that are of highly questionable (or perhaps even fraudulent) validity – being driven by the parasitic greed of ill-disciplined members of the legal profession who are working on a contingency fee basis, after touring Native communities to incite everyone to participate in this feeding frenzy at the church’s expense?

Why is it that excessive political correctness and our overdeveloped inclination to always “turn the other cheek” prevents our leaders from calling a spade a spade in defence of the church?

Is it universally deemed “unchristian” or uncharitable to dare to question even a tiny percentage of these claims? To question, in fact, anything asserted by an Aboriginal? Or a member of any favoured minority group?

The church should vigorously defend itself from questionable lawsuits and not shrink from exposing and lobbying against the mischief being wrought upon it by errant members of the legal “profession.”

It has been reliably documented that some lawyers are working for contingency fees of up to 40 per cent: “Sign here, and we’ll sue ? and you get to keep 60 per cent of what I get for you ?

“They won’t fight back; they’re the church, after all. ”

Michael Bryan

Stittsville, Ont.

Wrong people are paying price

Dear editor,

In our recent responses to the financial crisis of the national church due to legal fees and damages with respect to residential schools, are we not entering some dangerous waters ourselves?

The first is that the wrong people are paying the price, namely, Church House staff. Of all the Anglican institutions in Canada, Church House has been the strongest advocate of just treatment of aboriginal peoples, (and of other victims), starting with the 1969 Hendry Report, and various national committees who worked for its implementation.

Yet we seem to be letting Church House staff pay the penalty for us all.

The second danger is that we are allowing our legal structures, which separate us, to define us; to usurp our spiritual unity in Christ and our consequent moral obligations to help each other, to share the burdens across diocesan and parish “firewalls” behind which we’re prone to take refuge.

The whole church should bear the responsibility and the whole church should redress the harm.

I am not hearing of any national fund being arranged to forestall the summary dismissal of staff. For the time being we should supply temporary funding from the Primates World Relief and Development Fund until a national response is in place. After all, we are a church in crisis, especially, the northern missions and Church House ministries. The decision to terminate these positions and relevant funding should be rescinded at once.

The third danger is that in gaining public support for our appeal to the federal government, we are likely to revictimize Aboriginals. That could be the price of our success. And last May at the Council of General Synod meetings, when the Primate made his famous “crucifixion of Christ” speech, some Native people were stung by the realization that they would be seen as the perpetrators.

Further, when many demonize the legal profession, is that not a code, masking our anger at the whole process and at those who initiated it? Lawyers are sometimes the only resort of people who have suffered desperate injustices.

Fourth, we are in danger of exalting the unexamined life. In fact, we are all responsible for the racism which previously (and presently?) marred our relationships with Aboriginals. But more specifically, the chief pastors of the church, individually and collectively, must bear the brunt. If they don’t, and if we continue to stick our collective head in the sand, the wrong people will continue to be afflicted.

Harold Macdonald

Matlock, Man.

Premature end to exemplary service

Dear editor,

It is with profound sadness that I learned that Journal editor David Harris has been “downsized” by the national church office.

During Mr. Harris’ tenure I found our church paper to be a model of Christian journalism, in that it was a paper that cared about the truth – a rare gem in these spin-laden times! And while I did not agree with every editorial, I found them always to be honest, provocative, theologically formidable, and worthy of a serious read. I can only assume that our national office had no other financial option but to proceed as it did, because no other situation could possibly justify the premature end of such exemplary service to the church.

Rev. Chris Harwood-Jones

Armstrong, B.C.

Unfair to teachers to condemn system

Dear editor,

I want to express support for the many good and faithful workers employed in the Indian residential schools over the years. I know a number of them personally and in my estimation they are able and caring Christians who would have been a credit to any school system. It is not fair to them, because of the misdoing of a few, that their good work should be discounted and the whole system condemned.

As a church, we encourage our members to use the gifts that God has given to help those who are less fortunate than ourselves. Some members responded to that call through a life of service to young people in the residential schools. If we do not recognize the value of such service when it is offered we are not being true to our own teaching.

It could be argued that, no matter how good such workers were, they were accomplices in a bad system. To that we can respond in two ways: 1) even if the system were bad, it would be made much better by the good people working within it, and 2) I have seen no suggestion of a realistic alternative that would have yielded greater good to Aboriginals.

Our church has been slow in contacting former staff members of theschools, but I understand that is now being done. I hope that out of these contacts, and perhaps through the testimony of students for whom the residential school experience was good, we will begin to get a more balanced picture of the schools.

Rt. Rev. Eric Bays

Ottawa, Ont.

Let go of bad ideas

Dear editor,

Re: residential schools. It may be an advance in knowledge to realize that the church can finally let go of past bad ideas and to concentrate on its original purpose: to glorify God and to spread the good news of the atonement.

And also to realize that the long-suffering Native peoples need time to sort out their own future – and that may be painful to watch.

Leone Ellis


Fine work

Dear editor,

Congratulations on Sins of the Fathers, (May Journal), an extraordinarily fine piece of work.

It is about time someone reveals to the Canadian/American public what happened to Native children as they were forced to assimilate into society through the doors of prison-like schools.

This subject has rarely been touched upon – even Native people know little about it. This is one of Canada and America’s nasty little secrets.

Through the printing of such articles the healing may begin. Through confession of misdeeds to Natives by their oppressors, comes honesty and a healing process of wounds that have been inflicted upon these people since the white man stepped foot on this continent over 500 years ago.

Thank you for publishing a subject that has long been kept from the history books in our nation’s schools.

Karen Comito

Atlantic Highlands, N.J.

An open question

Dear editor,

Further to James Cowan’s letter on disposing of eucharistic remains (September Journal):

It remains an open historical question whether the rubric in the 1552 Prayer Book allowing the celebrant to take home and use any of the bread or wine that remains, refers to consecrated remains, or to bread and wine provided for a communion but not consecrated.

I cannot see what is “irreverent” about returning leftover consecrated wine to a stoppered or corked glass vessel, or leftover breads to a reasonably secure and airtight box, provided they are reverently handled and used for communion at the earliest opportunity, either by taking them to the sick or shut-in or by administering them at a public eucharist at which some fresh species are consecrated. The first practice is sanctioned by longstanding custom, and many reputable church historians believe that the rubric at the end of the service in the 1662 and 1962 prayer books was never meant to forbid it. The second is the only reverent way I know to deal with remains when there are more than the available clergy and servers can reasonably hope to consume.

Whenever possible, the clergy should avoid this by estimating the expected number of communicants at the offertory and taking care not to over-consecrate. It is better to risk having to consecrate twice than to risk being left with a large surplus.

When there is a surplus, celebrants and assisting clergy should remember that, both morally and under the rubric, consuming it is their responsibility. As a server, I have far too often known the clergy to shirk this duty, without good excuse, and leave it to me and my colleagues.

Under no circumstances should underage servers ever be expected to drink large amounts of leftover consecrated wine. That is not only pastorally unsound, but also, I should think, illegal.

William Cooke


Mothers Union impresses

Dear editor,

I was one of a few men at the Canadian Mothers Union national conference in June. The experience was interesting and challenging. Being a man and not overly shy, I found it a hard and unusual self-discipline to stay silently in my seat during the debates. Anyone who has been to a diocesan synod knows how men with loud and deep voices seem to cluster around the microphone.

Throughout the discussions at the Mothers Union conference, there was a palpable carefulness. It was clear that everyone must be heard, respected and understood. No decision could be arrived at that made someone into a loser. One side of me was driven crazy by the slowness and meandering nature of the debates, but another side saw a community of Christians regarding each person as one for whom Christ died.

The quality of the National Committee was marked by gentle intelligence and hard work. When the chair did not know what to do she simply paused, consulted, thought, perhaps prayed too, then continued with grace and tranquility. I came away changed from this conference with its quiet grace, good humour and warm welcome. Should anyone think of the Mothers Union, I suggest they think of a vital and impressive part of the body of Christ.

Rev. David Howells

Guelph, Ont.

(chaplain to Mothers Union in the Diocese of Niagara)

Denying negative is misleading

Dear editor,

K. Corey Keeble’s letter (June Journal) is needlessly hard on Lucy Reid. I have heard Christians, among them Anglicans, expound 1 John 2.15 to emphasize contempt for creation, and Galatians 5.17 to emphasize hatred of the body.

As to “femaleness,” one cannot deny that Saint Ambrose wrote: “The woman must veil her head, because she is not the image of God,” and that this got into canon law. This sentiment was echoed in our church until 1959/62 in the marriage prayer, “O God … who … didst appoint, that out of man (created after thine own image and similitude) woman should take her beginning…” and in the custom of making women wear hats in Anglican churches. Add the notion of wifely obedience in the old marriage service – and the theology supporting it – and we see that even a generation ago things were not quite as Keeble would have us believe.

Keeble usefully argues that there are good ways of reading the sources. One can demonstrate the epistles do not mean what many traditional commentators have supposed, and that in this matter Ambrose was taking Paul out of context.

However, although there is friendly material in our traditions, to deny the negative (and predominating) side is misleading and unhelpful. We must recognize the spiritual damage that has been done, and try to heal it. I think Lucy Reid is well aware of this.

Rev. C. Abbott Conway

McGill University, Montreal, Que.

Women taking over

Dear editor,

What I see happening to the Anglican Church is most disconcerting. Where we once had a patriarchal church run, perhaps not entirely wisely or well, (but still within the parameters set by God through his son Jesus), we now have a matriarchal church in which men are deliberately being eliminated from any function unless a situation calls for male expertise or muscle.

Women in the ministry are probably incapable of attracting men to worship services over a sustained period, or boys to Sunday schools. Boys need male participation in their lives, and women rarely make suitable substitutes.

There are those who argue we are all created in God’s image. Yes, but only the male is created in His “likeness.”

The decline of our local Anglican church started within six months of the arrival of a priestess with a sergeant major bearing and mentality, being appointed over the wishes of many parishioners. My wife and I lost our spiritual home of 38 years.

I am beginning to think along the lines of St. Paul who said, “Women should sit quietly at the back with their heads covered and their hands doing useful things.”

C.A. Huff

Westlock, Alta.


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