Letters to the Editor

Published September 1, 1998

Canon disrespectful

Dear editor:

I am writing in response to your May editorial, Pink Slips No Remedy for Unsatisfactory Clergy, and to the report, No Appeal Allowed for Fired Clergy in the summer edition.

It is true, on occasion clergy truly are unsatisfactory. However, the licensing canon appears to have no criteria by which to determine what is truly unsatisfactory. Also, the canon allows the priest no process of appeal.

Not only is the priest fired from a specific parish, but it appears the canon prevents the priest from applying for any other position in the church in that diocese. The priest is effectively unemployable.

With bishops who are appointed for life, and who are themselves not perfect, I am concerned the canon could create legalized discrimination based on any number of criteria: age, length of service in a parish, cost of paying for an experienced priest, difficulties in the priest’s family, the nature of the sermons or the priest’s involvement in community activities that might be considered by some to be controversial.

Bishops can be influenced by complaints, and yes, threats of disgruntled parishioners.

I thought the priest was called to lovingly but firmly challenge and teach, not always to just follow the status quo. I thought the priest was to follow Christ’s example, even if that example isn’t always popular.

This canon leaves the priest alone and unprotected, vulnerable to the whims of parishioners and bishops. I am hurt, puzzled, angry, and embarrassed that my church has seen fit to treat its priests in this disrespectful way. Marilyn Hill

Woodstock, Ont.

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Absolute power

Dear editor:

General Synod’s approval of the new licensing canon brings to mind an old (and somewhat paraphrased) version of Lord Acton’s famous dictum: “All power corrupts and absolute power is even nicer!” Dennis R. McCalla

Clarksburg, Ont.

(by e-mail)

* * *

Ask the terminally ill

Dear editor:

The Care in Dying report suggests “helping terminally ill patients cope with their sickness and combat their pain is better than helping them to die.” Really. Has anyone ever asked any of the terminally ill, wracked with pain, pleading for death what their wishes are? Because there comes a point where all the pain-killing medication and all the coping breaks down.

Just how do you help someone who is lying comatose from massive doses of morphine, cope? Just how do you speak to a parent of a child born without a brain, who is moved to a corner of the nursery to starve to death, because that is the only option; euthanasia is illegal?

Once again, fright at facing death, which is the other end of birth and life, and may we hope, the entrance to better life, has won.

Why are humans so ready to take upon themselves the responsibility of creating life, insisting that all should be free to have children? When circumstances are against that choice, we do everything medically possible to assist a woman to conceive, yet we shy away from being responsible for our own deaths.

Bishop Matthews and members of the task force are indulging in wishful thinking when they say “the church’s aim was not to dictate policies to lawmakers but to provide a pastoral response to Anglicans faced with ethical decisions.” What pastoral response? The response is “We do not support the idea that care can include an act or omission whose primary intention is to end a person’s life.” End of discussion.

All democracies claim freedom of individual choice, except the greatest choice of all: when we shall choose to die with dignity and in full possession of our faculties. If God gave me life, why cannot I choose the hour of its return? Sheila A. Welbergen


* * *

Pray for unity

Dear editor,

You report that at General Synod the subject of the churches’ role in the Canadian unity/separation debate was discussed at length. Several prominent politicians, including Claude Ryan and Senator Ann Cools, deplored the lack of religious leadership. Bishop Hutchison of Montreal felt the church should not side with the federalists as some proposed. In my view, all three are correct.

The churches can and should play a very important part – but without taking sides. Church leaders should be urging all believers to pray for and to actively seek a peaceful solution to our dilemma. Compassion, patience, wisdom, all gifts of the Holy Spirit, are necessary for a fruitful debate. Surely fostering peace, hope, charity and reconciliation among fellow countrymen is well within the churches’ mandate – more than that – it is a responsibility.

Whether we remain one country or not, we’ll still be neighbours, and in some cases members of the same church or linked by cultural or family ties. We must all unite in a prayerful search for a peaceful solution. Florence Hennigar

Lunenburg Co., N.S.

* * *

Open up to diversity

Dear editor,

Congratulations to the dioceses who sent women clergy as delegates to General Synod.

I suggest that the still largely white, male hierarchy of our church open their hearts and minds to the diverse reality amongst our clergy and that when choosing representatives for diocesan, provincial and national positions and events, the delegates elected represent that diversity. This can’t be legislated but people who vote with awareness can create change. Rev. Roslyn MacGregor


* * *

Distressing news

Dear editor,

Anglicans who like a modern style of worship appreciate the inclusion of a liturgical dance in the opening service of General Synod (July issue). However, some articles in the same issue prove distressing for many Anglicans already concerned about changes in the church.

A proposal to bless same-sex unions, a monastic way of life pitted against big industry and a growing desire that the unbaptized receive communion are matters that could result in breaks with tradition early in the upcoming millennium.

One is prompted to remember that there is “A time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:4). Perhaps the Canadian church has now reached the mourning stage. William J. Holtham


* * *

Breaking the rules

Dear editor,

No doubt the defenders of the faith – who are really defenders of orthodoxy, which is not the same thing – will rise up, in high dudgeon over the practice (discussed in the July Journal) of admitting to communion non-baptized persons who seek God; but I believe that as proponents of the practice have noted, the open table fellowship – of which the eucharist is a continuation – of our Lord Jesus, the friend of publicans and sinners, should be our guide here.

Though every society needs rules, we should bear in mind that Jesus was not a rule maker, but often a rule breaker; that is, he freely set aside rules if they interfered with people’s coming into deeper communion with God. His only rule, in fact, was “Thou shalt love,” against which, as St. Paul said, there is no law. St. Paul has also shown us that too many rules get in the way of our giving and receiving love.

I believe also that this same attitude of loving openness is the one that should apply in our practice regarding homosexual relationships – relationships which for them are natural. The recent decision of the Synod of New Westminster diocese that the church should bless such relationships is, I think, epoch-making and should point the way not only for the Canadian church but for the wider Anglican Communion. John Marriott

Burnaby, B.C.

* * *

Theology, not analogy

Dear editor,

Rev. Harold Percy uses the analogy of an inhospitable family to support his argument for allowing the unbaptized to partake of communion in Anglican churches. Analogies are poor substitutes for good theological arguments where the underlying proposition is a dubious one. Let me illustrate.

A stranger comes to a family’s door and demands admittance to its supper table. The family graciously invites the stranger in and tells him there is an ancient tradition in the family that before eating, it is necessary to observe certain rituals which have deep symbolic significance and great spiritual benefits. The stranger objects. He demands to sit with the family and eat without learning about or observing their rituals. The family refuses.

Our culture might not recognize the stranger’s pride requires repentance because it and its attendant behaviour are detrimental to the family’s spiritual life and are spiritually harmful to the stranger. What our culture thinks is often not a reliable guide to good theology.

Let’s try another analogy. A stranger comes to a family’s door because she has heard the family has a tradition composed of certain rituals and wisdom that will transform her into a new person. The family graciously invites the stranger into its house and tells her she is welcome to a meal where the rituals are performed and the wisdom explained. It tells her this tradition will transform her in a mysterious way which is nothing short of miraculous.

She eagerly attends at the supper table. The family then begins to consult her about how the rituals should be conducted and the wisdom of the tradition. It tells her if any part of the tradition makes her uncomfortable or offends her, she should speak her mind and the problem will be resolved. Disappointed and perplexed, the stranger thanks her host and leaves the table. She will continue searching elsewhere because, after all, if she knew enough about this tradition that transforms to provide instruction to the family, she wouldn’t be looking for it! John Loukidelis


(via e-mail)

* * *

Myopic view of Middle East

Dear editor,

I was surprised and dismayed by the article in your July issue entitled, Little Peace Evident in Middle East Peace Process. I never thought that in the late 20th century I would find myself reading such blatant anti-Jewish distortion. To come across such tripe in a distinguished newspaper as the Anglican Journal makes both the editor and publication look disreputable and contemptible. The author, Vianney Carriere, has a myopic view of the Middle East situation, blaming its turbulent history squarely on the Jewish people.

I might not agree with recent Israeli policies towards its Palestinian population, but all one has to do is look at the history of the state of Israel to understand where the politics are coming from. That tiny country has been embroiled in five wars with their Arab neighbours. And each time, the Palestinians have encouraged and prayed that their Arab brethren would annihilate the Jewish state. Is it any wonder the Israeli people and government are wary of Palestinians, when so many deadly attacks have been carried out on civilians by terrorist groups such as Hamas, and until recently, the PLO?

The “peculiar logic” that Mr. Carriere so thoughtlessly attributes to the state of Israel, is merely its struggle to survive.

There is certainly no easy solution to this sad situation. And it is pointless assigning blame to either side. Only when both the Palestinians and Israelis can turn away from their history of hatred and bloodshed, will the dream of peace be realized. L. Clement-Hobbs

Cannington, Ont.

* * *

That’s no organ, that’s a piano

Dear editor,

With respect to the photograph of the wind blown “organ” on the front page of the July Journal, the instrument pictured is, in fact, an upright piano. (It has 88 keys, as opposed to 61 for an organ keyboard.)

While many pianists serving in churches might be complimented by the suggestion that they make the piano sound like an organ, organists will not thank you for suggesting that they play the organ like a pianist! Michael Leach, Editor & Publisher

AngliCan Arts Quarterly

Aurora, Ont.

(sent by e-mail)

* * *

Lambeth brainchild of her ancestor

Dear editor,

In your May commentaries on the book review of The Challenge of Tradition, Ron Dart writes, “The Church of England in Canada proposed a conference of all the bishops in the Anglican Communion and the first Lambeth Conference took place in 1867.” The Lambeth Conference was the brainchild of my great, great, great uncle, John Travers Lewis, Bishop of Ontario, and he had to fight hard to carry the day, both with his fellow bishops in Canada and with the then Archbishop of Canterbury in England.

I think he deserves some credit so I have written the present Archbishop of Canterbury to suggest his name be honoured in some way at this and subsequent Lambeth Conferences. E.M. Aylward Palamountain

Oxfordshire, England

* * *

Lots of concern

Dear editor,

In your July editorial you say “most Anglicans are not demonstrably worried about liberalized attititudes towards sexuality.” I wonder where you obtained this information, especially as you cite the 179-170 vote in the New Westminster diocesan synod motion on blessing same-sex relationships. This would indicate 48.7 per cent of delegates are not in favour of liberalized attitudes. Is almost half the synod of a major Canadian urban region part of the “pockets in B.C.?”

As for our diocese of Montreal, which you do not list amongst those concerned with liberalized attitudes towards sexuality, I know a good many people are.

What evidence do you have to make such a blanket statement? Brett Cane,

Rector, St. George’s, Montreal.

(by e-mail)


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