Letters to the editor

Published October 1, 1999

Flippant use of “ethnic cleansing”

Dear Editor,

I would like to suggest that David Curry NOT dare to say that we face “almost a kind of ethnic cleansing in our church,” (Ethnic Cleansing Feared in Church, September Journal).

An inability to agree on words in a book while living in one of the richest countries in the world hardly equates with annihilation. The flippant use of such a loaded phrase does not provide a useful addition to any reasonable debate, and undermines the plight of those who are actually in fear of losing their lives.

S. Cadogan


(by e-mail)

Rhetoric demeaning

Dear Editor,

I have spent only three years in full-time parish ministry. Yet, even in so short a time, I have come to understand the hurt, anger and fear that liturgical change inspires in the hearts of some faithful Anglicans. As a priest, I have tried to respond sensitively and pastorally to these individuals and to the wider community whom I serve.

But I could not repress my anger at Prayer Book Society vice-president David Curry’s comments as reported in the Journal,that liturgical change in the Anglican Church is “a kind of ethnic cleansing.”

In the sometimes bitter debates about prayer book revisions, not a single person has been murdered. No one is suffering from the emotional and psychological scars of surviving a concentration camp. There have been no mass graves. No women have been raped, bearing either unwanted children or the scars of HIV infection.

Not a single family has been driven at gunpoint from their home. No one has been “disappeared.” There are not hundreds of bodies awaiting identification so that loved ones can give them a proper burial. And, of course, the debates themselves have nothing to do with ethnicity.

This kind of rhetoric demeans the tremendous pain suffered by our sisters and brothers in Rwanda, Burundi, Yugoslavia and, 55 years ago, Germany, Poland, and surrounding countries.

And it does nothing, in my mind, to advance legitimate discussions about how we worship our God, as the family of God’s people, together.

Rev. Heather McCance

Sharon and Holland Landing, Ont.

(by e-mail)

Strengthen parishes

Dear Editor,

Allow me to quote this paragraph from your September editorial, Church Needs Clearer Vision, but it’s Not on Death Row: “Churches are in a unique position to provide food for the spiritually hungry of society. Yet there are almost no spiritual centres sponsored by the church. Given the wealth of theological and spiritual resources, the Anglican Church could train leaders and set up several such centres around the country, governed by a common leadership but with roots in the local community.”

It is surely the genius of our church that it has done precisely that: it has set up spiritual centres all over the country, governed by a common leadership, with roots in each local community. They are called parish churches!

Aren’t these churches supported by the theological and spiritual resources of our dioceses and the national church?

Aren’t we training leaders through our theological colleges and by other means?

Are you now urging us to set up a parallel network of “spiritual centres” to duplicate the work already being done by our local clergy and laity?

Let’s work together to make our parish churches even more effective than they already are, rather than trying to invent something new to do the same job.

Anthony Capon

Kingston Ontario

(by e-mail)

Disciples first

Dear Editor,

I read your reaction to Marney Patterson’s new book (Priest Forecasts Church’s Demise, September Journal) and I wonder if the reason the church has problems is because we are not ready to serve others as Jesus did. It is shortsighted of you not to recognize that the morals of Western society swing back and forth on a pendulum and that we are beginning to swing back towards a more conservative view.

Oh, blame Mr. Patterson if you will, but I think that the younger generation is going to take a more traditional stance towards morality in the 21st century. I know I am one of them. It does seem that while the younger generation is more compassionate in the best sense of the word, they are in increasing numbers starting to reject the liberalism of their parents and the excesses of the late 20th century.

You speak of doing demographics and studies, which will require synods to create committees, who will report back to synods who will create more committees and so on – it is the Anglican way of ministry, so it would seem.

Meanwhile, not much gets done to reach out to people and to teach them first how to follow Jesus. Young people need to be disciples first and leaders later. Stop and take a good look around. There is dynamic ministry but most won’t stop to see it!

Jason Haggstrom,

Mayo, Yukon.

(by e-mail)

No bouncing

Dear Editor,

I would like to clarify one of the comments contained with your September diocesan profile for the Diocese of Edmonton. I am quoted as saying of the diocese’s financial crunch of six years ago that “cheques were starting to bounce all over the place.” While I suspect I did say this during my conversation with Nancy Devine, I would like to make clear that, while the diocese’s financial crisis was quite serious, I am not aware of any cheques actually bouncing. The diocese did meet and has met its financial obligations.

I apologize for any misunderstanding this may have caused. Hyperbole and errant quotes can make you look awfully silly sometimes.

Rev. Keith Denman

Drayton Valley, Alta.

Not Clarke’s fault

Dear editor,

I was extremely disturbed by the way Nancy Devine’s diocesan profile suggested some relation between Kent Clarke’s resignation over a decade ago as bishop of Edmonton to that diocese’s subsequent financial difficulties.

Edmonton’s financial crisis developed in 1993. Kent Clarke resigned in 1987. Perhaps Ms. Devine might have reflected on the fact that a lot can happen in six years. How about a slump in oil prices for example? As well, interest rates plummeted during that period, cutting diocesan revenues severely.

As one of the casualties of that financial crisis I can speak with some authority on the situation. As well as the economic downturn, it was largely the result of demographic change and the Diocese’s unfortunate foray into real estate undertaken long after the departure of Kent Clarke.

To relate the Diocese’s resulting predicament in any way to Kent Clarke’s forced resignation may delight the minds of the sordid, but it is a falsehood. Whatever his human failings, Kent Clarke had abilities far exceeding most priests and bishops I have met. If, as it appears, the Rev. Keith Denman is the source of this irrelevant spitefulness against him, he does not even qualify for comparison.

When such a vicious slur is considered good copy in a “Christian” journal, perhaps we can understand why people flee far way in spite of all our fine talk about forgiveness and community.

Roy Darcus


Good Samaritans

Dear editor,

On Aug. 17, 1999 a disaster of epic proportions struck Turkey. My question to your readers is, what should a Christian do who takes the teachings of Jesus Christ seriously?

The answer is found in Luke, 10: 25 – 37 where Jesus spoke about a man robbed and left to die on a road. The situation there is like Turkey today after the earthquake and the issue is whether Christians will follow the example of the Good Samaritan who got involved and helped, or be like the Levite and priest who walked by.

For our hearts are what Jesus wants and it is our quality of mercy that makes us Christians, not our words. This is not something we pray about but decide ourselves in the choices we make either to love those in need or close our eyes and do nothing.

Stephen Sutherland

Stellarton, N.S.

Views heretical?

Dear editor,

I refer to Harold Percy’s May article, (Asking the Right Questions Key to Open Table Issue). I will leave it to Anglicans to decide whether Canon Percy’s views on the relative importance of mission and “the place of the sacraments” are heretical.

I merely wish to note that the early church apparently did not think it necessary to further its mission by engaging in sacramental promiscuity. In the divine liturgy of St. John Chrysostom ? one of the ancient liturgies of the church ? after the conclusion of the liturgy of the word and before the commencement of the celebration of the eucharist proper, the deacon intones “All catechumens, depart. Depart, catechumens. All that are catechumens, depart. Let no catechumen remain. Let us, the faithful, again and again in peace, pray unto the Lord”.

Father Thomas Hopko, the Dean of St Vladimir’s Seminary, explains: “For centuries it was the practice of the church to admit all persons to the first part of the divine liturgy, while reserving the second part strictly for those who were formally committed to Christ through baptism and chrismation in the church. Non-baptized persons were not permitted even to witness the offering and receiving of Holy Communion by the faithful Christians.”

This, from a church that evangelized the Roman Empire and the Slavic peoples!

John Loukidelis

St. Catharines, Ont.

(by e-mail)

Open table to seekers

Dear editor,

I write regarding whether the communion table should be open to the unbaptized.

There are four accounts of the institution of the Lord’s Supper in the Christian Scriptures, though two, Mark’s and Matthew’s are the same. Paul’s in First Corinthians II is the earliest, followed, most scholars would agree, by Mark-Matthew’s.

In the oldest manuscripts only Paul gives the command to “Do this in remembrance of me.” This is a tradition that must be respected, of course, but it should be remembered that John gives no account of the institution of the eucharist at the Last Supper, and instead gives his eucharistic teaching in relation to the story of the feeding of the 5,000. What is the significance of that?

It seems to me a reasonable possibility that John sees the eucharist as derived from Jesus’ open table fellowship to which John Dominic Crossan has drawn our attention. When Jesus presided at a meal, all were welcome ? Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, Pharisee and publican, matron and prostitute ? all no matter who or what they were, including, I should think, believer and unbeliever.

Another very early document known as the Didache provides an early form of prayer of consecration of the bread and wine which makes no reference at all to the Last Supper or the “words of institution.”

All this suggests ? I do not say proves ? that there may well have been another tradition of the eucharist which saw it as a continuation of that open table fellowship. So perhaps there is good biblical and theological support for opening the table to genuine seekers, as I’m sure were many of those who came to Jesus’ table.

There would, of course, have to be some limit on the time that anyone were allowed to do so ? a reasonable time for them to decide whether or not to accept Christianity. But where are people seeking Christ likely to find him better than at his table?

John Marriott

Burnaby, B.C.

Forgiveness is divine

Dear editor,

Once again the Anglican Church is beset with claims of past injustices at the hand of its officers. I would like to relate something of my own experience in this regard.

I suffered the horror of sexual assault as a choirboy at St. John the Divine Church in Victoria. The fear, humiliation and anger of these violations festered within me for decades under a thin veneer of civility. It was not until the public outrage that the perpetrator of these crimes caused in Kingston years later that I found the fortitude to confront my own tortuous past. I returned to Victoria to make my statement to the police in the hope that by demonstrating this man’s destructive history I might save other souls from harm.

Filing that report did more for me than all the previous years. It was not until a few years later however that I was liberated from the torment within me. This happened through the rediscovery of a simple but powerful gift ? the gift of forgiveness.

First, I forgave myself. Perhaps more correctly, I substantially completed the task of forgiving myself, which I had begun many years before.

Second, I forgave the church. This was a product of my self-forgiving, for I came to realize that the church and parish were as naive as I was when the crimes were committed. Further, they had also suffered through association with this ordeal.

Third, as I could not bring myself to forgive my abuser, I asked God to forgive him. This was truly the hardest step of all. The sense of personal release which ensued was palpable.

Finally, I would make this appeal to those who genuinely desire to break the shackles of their own dark despair: Move beyond revenge and retribution. Understand that hatred only breeds hatred, and that true and permanent healing is born of love.

Turn toward the dazzling light of divine love and forgiveness and take your rightful place in the miracle of creation.

Rodney F. Cotrell


Revisit wedding canon

Dear editor,

A personal friend, a retired Anglican priest was recently asked by my daughter to officiate at her outdoor wedding. In the process of obtaining a Manitoba licence and permission to perform the marriage at Clear Lake Manitoba, the request was denied because of a long-time ruling, and I quote from the Book of Common Prayer “? the persons to be married shall come into the body of the church,” etc.

I presume that body means a physical structure. Our daughter wished to respect the great love of nature by her late mother. The bottom line was that we searched out a retired United Church clergyman to perform the ceremony. The gentleman did a marvellous job, having included two preparation sessions with the couple. He invited our Anglican friend to say a word at the ceremony.

Apparently the official reason presented for all this is to prevent a ceremony from “becoming a circus.” So, bishops of our church are unable to make a decision as to what the difference is between a meaningful and lovely sacrament being carried out, as was ours, under the sky, under the trees and all that represents, as opposed to a player who wishes to get married at half time in a football game, or a couple bailing out of an airplane at the time of their nuptials.

We have holy eucharists at Sunday school picnics and on battle fields, baptisms carried out by doctors and nurses in hospitals. In Africa many ceremonies in an Anglican church may be outside. Then I discover in our national church we are discouraging aboriginals from outside services. God forbid.

Perhaps the time may have come for us to revisit this strange and archaic rule in the church. As a long time Anglican church woman said to me recently, “Sometimes the church gets in the way of Christianity.”

Douglas A. Lee

Clear Lake, Man.

No strings attached

Dear editor,

I write to express my discontent with the Anglican Church of Canada, in particular, their practice concerning holy matrimony. My fiancé and I recently decided to get married in the Anglican church in Makinson’s, Nfld., since both of us are Anglicans.

At this time we learned of the church’s practice of mandatory attendance at marriage classes. We were told if we did not attend the classes, we could not get married in the church.

We find this very unfair. Why should we be given ultimatums when it comes to something as personal as marriage? Why should we have to attend classes with total strangers and have them lecture to us about marriage and treat us like immature children who don’t know what we are doing? This should only be an optional part of marriage preparations, not mandatory.

I have been hearing that youth attendance, and attendance in general, is at an all-time low. Well, now I can see why. Our church has become a dictatorial big business.

I think everyone should have a right to be married in a church with no strings and mandates attached. It is time for you people to wise up and begin to listen to your parishioners. Church attendance would definitely increase.

This rule gives us the impression the church would rather see couples use other methods of marriage (e.g., justice of the peace) than let people choose what they would like. Do you think God would want ultimatums given in order for someone to be married in His house?

Greg Taylor

Makinson’s, Nfld.

Some Anglicans poor

Dear Editor,

Those readers who are blissfully unaware that Anglicans in the Third World rarely form a part of the desperately poor should take a closer look at your June article by Vianney Carriere, Seeking a Destiny in a Secular World. (In my own community in South Africa we Anglicans are known as the church of the well to do.)

The people he mentions who are trying to build an Anglican presence from among the poor are doing something revolutionary. They are trying to break with tradition everywhere else on earth and particularly in the Third World.

As for their leader, Glauco Soares de Lima, who belittles their efforts in the presence of foreigners, let us pray that he be replaced by somebody worthy of their dreams and hopes for the church.

Archibald J. Crail

Regina, Sask.


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