Letters to the editor

By on May 1, 2006

The Anglican Journal welcomes letters to the editor. Preference is given to letters under 200 words. All letters are subject to editing for length, grammar and clarity. Please include a mailing address with all letters.

The church need not look far to see its neighbours

Dear editor,

Your latest issue gloomily considers the decline in church membership. When I read the Letters section, I can understand why most Canadians find our church and its concerns irrelevant to their lives. It also makes me consider my own life and work, and question whether the church is either aware of or concerned with the world in which it has largely ceased to be a part of. I have worked on the west side of Saskatoon, the wrong side of the tracks, for 50 years. I still work part-time as a forensic pathologist, doing autopsies. I see the end results of every form of human sin and misery. I saw a 14-year-old girl who died alone in a sleazy room from a drug overdose, because she did not know anyone she could turn to for help. These are my neighbours. In your letters I read of a church which seems determined to focus on the sexual orientation of its priests, which seems to me to matter as little as the colour of their hair, eyes or skin. If the church wants to know why it is losing members, it has only to look in the mirror. If it wants to withdraw and focus obsessively upon contemplating its own umbilicus, it should say so. Dr. H.E. Emson
Saskatoon * * *

Reclaiming Anglicans

Dear editor,

With all due respect to Keith McKerracher, Reginald Bibby’s book, Restless Churches, does not say that the “two million Canadians who still claim to be Anglicans” are, in Mr. McKerracher’s words, “people who reject a ‘brand,'” (Declining church membership is an issue, March letters). Quite the contrary. All the sociological evidence, and Mr. Bibby is not the only researcher to say this, shows that in Western societymillions ofpeople who identify as Anglicans do not reject the brand. Rather, they want to be known as Anglicans but for a variety of reasons are not active today. These people can be won back and the evidence is fairly clear as to how this can be done. The problem is most members of church administrations and consultants like Mr. McKerracher simply reject the reasons people give for their lack of participation and refuse to take the necessary steps to reclaim members. Irving Hexham
Professor of Religious Studies
University of Calgary * * *

Face the music

Dear editor,

Keith McKerracher feels many Canadian Anglicans are in denial about declining membership. If his figures are correct, your story about a new fund-raising campaign proves his point (Church charities need boost, March). According to Lorna Somers, the church has “a field of 680,000 to one million committed Anglicans” it can hit up for funds. According to Mr. McKerracher, church rolls show a population of about 640,000. Even 640,000 sounds, well, not bad, but there is a problem. Church rolls are often “nominal” rolls. Depending on parish practices, some on the rolls may be C&E (Christmas and Easter) Anglicans who appear twice a year. Others are semi-interested Anglicans who attend once in a while or have faded away. A few will be on fixed incomes. Quite a few will be enthusiastic about their parish church but – as the church’s own polls seem to suggest – have little or no enthusiasm for the national church. If parish rolls do yield a figure of 680,000 the number of “committed” Anglicans will be a tad lower than one million. And those who reject the idea that our numbers are falling or simply see it as natural are helping to ensure Mr. McKerracher’s date of destruction will come and come soon. We can’t solve the church’s problems until we admit they exist. Our numbers are falling, schism is not impossible, the Anglican Communion, which gave our national church birth and identity, may collapse, and the gap between liberals and orthodox has become a chasm: Which do we tackle first? Reminds me of the old Bob Hope line. His wife was a woman of faith and one day they were flying across the country when one of the engines failed. “Quick,” Hope said to his wife, “do something religious.” So she took up a collection. Rev. Bill Musselwhite
Vernon, B.C.

* * *

Why pews are empty Dear editor,
I have been working and volunteering for various social justice organizations for more than 20 years. Many of my colleagues have been shocked, confused, and sometimes fearful when they learn that I am Christian. There is a strongly held belief that organized religion is, at best, irrelevant, and at worst, a force for ignorance and evil. The Oscar-nominated documentary, Darwin’s Nightmare, has driven this perception home. The film examines the ecological, economic and social collapse around Tanzania’s Lake Victoria. Two Christian leaders are featured in the film. One is a pastor in a community where at least 10 members die of HIV/AIDS each month. For many in the parish, prostitution is the only alternative to starvation. While acknowledging that condoms prevent infection, he repeatedly stressed the sinfulness of their use. The other preacher seemed to emphasize only the saving of souls, making no comment on meeting basic needs of food, health, education, and peace. For many who seek to love and serve their fellow man, these leaders exemplify Christianity today. Although the church is doing much good in the world, we are often not seen to be doing so. Is it any wonder that our pews are empty? What are we to do? Sue Froom
Toronto

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‘Pursuit of merit’Dear editor,
Letters to the Journal on the subject of declining membership may sometimes be a little impatient yet offer intelligent opinions. The Anglican Church of Canada cannot survive without the support of the younger generation and how to attract them can be stated quite simply. As a broad statement, the young generation can be impressively mature, competent, wise, and gracious. This generation has no interest in the subject of sin, which like the Buddhists, they view as misjudgement. Like all young generations before them they are not inclined to be sinful, though they can be mischievous. They will challenge rules but will respect principles. In our disoriented world they can be impressed by simple virtues of honesty, leadership, and vision too frequently lacking in politics, schools, and even the family. Though they do not articulate it, they seem instinctively to understand that the route to happiness lies in purpose. The negative and dispiriting aim of avoidance of sin does not attract them; the pursuit of merit is appealing. The pursuit of merit is a Buddhist principle that Christianity sorely needs and counters the persistent captiousness of the Old Testament. W. J. Patton
Winnipeg

* * *

Cubans have voice Dear editor,
In the article ‘Servant Jesus’ alive in Cuba (March), I take exception to a portion of Archbishop Andrew Hutchison’s comments following the synod in Havana: “…It [the Anglican church] is one of the few places where Cubans can have a voice and vote…” I would not expect the archbishop to be an authority on Cuba. Rather his words reflect our common Canadian knowledge framed by Cold War misinformation. I lived in Cuba for a year and a half and traveled 33,000 km by motorcycle. I observed Cuban elections from August 1997 to January 1998 and September 2002 to January 2003. I saw door-to-door enumeration, public nomination meetings, secret ballot voting, and ballot counting at the municipal, provincial and national assembly elections. I even attended the riding where Fidel Castro stood as a candidate. Voter turnout was about 98 per cent, with 1 or 2 per cent spoiled ballots. Cubans have plenty of opportunity to speak up and have a say in choosing leaders that govern all sectors of their lives. I also disagree with a statement in the story that “Cuba has been ruled by the Communist Party since 1959.” The Communist Party does not nominate candidates in any election at any level. The party’s influence in government is reflected only in the values of elected members. I offer my PowerPoint presentations, Cuba on 2 Wheels, free to interested congregations. I am a charter member of the Canadian-Cuban Friendship Association (CCFA) Niagara as a result of what I saw and experienced in Cuba. Dave Thomas
CCFA Niagara, ([email protected])
Ridgeway, Ont.

* * *

Long way to go Dear editor,
This is in reference to your story, Conditions improved for Cuban churches, (February). As a Journal reader, the last thing I would like to see in such a newspaper is a picture of Cuban president Fidel Castro, even if it shows him being greeted by Pope John Paul II in 1998. After the victory of Communism in Cuba, thousands of priests, monks and religious people disappeared into Soviet-style gulags. “Revolutionaries” led by Fidel Castro and his brother Raoul shut down religious institutions in Cuba and introduced intensive atheist propaganda. Rev. Reinerio Arce, principal of the Evangelical Seminary of Theology in Matanzas, said in your story that a majority of Cubans are followers of Santeria, an Afro-Caribbean religion. I have traveled extensively in Cuba but did not find anyone connected with such religion. Your story is right that conditions have improved for Cuban churches. But freedom of religion has a long way to go; religious activities are still under the heavy supervision of the Cuban Communist Party and the Cuban Ministry of the Interior. George Le Mac
London, Ont.

* * *

Bethlehem’s wall Dear editor,
Your story (Archbishop urges Christians to visit ‘struggling’ Bethlehem, February) was timely and accurate. If anything, it could have been more direct because the Christians (and Muslims) of Bethlehem who are forced to live behind prison walls would want us to speak out louder and more often about their plight. The letter from Anthony Roy of Victoria (Misleading, Letters, April) is just the kind of propaganda that the Israeli government loves to read in the foreign press. Mr. Roy is the one demonstrating a shocking lack of information, not the Journal. “In Bethany (now called Az Za’ayyem) where Jesus called Lazarus forth from the tomb, they found the city encircled by the wall and people living in a giant tomb. The serpent has surrounded this holy place except for a small hole in the wall, a temporary entry which had not yet been cemented over.” This quotation is from a sermon given by Rev. Joanna Graham of New York last March at the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations, where I joined 70 women representing 38 provinces of the Anglican Communion. Ms. Graham was part of an Anglican delegation of women which visited the Holy Land in 2005 upon the invitation of Eliane Abdinnour (Palestinian delegate of Anglican Consultative Council). Rania Riah Abu El-Assal, daughter of Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal of Jerusalem was also at the CSW and gave several talks about the situation inthe Holy Land and, in particular, about the wall. I support the Archbishop of Canterbury as he asks for Christians worldwide to “pray for the people of Bethlehem that they may not be forgotten.” Annette Graydon
International Anglican Women’s Network (Canada)
Terra Cotta, Ont.

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Grand times Dear editor,
My wife, Betsy, and I were delighted to read in the March issue of the Journal, the account of the wonderful celebrations of Bishop George Snell (Bishop celebrates milestone). Like him we are nonagenarians and a year shorter. In 2008, I will celebrate my 70th anniversary of ordination. Our association goes back a long time with George – the 1930s. It was the time of the Anglican Young Peoples Association, when, as a representative of the diocese of Qu’Appelle, I went to conferences and meetings in Vancouver (1939) and Toronto. What grand times they were! We are now living in Red Deer after 47 years in Edmonton, at Holy Trinity church (23 years) and chaplain at the Veterans Home (25 years), and representative on the Leonard Foundation Committee for 27 years. How time flies! Archdeacon (ret.) T.L. Leadbeater
Red Deer, Alta.

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Compassionate care Dear editor,
As a hospital chaplain I am often confronted with the question:How does/can God help? As a Christian, I recognize there are many such questions and challenges, within our own Christian culture, as to what this “helping” of others should look like. Often the resolve is: God helps those who help themselves. It seems like a pretty reasonable statement. After all, why should a capable person sit back and wait for some higher power to rescue them? Surely they can show initiative, perhaps even meet the divine halfway. The major fallacy in this statement is assuming that people who need help are capable of finding it on their own. Circumstances, waning self-esteem, and compound loss can immobilize us to a point that even thinking about helping ourselves can equate to climbing Mt. Everest. The African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child” is true. Without a compassionate caring community around us it is often impossible to get the helpwe need. Simply saying that “God helps those who help themselves is a polite way of excusing ourselves from the commitment and obligationto those who are struggling. Divine compassionate care comes in the form of our hands, our minds, our connections, shared resources, listening ears, and the sacrifice of time when another is in need. Or, to rewrite the much quoted axiom above, God helps those who are compassioned by others. Donald Shields
Markham, Ont.

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Loyal and committed Dear editor,
I was astounded to read the letter from Willem Hart (Changes overdue, April) in response to the Journal article on the Somers report (Church charities need boost, March). Mr. Hart took aim at comments made by Archdeacon John Robertson, national gift planning consultant, a person I know to have been central to seeing the need for this very assessment for years. Mr. Robertson himself has been a walking example of just the co-operation and collaboration that the report recommends; he hascreatively and responsively helped people make their planned gifts to all aspects of the Anglican Church of Canada. Many of the gifts received by the church’s charities over the past decade have been shepherded by Mr. Robertson, whose salary is paid by General Synod but whose loyalties and commitment are in the ministries of the whole church. And he’s right. What General Synod’s fundraising programs have is the expertise, the vision and the passion. The staff involved demonstrate these daily. What they need is a commitment to collaboration andoversight that a director of development would bring. Suzanne Lawson
Cobourg, Ont.

* * *

Book of life Dear editor,
I recently spent a vacation in the English Cotswolds; where every tiny village has the loveliest church one could possibly want to see. I was most impressed that in many churches, on a small table beneath the roll of honour to those killed in the two world wars, there was a small book or folder giving a brief outline of the life of those listed. Members of the churches had researched the background of those listed – where they lived, their school, parents, local achievements, (church choir, Boy Scouts, etc). To each name a little story had been added. It was very moving. Perhaps we could consider doing this in some of our Canadian churches, before memories fade. Michael Stevenson
Toronto

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