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Synod theme prejudges issue of inclusivity
The official theme of General Synod 2007 is “Draw the Circle Wide… Draw It Wider Still!” According to General Synod documents, this theme “incorporates concepts of inclusivity: language, race, culture, theology and the dignity of all people. The circle, with Christ as its centre, can be infinitely wide and draws all to Christ … The circle never blocks anyone out and we continue to learn as the circle goes round, ever widening.”
The issue that faces us as a church is not inclusivity, per se. Rather, the real issue is the boundaries of inclusivity – for everyone draws boundaries for inclusion and exclusion. For example, even liberals would probably prefer that the Anglican church not include active terrorists or fundamentalists (of any religion).
Thus the theme of drawing the circle “wider still” is warm-hearted but appears misplaced. First, it seems to prejudge the issue of inclusivity before the issue has even been discussed at synod. Second, the theme could be less rhetorical and more dialogical: a call to recognize that all Anglicans draw boundaries somewhere, and thus a call to discuss with each other why we draw our boundaries where we do. Indeed, such discussion may persuade us that, depending on the issue, some boundaries should indeed be drawn wider, while others should be drawn tighter. I would hope the official theme for synod would not bias us against such a possibility.
Rev. Chris Barrigar
I was disturbed to read the notes of the March meeting of the Council of General Synod (CoGS), posted on the www.anglican.ca Web site. I was particularly shocked by the comment: “A canonical change is only an issue if the conclusion of the St. Michael Report that same-sex blessings are a doctrinal issue is accepted. Another option would be to simply receive the report and thank its authors.”
Call me naive, but that quote smells like CoGS did not like the answer provided by the experts. It seems that CoGS members recognized that accepting the recommendation would severely impact their personal agendas.
It would be an insult to the authors of the St. Michael Report if their report would be shelved without debate and proper vote.
It seems to me that our community is on a slippery slope when we start to adjust our values and beliefs in isolation, without consultation with the collective wisdom of the international Anglican Communion. The issue of the authority of Scripture is potentially more divisive than any other issue that has faced our church.
Politeness and respect
I’d like to start a group called “Anglicans committed to being polite and respectful to other Anglicans.” Membership would be open to anyone who would like to join regardless of one’s actual stance on the same-sex issue. Membership would even be open to people who have taken no stance at all. At this point, this last body is being squeezed out of the church entirely.
The new group would simply require that the members adopt a radical approach to the issues at hand: politeness and respect for others. Listening to each other would be beneficial, but this group would not even require that.
Let’s try it – it might lead to something positive.
S. E. Postill
Family under assault
Re: Anglican women pledge solidarity at UN meeting (April Anglican Journal). While I am glad that Anglican women are pledging solidarity, I believe the sexuality issue that the church leaders are debating is as important as the church is making it out to be. Treating homosexuals equally also sounds great, but I believe it will turn out equally badly, and I congratulate the African bishops on pointing this out. Since the ’60s, the family has been under constant assault from pleasure-seeking individuals who do not believe in commitment. The church could be an extraordinary force for good in encouraging people to return to more traditional forms of morality, and that in turn would fight sexual diseases like AIDS and poverty problems.
Re: your April issue. I am outraged! I can’t imagine why any thinking person would want to belong to a church whose collective behaviour regarding equal rights for homosexuals and lesbians is so appalling!
First, the arrogance of the African Anglican communion is incredible in demanding the U.S. Episcopal church has until Sept. 30 to recant its position and actions regarding homosexuals! Then turning the page, one reads about a priest from the diocese of Saskatoon standing to lose his license unless he reconsiders his declaration that he intends to marry gay couples (Priest to lose licence over same-sex marriage stance)!
I related this distressing scenario to a friend who is a retired United Church minister. She said that such an attitude will lead to the death of the Anglican church. And so it should. It is wandering in a self-absorbed wilderness, far, far from where Jesus pointed.
Insulting and niggardly
Re: Primates push U.S. on sexuality (April Anglican Journal). Some of the male primates of the Anglican Communion refused to attend a eucharist with Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, because she supports the inclusivity of the Gospel, and because she is a woman. Apparently none of them, including Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, the Canadian primate, ever thought to boycott the meeting in protest. As a Canadian Anglican woman I find that insulting and niggardly.
It seems to have escaped many, including the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop Hutchison, that there is a cost to discipleship. While discussion is laudable and necessary, the conservative side of the Communion refuses to meet and discuss and will only walk away. The Anglican Communion has been hijacked by the conservative, exclusionary element while the rest of the hierarchy wring their hands and plead for unity.
There is no unity. What we have here is Leviticus 18: 22 and 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35 versus the Gospel of Christ.
Re: Just say ‘no’ (April letters). Has letter-writer Clyde Elford done a study to determine that “most Anglicans are diametrically opposed” to same-sex blessings? He would obtain a little more insight into the opinion of Anglicans if he read the responses to the Windsor Report on the Anglican church website at www.anglican.ca/about/windsor.htm.
As to the religious context of the Anglican church which “has been maintained for years and not (been) involved with the politics or political correctness of our country,” I will share one response to the Windsor Report: “Anglicans tend to use current scholarship to interpret the Scriptures, and reject a narrow literalist understanding of the Bible. As well, Anglican scholarship has always studied and used where appropriate contemporary scientific knowledge.”
Among the faithful of our church we can have diverse opinions. That is one of the great blessings of being an Anglican: I can feel comfortable about disagreeing with Mr. Elford and still allow him his opinion.
Re: ‘There isn’t one Anglican church,’ says U.S. academic (March Journal). Ian Douglas’ comments seem to circumvent an inconvenient truth: that Christianity is a biblically-based forum, as it were, based on certain generally-agreed tenets which do derive from the Bible. The trouble is most Episcopalians are either deliberately or conveniently biblically illiterate – the Bible calls it “double-minded.”
Re: Council paves way for election of special bishops (April Journal). I was delighted to read that the Council of General Synod is recommending that General Synod pave the way for the eventual election of the bishop ordinary to the Canadian Forces. As a former military chaplain (recently retired) I welcome this initiative and pray that it will receive unanimous endorsement.
I have had the privilege of serving under several bishops ordinary: Bishops Jamie Clarke, Russell Hatton, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison and now Peter Coffin (who I am delighted to see will remain as bishop ordinary upon his retirement as Bishop of Ottawa). While we have been blessed with sound pastoral leadership and episcopal oversight, these men of God have either presented themselves for service out of retirement or been generous to fulfill their diocesan roles while at the same time caring for Anglican military chaplains and those serving military personnel and their families who consider themselves part of the Anglican family.
The bishop ordinary is not only the bond that links us to the national church, but is also the link that joins together the clergy and the laity who serve their country and their God in uniform. Having a full-time bishop ordinary will signal to both our military chaplains and our serving military personnel that they are not forgotten and that their voice is important in the larger church.
Major (ret.) Rev. Eric T. Reynolds
Re: National native bishop named (February Journal). I want to make a small correction to the information on Rupert’s Land Wechetowin Incorporated, a non-profit agency established by the diocesan council and Rupert’s Land Aboriginal Circle. Rupert’s Land Wechetowin Incorporated was set up as a non-profit, non-denominational agency to act as an advocate for aboriginal people in the urban area, especially in the area of health care. Many travel to the city for health care and appreciate a visit from an aboriginal person. We act as an additional resource for the hospitals, receiving homes and care homes. We have made visits to aboriginal families from rural Manitoba, northern Saskatchewan and Ontario. We look forward to General Synod and the visit of the national indigenous bishop and we welcome all those who will be visiting our city.
Canon Murray Still
Do we have courage?
Re: Throw issue out (March letters). Throw it out, no; discuss it, yes. It is ironic that Peter Southward would choose Saint Paul, the most argumentative writer in the New Testament, to support a claim to “stop arguing.”
As for “stand up for Christ,” that is specifically the point. It would seem that Jesus made a great deal of what Mr. Southward would dismiss, the “tiny parts of his community”: a few fishermen, a zealot, a prostitute, a tax collector, a leper and a crucified criminal.
The fact is that this issue, for many people, is not even about homosexuals – it is about heterosexuals who are claiming to be Christian. Are heterosexuals in this culture extending love to the outcasts and the shunned of God’s creation as Jesus was in his culture? Or, are we like the Pharisees, hung up on rules that do not make sense, other than for culturally bred comfort at someone else’s expense?
As for our leaders, let us demand nothing. Do we lead the Christian world by removing the logs from our eyes and the shackles from our hearts? Why not show that we as followers of Jesus are inclusive of all God’s faithful creation – everywhere?
Do we have the courage to walk with the one who walks with us in the kingdom that we do not realize is among us?
Thunder Bay, Ont.
Canon Colin Proudman’s March review of Richard Dawkins’ bestseller The God Delusion made many good points in the woefully brief space he was allotted to summarize the most important book, for us, of the decade. That is not an opinion; it is evidenced by the spate of books published in immediate response to it. So it is a pity that his verdict was “nothing to worry about,” for there is a lot to worry about.
True, nearly all the books in response have been rebuttals, the wittiest title being The Dawkins Delusion, but the criticisms have been chiefly of the shrillness of its tone – “almost as bad as the religious folk he attacks” has been the general opinion – but none has challenged his central theme, which is that a large part of the clue to why we are the way we are was spectacularly outlined in Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species. Darwinism has moved on considerably from then, not least thanks to Mr. Dawkins, but that 1872 earthquake set off a tsunami that is only now lapping at the doors of our churches, shortly to swamp them. Some maintain that it would not matter if our creed simply said, “I believe the moon is made of cream cheese” and that as long as the coffee and the welcome were warm, our churches would be full.
But others feel that there must be a connect between the corpus of faith and the knowledge of the human condition that the various sciences, hard and soft, are revealing. For example, if the birth of Jesus had truly been an asexual one, then our knowledge of DNA makes it clear that he would have been a woman. It is not enough to claim simple faith. Christianity is as simple as physics – the continuous, clear-headed stripping down of complex situations to first principles, which takes all the brain cells and spiritual perception that we possess. The cream cheese era is over. For, while we gnash away endlessly at same-sex matters, wondering why no one comes in, we fail to notice that Mr. Dawkins has effectively painted on every church door: “don’t enter, if you value your integrity.”
Have we the brainpower, or the stomach, to put our house in order? I would suggest that, for a start, we thank retiring Sunday school teachers with genuine warmth for what they have done, but only replace them with qualified teachers who understand the storytelling nature of the Bible and who do not fly up into the rafters at the mention of myth.
Rev. Michael Skliros