Letters to the Editor

By on December 1, 1998

Healing continues Dear editor,

I would like to comment on your November editorial. First, the church’s concern over residential school abuse is not just about how the church will survive the bad publicity and the court cases; it is about how the church can continue to minister to those who were hurt, and how we can continue to be part of their healing process. Recently, members of Gordon’s Reserve in Saskatchewan visited a First Nation in Manitoba to warn them about the dangers of large cash settlements for abuse. Their community experienced a negative impact from money without a healing process. Their recommendation was to tie settlements to a trust fund that would provide healing resources. I believe the church would feel happy to make settlements that would further the healing process and in which we could provide a pastoral response instead of a legal one. Secondly, the church’s concern for aboriginal land rights is a matter of simple justice. Some opponents of the Nisga’a treaty talk as if Canada is giving something to the Nisga’a. Your map vividly shows they are keeping less than 10 per cent of their traditional lands; the rest they are giving to us. Thirdly, the church’s concern to build a “self-determining community” for indigenous peoples within the Anglican Church is not so much about boundaries and jurisdiction as about partnership. In Keewatin and Brandon, we value the developing partnership between aboriginal and mainstream Anglicans. At the same time, we are feeling our way towards how the bishops can share episcopal oversight that may better meet the needs of aboriginal communities. Canon Fletcher Stewart

Henry Budd College for Ministry

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The Pas, Man.

(via e-mail)

Illiberal talk

Dear editor,

As a member of Bishop Ingham’s flock I needed to read the article, Religious Right Owns Church’s Future (November Journal) several times, because I could not believe one of the quotes. Did our spiritual leader in the Diocese of New Westminster really say “those of us who are liberal will either have to leave or become a remnant witnessing back to the church a dimension of the Gospel that it is not now willing to hear?” Surely this is the sort of illiberal talk one expects from the pew, not the bishop’s throne, and can only help to throw the Anglican Church into even more disarray. Bishop Michael appears to be showing a degree of immaturity, rather like the little boy who picked up his marbles and walked away from the game, because he was losing. Hardly the behaviour we expect from our leaders. I am privileged to worship in a church where our priests work hard at keeping the liberals and the religious right close to the via media , and although none of us is totally happy with everything that is asked of us, we do seem to understand our commitment to the church a great deal better than our bishop does. Nicholas Wilson

Richmond, B.C.

Another way

Dear editor,

The October edition of the Journal contained Bishop Ingham’s reflection on the Lambeth Conference and his concern that he perceived a “tendency towards biblical fundamentalism” and “a use of Scripture in an uncritical and even uncharitable way.” As someone who has sensed this sort of thing in parish and diocesan life, I was heartened by the knowledge there are others who are troubled by this trend. I then turned to my copy of the Prairie Messenger where I came across this insight by Rev. Richard Coté: The church is “witnessing the birth of many diverse, local theologies, whether it’s liberation theologies in Latin America, Asian theologies in the East, African theologies in Africa, etc. We have now come to realize that a church with only one theology is a dangerous church.” (Italics mine.) Could it be Fr. Coté offers another way? I am not talking so much about compromise as about accommodation. Might the various theologies, local and international, seek to challenge and test one another rather than label, caricature, denigrate, and obliterate? Certainly there is only one mind of Christ; but no one theology, save a blasphemous one, should declare it possesses definitive knowledge of the divine will. Bryan D. Bjerring

Arnes, Man.

Sleazy journalism

Dear editor,

I write regarding your analysis in the September Lambeth Conference supplement, in which you say there was great interest in relieving poverty “particularly in the Third World where loans to unscrupulous governments have all but ruined many countries.” This simplistic view seems to ignore the evils of colonialism, International Monetary Fund and World Bank policies, neo-colonialism of economic interests, and “developed world” support of these unscrupulous governments. The greatest share in the causes of misery lies outside Africa. Clearly you show no understanding of Africa today. The paragraph concerning the alleged sexual immorality of bishops appears to be based upon hearsay. We are all sinners, but to charge specific sins to specific groups on such flimsy grounds is itself sinful. In this paragraph, you have sunk to the level of sleazy tabloid journalism. The only redeeming feature is the recommendation that we read the Primate of Central Africa’s sermon. Archbishop Makhulu expresses his views in a dignified way, emphasizing the need to build “a community of faith, hope and love.” David R. Dunnill

Volunteer In Mission

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Normal state

Dear editor,

I write regarding the Journal’s September coverage of Lambeth. The church has taken the position that homosexuality is an option, and that to choose that way of life is a sin. However, an ever-increasing accumulation of scientific studies have come to the opposite conclusion. These studies have shown that homosexuality is one of the normal states of humanity – like left-handedness. The message is clear; homosexuality, for whatever reason, is part of God’s plan. God gave us our brains and he expects us to use them – always under the guidance of his law, “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” If we reject the use of logic in favour of dogma, we throw away one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind. R.S. McKegney

Toronto

Mothers met

Dear editor,

I have searched your paper in vain for some mention of the Mothers’ Union World Wide Council held in York, England July 14-18, 1998. It appears you were unaware of this event which, as Lambeth, takes place only every 10 years. This World Wide Council was attended by 420 Mothers’ Union provincial and diocesan presidents from around the globe. Women spoke of their homes, their lives, their faith and what Mothers’ Union has meant to them and their countries. In some cases, MU is the only school, clinic or church around. In others, MU is the drop-in centre for street kids or the day care so single moms can work. Mothers’ Union is a Christian organization of the Anglican Church with 750,000 members. I was privileged to attend the council as diocesan president of Niagara along with four other Canadian women. It was an experience none of us will forget.

Annette Graydon

President

Niagara Diocese Mothers’ Union

Terra Cotta, Ont.

Serious pitfalls

Dear editor,

With respect to your November article on debt forgiveness, fine and magnanimous as the idea sounds, it has serious pitfalls. The conscientious Christian must ask: 1. How much of the debt went to build palaces for kleptocratic dictators whose people were (and still are) starving? 2. How much of the debt resides in billion-dollar bank balances in the personal accounts of these dictators and their cronies? 3. How much of the debt paid for utterly foolish investments like power dams for countries whose people don’t have electrical service? 4. How much of the debt is held by banks and other investors who took too big a risk? Who will tell them to do their share of forgiveness by taking the loss on their own profit and loss statements? 5. How do we head off the moral hazard – i.e. reinforcing the bad behaviour of #4 by, in effect, giving investors a guarantee that if they win they can keep the profits but if they lose the taxpayers will bail them out? 6. How do we avoid rewarding profligacy? We are told that, many years ago, Canadian aid to Ethiopia in a certain year was about $10 million; and in that same year, the then government of Ethiopia celebrated their accession to power by spending lavishly, including a boat load of whisky that cost about $10 million. 7. What government, NGO, or international organization will orchestrate the incredibly complex negotiations? 8. How do we avoid starting in on another cycle of exactly the same actions 25 years from now? “Cancel debt” is too simplistic and will not of itself help the long-term situation. It could even make it worse. Frank Gue

Burlington, Ont.

(via e-mail)

Unwelcome visitor

Dear editor,

I am a relatively new Christian in the Anglican Church and write to you from the lay person’s perspective on Canon 17. Although appreciating the extensive discernment process as to the suitability of a candidate for ordination, clearly the occasional “bad apple” will fall through the net. What then does a church community do when they have that individual as their priest? With extensive prayer, solutions are sought, meetings are held and assistance in conflict management given by the diocese. But the once thriving, joyful community is decimated; committed, involved Christians leave disillusioned and sorely battered by the experience and those who stay withdraw and become “pew people,” yet the priest remains. There is no job description so expectations are never clear on either side, there is no annual review process and yet the priest receives an automatic salary increase. When there is a problem, the bishop’s hands are tied for fear of an expensive lawsuit for wrongful dismissal. We are continually being told that the people are the church and the priest only the visitor. Yet how do we deal with this unwelcome visitor? If it is by the implementation of Canon 17, then I for one fully support it. Sue Cathcart

Beaverton, Ont.

Repeal canon

Dear editor,

It is not surprising many Anglican clergy are worried about Canon 17. A decree that bishops may fire priests and cause their licences to be revoked for any reason and without appeal is outrageous. One is astonished to read that clergy delegates voted for this scandalous ex parte edict, possibly because of somnolence after a hearty lunch. Bishops, as fellow mortals, are subject to error, sometimes amounting to injustice. And the clergy will be without the assuring guidance of policy and law. They may be subjected to a bishop’s decision, just or unjust, capricious or otherwise, and without redress. The danger is the conferring of arbitrary power on bishops without accountability. Lord Acton (letter to Mandell Creighton, circa 1897) expressed his hostility to intimidation and all denials of intellectual freedom. Referring to corruption associated with power, he said the presumption was against the holders of power, “increasing as the power increases.” The letter contains the oft quoted, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Canon 17 should be repealed. Robert Barron

Scarborough, Ont.

Remember vows

Dear editor,

I am left in wonderment about why priests do not remember their vows. In the ordering of priests in the Book of Common Prayer each one is asked, “will you reverently obey your Ordinary and other chief ministers,” and in the ordination of a priest in the Book of Alternative Services, each ordinand is asked, “will you obey your bishop?” Could anything be easier to understand? The concern that Canon 17 brings church law in line with the secular world may be correct, but it is not a criticism to be used by those who initiated wrongful dismissal suits under secular law. These men who have convinced their bishop that they have a “calling” need not worry about this canon if the calling is true. We all know that a licence is not required to spread the good news; the laity have been doing it for years. The licence is required to retain their position – a position that has a guaranteed income, social position, and perks that come with wearing a clerical collar. Perhaps it is time to re-examine the process for the recruitment of clergy. P.A. Bell

Church of St. George the Martyr

Victoria

Bishops fallible

Dear editor,

The new licensing canon appears to be a reaction to fear of expensive wrongful dismissal suits. It would be cheaper and far more constructive to consult a lawyer if causes for dismissal are at all unclear. If the waters are murky, work out an agreement. As the article pointed out, Mr. Kilgore’s settlement netted him $75,000 while the Diocese of Toronto paid half a million dollars fighting the fight. Ronald Stevenson, who moved the adoption of this canon, dismisses concerns about abuse of the wide ranging and final power to dismiss. I’ve heard the term papal infallibility. Have we now ascended to bishop’s infallibility? Simply provide for an appeal. It is fair and just. People enter the priesthood for different reasons. Sometimes it may seem a safe retreat from some of the world’s nasty cuts, a respected profession where one might get by with carrying out rituals and repeating practised words of comfort. But the more dynamic and effective priest sometimes takes chances and speaks out on issues that may be unpopular with the hierarchy, or even with the congregation. To know that the bishop has a hand on the other end of a choke leash is inhibiting, and dangerous to the church, whether that leash is ever yanked or not. Of course there will be bad apples in this and every profession.They should be gotten rid of for the good of the church and the priests. But we should not adopt a system that denies appeal. Derek Madge

Waterloo, Ont.

(via e-mail)

Bad choice of words

Dear editor,

The concept of consecration and, especially, deconsecration, is puzzling. This has come up because a small church in the country near Lindsay, Ont., (St. George’s, Cameron) has been deconsecrated. Attendance had fallen and it was not feasible to keep it open. It had to be deconsecrated before any attempt could be made to sell it, to be used, perhaps, for secular purposes. I have no quarrel with this economic necessity, but I truly do not agree that if a space over many years has been a holy place, a place set apart, a place filled with the prayers of all who attend, all this can be undone by the utterance of a few words at a short service. Perhaps “deconsecration” is the wrong word to use. St. George’s was beloved by those who attended and one could sense that in the building, and feel the power of prayer that had gone on for many years. Consecration is defined as: “To set apart as sacred to the Deity, to make sacred or holy; also, to dedicate solemnly to some sacred or religious purpose.” To deconsecrate is defined as: “To deprive of sacredness” (Oxford). Anywhere there is a relationship between a person and God through prayer there exists a holy situation. If it happens in a certain spot that place becomes a holy place. How can the utterances in a short service take this away? To say they can undermines the whole concept of prayer and the validity of the relationships with God. It would be appreciated if the church would seriously look at these concepts, accept them as economic realities and propose a new term. Mary Downey

Mississauga, Ont.

Common cup concerns

Dear editor,

There are communicants of the Anglican Church of Canada who continue to have grave concerns regarding the use of the common cup. It is because of the risk, however small, to public health. Unsanitary mouth conditions and diseases are of real concern. We are taught from childhood that it is unhealthy to drink from another’s cup yet the Anglican Church continues to promote such practice. Medical and scientific experts agree that the risk is low, but not non-existent. Is the risk necessary? The persistence in using the common cup indicates that religious truth overrules scientific fact. I strongly urge the use of individual cups or the method of dipping the wafer into the wine. There are those who because of their concern for the risk factor have avoided partaking of Holy Communion. Violet Thorneloe

Lennoxville, Que.

Vulgar error

Dear editor,

Why do the advertisers of the Anglican Church Calendar for 1999 perpetuate the vulgar error that that year is “the final year of this millennium?” The term millennium can, of course, be understood in either of at least two senses. It may refer to any period of 1,000 years and anyone is at liberty to choose any period of 1,000 years to talk about. But in dating – which is what we’re talking about when we speak of calendars – it is understood as a period of 1,000 years of which the first was the year 1 (not 0) and the last the year 1000 (not 999), from the conventional date of the event which we call the Incarnation. Similarly, the millennium we are now in is the thousand years of which the first was 1001 and the last will be 2000. With a special interest in the Incarnation (whether at the beginning of the year 1 or sometime in the year 4 BCE), I should think we Anglicans could get it right! John Kendall

Kensington, P.E.I.

(via e-mail)

Boundary crossing

Dear editor,

In today’s climate of political independence, bishops may well wish to respect boundaries of other dioceses and provinces within the Anglican communion (October Journal). However, in 2001 the possibility of laity celebrating the eucharist looms large for Anglicans in the Diocese of Sydney, Australia, thus forcing many of them to reconsider their membership in a church that is forsaking its catholic tradition. In the event of this happening, it will behoove bishops to cross boundaries and exercise appropriate authority to preserve the Anglican faith. William J. Holtham

Toronto

For the greater good

Dear editor,

I challenge the Christians with notions that Jesus Christ is a lawbreaker and actively unorthodox to ponder the meaning of his statement: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets. I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” (Matthew 5:17-18) However, we can see from his life that he loosened the restrictiveness of law-keeping wherever suffering and needful people could be released by his law-bending. I believe a respect for tradition and orthodoxy is something our Saviour, Jesus Christ, expects of us as peacemakers. Tradition and orthodox views are not to be spat upon or labelled retrogressive when they maintain the health of our church or restore health to us. While trying to reinforce our needs for both law-keeping and law-bending, I pray that all Christians come to understand and accept homosexuality as natural to homosexual people; and I pray that homosexual Christians question whether their requests for union blessings and clerical ambitions truly reflect the humility of Jesus Christ. I feel that gay Christians should help abolish prejudice to gay union by devoting their everyday lives to God, instead of insisting on rights to blessings or clerical roles in God’s house. Yes, this is a sacrifice on your part, in order that God may do greater things. Helen Jeong

Whitehorse, Yukon

Blame to share

Dear editor,

On Oct. 17, as slain University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was put to rest, a crowd of Christian fundamentalists stood across the street shouting epithets while clutching signs that bore slogans such as “AIDS Cures Fags.” The organizer, Rev. Fred Phelps, regularly attends funerals of gays in this manner. For millennia, homosexuals have been preached to and legislated against, persecuted and killed, often in the name of a loving God. Christianity and other religions have much to answer for in the continuing worldwide persecution of homosexuals. Preachers and politicians have used their positions of authority to reinforce the idea that an open season on gays is permissible. What kind of message does the recent Lambeth declaration send to the world’s faithful? Homosexuals are regularly harassed, brutalized and sometimes murdered. Homophobes share the belief that gays are somehow intrinsically sinful and therefore deserve what they get. The churches must bear their share of responsibility for the pain that has been inflicted upon homosexuals over the millennia. Joseph Tatarnic

Toronto

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