Our ‘circle’ might not be big enough for Jesus
Rev. Chris Barrigar’s letter (Synod theme prejudges issue of inclusivity, May Anglican Journal) prompts the following comment on the theme of the recent General Synod: “Draw the circle wider, draw it wider still.” As Mr. Barrigar implies, with Jesus at the centre of the circle, the circumference has to be drawn somewhere, and then inclusion/exclusion happens. The issue becomes where the boundaries are drawn, with some inside, leaving others out.
Is it possible that we are unable to draw the circle wide enough to include Jesus himself? In my reading of the New Testament, the Jesus who ate with sinners seems to have been particularly untroubled by boundaries. The reason for that, I believe, is that he spent a lot of time on the periphery – with the people on the margins. If Jesus is not located at what we perceive to be the centre of a circle, but, instead, beyond every boundary, we may put the fence where we like: he will continue to be found with those who are outside it, calling us to come there too – to “go to him outside the camp” (Hebrews 13:11-14). In the Book of Acts the Spirit goes ahead of the apostles calling them to the margins and the unknown. Are we missing what the same Spirit is saying to us?
Archdeacon John Lee
Re: Same-sex questions still vex Synod (June/July Journal). I can only join the chorus of disappointment at the result of the vote on the blessing of same-gender unions. I had hoped for a better outcome, for the circle to be have drawn truly wide. I was encouraged that the will of the Synod was generally speaking to move forward; I am bitterly disappointed in our bishops. At a time when they needed to be seen as taking a clear stand, standing behind the Synod theme, they back away from the people they are supposed to be representing and serving and hide behind the so-called needs of the whole Communion. Shame on them!
New Glasgow, N.S.
My father once pointed out to me that Christ warns us against putting our faith in princes. The bishops, the princes of our church, have now proven the wisdom of that teaching. I will never trust them again.
The Anglican church had its origins in separation from a world-wide body whose dogma and actions had become unacceptable. Now a small majority of Canadian bishops have cravenly yielded to the threats of some clergy in far-off lands with different cultures, different values in regard to the role of women and the Christian love that seeks church blessing. Fearful that these churchmen might be cross with us, we have discarded principle and adopted hand-wringing subservience.
We should be true to our own belief, our own nation, our own theological interpretation and our own Canadian culture. Our Canadian interpretation of Christ’s teaching is fully and wholly consistent with Christianity and that was accepted by a majority of General Synod. The bishops have imposed their will. It is now up to the people to make it clear to the bishops that they have made a grave error in judgement. Unity is a virtue, but there is a limit to the price to be put upon it.
What Synod did
At no time more than the present do Canadian Anglicans need accurate reporting of the events of General Synod. Thus I was saddened to read your June/July editorial (Synod issues end in a question mark, not a period), which makes several misleading errors in reporting. First, you failed to quote accurately the finding of the Primate’s Theological Commission. Their definition of “core doctrine” was “in the sense of being credal.”
This error was compounded when you claimed, “Later in the meeting, it said that same-sex blessings are not a Communion-breaking issue and they are not in conflict with the church’s doctrine …” Synod did not pass any resolution on the question of whether it is a “Communion breaking issue” and the wording of A186 that finally passed was: “not in conflict with the core doctrine (in the sense of being credal) of the Anglican Church of Canada.” What you may have missed was that the use of the negative reduces the positive content of any statement. While some delegates may still have thought they were voting for a resolution that said same-sex blessings were acceptable in theory, the final wording says so little as to be almost meaningless. Because the three historic creeds of our church say nothing about same-sex relationships does not therefore mean that they are “theoretically acceptable.” To say that much, synod would have needed a motion to positively identify same-sex blessings as a matter of adiaphora (doctrines about which it is possible to differ without breaking communion).
The closeness of the vote in all three orders on A187 would suggest that A186 would have been much less likely to pass had it attempted to establish that same-sex blessings are “theoretically acceptable” or a matter of adiaphora.
Rev. Ian Ritchie
According to Matthew 15:19 and Mark 7:20-23, Jesus spoke of fornication as evil. Continuing same-sex behaviour is a form of fornication, and it is wrong to bless what God has called evil. Therefore the Synod majority erred in agreeing that the blessing of same-sex unions is not inconsistent with our Christian core doctrine.
So, after 55 years as a priest, I have advised my bishop and our interim rector that I am now ashamed to be identified as an Anglican and will not be available to conduct services until the offending resolution is rescinded.
Rev. Al Reimers
As a lesbian member of the Anglican church who continued to be a member throughout the same-sex blessings debates with the hope I could make change from the inside I am finally admitting defeat. I can no longer remain a member of the church into which I was baptized, and which I have loved all my life. It hurts too much to feel so excluded. Three years ago I married my partner of 13 years; I have to thank a dear friend who is a minister in the Unitarian Church for recognizing and validating our union and conducting our wedding.
What is more important? Censure by the worldwide Anglican Communion or the courage to stand up for inclusivity? I know where Jesus would have stood and I believe he would have been thoroughly ashamed of the Synod’s decision.
Might I suggest reading the chapter by Anne Squire, a former moderator of the United Church of Canada, in the recent book The Emerging Christian Way on “Radical Inclusion,” a concept which seems to have totally bypassed my church.
I will no longer be supporting the Anglican Church of Canada. Although the motion on same-sex blessings was narrowly defeated, it was clear to me that the rank and file within the clergy support such an action and the bishops were close enough to send me a message that any day now we will see the aforesaid blessing.
The issue of civil or human rights is not the question. If gays and lesbians wish to conduct themselves the way they do in the sanctity of their own homes, so be it. If they wish to be joined in some form of civil union, so be it. I am prepared to accept the premise of “live and let live,” but that does not mean I have to share the same altar rail with these people.
For the last three years I have been spending my winters in the South. I have found a traditional protestant church in Point Clear, Ala., which still uses the 1928 prayer book, which is what I was brought up with.
I wonder what Archbishop Thomas Cranmer would say about all of this.
My wife and I are very happy with the decision of the Anglican church, that it stood for moral principle and not world opinion. Jesus died so people could come to Jesus and receive salvation and be free from sin through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I am thankful to God for my wife and son. I was once involved in this sin; Jesus set me free.
Glenn and Catherine McAllister
Saint John, N.B.
I find the current argument over same-sex acceptance the most tedious and trifling debate ever; one that has caused me to question my commitment to the Anglican variant of communion with a living and loving God.
Here we sit in a prosperous and peaceful country, and we choose to debate whether people who love each other can formally ask for God’s blessing. What a meaningless dispute while Canadian troops are in Afghanistan. What a mere trifle to engage in while we ignore God’s gift of a beautiful and life-sustaining environment.
Jesus tells us to love each other. Must we continue to hammer the nails in his hands to prove some misguided point in the same-sex debate? I pray that the Anglican church reconsiders its position, turns the corner on this debate, and gets started on the job we’re really here to do!
Clifton Royal, N.B.
Higher moral code?
Re: Lambeth invitations exclude American gay bishop (June/July issue). All Anglican Christians share equally the absolute “Summary of the Law” – a one-size-fits-all ethical mandate that applies equally to lay and ordained ministers. My life with my partner of more than 51 years is as accountable as any other baptized individual’s. Yet, now 70 and in my 44th year of ordained ministry, I have never been challenged about my family life with Bob. In faithfulness to Christ, on what bases is one duly elected and consecrated bishop in the Episcopal Church targeted for his family life, while other lay and ordained ministers living similarly are ignored? Or does the episcopate have a higher moral code? If so, what are its origins?
Canon Richard T. Nolan
West Palm Beach, Fla.
I am proud to be a member of the Episcopal Church. I am disappointed in the decision not to invite Bishop Gene Robinson to the Lambeth Conference. Our church should be inclusive and not exclusive in sharing our communion. We sometimes need to be reminded of Christ’s words summing up our responsibility of faith: love God and love your neighbour.
Battle Creek, Mich.
Travesty of history
It is regrettable that the Anglican Journal (May issue) continues (in what the Guardian Weekly describes as a blatant travesty of history) to give to William Wilberforce the sole credit for the abolition of slavery without any mention of Rev. Thomas Clarkson. Clarkson was the young Anglican deacon who won a University of Cambridge prize for his essay (written in Latin) about the slave trade. This essay moved him to pledge that he would be “the person that should see these calamities to their end.”
When translated, at the urging of the Quakers it became a significant instrument to intensify the anti-slavery hatred of the people throughout England. Clarkson’s role was to travel the country on horseback facing many threats and dangers, which made possible the boycott of sugar from the plantations in the West Indies by almost 300,000 supporters. This sent a clear message to the government.
The heart of the movement was the Committee of Twelve organized in 1787 which included nine Quaker brethren. Among these were Olaudah Equiano (an ex-slave, by virtue of his talents) and Rev. Thomas Clarkson, who was the first to invite Wilberforce to be the committee’s voice in the House of Commons. So it was Wilberforce and Clarkson together with the committee that made possible the passing of the Bill in the House of Commons (but not in the House of Lords, where there were many members who owned plantations in the West Indies, including the Church of England.
The 200th anniversary was held in Westminster Abbey, where a life-size statue of Wilberforce is present, placed following his death in 1833 – the same year that the bill was passed in both Houses. Clarkson was given a simple stone plaque on the Abbey floor near to the feet of Wilberforce in 1996.
Archdeacon T.L. Leadbeater
Red Deer, Alta.
In his recent Concerning Lutherans column (Reforming church needed after close vote on same-sex blessings, July Journal), Peter Mikelic reports that the 2006 Eastern Synod Convention “not only approved same-sex blessings on its territory, but also the ordination of homosexuals (both with a majority vote of 73 per cent).” That statement is incorrect as no such vote on the ordination of homosexuals occurred at the 2006 Eastern Synod Convention. Perhaps Mr. Mikelic was longingly looking ahead as to what will happen at the 2008 Eastern Synod Convention.
Editor’s note: The Journal regrets the error.
Your article Curb mining abuses, say church leaders (June/July Anglican Journal) is misleading about the Canadian mining industry. In 40 years of working as an environmental consultant to various Canadian and U.S. mining companies, I found a growing awareness that the home nation regulations must be applied overseas when they are more socially effective than the local regulations.
The worst environmental offenders nowadays are the local mining companies, not the multinationals. One of the most frightening statements that I heard a local mining magnate say was “I don’t know why you North Americans bother about all this environmental planning. When I need a permit for a new mine, I go and see my relative in the mining department.” This was in spite of his country having good environmental regulations, which many of the departmental public servants wanted to enforce. There may be some mining companies not following home requirements overseas, but protesters should not exaggerate and impugn the whole industry.
The groups named in your article could spend their time more usefully than asking for unnecessary Canadian legislation. They should work on ways to have Third World countries effectively implementing their own regulations on all mining companies, locals as well as multinationals.