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Loaded terms not helpful in bioethics debate
Re: Christian voice needed in stem cell debate (October Anglican Journal) Linda Nicholls, writing about biotechnology “play(ing) havoc with the order of creation,” deserves a reply. A dear friend died recently of ovarian cancer; she certainly did nothing to bring on the cancer, and it appears to be part of the order of creation, so if biotechnologists can play havoc with this particular part of the order of creation, not to mention various other plagues the flesh is heir to, more power to them.
If ethicists are to be helpful to ordinary human beings they need to come down from the mountain and out of the clouds.
Rules about how long stem cells might be used as “commodities,” in research, or for how long embryos might be similarly used, are not all that helpful when it comes down to particular cases. It is also ironic that our society is getting its knickers in a twist about stem cell and embryonic research, when abortions are performed throughout the world, and very few outside the Vatican and its more ardent followers give it a thought.
In a sadly neglected book, The Language of God, Francis S. Collins, director of the Human Genome project, abjures rules but suggests some guidelines for bioethics:
- Autonomy – allow the individual freedom in decision making;
- Justice – treat all persons in a fair, impartial manner;
- Beneficence – treat others in their best interest;
- Nonmaleficence – do no harm.
With due respect to Dr. Collins, I suggest an additional guideline: in debate about ethics avoid the use of loaded terms such as “commodities” for stem cells; or “human life” for embryos in the laboratory or “play(ing) havoc with the created order;” it doesn’t really help.
Lessons not learned
Congratulations for the gutsy editorial When will church learn lessons about abuse scandals? in the October issue. It is a well-written analysis of how the Anglican bureaucracy responded when faced with the developing story of an Anglican connection to the Grenville Christian College in Brockville, Ont.
In response to the question asked by the editorial – whether the church will learn from the event – in my opinion the answer is no. The current generation of church officials may not repeat their initial defensive posture, but the next generation isn’t here yet and no doubt when its turn comes will react as Christian officialdom has done for centuries.
Anglican by accident
Re: Diocese investigates abuse claims (October Journal). While living in Brockville, Ont., in the early 1980s I was given to understand that the staff at Grenville Christian College became enamoured of the Anglican Church of Canada when they asked the rector of St. Peter’s church, Brockville, if they had any spare hymn books which weren’t being used in the parish. They were given copies of the combined Prayer Book (1928) and Hymn Book for use at the school. So they came to worship using the Anglican liturgy (since revised) by accident.
Jesus set boundaries
Re: Our ‘circle’ might not be big enough for Jesus (September letters). Archdeacon John Lee comments on the theme, “Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still,” and asks where the line is to be drawn to determine inclusion or exclusion of others. In my New Testament I read Jesus setting boundaries when he is reported to have said things like, “Enter by the narrow gate” (Matthew 7:13); “many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14); and when he refers to his followers as “little flock” (Luke 12:32), implying he was followed by a select few of true disciples. The Gospels portray most of the characters around Jesus as hangers on, people who wanted something, or who wanted to do salvation their way rather than God’s way. It is food for thought for those who want wider circles rather than smaller ones.
God is at the centre
I am impressed with the words of the hymn from which the theme of General Synod was chosen: “Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still.” It reminds us that the Gospel is for all. “God is the still point of the circle” from whom all else flows. God is the one whose arms are open wide to welcome everyone.
It seems to me that to have God at the centre means that the Gospel is a most inclusive message. All are welcome. This is an exclusive message; its exclusiveness lies in that all exclusion is rejected.
Jesus was inclusive in his offer. He was exclusive in his demands. I believe that for the church to find its way forward today we need to be inclusive in the way Jesus was. We also need to be exclusive in the way Jesus was.
Bolton East, Que.
Not just a job
Re: Make bishops apply (October letters). Although there is much about the 21st century Anglican church with which I do not agree, I must say that the idea that the office of a bishop is just a “job,” as expressed by letter writer Lloyd Gestner, is contrary to all I was taught and still believe.
Charles B. Chapman
Re: Alan Mabbott’s letter Too close (September Journal). He writes that even though the motion on same-sex blessings was narrowly defeated it seems clear to him “that any day now we will see the aforesaid blessing,” and so he has decided no longer to support the Anglican Church of Canada.
What prompted me to respond was his statement, “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.”
What a terrible thing to say! The Jesus I know would not hesitate to share the same altar rail with “these people.”
For Anglicans and Episcopalians, we weekly affirm the two Great Commandments, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might,” and “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” Few correspondents seem to take these to heart: they do not love God and so judge each other. They seem neither to love God, nor themselves nor others, and become selfishly judgmental. Perhaps some humility, courtesy, generosity, and the realization that we all sin in numerous ways, would let in Christ through the Holy Ghost, to heal all rifts and bring our treasured, beloved Anglican Communion into a state of grace.
Prof. M.A. (Tony) Whitehead
Re: Same-sex questions still vex Synod (June/July Anglican Journal). “The (General) Synod professes to be the church’s legislative body. It is not; the bishops are, with their veto option. The talk goes on and on, but the bishops decide because we are an episcopal church. The bishops meet in private like the College of Cardinals in the Vatican. I protest the hypocritical sham of synod.”
I wish I had said those words, but these are the words of Arnold Edinborough written in 1975 when the bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada shot down the vote on church union. I read these words in Radical Compassion: The Life and Times of Archbishop Ted Scott. Over 30 years ago the bishops were disregarding the wishes of the rest of our church, clergy and laity and it would appear not much has changed. A sad commentary.
David T. Brown
Campbell River, B.C
What is the problem?
It is beyond my comprehension that a few bishops thought it necessary to shut down the issue of the blessing of same-sex marriages and, thereby, precipitated the church to another three years of floundering and bickering in the morass of indecision.
Surely, the failure to take just one small step forward to provide greater acceptance of a segment of our society, which has already suffered much, would have been a much bolder step and be in accordance with the faith we proclaim – we are all children of God!
What is the problem? We have been blessing almost everything in sight. A recent issue of the Journal showed a priest up a ladder blessing a new roof, and another priest who had blessed hundreds of animals during his long ministry. I have done my share in the blessing of ships, homes and nursing homes. What is wrong with blessing same-sex couples, especially those who are faithful members of the church?
Perhaps, now that the government has changed the definition of marriage, we should also leave to them the responsibility of the marriage ceremony. A civil ceremony for all would, at least, add some semblance of equality, and the religious ceremony would follow for those who would wish it because of their association with the church by baptism.
Rev. T.L. Leadbeater
Red Deer, Alta.
Outside the church
I have read the findings of the General Synod and I say, “Shame on you!” The Anglican Church of Canada has strayed far from the teachings of the Bible. God does not change nor do his teachings so why do you even discuss gay unions? I was a life-long Anglican and our priest was bending the laws laid down in Scripture. Now it appears the bishops bend it also. You will see God’s blessing removed if the church continues on this path. I will not return to this church. I am more at peace doing what is right, outside the church.