Letters to the Editor

Published March 1, 2000

Borg wrong on divorce

Dear editor,

The article, Theologians Debate Authority, Interpretation of Scripture, (January Journal) attributes to New Testament scholar Marcus Borg the idea that the teachings of Jesus on divorce can be set aside since “the economic consequences of divorce are not what they used to be.”

Is he really suggesting that we pick and choose among Jesus’ teachings based on our own personal convenience? To do so is to trivialize Scripture, making our selfish wants the standard against which it is measured, rather than the other way around.

Furthermore, Borg is wrong about the consequences of divorce. The proportion of families in Canada headed by single parents or unwed couples has doubled in the past two decades, now standing at over 25 per cent. About 15 per cent of Canadian families are headed by a lone female. This unravelling of the family unit is a major factor behind the continuing rise in the number of children and women living in poverty (which the Primate decried in his editorial).

There is research from Canada and other countries showing that children from divorced families are at higher risk for medical and mental health problems, do worse, on average, in school, and have less success in the labour market. As well, they tend to marry later and their marriages are, in turn, more prone to early breakdown.

At best, Borg would be right in saying that it is easier and cheaper for people to divorce, but this only exacerbates the resulting problems.

Far from setting aside Jesus’s teachings on marriage, the situation seems to demand a fresh commitment to understanding and following them.

Dr. Ross McKitrick

Dr. Renée Desjardins,

Guelph, Ont.

by e-mail

Children must be welcomed in church

Dear editor,

Re: Sunday School Successes Seen in Midst of Sobering Statistics (January Journal).

Ruth MacIntosh of St. George’s in Victoria has got it right. Our worship services need to be intergenerational, where children are welcomed, accepted, and not automatically relegated to nursery and Sunday school programs, which separate them from their worshipping community.

I am thankful for the “Praise and Worship” service we regularly attend at Holy Trinity in Winnipeg. It attracts people of all ages, including families with young children. Services that are “kid-friendly” will also be accessible to people of all ages and church experience.

Too often “family” services welcome children only if they can sit quietly in their seats. Churches need to prayerfully consider the ways in which children can be integrated into their services and communities.

Next time we’re visiting Victoria, we’ll know where to go for Sunday worship!

Terry Vatrt


Whites were losers

Dear editor,

I was very distressed to read White Anglicans Snub Black Priests in Zimbabwe (January 2000 Journal).

In 1993, my friend and I had the privilege of visiting friends in Harare. After attending the Anglican service in the morning at St. Mary Magdalene in Avondale, our friend suggested we attend the Shona service in the afternoon. She introduced us to the Shona priest so he was expecting us when we returned. We were welcomed so warmly! We noticed we were the only white people attending. What a wonderful experience we had, and how sad we were the only whites.

We were moved to tears when we joined in the ceremony of their closing handshake, which included dancing and drumming. Each person shook hands with us and lined up in a circle. The hand shakes continued till all attending had shaken hands with everyone. Whites who snub blacks are the losers! And I fail to see how they can call themselves Christians.

Joan Fitzpatrick


Wishing parish well

Dear editor:

We were quite intrigued with Diocese of Quebec Inaugurates First Francophone Parish, (January Journal) the impression being given that this was something new, i.e. a first.

In 1812, 1847, 1853, 1855, 1877, 1882, there appeared in the Diocese of Montreal, in Sabrevois, St. Jean, and Montreal proper, the beginnings of solid French speaking Anglican parishes which survived till some 25 years ago. Two churches and a residential school were formed, prospered and then gradually disappeared. From nothing but a forgotten copy of Scriptures left in the home of Charles Roy in 1812 they grew for over a century.

Then, for a variety of reasons, the work floundered, and eventually it petered out even though it was amalgamated with St. Mary’s. The last priest of the parish, Rev. Jacques (not James) A. Smith whose mother tongue is French, is still living, aged 91.

It is correct to state that the diocese of Quebec did not have a single French-speaking parish. However, it must not be forgotten that the Diocese of Montreal had two parishes. Sabrevois and Le Redempteur where French only was spoken and where the book of canticles as well as part of the Book of Common Prayer had been translated from the Church of England books directly by the undersigned’s father and Rev. Henri Benoit.

Though several other French speaking non-Roman Catholic denominational congregations may dispute the statement “Quebec City’s only steadily growing Christian community,” we can but wish the Tous les Saints parish continued growth, both spiritual and physical, in this new century.

Rene Peron

Bath, Ont.

Parish not the first

Dear editor,

Your article on the Diocese of Quebec is misleading.

The author hasn’t made up his mind. If he speaks of a “first” within the present-day boundaries of the Diocese of Quebec, that’s a small news item perhaps undeserving of the front page. If he speaks of the history of Anglicanism in the region, as his references to “a 206-year history” imply, he is simply wrong.

Anglicans in the Diocese of Quebec – either its old boundaries, or its present ones – have many times connected with the francophone population, from the 1760s to now. Our most lasting positive impact has been through personal contact and our schools and universities, not parish life.

French ministers were appointed from the 1760s and the first entirely francophone Anglican parish, to correct that point, was established at Sabrevois in 1845, then part of that diocese. Of nine or 10 such parishes in our history, there are now at least three other francophone Anglican communities in that province.

My doctoral thesis was about all this, and it made me aware of a deeper issue.

There was an early, generous and enduring entente cordial between Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops. It prevented intrusions from either side, and was supported by their senior clergy and laity despite immense pressures from hotheads on both sides. It was a vital ingredient convincing politicians that Confederation could work.

Theologically this was an early recognition of mutual catholicity, just along linguistic lines. Practically it was recognition that the greater common issue we all face is secularization.

Of course Anglicans should receive anyone who wishes to join us, but let us be honest. Francophones have their own branch of the Catholic church, and what too often results when they turn to us is temporary use of a “catholicism lite” for their own purposes.

Making it easier for semi-observant Roman Catholics to break the discipline of their church – and one with which we are in official dialogue – is not really, I think, what one part of the church catholic ought to be doing for another.

Robert M. Black

chaplain, Trinity College, Toronto

by e-mail

Screening crucial

Dear editor:

As a person who has acted, in the past, as a volunteer co-ordinator for two community-based organizations, I am very pleased to read that the Anglican Church is moving towards a screening plan. While there is no absolute guaranteed way to screen out individuals who may prove to be a risk, a volunteer screening process is an acknowledgment of the importance to both select the best applicant for a position, paid or unpaid, and to offer the public a move toward providing some protection for those who come within the church’s influence and care.

Larence Kirkby-MacLean

Chatham, Ont.

by e-mail

Legal profession dishonoured

Dear editor,

This letter is in reference to Don’t Blame Lawyers by Rodney Smith (January 2000 Journal, letters.) Apparently Mr. Smith is either a lawyer or in the legal field. He says, “These endless slurs against lawyers are misplaced.”

In Lawyers Scramble for Native Clients (January 1999 Journal), it read “Merrilee Rasmussen of Regina says one of her Native clients was upset to receive an unsolicited letter from a law firm suggesting that by signing with them she could be in line for a lucrative settlement,” and “The firm – whose name she refused to reveal – was offering a contingency agreement in which it would receive a percentage of any settlement… The letter appeared to be part of a mass mailing and Ms. Rasmussen expects the firm obtained a band list.”

I am now retired but I was a lawyer and a provincial judge for 40 years. I wrote to Ms. Rasmussen saying she was to be admired for talking to your reporter and I sent a copy to the Law Society of Saskatchewan. I said that in my day this firm would have been considered “ambulance chasers” and there would have been at least a complaint to the law society. I also said that law is no longer an honourable profession although there are many in it who are an honour to it. Instead it has become a lucrative business with greed as the object.

I condemned the fact that cases can now be taken on a contingency fee basis and some “lawyers” can treat a case as a gamble.

Apparently the Law Society took some action as in October there appeared a small article in the Journal from which I quote: “The Law Society of Saskatchewan has passed stricter rules targeting lawyers trolling for business from former students of residential schools,” and “The tighter rules enacted by the Society in June, prevent lawyers soliciting business on reserves uninvited.” Bully for the Society.

The fact that abuse did occur, and worse, that those in authority covered up hardly seems to fit with the definition of a Christian but a letter such as that of Rodney Smith is not only misleading but also unworthy of a lawyer.

L.F. Bence

Regina, Sask.

Don’t discuss it

Dear editor,

In the December 1999 Journal, there is much written about the Anglican Church of Canada dealing with the residential schools and related lawsuits against the church.

I question the article, Collection Plate Cash Won’t Go To Litigation Bills, as I understand that legal fees and, most likely, other costs with respect to defending the church’s position have been and are being paid out of general funds.

I question the amount of detail contained in the articles with respect to litigation and its potential impact on the church as, from my experience, matters involving litigation in progress should not be discussed publicly.

I do not have a view as to what extent any wrong was committed by the church but suggest that the church should be better structured to protect its assets which are restricted, internally or externally, for missionary and other purposes.

I do not understand why the church can even contemplate using Missionary Society funds to finance any settlements.

For the church to be better structured to deal with today’s litigious environment, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, the Missionary Society and other such externally restricted funds should be legally separate stand-alone operations. This might be accomplished by creating separate corporations without share capital for each of these funds, but to have their boards made up of the same persons as on the board of directors as the church. They would be associated but I think, from a legal standpoint, they would be completely separate. Accordingly, the actions of the church in its general operations, if found negligent, would not threaten funds designated for specific purposes. That same thought was expressed in one of the articles where Archbishop David Crawley suggested “the church use up all its assets to pay out the lawsuits, go bankrupt and then set up a new structure.

In situations involving litigation, I believe that all clergy, staff and volunteers should be instructed not to discuss the matter. The church should have one spokesperson who is guided by legal counsel.

A $1-million deficit, as forecast by the church’s treasurer, Jim Cullen, surely is a depletion of resources that, in part, have come from “collection plate cash.”

Peter J. Caroll, FCA


Be still and listen

Dear editor,

Reading the article, Committees to Discuss Plans for Church’s Future (February Journal) has rekindled a thought which arose in my mind as I reflected on various articles which first heralded and then chronicled the process resulting in the Lytton decision.

I am a member of the Anglican Communion, a church with a magnificent stature in ecclesiastic, historic, social, political and physical terms by way of description. Today we are told it stands at the very brink of a declaration of bankruptcy because a secular court process has called on our accountability for the manner in which we have done our work.

The Old Testament has many stories of God calling His people to accountability through circumstances which would allow no excuses nor any doubt about the issue at stake. Often, there were calls of warning preceding God’s corrective actions. In the end, only one response saved the day… a contrite heart.

The Anglican Church has had great resources at its disposal for a very long time. Many small voices have asked about the manner in which we have dispersed our abundant gifts. Those voices have usually been quieted by token concessions or discouragement from the reception accorded their perspectives or insights.

Over several years now, parish after parish across Canada has found itself struggling with the changing demographics of our society and the financial burden of our structures. Now the Lytton decision.

Is there any possibility God is calling us to a meeting in a place where we will finally be still and listen … by speaking to us through the medium we respect the most … our money?

Greg Elliott

Guelph, Ont.

by e-mail

Debt relief needs conditions

Dear editor:

I was sorry you omitted the biblical references in my letter of December 1998 concerning debt forgiveness to seriously indebted countries (SICs). I intended to show that we small-c conservatives do, many of us, apply our biblical precepts to business dealings.

I’m responding here to John Dillon’s knowledgeable January 1999 comments on my letter.

Loans made for bad projects or to bad governments result only in the inexcusable transfer of wealth from the grindingly poor to the wealthy – i.e. to us. Correcting this situation must surely involve renegotiating the loans at low interest, packaging them, and selling them on the open market – but with strong strings, viz:

  • Savings must go to education and health systems, with the objective of bringing performance at least up to the SIC average. At present their best schools get three times better results than their worst. As the SICs’ interest payments have ballooned, their education/health budgets have been slashed.
  • An SIC must have a credible plan for reducing (not increasing, as now) expenditures on arms.
  • The International Monetary Fund must not bail out delinquents with our taxes but must, in the words of The Economist, “bail in” the investors who took foolish risks.
  • The IMF and World Bank must cease promoting uneconomic works such as big dams. This sort of thing merely makes it easier for despotic governments to buy arms with which to oppress their own people. Seventy per cent of munitions used since the Second World War have been fired at citizens by their own governments.
  • Funds must go as much as possible to non-governmental organizations rather than to unreliable governments. The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund and Doctors Without Borders are examples. Most are staffed by dedicated, selfless people, and most are starved for desperately needed resources that they see, to their frustration, going instead to munitions or Swiss bank accounts.

Some of this sounds pretty worldly, but let us keep in mind James 2:14: “Even so faith, being without works, is dead, being alone.”

Frank Gue, P.Eng.

Burlington, Ont.

by e-mail

Not the oldest

Dear editor:

How can the opening statement in Cathedral Continues Long Social History, (February Journal) “the oldest church in southwestern Ontario” be supported? Rev. Richard Pollard built several churches long before London even existed. St John’s, Sandwich was built shortly after 1807, burned by the Americans in 1814 and rebuilt in 1820. Meanwhile churches were built in Amherstburg, Colchester and Chatham.

Frank Scott-Pearse,

Archivist, Christ Church,

Chatham, Ont.

by e-mail

New parish anyone?

Dear editor,

We are grateful to the Journal for bringing to us the stimulating and thought-provoking columns by Canon Harold Percy.

The January issue, including the article on Sunday School, provided us with a great deal of food for thought on an issue faced by many mature congregations. But what a pity because many of these congregations have the infrastructure and often, more importantly, the location from which to reach out to a newly emerging local community, just as Jesus sent his followers out to their community, to announce the Kingdom, heal the sick and cast out unclean spirits. Dr. Frances MacNutt, the noted author and lecturer, frequently asks who gave us permission to stop carrying out this injunction of Jesus, even us, as the inheritors of the mantle of the Apostles.

To put some action to the concept so clearly put by Canon Percy, we would love to work with others to form at least one new trans-parish community of Jesus in Toronto and would be prepared to pour ourselves out in a work which seeks to fulfil His mandate to His followers. What better time to do so in this Jubilee Year, the new springtime, a time for new evangelization and harvest.

Any interest out there? Our e-mail is [email protected].

Ted and Carol Ward


Let your light shine

Dear editor,

It is offensive and counter-productive to pressure anyone to believe Jesus is the one and only Messiah. You cannot force belief. History has demonstrated dramatically how cruel, unjust, destructive and fruitless it is to try to win converts by heavy-handed methods. It doesn’t work and it is not Christian. It is wrong.

As a Jewish person who came to recognize and love Jesus through seeking, studying, searching, questioning and challenging, and finally experiencing the touch of the Holy Spirit myself, I tell you truly, the only right and effective way to win hearts for Jesus is to do what He told us to do. “Let your light so shine before people, that seeing your good works, they will give praise to your Father in Heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

Kindness, gentleness, honesty, sobriety, integrity. These are characteristics of Christ. When those who call themselves Christians live and love as He did, all the world will see the light.

Phyllis Carter


12/ Frayne / feblet

Dear editor,

In Lay Presidency Vetoed in Sydney (December Journal), Dr. William Franklin, dean of Berkeley Divinity School, says “There is nothing in Scripture, tradition or reason to justify such a move,” allowing responsible lay people to preside at Holy Communion.

In the New Testament , St. Paul discusses the worship of the primitive church in I Corinthians. Very little guidance is to be found elsewhere as to how the Lord’s Supper should be conducted. In Corinthians (chapters 11 – 14), St. Paul asks for worship that is orderly and thoughtful, carried out in a manner worthy of the body and blood of the Lord (11:27).

But primitive New Testament worship provided opportunities for the exercise of a variety of “spiritual gifts” and worship made room for their use. There is no evidence they were only practiced by a priestly few. Paul says, “When you come together (to worship) each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.” (14:26)

It was not until after New Testament times that ministry became more institutionalized. So did rites of ordination resembling our own. Before that development happened, it is clear that all Christians were to be ministers. Each church had its bishops, presbyters, elders and deacons. There leaders acted locally and these terms indicated function rather than office. Appeal can not readily be made to the Christian Scriptures to support special status and functions for Anglican clergy today.

Leadership in the primitive church was very different (certainly in New Testament times) from what we have today. There it was in a fluid state and it developed, guided by the Holy Spirit, to meet fresh needs as they arose. Now, can it be that what we have has been set in stone? Or is there still room for change?

Stuart A. Frayne

Grimshaw, Alta.


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