Letters to the editor

Published May 1, 2000

Call a referendumDear editor,

Since Bishop Michael Ingham seems determined to overturn certain tenets of the Anglican Church by preparing to accept forms of marriage between same sex couples, I believe there is one indisputable way of settling the issue. That is by the democratic process, rather than by the arbitrary use of power.

The fact that crucial decisions are in the hands of delegates who attend synods with no instructed vote, and without knowing the majority wishes of their constituents, virtually leaves parish members without a voice. And delegates themselves are left vulnerable to whatever emotional response might govern their reactions at the time. Such a change in the process of voting may be untraditional – but the issue itself is untraditional, and is too important to be measured in the light of accustomed, and possibly obsolete, practices.

If democracy is to be respected and upheld in the Anglican Church, then active church members who are on the parish rolls should be consulted by referendum prior to any Diocesan Synod. Anything less threatens to disenfranchise the bedrock of church membership. Overall consultation would be a legitimate expense, and better economy than a church doomed to division.

E. R. Harrison


God still speaks to us

Dear editor,

In your article, Dialogue on Same-Sex Unions Criticized, (April Journal), a member of New Westminster’s clergy expresses concern that “experience has been elevated to be an equal authority with Scripture.”

I once heard a colleague express a similar viewpoint when he asked, “When will the church begin to understand that our faith rests on the Bible, not on people’s experiences!” My response to such statements has always been that Scripture is a record of human experience – the human experience of God’s revelation, made known to us in and through creation.

Again and again God has entered into the world of human experience, wanting to be known and experienced.

The incarnation is humanity’s fullest experience of the divine. From Christ’s manifestation to lowly shepherds to his resurrection appearances to the disciples, the life of Jesus is a testament to human experience of God.

Without the experiences of men and women and their struggle to accept, interpret and document these experiences, often in the face of a hostile and threatened religious community, would we even know the God of Israel, Jesus the Messiah, or their radical message of love and forgiveness? We worship a living God. The church is the living body of Christ.

Certainly we need to discern God’s actions in our lives with the aid of Scripture and in the context of the received traditions of the church. Yet, in Scripture, God is notorious for doing new and undreamed of things. In Scripture, humanity is notorious for rejecting God for not working within prescribed parameters.

I wonder though, in the midst of the many words being thrown back and forth regarding “what God has said,” is anyone listening to what God may be saying? Or did God truly stop speaking to us when John of Patmos put down his quill?

Rev. Daniel Brereton

Oakville, Ont.

by e-mail

Unchristian spaces

Dear editor,

In your March issue, Patricia Smith and Anne Elliott appear in a photograph standing beside a “blessing fountain” they have made that “honours sea and earth elements.” The article (Building Sacred Spaces Beyond the Church) explains and encourages the proliferation of such “sacred spaces” in peoples’ homes.

I have a “sacred space” in my home. It contains an icon of Our Lady with the infant Jesus, an icon of Christ enthroned with Mary and St. John the Baptist and, centrally, an icon of Christ Pantocrator. Candles burn before these icons and they are often a focus for my prayers, as is the crucifix on the bedroom wall.

The kind of sacred spaces constructed and encouraged by Smith and Elliott are completely lacking in Christian content, however, and their ideas, as reported in the article, are at odds with or apparently ignorant of Christian doctrine. Any Christian should consider “honouring sea and earth elements” to be a very poor substitute for honouring the Creator who made them, and us, as Scripture calls us to do.

Likewise, when Elliott explains that a sacred space is “a place where you can be quiet and honour the sacred within you and the sacred without,” Christians should remember that the “sacred within” is the grace of God, the gift of the Spirit in baptism, and the enduring presence of Christ that we receive in the eucharist.

What has this to do with “elements of earth, air, water and fire,” which Smith assures us come from “ancient aboriginal cultures and signify balance?” Quite apart from the insult of treating aboriginal cultures as if they were interchangeable – not distinct, living cultures at all, but a homogeneously convenient shopping basket for those who have rejected the riches of their own cultures – Smith and Elliott seem happy to appropriate elements of Tibetan and Chinese cultures with as little knowledge and commitment as they show in the seemingly deliberate avoidance of anything identifiably Christian.

If these doubtless well-meaning women want to play fast and loose with other peoples’ sacred traditions and cultures, they will be doing no worse than most New Age practitioners. I have to ask, though, what place any of this has in the national journal of what still claims to be part of Christ’s one, holy, catholic and apostolic church?

Building a ‘sacred space’ should not be presented as an opportunity for personal apostasy.

John Hudson


Origins of Christmas

Dear editor,

In your April issue, James Leichnitz (Letters) warns against contact with the practices of pagan religions. He seems unaware that almost all the practices associated with Christmas are themselves pagan in origin.

In fact the holiday called Christmas has nothing whatever to do with the Christian religion, but instead celebrates the winter solstice. This holiday was celebrated long before there was any such thing as Christianity, by virtually all nations and peoples of ancient Europe.

The Romans called the holiday Saturnalia, and gift giving was an important part. The ancient Germans called it Yule, and evergreens and wreaths played an important part, although the Christmas tree did not become popular until the 16th century. Mistletoe was held sacred by the Celtic druids, who also lit Yule logs.

Most people in the Roman Empire were pagans, and they were unwilling to give up their established celebrations for Christianity. Christians knew the only way to convert them was to adopt the pagan holidays and pretend they were really Christian ones, and that’s how Christmas came into being. Jesus literally had nothing to do with it.

Mr. Leichnitz is correct, but his proposal is impractical. If Christians abandoned all the holdovers of paganism there would be very little left of Christianity. Thus the church will continue to proclaim the lie that “Jesus is the reason for the season” every December.

William Frampton

Nepean, Ont.

by e-mail

Ministry flourishes

Dear editor,

It was upsetting to read a paraphrased brief from the Diocese of New Westminster’s Topic, indicating that Camp Artaban’s future is uncertain (Canada briefs, April Journal.) The camp’s financial outlook is better than it has been in years, parish support is increasing and the camp’s ministry is flourishing.

Financial stability is always a concern and wider diocesan support of the camp would be welcomed, but contrary to what was written, Camp Artaban is not in crisis.

In Christian camping it is important to have programs such as boating and crafts, but crucial to facilitate and augment these programs with a ministry that brings campers and staff into a closer relationship with God. This is what separates camping from Christian camping. Camp Artaban has perfected this integration for over 77 years, and lives have changed as a result.

The endurance of organizations such as Artaban is assured through dollars. Success is measured by the lives affected by God’s grace and love.

Camp Artaban’s future is bright because throughout British Columbia and Canada, many have been affected by a Christian camping experience and are responding.

Jennifer Herle

member, Camp Artaban Board of Management

Delta, B.C.

Outrage is widespread

Dear editor,

Your front page headline, Consecration Causes Outrage, (March Journal) should properly be followed up with a major story on Outrage Causes Consecrations.

Harry S.D. Robinson


Desperate situations…

Dear editor,

I was quite surprised to read of the consecration of two American bishops in far-off Singapore. Then I thought about it.

Thank God there are enough concerned individuals within the worldwide Anglican Communion to take such measures, “however desperate,” in an attempt to counter the collective silliness in recent years of the hierarchy of the two larger Anglican Communions of North America.

Please tell us where we can all send money to support the work of conservative bishops, those who display a modicum of common and biblical sense.

Paul H. Tuckwell

North Saanich, B.C.

Woman, fetus inseparable

Dear editor,

While Canon’s Beresford’s March column (Image of Tiny Hand Does Not Resolve Aboartion Debate) is a good exploration of some of the debates around abortion and the use of new reproductive technologies, I would take issue with a statement he made that I think also reflects a dangerous tendency within medicine and society at large. He asks, “What sort of reasoning makes the passage of a being from the inside to the outside of the womb the basis for personhood, and the passage from no protection, to full protection under the law?”

At first glance this may seem to raise the perfectly reasonable point of the continuity of fetal/child life. However, what he later refers to as the rights and needs of women is precisely what is missing here. It is astonishing how much commentary and even legal judgment is being made which seems to forget that the fetus is within the woman’s body, and that it is impossible to conceptualize or manipulate the fetus without equally affecting the woman – and her rights to autonomy and self-determination.

To assign personhood to the fetus is to create a potential conflict between pregnant woman and fetus which not only denies her primary decision-making authority (and above-mentioned rights) but can also harm the future mother/child bond. Recognizing the inseparability of the pregnant woman/fetus helps resolve many of these apparent dilemmas.

Deborah van Wyck

Westmount, Que.

by e-mail

Discussion needed

Dear editor,

I was pleased to see the article on euthanasia (Opinions Sought on Euthanasia) and Eric Beresford’s column discussing the spina bifida operation in the March issue. Contemporary society presents us with a wide range of topics that are not receiving much discussion by the church.

I hope to see more columns by Canon Beresford.

Greg Lindsay,

Fort St John, B.C.

Surrendering to lawyers

Dear editor,

A strong rhetoric is raising the tone of Anglican complaint over third party responsibility in cases of abuse brought by aboriginal people against the federal government (Ottawa, Not Natives Behind Many Lawsuits, April Journal.) We mock the legal convention which involves us in taking a share of responsibility for the offences as deemed by the courts.

It has been my experience that when the (Anglican) Church has faced a pastoral situation perceived to be “actionable” (in courts that is), then bishops surrender their pastoral relationship with the aggrieved and the lawyers take over. A court settlement, or the threat of one, ensues. In the residential school question, it can be said that those who live by the sword may well die by the sword.

Harold Macdonald

Matlock, Man.

by e-mail

Get politically active

Dear editor,

The Anglican Church is clearly making its best efforts to accept responsibility for the damages done by Anglican residential schools, acknowledge the pain and suffering, and promote healing and reconciliation.

The law and justice require that Aboriginal people be fully and meaningfully compensated for the damages they suffered.

However, the church now faces fundamental challenges to its financial viability. Unless Canada is prepared to fully indemnify the church for the damages and costs arising from the residential school litigation, the financial, organizational, pastoral and religious consequences for the church will be devastating.

The leadership should fully inform parishioners of all the facts, including the number of claims filed against the Anglican Church, how many allege physical and sexual abuse, the legal opinion the church has received as to the costs of probable and worse case scenarios and the church’s approach to persuading the government of Canada to indemnify the church for damages and legal costs.

The residential school policy must be placed in the larger political historic context and public policy of assimilating Aboriginal people by using state authority to remove them from their homes and place them in religious educational institutions.

The churches were instruments of public policy (although not without their own agendas). Therefore, the extent to which the churches should now pay the cost of this misguided policy should be determined in the political, not legal, arena.

Given its meagre assets, the Anglican Church cannot even afford to carry on litigation on these matters, much less pay settlements. The churches must work with aboriginal people to persuade the cabinet that the government must bear the full damages of residential schools, accept the church’s admission of responsibility and apology, and allow them to carry on rebuilding their relationship with aboriginals and serving the poor at home and abroad.

For Canada, paying out the projected damages from residential schools (estimated to be between $1 billion to $1.5 billion) is less than 20 per cent of the annual expenditures on aboriginal people. Yet for the churches, having to pay even for five per cent of the total estimated liabilities (to say nothing of the legal costs) would mean financial ruin. Churches would no longer be able to perform many of the important pastoral, secular, and social tasks that all governments are increasingly rely on churches to perform.

Anglicans must become politically active in defence of their church. They must persuade the public, as well as the government, that there is little to be gained from destroying the future of the churches for the sins of the past.

Each diocese, congregation, social justice committee and individual parishioners can meet with their local M.P., write the minister of Indian Affairs, minister of justice, minister of finance, and the prime minister, and begin an effective campaign to save their diocese, and the church as a whole from financial ruin.

Jerome N. Slavik



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