From the war in Afghanistan to the COVID-19 pandemic, issues of control and the capacity for change run through the November issue of the Anglican Journal.
The approach of Remembrance Day this year takes place as Canada grapples with the legacy of its longest war, following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban. In an interview with the Journal, retired chaplain and Afghanistan veteran Canon Doug Friesen ponders the limits of military force and whether the war was worth fighting. “There are forces at work that you have no control over, and Afghanistan was particularly bad that way,” Friesen says. “Trying to predict an outcome was just extremely difficult.”
The COVID-19 pandemic offers a continuing example of a force outside our control—yet Anglicans are showing great creativity in responding to the extent they are able. Soon after the outbreak of COVID-19 in Nunavut put limits on in-person worship, Bishop Lucy Netser took to the airwaves and began hosting a weekly radio program to bring hope and comfort to the masses through the gospel. The ability of Canadian Anglicans to adapt to the changes wrought by the pandemic is also evident in the results of a survey performed earlier in the year, and commented on by Canon Neil Elliot, the Anglican Church of Canada’s statistics and research officer.
In other cases, systemic failures revealed by the pandemic have led to renewed calls for action. The horrific conditions in long-term care homes where many residents died of COVID-19 caused widespread shock across Canada. The Anglican Journal spoke to Christian ministers with backgrounds in infectious disease epidemiology and ethics, who said the crisis in long-term care raises uncomfortable questions about how society cares for the aged. Meanwhile, global inequalities in access to COVID-19 vaccinations have led Anglican Communion groups to demand that the world’s wealthy nations share their vaccines.
“The illusion of control” has been shattered by the pandemic, writes Archbishop Linda Nicholls, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, in her latest column. The primate finds hope and stability in “the one certainty we have, in life or in death, which is the love of God through Jesus Christ.”
But as National Indigenous Archbishop Mark MacDonald observes, to follow the path of Jesus requires action in response to continued human suffering—such as that in Indigenous communities facing climate disruption and intergenerational trauma from residential schools, in addition to the pandemic. The task of the churches, MacDonald says, is to follow Jesus into a new identity and future, “lifted by the hand of God to a discipleship of justice and compassion.”