Re: Loss of focus (April letters). This letter affirms the authority of the Word of God as the basis of our faith – that the Bible is the enduring Word of God. This view has been stated repeatedly in letters opposing the blessing of same-sex unions. With few exceptions, every major university-based seminary and department of religious studies in Europe and North America has, for more than a century, been teaching a more nuanced view of the authority of the Bible.
This view argues that the documents which make up the Bible are human constructions, deeply influenced by the cultural contexts in which they were written. Many of these documents are of continuing value only to scholars and students of religious history, and the parts which have enduring spiritual worth will often be distorted if read literally.
The true value of biblical texts resides in their proven ability to occasion, in every generation, the living Word of God in the hearts and minds of readers. This living Word is a gift of the Spirit. It is always astonishing; it reveals things previously unseen, things not known before. One cannot quote the living Word of God literally; it is always a mysterious event, which, in coming quietly, requires careful interpretation and faithful application within the community of faith. This means that no text can be quoted to prove anything.
The Bible is not a sledgehammer to be used by true believers to demolish their adversaries. It is a beautiful gift from our spiritual forefathers and foremothers, to be used gently and thoughtfully. It is sad that interpretation of the Bible divides the church but, since this situation has been true ever since the first words were penned, it is not likely to change any time soon.
Salt Spring Island, B.C.
Universal moral law
As letter writers Colin Proud-man and Sheila Welbergen (May letters) should both know, the apostles themselves ruled that Old Testament dietary and dress laws are not binding on Christians (Acts 15).
Some Biblical precepts are indeed responses to cultural conditions. For instance, in a society where slavery was universal and backed up by law, St. Paul rightly assumed it would continue and framed his advice accordingly. In ancient Judea, where the Jews had no hope of driving out their Roman oppressors, our Lord wisely told them to practise non-resistance. Obviously, these precepts do not imply that slavery or colonial oppression are good.
St. Paul’s condemnation of homosexual activity in Romans 1, 26-27 and I Corinthians 6, 9 is quite another matter. There, he clearly meant to state a universal moral law.
The stance that traditional Anglicans take on this issue rests on that historic Christian consensus and on St. Paul’s stature as the Lord’s chosen messenger, not on crude Biblical literalism. Shallow arguments do nothing to resolve the controversy; indeed by insulting the other side’s intelligence, they only fan the flames.
Two letters in your May issue eloquently make a point about the current divisions in the Anglican Church. One, by Phillip Rutledge (Sad that tolerance should stand above God’s word), speaks of political correctness coming above the word of God; the other, by Shirley Geigen-Miller (On the radar screen), speaks of Jesus’ impatience with those who would put the letter of the law above love for human beings. If one sees kindness and compassion towards homosexuals as some sort of trendy political correctness, then of course one will have difficulty with that taking precedence over what one perceives as God’s law. Our Lord tells us there are really only two laws of God: love God and love your neighbour. Given Jesus’ definition of “neighbour” in the parable of the Good Samaritan, as well as in many other places, I would suggest it is those who oppose the inclusion of gays who must justify why it is that gay people are not our neighbours in the sense that Jesus intended.
Those who think the Bible should be understood literally ought not to be reading a book meant for grown-ups. (With apologies to C. S. Lewis.)
St. John’s, Nfld.
Never more willing
For a long time, I have not been a very faithful Anglican. Seeing the church accept homosexuality inspired me to take another look at my religion. I have never been more willing to call myself an Anglican. If some primates want to stay away from us for accepting and loving all of God’s creations then that is just fine. I know of another person who stood alone for a just cause, as must we. While they continue to teach discrimination we shall continue to teach peace and good will towards all mankind, for we are all God’s children.
Hope the primate finds a way
I believe most Anglicans in Canada are disturbed about the probability that the Anglican Church of Canada may break away from the worldwide church. I prefer to belong to the worldwide church, and will find a way to do so if the Anglican Church of Canada actually does take the breakaway stance.
When the Canadian bishops seemed to disagree with the decision made some years ago at the Lambeth Conference, they should have continued with patience to argue their case theologically instead of allowing matters to take the course they did in Canada concerning blessing of homosexual unions. Bishops need to maintain their spiritual connection and treat each other with respect and humility. I hope that our primate will find a way to maintain the Anglican Church of Canada within the worldwide communion.
About the money
How pleased I was to see the photo of the jolly African primates (May issue) who have asked Canada and the United States to “voluntarily withdraw” from the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC). Of course, prayer, forgiveness, letting go of our differences in an effort to be all Christians together would have been more welcome. After all, come the Rapture we will all be together anyway, singing and dancing (some better than others) along the golden road to the joy that awaits us.
By the way, while we languish in purdah does this mean that we can stop cutting cheques for the ACC and other international confabs? This money would be welcomed by other needy groups in the Anglican Church of Canada.
More than 80 years ago I was baptized into the Anglican faith. For a number of years in the mid-term, I was an adherent to the United Church of Canada, but returned to the Anglican church many years ago.
I continue to read both the United Church Observer and the Anglican Journal. I note in the July/August Observer that the church will be asking a committee to prepare a draft of a “timely and contextual statement of faith” and that a “draft statement of faith is expected in 2006.”
It appears that a similar exercise is taking place in the Anglican church, and that we will not know what we believe until some time in 2008.
I have just recently renewed my subscription to the Observer and now do so for the Anglican Journal. I must continue to read these publications to be informed of my church’s relentless slide to the debacle.
It is clear: If we stand for nothing, we will fall for anything.
Other sides to schools story
Thank you for the story about Canon Norman Pilcher and the words of Rev. Arthur Anderson (A moment of grace for a former principal, May Journal). I am aware of horrific events in some residential schools for which church and society seeks forgiveness. But there are other sides to the story and your article reveals them. Many noble and loving people who had genuine vocation have been castigated simply because they worked in these schools. On CBC Commentary recently a lawyer suggested that we should just give compensation to everyone who was a student in any residential school. That implies that everyone who worked in these schools is guilty. We should deplore such rhetoric.
I know personally that being in residential school is hard. But caring adults could have made the experience deeply creative. Ask many contemporary leaders in the eastern Arctic about the experience of Churchill Vocation Centre in the 1960s and ’70s. Now maybe we can honour those who genuinely respected and cared for the young people for whom they accepted responsibility in residential schools.
Rev. Roger E. Briggs
Blessed guy with a big heart
I recently read your story, Breaking bannock on city streets (December 2004) that tells of the ministry of Rev. Andrew Wesley. His is a wonderful story of a missionary love giving witness to Jesus among peoples who are not yet believers of the Christian faith and in the power of the Gospel.
I can relate to his work. As a priest of the Philippine Independent Church, I was once assigned to a slum area in Manila where I ministered to people who felt that the church has nothing to do with them. I lived with marginalized people whose poverty separated them not only from the church but also from civil society.
Mr. Wesley is a blessed guy with a big heart for those people living outside the social norm. I pray for his ministry that he may continue to find joy in his work and continue to see the face of Christ in the faces of the aboriginal people in the streets of Toronto.
Rev. Wilfred Ruazol
Re: Confused about communion (April letters), in which Canon Gordon Baker wondered, “Could it be a case of holy schizophrenia?”
As a mother of a son with this disabling illness and an advocate for the elimination of stigma against mental illness, you must be made aware that schizophrenia is not a split personality, but a split from reality. Schizophrenia is biological chemicals in the brain not giving proper signals. Certainly it is not catching.
You may obtain more information from the Schizophrenia Society of Canada, 205-50 Acadia Ave, Markham, ON L3R 0B3 or on-line at http://www.schizophrenia.ca/