Tribute to a social conscience of the church

Published November 1, 2004

Dear editor,

Re: Primate’s Fund head announces his departure (Anglican Journal Web site, Sept. 21).

These words were spoken by Andrew Ignatieff, executive director of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund: “Every time I speak in a parish, I am challenged by how I can work the epistle or gospel reading around to introduce the work of (PWRDF) to the priests and congregations I am visiting. I spoke recently at a parish in rural Ontario on Christ the King Sunday. Though the words of the readings were inspiring, I found it difficult to make the necessary connections. That is, until I reached the conclusion: ‘For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.’ So much of PWRDF’s role is of witness, to testify to the truth on behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada. In testifying to the truth, PWRDF engages with the parishes and dioceses of the Anglican Church of Canada to ensure their involvement in the struggle for a more just and equitable world.

In June we lost one of the church’s greatest social consciences, Archbishop Ted Scott, and now in September we lose through resignation another social conscience of the church, Andrew Ignatieff.

No matter what you do in the future Andrew, go with God’s blessings knowing that you have made a difference.

Gordon Youngman

Nanaimo, B.C.

New version moves me

Dear editor,

Having served in the Royal Navy, circled the globe twice by sea and seen the magnificence and fury of Biscay and Cape Horn, I sympathize with your readers who deplore the bowdlerizing of the seafarers’ hymn, Eternal Father (September and October letters).

I have sung this hymn on numerous occasions — in shore-side chapels and on heaving decks at sea, the padre’s robes blowing around in a half-gale — and it never failed to move me. The new version moves me too but I am not sure whether to laugh or cry. So:

Eternal Father strong to save

From all but the engulfing wave

Of correctness, political and other;

But at least they spare us “Eternal Mother.”

O hear us when we cry to you

‘Gainst words we sailors never knew.

Colin Proudman


Another definition

Dear editor,

In your September issue (Church defends sanctuary) you reported that Archbishop Andrew Hutchison “joined Canadian church leaders in defending the church’s time-honoured and biblically-rooted tradition of providing sanctuary to refugees facing deportation.” Archbishop Hutchison either misunderstood or misrepresented the church’s tradition.

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church notes that ecclesiastical sanctuary “had developed out of the usage that a criminal who had taken refuge in a church might not be removed from it, but was allowed to take an oath of abjuration before the coroner and proceed to a seaport appointed by the latter. If within 40 days he refused to adopt this procedure, he might be forcibly extricated for justice.” Sanctuary in the Anglican tradition provided for deportation as an alternative to jail or something worse. It certainly was not intended to avoid deportation.

Barry F. H. Graham

Mississauga, Ont.

Defence of circles

Dear editor,

As a member of the Church of St. John the Evangelist, Ottawa, I wish to respond to several comments made (Vulnerable, October letters; Troubling news, September letters) about our ministry with high-risk sex offenders called Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA). Several people have accused us of exposing vulnerable persons to molestation by pedophiles.

COSA provides training for well-screened volunteers. Numerous well-publicized measures are in place to ensure that St. John’s Church is a safe place for both victims and offenders.

The COSA program was initiated 10 years ago through the Mennonite Central Committee in collaboration with Corrections Canada. It is a program in the forefront of the restorative justice movement, which the Anglican Church of Canada has officially endorsed.

I, too, am a professional who worked for many years with child and adolescent victims and with adult survivors of sexual abuse through the Elizabeth Fry Society and as a parole officer. One of the things that I learned over the years is the uniqueness of each cycle of offence and each journey to healing. I also learned that the best thing that church and society can do is to work to stop the vilification of sexual offenders thereby driving them into loneliness and hiding — a sure recipe for re-offence. Studies over 10 years have shown an astoundingly high rate of success among pedophiles who have been supported by circles. It alarms me to hear that there are professionals, Christian or otherwise, working with victims who believe that revenge and punishment is a recipe for healing.

The Church of St. John the Evangelist believes that this ministry is a profound expression of the gospel. We are eager to share our experience with other parishes.

Pat Love


Doctrine not trivial

Dear editor,

Thank you for your thoughtful editorial (Who can blame them for leaving the church? September). I disagree with you not necessarily with regard to the issue of homosexuality, but rather with the implication that church doctrine is a trivial and fussy affair, the domain only of Pharisees and bigots. It is not. Doctrine is important, and a deeply Anglican concern. If a radical change in doctrine and discipline is proposed, it is silly and wanton to change it by fiat, as part of a social or political struggle. Anglicanism is a joyful denomination in the modern world, because we allow — even celebrate — a wide variety of opinion and ideas. We must not imagine, though, that our diversity of opinion means that we are a church with no use for doctrine or discipline.

Rev. Tim Jones

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

Corinth, Miss.

Little hope

Dear editor,

Re: James Cowan’s letter (One side, October issue).

It is ironic that an adherent to the Essentials movement would call for a more open approach to and acceptance of the organization. It is ironic because Essentials practises neither virtue recommended by the writer.

I belong to a parish which firmly supports the traditional definition of marriage. Although I do not hold to the same views, I decided to heed the call for more dialogue and understanding by attending the Ottawa Essentials conference. Imagine my surprise when I was told I could not attend because I could not, with a clear conscience, sign their statement of faith.

Are not these who denied me access to their conference the same ones who called for more understanding and a willingness to listen at General Synod in June? Before their supporters criticize Anglican Journal for not giving them a voice, they need to realize they support an organization which is unwilling to listen to others.

My disappointment with not being allowed to attend a conference, where I simply wanted to listen and seek to understand, leaves me with little hope that the Anglican community around the world can hold together in the face of such polarization.

John Bradley

Hamilton, Ont.

Need to hear them

Dear editor,

Does not this wretched same-sex dispute bear more resemblance to a classic marriage breakdown than a doctrinal wrangle? For decades, the liberals haven’t bothered to read or listen to what the conservatives have been putting out, and vice versa. There are liberal parishes and conservative parishes and never the twain shall meet. Now that an issue has popped up which has brought both to the surface, they realize how far apart they have grown. One is now screaming for divorce and both are fighting for sole custody of the “child,” which each says it loves more than the other — namely, the Bible. It is a classic marriage breakdown that is happening, that needs skilled marriage counseling techniques, rather than yet more theological wrangling, which only adds fuel to the flames.

Another insight I suggest is to see the Essentials movement in its historical context as a familiar “tighten-up and close ranks,” which we saw in John the Baptist, Savonarola in 15th century Italy, Oliver Cromwell’s Puritans and Martin Luther (“Here I stand”). Some expressions of this outlook have been unfortunate — the burning of witches, the Inquisition, McCarthyism — but those mistakes should not deter us from pursuing rigour in Christian faith and practice. I believe they are mistaken in basing belief on legalistic definitions, and that history is against them there, but we do need to hear them say their piece, in unemotive language, and not behind closed doors.

Michael Skliros

Brandon, Man.

Whither the windows

Dear editor,

My nephew, a Pennsylvanian, decided to show his children the memorial windows in St. George’s Church, Hamilton, Ont., given in loving memory of his great-grandparents by our family. He discovered that the church had been sold to another denomination and that our family windows had been removed.

One of the windows had been installed in St. George’s in 1922 and the other in 1940. I e-mailed the diocese of Niagara and whose archivist later informed me that our windows had been sold to a local funeral home. It was their intent to display our family windows in their chapel. Our family was aghast. Now, our windows are being returned to us. Where are your memorial windows?

Barbara Stewart Ferguson


Damage varies

Dear editor,

Re: Church establishes relief fund for areas ravaged by Hurricane Ivan, (Anglican Journal Web site story). The article is correct in its descriptions of the devastation wrought on the island of Grenada. I have seen the island and they are desperately in need of any assistance that can be given. However the article says: “According to the International Red Cross, Hurricane Ivan also left thousands homeless in Barbados, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Cuba, Haiti, Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Cayman Islands and the United States Gulf Coast.”

This casts a very wide net over a number of islands that all suffered differing degrees of damage. Here in Barbados, we did experience some damage from Ivan, however less than a quarter of one per cent of the island’s housing stock was damaged by the hurricane. Trinidad received minimal damage as did St. Lucia, St. Vincent.

All of the islands mentioned are dependent on tourism. Visitors to the Caribbean should seek out island specific information when planning their trips.

Leslie St. John

Bridgetown, Barbados


Dear editor,

I understand that only nine bishops in the Anglican Church of Canada had the guts to stand firm in the practices of the old-fashioned gospel of how to deal with sin through the grace of Christ and his forgiveness and love (Sexuality questions leave church at odds; June/July issue). I admire the nine but hang my head in shame for those who have nothing more to offer than an immoral gospel.

The Anglican church, the one I once admired and loved, which was instrumental in my coming to Christ so many years ago, is fast going down the tubes. Is this really necessary? Could we not hear from a number of those who are hurting over the state of our church expressing their feelings in a letter before it is too late?

Virgil F. Earle

Didsbury, Alta.


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