June-August 2016 Letters to the Editor

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Photo: Vasabii/Shutterstock
Photo: Vasabii/Shutterstock

Concerned about safety or comfort?

Re: Drop-in conflict spurs debate about church’s responsibility to homeless (June 7, 2017), The Rev. Graham Singh’s defence of his actions in this matter is entirely reasonable.

This Montreal church was built in the 19th century to accommodate a large and comfortable middle-class piety that welcomed the poor into the church-as long as they sat in the pews reserved for them in the rear of the sanctuary. While the Anglican church has, thankfully, long outgrown this limited vision, it has not outgrown its fleet of beautiful but cavernous church buildings and the need of steady, faithful stewardship to maintain them.

Singh was brought from Ontario to restore this economic base by attracting young and affluent families to the building. In light of this mandate, he is correct in supposing that this target demographic is not likely to welcome regular contact with downtown detritus-human or otherwise-as part of the uplifting worship experience they are looking for. Further, he has quite rightly identified these families as his proper focus. The homeless are not, by this accounting, even potential members of his church, therefore he has little to say about them and even less to say to them.

The only thing that puzzles me is his endlessly repeated use of the word “safety” in his statements, as if the parish and the diocese alike neglected the safety of churchgoers before his advent. This is obviously absurd. So what could he possibly mean by constantly insisting that “safety” is his primary concern?

Perhaps he has conflated the words “safety” and “comfort”? Because if, in reading his statements, one substitutes “comfort” for the constantly repeated “safety,” the text is both clearer and more convincing. This sort of error might be reasonably expected of anyone with limited exposure to the often-harsh everyday realities of life in a 21st-century city-or the gospel-but it is surprising for someone of the Rev. Singh’s experience to be so confused. Perhaps I have misunderstood him. Perhaps he is not confused at all.

Either way, one can hardly fault his business model.

N. R. Jackson
Montreal

 

Where lies the blame?

This letter is in reference to both the letter from Robert A. Street (Parish refugee sponsorships strike a ‘different chord,’ Letters, May 2016, p. 5) and the statements by Archdeacon Terry Lear in the article Review of investment policies urged (May 2016, p. 8).

I agree that both the letter and the statement made some very valid points concerning oil production. But, are the people in the dioceses of Ottawa and Montreal willing to use other means of transportation instead of their automobiles? Are we to chastise our fellow Christians in Alberta, even though there are many different ways in which we can pollute our environment? Are we pointing our fingers and blaming someone else without examining our own involvement?

Diane Beedle
London, Ont.

 

An effective way forward

The May 2016 issue of the Anglican Journal contained several items related to climate change and divestment (Review of investments policies urged, p. 8, and Letters, p. 5: Parish refugee sponsorships strike a ‘different chord,’ Investing with vision and Opening doors). Some were critical of the Alberta policies and the oil sands industry, others referred to-or questioned-disinvestment (divestment) as a way to deal with climate change.

In our diocesan Green Group, we have discussed at length the appropriate response of Christians to the impact of burning fossil fuels. The overwhelming evidence of the negative impacts cannot be denied-on the environment (glaciers and ice fields, oceans, agriculture, cities); and on people (particularly those living in coastal/ low lying areas, in many developing countries, the poor everywhere; and on most in future generations).

Action is the responsibility of all of us now living, as we all contributed to the problem through our use of fossil fuels. We must take all possible steps to curb greenhouse gas emissions as rapidly as possible, and to transform our economy and society into a sustainable mode. No one specific activity will achieve this; and given the urgency now clearly evident-and agreed to by 175 countries by accepting the challenging limits on allowable temperature increase (maximum of 2 degrees C, and preferably 1.5)-many individual actions must be taken in parallel to have a significant impact.

In this scenario, divestment is an important, though mainly symbolic, step: important because it demonstrates society’s resolve to get serious about climate change response, symbolic because the money that can be divested is small in comparison to the total investment in the fossil fuel industry. As or more important is addressing the impacts of the changing economy on people, especially those currently employed by the oil industry. Clearly, many will require financial assistance during the transition period-including unemployment insurance and retraining support for new employment opportunities. An excellent example of the latter is the Iron & Earth initiative, started by Alberta oil workers. Such an approach demonstrates an effective way forward for all provinces, and it should be encouraged and supported in Alberta and elsewhere.

Dr. Josef Cihlar
Green Group, Diocese of Ontario

 

Proud to be Anglican

I’m so proud to be an Anglican today, (re: same-sex unions, July 12). Finally we are being true Christians. We are all God’s children and he loves all of us. Now we need to put all the negativity behind us and move forward.

Brenda Armashow
Pickering, Ont.

Marriage canon reform

We, in the Anglican church, have discussed reforming the marriage canon regarding same-sex marriage for a long time. Our General Synod will vote on this in July. Will they do the right thing? Should our Canadian church allow same-sex marriage? What would Jesus Christ do? He was an inclusive person; he would have included all, and so should we. We need freedom for all and justice in our Anglican churches. It is time to take a Canadian-Anglican stand. Do the right thing! Pass the marriage canon to include same-sex couples.

Barry Cornish
Miniota, Man.

 

Are we an institution of order or community of the gospel?

I was disappointed, though not really surprised, to read in the June issue of the concern of some bishops over possible rebellion in the ranks of clergy following a no vote on changes to the marriage canon at General Synod (Bishops worry about gay marriage vote fallout, p. 1). As Primate Fred Hiltz stated, there are going to be serious repercussions, regardless of the result of the vote-we’re in a no-win position, after all.

But, I wonder if the bishops realize their own actions have complicated this issue further, that informing Council of General Synod of the unlikelihood of their supporting proposed changes to the marriage canon has essentially pre-empted discussion and debate by synod? In effect, the motion has been defeated before synod even convenes and, even if not intended, the message is clear as to who our church’s decision-makers really are. Sadly, from what I am hearing in local conversations, the making public of the bishops’ situation has only done damage to the integrity of the bishops in the eyes of many church members.

The bishops’ action also exposes in high relief the downside of the practice of voting on issues at synods by orders. Even when two out of three orders vote for a motion, it only takes a portion of one order voting against it to defeat the motion. So the House of Bishops alone being the roadblock is one thing; but added to that is the concern of some bishops about possible disobedience by their clergy, which sends the further message that when pastoral problems arise in our church, our response is concern for the law and authority. It begs the question: are we an institution of orders rather than a community of the gospel?

Perhaps the time has come to look at different approaches to decision- making in our synods. Perhaps it’s time to examine the role of the Orders of Bishops, Clergy and Laity, and dare I say, even the role of our bishops? I agree with the primate: this synod will need some serious pastoral follow-up, regardless of the outcome. But, the action of the House of Bishops also gives cause for concern regarding how we deal with contentious issues within our communion, in addition to concern for those hurt or offended when same-sex marriages are allowed, or not.

The Rev. Brian B. Ford
Winnipeg

 

Tipping point

As an advocate for changing the marriage canon, I pose this question: When does perpetuating a tradition or teaching of the church become a sin?

One historical example should suffice: in the Bible, and for hundreds of years of Christian history, slavery was accepted as part of the world’s economic reality. For about 40 years, William Wilberforce introduced private members’ bills in Parliament to abolish slavery. Each time, they were voted down, including by the bishops in the House of Lords. It wasn’t until Wilberforce was on his deathbed that the British Parliament changed the law. What had once been both legal and acceptable in Christendom was now illegal and immoral-a sin.

Some day, the Anglican Church of Canada will reach the tipping point. Our sacred story tells us in the book of Genesis that, after God concluded it was not good for Adam to be alone, God allowed Adam to decide who would be a suitable companion. Wouldn’t it be something if the church would only do the same?

William Sherman Hesselgrave
Toronto

 

Let’s hear more from the bishops

Thank you for your article on Bishop Don Phillip’s position advocating changes to the marriage canon at this July’s General Synod (Rupert’s Land bishop says it’s time for same-sex marriage ‘to become reality,’ published June 6, 2016).

It was good to hear his viewpoint expressed with clarity and conviction. According to your reports, the House of Bishops is deeply divided over this matter: “Hiltz said that roughly a third of the bishops are in favour, a third are opposed and a third are struggling with the issue.” It would be of great service to readers to have a sense of this range of perspectives through other articles representing the “struggling” bishops and those “opposed.” We value our bishops’ thinking and would like to hear from more of them to fill out the broader picture.

Roseanne Kydd
Lakeport, Ont.

 

‘Salvation and fellowship, nothing more’

I read with both total amazement and disbelief Archbishop Hiltz’s statement in Bishops worry about gay marriage vote fallout (June 2016, p. 1): “…but if [the resolution to allow same-sex marriages] doesn’t pass, the LGBT community is going to be deeply upset-if not, in fact, deeply offended.”

What about those of us, Archbishop, who deplore the profaning of our altar by even suggesting gay/lesbian union in God’s house, a union God calls an “abomination” (Leviticus 18:22)? Paul, in Galatians, tells us homosexuals will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Bad news for them.

First, I must say that as our Lord commanded, I love my neighbour, which includes the entire LGBT group. But they should be invited to church to meet the Lord for their salvation and fellowship; nothing more.

God says marriage is between one man and one woman. Is it “political correctness” that is driving the Archbishop’s concerns?

The rational for this travesty from those who want it seems to be “…well, God is out of date; what was written a thousand or so years ago doesn’t apply today.” To that I would reply: John 3:16 is a couple of thousand years old, too. Does that mean it doesn’t count as well?

If that is the case, we are in trouble, big trouble.

Graham Patterson
Innisfil, Ont.

 

Society, not the Bible, moves on

My wife’s family was from one of those small farms traditional in Quebec. In reality, it was pre-Industrial Revolution, perpetuating a way of life dating back to biblical times. For survival, they were completely dependent on the family. It was the labour force, and included even the children. The family was social assurance for old age, sickness, single-parenting and all the misfortunates of life. Not only were families the economic basis, but their village society and culture was based on interlocking families. In other words, the family was the basis of security.

In such a historical rural setting, I can appreciate that homosexuality would threaten the family, and therefore the very basis of the society. However, society has moved on since then. Our survival is no longer on a mum, dad and multiple children, nor is our society a honeycomb of interlocking families.

It is similar to the dietary rules of the Bible. They made complete sense in pre-Christian Israel, but not in 21st- century Canada. Therefore we have modified our interpretation of the Bible in that context. It is not that the Bible is wrong. It is rather that society has moved on, changing the relevance of the teachings. Surely it is the same with homosexuality. Our experience, after gay civil marriage was introduced, is that it simply is not a threat.

Hugh Phillips
Boucherville, Que.

 

The question of intent

It was interesting to read the statement from the House of Bishops (Feb. 29, 2016) indicating a vote to allow same-sex marriage was unlikely to pass in the Order of Bishops-this prior to the presentation or discussion of the requested report at Council of General Synod (CoGS).

What, I wonder, was the intended impact of the statement?

Was it to threaten the Commission on the Marriage Canon into modifying any suggestion of permitting same-sex marriage?

Was it a message to the members of the church that the bishops do not consider the LGBTQ people to be the same as US-are they to be held at a distance, able to worship, work and (of course) contribute financially, but not be accorded full acceptance as Anglican church members?

Was it a message to the clergy and laity, warning them not to advocate on behalf of the LGBTQ people?

Or was it just an example of their flexing their muscles in attempt to bully any anticipated opposition into complying with their position?

It would seem the SafeR Church group has some significant work to do.

Gerald Smith
Calgary

 

‘Where shall the twain meet?’

Changing the canon to allow the marriage of same-sex couples by priests in churches is sure to be one of those defining issues that will rive the church regardless of what is decided, not unlike the ordination of women a generation ago. And should our church decide in favour of changing the canon, this will no doubt cause a further rift within the wider Anglican Communion.

On the one hand, we all want to be inclusive and therefore welcoming of all Christians regardless of sexual or any other orientation. I can well understand that the exclusion of some Anglicans from the sacrament of marriage is hurtful to them and a disappointment to others. For others, who believe in the lessons of Scripture, same-sex marriage is sacrilegious, if not blasphemous (as well as currently being illegal under our canons). Where shall the twain meet?

I take the message from the House of Bishops to mean that the episcopacy does not believe that the inclusion of a minority group within the marriage canon is not worth driving a wedge through the heart of the wider church at this time.

That will not satisfy those who believe the church is ready for this change now, but perhaps through prayer and faith, the right discernment will emerge sooner than later.

David Collins
Victoria

 

Love and inclusiveness trumps institutional interests

I have read much in the Anglican Journal, including the most recent articles about the issue of gay marriage.

It seems that whichever way the synod votes on this issue, a significant number of priests and parishioners will be dissatisfied with the outcome: so dissatisfied, in fact, that a number of them may act out their dissatisfaction by breaking their vows, and in the case of parishioners, leaving their parishes and perhaps even the Anglican Communion. I hope it will not come to that, but if it does, I believe the future of our church will be better served by the loss of those priests and parishioners who cannot find it in their hearts to offer a full Anglican marriage to committed gay Anglicans who seek it.

There is almost always a cost to standing up against bigotry, but I believe love and inclusiveness trumps the interests of the structural church every time.

Arthur Church
Toronto

 

‘Disgust psychology’

The more I contemplate on biblical witness and reflect on the behaviour of churches, the more convinced I have become that the tensions and conflict are not accidental or situational. Why does the church, ostensibly following a Messiah who broke bread with “tax collectors and sinners,” so often retreat into practices of exclusion and the quarantine of gated communities? There is something intrinsic to the relationship between mercy and sacrifice that brings both of these into conflict. I am, however, having difficulty understanding the dynamics that link mercy and sacrifice and fuel the tension between the church and the LGBTQ [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning] community.

I see this as a particular psychological dynamic-essentially disgust psychology-that is regulating the interplay between the church and us. There is a no problem in “swallowing what’s on the inside,” but there is disgust in swallowing something that is “outside,” even if that “something” was on the inside just a second ago. This is at the heart of the conflict in Matthew 9. How are we to draw the boundaries of exclusion and inclusion (who is “in” and who is “out”) in the life of the church? Sacrifice creates a zone of holiness, admitting the “clean” and expelling the “unclean.” Mercy, on the other hand, blurs the distinction, bringing clean and unclean into contact. That is the tension. One impulse (holiness and purity) erects boundaries, while the other (mercy and hospitality) crosses and ignores these boundaries. It is very hard to erect a boundary and then dismantle it at the same time. One has to choose. There seems to be little way of compromise. Both the church and the LGBTQ community stand on opposite sides of psychological (clean versus unclean), social (inclusion versus exclusion) and theological (saints versus sinners) boundaries.

The church may seemingly, and officially, be welcoming, but does not affirm our sisters and brothers who happen to be gay yet seek covenantal, Christian relationships and family. It claims to welcome LGBT covenanters to attend, tithe and give to the church-but when it comes to leadership roles, or marriage, it turns them away. Or greets them with silence. We belong, not because of what we did or did not do or how we may fall short, but simply because God includes us. I simply feel invisible in the church. So I’m tempted to really truly disappear, and therefore not attach such negative connotations to one of my key spiritual experiences.

Everywhere we read: “we continue the journey with our LGBTQ people”; “the next step is full inclusion”; “remove the barriers”; “how do we walk together without judging”; “we must support and encourage one another to stay in the circle and walk together.” Frankly, I am not certain I still have the strength, or the interest, in walking in a circle ad nauseum. I am tired of being a 95% Anglican. I want to be a 100% Anglican, but I don’t see this happening very soon, and I am no longer willing to accept “the church takes time, a long time.” In the meantime, we’re nearly 20% through the 21st century and there is little hope, if any, that I will be able to be a 100% Anglican.

Frank E. Kajfes
Ottawa

 

‘We are right to hold on to our beliefs’

If same-sex marriage is a go in the Anglican Church of Canada, then I am sorry to say I am gone. I am of the opinion that this is just another case in this country where the minority rule the majority, since there are far more heterosexuals in this country and the world than there are homosexuals, and according to the Bible, we are right to hold on to our beliefs. I believe that the silent majority (for whatever reason) better speak out on this subject or forever hold your peace. Have we not lost many very good Anglicans because of this subject already? Personally, I believe that we have already lost too many. Well, I believe if we do not speak up, we will lose a lot more, and may just as well fold up our faith and look to other fields.

I have read, read, reread the pros and cons of this subject, and remain steadfast in my belief. I have been an Anglican for the past 89 years and believe in the Bible as written; marriage is a solemn vow taken between a man and a woman. Period. I rest my case.

I am sure that there are a lot of homosexuals out there who are much better Christians and all-round better people in all respects than I am. This has nothing to do with people, per se, any more than it has to do with this is the year 2016

Christ was born 2,016 years ago, and we still follow most of his doctrine, which began even many years before his birth. So why do you think now that we are in the year 2016, you can amend the Bible to suit the minority of people?

What will I do with my church offerings? Well, hopefully give it to the needy and not the greedy. I will miss a lot of wonderful people at St, Alban’s in Beamsville, the Town of Lincoln, Ont. I do hope the bishops get off the fence and say yes or no, and not maybe.

Fred W. Kendall
Beamsville, the Town of Lincoln, Ont.

 

Whatever happened to the ‘three-legged stool’ of Anglicanism?

As an Anglican “in training,” I am becoming increasingly aware of limitations in my understanding of Anglican Church of Canada modes of dialogue and traditions.

The Anglican church has a stellar heritage and recorded great spiritual “wins” throughout the world. Why now is the Communion experiencing a significant decline in numbers, much less agreement on purpose and roles in our current complicated society?

In the recent edition of your paper-April 2016, p. 10-Archbishop Fred Hiltz is quoted: “The bishops seem to be thinking ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘maybe’ in roughly equal proportions.”

This decision, for some reason, resulted in a visceral reaction by Bishop Michael Bird, of the diocese of Niagara. He was “mortified and devastated” by the House of Bishop’s unanticipated divisive positions.

Wouldn’t it not be of interest for your readership to be offered a comparative review of how and why sectors of the Anglican church started down different theological and liturgical paths to end up on opposite sides of a denominational “grave site”? Why is the Holy Spirit giving conflicting messages to our clergy and bishops?

Has the Anglican church’s “three-legged stool” of Scripture, Tradition, and Reason been chopped up for firewood? Is there still time to retrieve it from the woodshed?

If you printed succinct papers reflecting other points of view, I would expect people would be lining up for successive editions of your great paper for a next episode in the debate. Laity are more than passive audiences. Frankly, I’m underwhelmed that I have to read conservative papers like the The Anglican Planet to get the “bigger” picture. If your editorial board is serious about strengthening the “foundations” in the “spirit” of Pierre Berton’s The Comfortable Pew (1965) and The Restless Church (1966), we need to clean and open the “windows” for a genuine but affable national discussion.

Deane Clarke
Comox, B.C.

 

 

 

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