The article detailing Carolyn Sitlington’s illness and her eventual decision to seek medical assistance in dying was heartbreaking [Assisted dying: One Anglican family’s story, June 2018, p. 6]. No doubt many readers will relate to her and her family’s painful and difficult experience.
Yet I also found the article profoundly chilling. The rationale offered for Mrs. Sitlington’s death, for example, was the apparent uselessness of her life: “She felt absolutely useless.” The article also described a church content to affirm a family, without apparent question, in its discernment that God guided their decision to end a life through state intervention.
One of the most prophetic proclamations of the church in the contemporary world has been its insistence that no life is useless or unworthy of life. We celebrate this insight explicitly in communities like L’Arche and implicitly in countless outreaches. This vision has led the church’s defence of the rights of the unborn, the disabled, the marginalized.
When the church is complicit in the lie that a life may be useless, it betrays its prophetic vocation in the world and walks lock-step with the productivity-driven culture in which we live. This culture teaches us that our worth consists in what we do. More disastrously, when the church is complicit in the lie that a life is useless, it is, in fact, affirming people in their despair.
The life of Jesus Christ concluded on the cross in what can only be described as a remarkable demonstration of futility and failure. Few things are more useless than a man on a cross. Yet every Eucharist suggests that Christ’s apparent uselessness may be, in the end, the only truly useful thing in the world.
The Rev. Christopher Snook
Diocese of Nova Scotia and PEI
Church must speak for the suffering
The recent articles on assisted death have raised important questions (Assisted dying: One Anglican family’s story, p.6; Study guide encourages Anglicans to grapple with realities of physician-assisted dying law in Canada, p. 1, June 2018).
As a parish priest, I have always placed the emphasis in my ministry on the pastoral approach to meeting people where they are: to lead with love and empathy rather than regulations and law. The gospel has much to offer in understanding the questions of the value of life, suffering and death.
The reality of suicide in our society among all ages is a sad fact of life. In a previous parish, our community was shaken by a series of suicides by young people. As a community, we felt we had a responsibility to help our youth understand that suicide is never the answer. The problem that assisted dying presents is that our society is sending contradictory messages. If suicide is wrong, how can it sometimes be acceptable? It is troubling that we do not have the same sense of responsibility to help people near the end of life to make a different choice that youth suicide challenges us to do.
As followers of Christ, our lives are not our own: we belong to Christ. Thou shalt not kill—we need to value life and protect life as a precious gift of God. Is the way of love to stand by while they take their life, or to encourage them to choose life and to support them until natural death ?
Our church has a long history of seeking to serve and to speak for the vulnerable. The church now must speak for the suffering, the dying and their families. We need to lead the conversation about how to provide them with the best medical care and social and financial support, rather than the assisted suicide that our wider society is offering.
Canon Stewart Murray
Read the Bible with fresh eyes
I was sorry to read the letter expressing the wish that more people would “open up their Bibles and read it for themselves” (Letters, Scripture says, May 2018, p. 4). I understand that it was written with only the best intentions. However, the suggestion that any of the church’s contentious issues could be settled by simply reading the Bible probably doesn’t appreciate the complexity of the issues at stake. For that matter, it also ignores how complex a proposal it is to “simply read the Bible.” The suggestion can be perceived as being disrespectful to those who advocate for marriage equality, while at the same time not doing justice to the arguments of those who oppose it.
It is easy to read the Scriptures on your own. It is far more difficult to do so in community, which is how we are meant to read and interpret them. When we do so, we can be reminded that what we take for granted is not always as clear and self-evident to others. We can be reminded that it is possible for members of the church to read the same text with the same reverence and same high view of the authority of Scripture, and still profoundly disagree on what it means.
The remarkable thing is when we can profoundly disagree, but still disagree graciously. This is the bigger challenge facing the Anglican church—not remembering to read the Bible, but appreciating the different perspectives that others bring to the Body of Christ, and seeing Christ in them. The key to this is not reading the Bible for yourself, but learning to do so with people who don’t agree with you. That’s not an easy solution, but it’s one that’s far more rewarding.
The Rev. Jonathan Rowe
St. John’s, Nfld.
Nothing new is being said
Ian Poole of Nanaimo, B.C., tells us that all we need to know about same-sex (and other) issues is in the Bible and he gives us the relevant quotes, which we all have heard many times (Scripture says, May 2018).
Is providing selected proof texts our level of debate? More admonitions to “read the Bible” are not helpful, since we assume that most of us do that, publicly and privately, with knowledge, wisdom and discernment. Our church is not fundamentalist or literalist. Anglicans also value tradition and reason, as well as love and compassion. Why does this kind of letter continue to take up space in our “national” publication? There have been letters about gay people in recent editions, which are hurtful to many. Would you print anti-woman letters? This is very discouraging. I understand that you want to be fair and balanced, but we have had many letters on this issue for many years and nothing new is being said. Especially now that conversations are being held in our dioceses, I ask that the Anglican Journal be more sensitive about what seems worthy of reaching print.
Ian Poole of Nanaimo, B.C., suggests that more people open up the Bible and read it for themselves (Letters, Scripture says, Ian Poole, May 2018, p. 4). Yes, it would be good if all Anglicans did that, but I would add a proviso. Before one does that, it is a good idea to do a little background checking, especially into the context of the Scriptures, the world view prevalent at the time the Scriptures were written and the cultural influences pertaining thereto. Bandying chapter/verse about is not always sufficient. In Poole’s case, for instance, it would be helpful if he realized that scholars generally agree—and have for some time—that only seven of the 14 epistles traditionally attributed to St. Paul were actually written by him. The jury is still out on three of the 14 (Ephesians, Second Thessalonians and Colossians), and it is generally agreed that the remaining four (First and Second Timothy, Titus and Hebrews) were not written by St. Paul.
I take issue with Poole’s assertion that St. Paul’s views on same-sex marriage are “clear,” since he never mentions the subject. St. Paul does refer to same-sex intercourse, but in the context of ritual temple sex for the most part. Poole’s chapter/verse arguments re divorce/remarriage and to the admission of the unbaptized to Holy Communion are equally iffy. (Given St. Paul’s statement that it is better for a man to marry than to burn, I tend to question most of his opinions on marriage!)
I would recommend that all Anglicans take the four-year education for ministry program, in order to better equip themselves to do what Poole suggests: i.e., open up our Bibles and read them for ourselves.
Archbishop Fred Hiltz’s column, ‘We wish to see Jesus’ (May 2018, p. 5), referring to the plaque on the pulpit at Toronto’s Cathedral Church of St. James, reminds me of an invitation I spotted on a church display sign while driving through northern Ontario. The sign said, “Come in and pray if you wish to talk to Jesus. Text and drive if you want to meet him.” I thought it was a perfect public service announcement.
Moser River, N.S.
There are inclusive churches
I would like to respond to the article in the Anglican Journal, April 2018, p. 1, Survey finds exclusion, isolation in church. I am 90 per cent paralyzed on my left side of body due to an illness as a baby. I wear a leg brace and I am unable to use my left hand. Although I am afflicted with the paralysis, I am still able to get around pretty well.
I go to St. John the Evangelist Anglican Church in Middle Sackville, N.S. It is an old church; the current building was built in 1828. People must go up a couple of steps for communion at the altar and although I have no problem, I feel there are people in the congregation ready to give me a hand if I should need it. If I am at a church function and I need help with something, there is always somebody there to assist me. A good example of this was when I attended the synod in N.S. I was unable to serve myself at the buffet because there was no space to set my plate down and put food on it, but somebody from the church helped me. I do readings during the service and I participate in other church activities. I may not be as fast as somebody who does not have a physical issue, but I do what I can, and I have always felt included by both the congregation and the clergy.
I do feel that all the clergy that have been at St. John’s are pretty special. There have been parishioners who, because of mobility issues could not make it up to the altar, so the priest brought the bread and wine to where that person was seated so they were able to participate in communion and not feel left out. There is one church member who needs assistance going up to communion and there is always somebody there to help.
Our church is up on a hill and not every person is able to get into the church, especially during the wintertime, so once a month there is a church service held in the hall. Everybody is able to access the building as the grounds are level.
There are Anglican churches that do their best to include everybody in the congregation, regardless of their disability.
Carol Jean Scott
Middle Sackville, N.S
Supporting an important principle
I am sorry and ashamed to read that Marites (Tess) Sison has resigned as editor of the Anglican Journal (Anglican Journal editor resigns, July 4, 2018, anglicanjournal.com).
Tess has been a devoted employee of the Journal and advocate for the Anglican church for decades. As editor, she steered the newspaper with increasingly smaller budgets. Still, she soldiered on, overseeing coverage, editing and writing thoughtful editorials.
In the story, she notes mildly that part of her job description was to uphold editorial independence. Some church members have been pushing to seize control of the content or make the paper into a house organ since the days when I sat on the board as an appointee of first Archbishop Ted Scott and then Archbishop Michael Peers. Fortunately, well-informed voices prevailed and the newspaper continued to win international acclaim for its work.
In recent months, Tess alerted readers to the issue of preserving editorial independence, and I am personally ashamed to have done nothing to rally support for this important principle.
For those who have the notion that just anybody can practice journalism, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
It was reported in the June 2018 issue (Bishops discuss concerns over marriage canon, p. 1) that “a resolution to change the marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriage may be amended to include protections for Anglicans who have a traditional view of marriage.”
A great deal of time and effort have been spent ensuring that we protect clergy and parishes who may choose not to perform same-sex marriages in any diocese that chooses to allow them.
There appears to be no thought given to allowing clergy or parishes to perform same-sex marriages in a diocese that chooses to maintain the “traditional view.” Clergy serve at the discretion of their bishop. It is essential that, for parishes wishing to move ahead with same-sex marriage, we also include protections for clergy who could fear reprimand or dismissal. It must be made clear that they also will be welcome and safe.
From the Web
This article makes me very sad (How does size matter? anglicanjournal.com, March 6, 2018).
Anyone who has done any reading in church sociology knows that critical mass does matter. If a young family appears on your doorstep, they are more likely to stay if they see other young families in the church. The same goes for youth. But the saddest thing about this article is that the writer does not seem to understand why we might want to share our faith with others: not to fill pews, but to transform lives.
If it were not for the church, I might have been found dead in a ditch after the death of my mother when I was 15. If not for a literal ray of light from heaven, a dear friend, now in his 70s, would have taken his own life in despair. Those of us who have been saved, blessed and transformed by the love of God do not need to “work ourselves into a frenzy” in order to fill pews. We want to share the joy of life in Christ with others. This is our joy and our privilege.
This is a very thought-provoking read (The good news about bad news, From the editor, June 2018, p. 4). It really made me think about why I/we are here, and what are the real “nuts and bolts” of living a Christian life, and not superficially leading a “pretty” existence, with a view through rose-coloured glasses. It made me go back to the words of my mom and dad: “What would Jesus do?” Well, it’s pretty simple what he would do. Jesus came to save sinners, but not to shelter them, nor also to condemn them.
Thank you for the Journal’s honesty in discussion of ourselves and of the real world around us; it helps me try to follow Jesus’ guidance to forgive, and also, to do.
I completely agree with the editor (The good news about bad news, From the editor, June 2018, p. 4). What the Anglican Journal attempts to do, and usually does it very well, is achieve a balance. All good news would not achieve balance any more than all bad news. For decades, we have been served by a newspaper that tries hard to “tell it like it is”—good and bad. May it continue to do that difficult task.
Frankly, I am upset that my tax dollars are being used to subsidize a newspaper of what can be described as a “special interest group” (‘Lengthy transition period’ from print to digital, scrapping Anglican Journal editorial independence among scenarios presented to CoGS, anglicanjournal.com, June 2, 2018).
That there is content within the Anglican Journal that can be considered “political,” and virtually always left wing, just makes the situation that much worse.
What is the justification for government funding? If it is to provide a meaningful source of information to people, I have to ask just exactly how many are actually benefiting from this. If it is a lot of people, then surely the Journal would be able to source sufficient revenues through the sale of advertising space, and thereby not be in any need of taxpayer-funded government subsidy. If it is unable to raise sufficient advertising revenues, then it is most likely because of its dismally small readership.
Allan M. Pearson