October 2015 Letters

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Understanding the impact of the Doctrine of Discovery

I am encouraged by Marites N. Sison’s editorial (‘What do they want now?’ May 2015, p. 4). In naming how frequently and yet inappropriately this question is voiced by Christians of European descent, she is effectively showing the enormous ignorance that continues to be a part of the Christian churches in their lack of understanding of the enormous negative impact that the Doctrine of Discovery and Christian colonization has had on the culture, identity, livelihood and well-being of Indigenous communities.

The editorial also clearly positions the challenge where it belongs: namely in the laps of all of us who call ourselves Christian.

As we proclaim our commitment to continued truth and reconciliation, we must, more than ever, listen carefully to the voices of First Nations peoples and be willing to stand with them and challenge systems and practices that continue to impede their human rights and sovereignty. This must include a deep self-reflection on what Christian teaching over the centuries allowed us, “in the name of God,” to commit such atrocities.

Thank you for a great challenge.

Diane Meredith
Toronto

Proud to belong

I look forward to receiving the Anglican Journal (and the Saskatchewan Anglican) every month and actually do read it from cover to cover. My favourite section has always been Letters, but there are fewer and fewer printed in the actual paper. I know, “everyone” is going digital these days. I am one who has to admit to not looking at the webpage. I suspect that quite a few readers are in my age range, and are not avid computer users, either.

I really want to comment on a sentence in the article A remarkable journey through the years (June 2015, p. 3): “The common thread from Baker’s arrival in the late 1950s up to the present day is that of a paper that is very much of the church, but unafraid-seemingly duty bound, it sometimes appeared-to challenge it.”

How wonderfully true! I came to Saskatchewan in 1976 after a lifelong relationship with the Church of England. It took me a few years to get used to a different culture, both in day-to-day life and in the church. The Journal has been part of my transformation. It has been very interesting to see our church develop (that is the best word I can use) over the years. I am proud to belong to a faith community that has many long-held traditions, yet is able to be flexible enough to discuss, ponder upon, pray about and often make alterations to its views and actions, which reflect a caring development toward a greater commitment to God’s calling.

Susan Boxall
Fort Qu’Appelle, Sask.

 

 

A dissenting voice

On reading this very sad story of how our Indigenous people were treated (Residential schools a form of ‘cultural genocide,’ says TRC report, anglicanjournal.com, June 2, 2015), I keep thinking how things could have been different.

In 1943, my father, Archdeacon Henry Alderwood, was almost coerced by his bishop to accept the position of superintendent of the Anglican schools. He, of course, had to travel across the land to visit the schools, and he soon realized how wrong the whole concept was.

When his office moved to Ottawa in 1946, he began to confront the government officials who were really in charge. One thing he found most distressing was forcing the children to speak English only; most knew no English when they arrived but were expected to know it somehow.

The officials would not listen to my dad, or agree to any changes. This broke his heart (he compared those children with his own seven happy youngsters). He died of a heart attack at age 58, missing out on 23 grandchildren to come. He tried his best, but all in vain.

Kay Alderwood Paget
Kingston, Ont.

 

Two-way street

I would like to highlight [some of the points raised in the recent Anglican Journal Appeal letter] that I feel are essential, but are not necessarily adhered to.

You state that “an open and transparent church makes a stronger church.” Unfortunately, transparency is often in short supply in the church. Decisions are made with neither explanation nor rationale to help us understand what is happening and why. If we knew and understood, it would be easier to get on the bandwagon.

You state that the Journal’s mission is “to inform, educate, illuminate and challenge its readers.” So keep it up. One item for your serious consideration is that when a letter is received by the Journal editor or diocesan editor, and it raises issues, it would be in keeping with its mandates to attempt to get replies from those in authority rather than have the item appear in the newspaper and then die.

Communication must be a two-way street not only for the Journal but also the local diocesan papers accompanying it.

Without communication, there is no transparency.

Manly Price, LLB
Nanaimo, B.C.

 

The following Letters to the Editor are being published online only due to space limitations:

‘Failure to discern’

The Rev. Canon Roger Young (‘Do we respect the dignity of every human being or just some of them?,’ Letters, June 2015) is to be commended for taking the Baptismal Covenant so seriously.

But he may want to consider the possibility that people who are opposed to changing the marriage canon take the Baptismal Covenant no less seriously than he does. It is precisely because they respect the dignity of every human being that they oppose changing the canon. Their compassionate concern for the eternal welfare of all people regardless of sexual orientation moves them to take a stand against any policy or practice that would place anyone’s eternal welfare in jeopardy.

Young asks, “Why does the church always seem to lag so far behind?” He is asking the wrong question. Instead of wondering why the church is so slow in getting with the program of the surrounding culture we might better be asking, “Why are we so quick to listen to the spirit of the age instead of the Holy Spirit of God?” Our failure to discern the difference between the two has led to the confused state we currently find ourselves in.

The Rev. Ross Gill
Kitchener, Ont.

A call to imitate the justice of the world

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8 NKJV)

Although it would perhaps seem strange to many, my experience suggests that secular institutions, not the church, are more responsive to the call for justice.

As a young teenager I took it upon myself to fight a one-boy battle against racism and physical abuse in a predominantly white army cadet unit. The result of an investigation stemming from my complaint saw the Commanding Officer, an army captain, removed from her position. Two cadets senior in rank were also removed from their positions. In solidarity with persons of colour, I chose to leave that unit to join another, which was predominantly populated by black staff and black cadets. Others followed suit.

Years later, as a priest, clerical colleagues and lay people alike have confided in me concerning abuses of power within the hierarchies of the church. Such abuses include bullying, manipulation, and cover-up of these very things. There does not seem to be any solution at hand, however, and silence dominates. We can be prone to be afraid of those in power, and afraid to speak out against abuses, and I can understand why this is the case. Upon experiencing and witnessing abuse of power and fear mongering first-hand, attempts which others and I made to bring such wounding experiences to light were summarily rebuffed.

Those of us following current events have seen exposed the consequences of a culture of fear and silence at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in relation to a former popular and powerful radio show host. We are also in the process of seeing exposed a culture of entitlement and abuses of power in our Senate. Do we, as a church, have the humble courage to follow the lead of our secular institutions?

Perhaps I, for my part, have failed to be faithful to my own convictions of justice. When I have contributed to the oppression of the weak and vulnerable, I repent and I am prepared to repent some more.

We often ask ourselves how the church can be relevant to a hurting world. To my mind, we need to be a place that inverts the privilege of authority, as did Jesus. The powerless and the outcast must have a privileged hearing. The key to our moral authority and relevance as a church and as a witness to the world at large is in our choosing to live and act in accordance with the Gospel we claim to cherish and make known. Otherwise, when we unapologetically continue to live in the darkness we should not be surprised if we find we have little brightness of light to shed on this and future generations.

The Reverend Andrew Nussey is a former incumbent of the Parish of Rose Blanche, Nfld., and of St. John the Divine, North Bay. He is an advanced student of pastoral psychotherapy and a member of the Canadian Association for Spiritual Care.

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