Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Nominees for Archbishop of Canada

A recent post at Father Jake Stops the World contains an introduction to the four nominees for the next primate of Canada, from the ACC, with an analysis intended for an American audience. This was written by a deliberately anonymous American Episcopal priest currently studying for a Th.D in Canada, and there's been a lot of Canadian commentary so far, contesting the writing of the original author.. It's also a chance for readers of this blog to visit Fr. Jake, whose site is one of the most interesting of the progressive Episcopal blogs, and where the discussion is always, to say the least, spirited.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Archbishop of Canterbury in Canada.

This week the Canadian House of Bishops is meeting in Niagara Falls. While we need to be constantly critical of the tendency of Bishops and Primates to meet separately from our synodical structures, and while such meetings should have a consultative function only, nevertheless what emerges from this meeting will be important. It is also important that they are spending a day with the Archbishop of Canterbury, who has promised similarly to visit the Bishops of ECUSA. His apparent distaste or fear of our side of the Atlantic appears to have been overcome, and I can only hope that a real dialogue can begin.

Before meeting with the Bishops, The Archbishop of Canterbury gave the Larkin Stuart Lecture on 'The Bible Today: Reading & Hearing'. In the lecture he is critical both of the fundamentalist way of reading the bible, which he characterizes as seeing scripture “simply an inspired supernatural guide for individual conduct” and of the liberal way which he characterizes as seeing it simply as “ a piece of detached historical record.”
While the thinking of Anglicans Really Alive sees itself as liberal, it is not liberal in this sense, and I believe most of us, as most of the liberal end of the spectrum in the North American debate, would be comfortable with Rowan Williams theology of hermeneutics.

A link to the full text of the lecture will be found on our Website:

Other information pertaining to the meeting of the House of Bishops can be found at

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Akinola, Benedict, and the Birds and the Bees

The current selection of media articles of note, including the cast of characters above, has just been posted at the Anglicans Alive website.

--Beth Adams

Friday, April 13, 2007

Canon Jenö Kohner (Montréal) writes about the proposed covenant

I am opposed to an "Anglican Covenant", mainly because I fear we will be imprisoned to some biblical texts written centuries ago. I see the Church, when it is at its best, as a Spirit driven community. It is the Spirit who points out injustices, and motivates the Church to act even though these acts may be against Scripture (slavery, women etc.). I see a covenantal Church as being a church imprisoned. The Spirit respects our contexts, dry texts do not. The Spirit in a sense replaces the ethical prophets of the 8th Century Israel , and drives us to recognize that the "powerful" conspire against the poor and powerless. The whole point of Jesus proclaiming and representing the Kingdom of God is to tell us that there is something of God happening, that indeed the powerless are liberated, and the powerful are in fact "naked". "He has put down the mighty from their seats". The Covenant would bind us and negate any witness we had to 21st Century people with all their needs and cries for help. Just look at Archbishop Peter Akinola and his fight against gays and lesbians in Nigeria.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Notes from a Montreal meeting

For the record, Sheena Gourlay has provided these notes on the discussion at the March 18th meeting, at Christ Church Cathedral

The meeting that was held on Sunday, March 18th, at Christ Church Cathedral brought together people from many different parishes and positions to discuss the questions that had been highlighted at the previous meeting. This is a summary of their discussion.

Immediate tasks

Do we need to respond to the communiqué of the Primates meeting? How?
What is the most effective way of getting our message out?
Do we believe a covenant is necessary?

Of all the issues raised, the one that which received the most discussion and strongest response was the proposed Anglican covenant. The criticism of this proposal centred on two aspects, its implications for the Anglican Church as an institution, and what it means theologically and spiritually. Much of the opposition to the idea of a covenant was due to the overtly political nature of such a project. A covenant would install another layer of authority in the church, creating a hierarchy that is foreign to Anglican tradition, a ‘little Vatican’ as some said. As such it would take decision-making power from local bishops and laity. Lay people having a voice and power within the church through their participation in synods is particularly important to the way that the Anglican Church works. It also raises some serious questions such as what happens if one member of the communion does not sign on, would there be an opt-out clause? What would be the lines of authority in this new structure? And who is it supposed to serve? Given the current ‘aura of inevitability’ that currently surrounds the concept, and the resulting lack of discussion of whether it is even needed or what the consequences of such a structure would be, many felt that we should simply say ‘no’ to the concept of an Anglican covenant.

On another level, many recognized that the notion of a covenant is an attempt to control theology, to limit the intellectual rigor and openness to challenges that theological work entails, and to determine what people are allowed to think. On a cultural level it risks setting up a situation where others make decisions about our culture in light of their own, and using scripture to back up their ideas. As one person commented, irrespective of the decision that is made, no covenant can enforce compliance on the part of a church or an individual. More importantly, we already have a covenant, the covenant that we make with God at our baptism. Our baptismal covenant should be the centre of our relation with God and with each other.

Finally, it is to be remembered that what is at stake is the question of power versus openness and inclusiveness, so while our national church explores the issue of homosexuality and the blessing of same-sex unions, we have to place this within the larger issues that face the church. And as one person asked, quoting Charles Taylor, how can spirituality have a place in society?

Medium term possibilities

What do individuals, small groups want to do?
How can we organize to have numbers and resistance?
How can we deal with undue taking of authority by the Primates?
How much power will we allow the structures to have over us?
Are we witnessing a stealthy take-over by well organized, well funded right wing groups?
How can we become an effective cross-Canada network?

The first response was that we should refuse to be bullied, and that we should refuse to sign a covenant.

The second response was that we need more communication, both on a local level within the diocese and on a larger level, including the national church and the Anglican Communion as a whole. Within this diocese there are places where it is hard to state one’s views and to argue for an open and inclusive church. At the moment conservatives have the upper hand, claiming to speak from scripture, and enforcing a limited and self-serving definition of the church. This can lead to a feeling of isolation and the silencing of those who do not agree. Parishes need to speak to each other, through ministers preaching in different parishes and through articles in our local Anglican Journal and the Montreal Gazette.

On another level, it was felt that we need to respond to the move by the primates to take power from local bishops and lay people, as well as those who are pushing so-called traditional values, whether well-organized or not. We need to write to our own bishop, to other bishops within Canada, to our Primate, and to the Archbishop of Canterbury. Our national church must respond to this situation. We also need to argue for an inclusive church through the use of the Web, blogs, Via Media, the Episcopal Majority, the national Anglican Journal, and other newspapers and media.

Finally it was suggested that parishes here should communicate with parishes in Africa, to create community and foster understanding directly. Given the experience and success of the women’s movement, it was also suggested that women should communicate and work together both nationally and internationally, sidestepping the usual male dominated church structure.

Longer term goals

Do we have a shared vision?
What should our vision be?
What do we want our church to look like in five years time?

What are we defined by? Liturgy? By shared worship? Do we want to be a place that brings people together or a place where things are simply stored, do we want to be a tent or a parking lot, as one person poetically stated the question. It must be remembered that the Anglican Church began through exclusion, defined by political borders and loyalty to the Monarch. However, out of this grew an ethos and praxis of worship, spirituality and piety, and where scripture is integral but not exclusive. Scripture takes its place beside reason and tradition in guiding our thinking. For this reason Anglicanism has always been able to handle nuances or ‘grey areas’.

What do we want the Canadian church and the Anglican Communion as a whole to look like in five years time? History has shown that a single vision is neither possible nor necessary. Rather we should vision ourselves as a community of communities in dialogue.

Scripture, authority and interpretation

What is the authority of Scripture?
What is the role of modern scriptural scholarship in reconciling extreme positions?
How can we be honest in Scriptural interpretation?
How do we promote better biblical Scholarship?

Our understanding of the authority of scripture and its place within the Anglican tradition goes beyond placing it beside reason and tradition in guiding our thinking. Christ’s summary of the law was both liberating and challenging. This understanding of scripture is embodied in the idea of a church-based witnessing to the living Gospel. If this means that there will always be differences, and that conflict is inevitable, it does not mean that we can go back to an earlier view of scripture or an exclusive view of the church. (For more discussion on the authority of scripture, scriptural interpretation and biblical scholarship, see Michael Pitts postings on March 19th and 21st.)

Is the reconciliation of extreme positions possible or even desirable? Given that any extreme position entails rigidity and a refusal to change, where would such a conversation begin?

At the close of the meeting one of the participants concluded with a call to focus on, not what we are against, but on what we are for and the values that we want to embody.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

This Week In the Media

The biggest story here this week was the provincial election; the spiritual and moral issues and a link to an excellent analysis are covered in Dean Michael Pitts' post on the subject, below.

Meanwhile, the British this week commemorated the 200th anniversary of the abolition of slave trade with a ceremony at Westminster Abbey that was disrupted by protest. A steady voice on this issue has been that of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said the Church of England should consider reparations for slave trade; one of the most thoughtful commentaries I read on the protest was "Decorous", on the blog of Teju Cole, an American-African currently living in New York City. Discussing enslavement of another sort, "Gay Nigerians Appealed to the International Community."

Alternet published an essay, “For the Christian Right, Gay-Hating Is Just the Start,” by Chris Hedges, the journalist and divinity-school graduate who is the author of American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. (His previous book, drawn from his years as war correspondent, was War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning.) People interested in this issue might also like to check out Theocracy Watch, a website devoted to analysis of the rise of the Religious Right in the U.S. Republican Party.

“For Some Black Pastors, Accepting Gay Members Means Losing Others”, in the NY Times, discussed how difficult the issue of homosexuality is among many black congregations, and a story in the Washington Post discussed the same issue in Conservative Judaism: “Conservative Jewish Seminary to Allow Gays and Lesbians to Apply.”

Thank you to Bill Converse, Earl Love, the Rev'd Alan Perry, and the Rev. Canon Joyce Sanchez for sending articles this week. Full details on these and other articles are on our website.

--Beth Adams