Monday, June 25, 2007

Reflections on General Synod

To some extent these reflections are premature. Having narrowly defeated offering to the dioceses the option to decide whether to allow the blessing of same sex unions, it still has to be debated and decided whether the Diocese of New Westminster will be allowed to continue its practice of allowing seven parishes to do so.

But I have heard enough to want to comment. I did not hear much of the theological debate on whether the blessing of same sex unions was not in conflict with the core doctrine of the Anglican Church. The unseemly delaying tactics imposed on Synod on the Saturday evening debate by essentialists and their sympathizers meant that this debate took place on Sunday morning, at the time of the Eucharist in Montreal. In fact I believe I would not have heard it any way: technical problems have plagued the webcast. In time of easy global communication by internet and satellite it projects a very poor image of our church when we fail in a rather simple process.

But I was able to follow the debate on the practical issue on Sunday afternoon. In this discussion, aside from a few comments based on a naïve Biblicism which has never been part of the Anglican Tradition, I heard little theological argument. Instead, despite a few eloquent sermonettes, I heard a debate driven by fear. Two main fears were expressed. One was that a decision in favor of the blessing of same sex union would cause people to leave the church in droves, and destroy the already fragile remnant. The second was that to allow this to proceed would cause the demise of the world wide Anglican Communion. It seems it was the Bishops who most persuaded by this fear mongering.

And so once again the institution triumphs over the Gospel. The Gospel I receive from our scriptures is good news about the possibility of a life and a society based on love and justice, inclusion and acceptance, faith and compassion. In the name of keeping the church together and maintaining our institution, we have, I believe, denied the gospel. If I have a concern it is not so much that people would leave the church in droves because we pronounced God’s blessing on some marginalized couples who need so much our compassion. (I think there are some present members who will leave because we have failed to make that decision.). My concern is rather that thousands will continue estranged from and remain totally indifferent to a church which has no message, no courage and no vision of a new way of being human in a violent, unjust and self-destructive world.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Keeping Track of Synod

A Meditation (from Prayers for General Synod)

Holy One, Author of all creation,
the circles of our lives are drawn together
in your wisdom, joy and self-giving love.

Draw us together in compassion,
that we may behold one another in Christ.
Give us humility to confront, confess and forgive
all that falls short of your vision.

As you ever widen the circle of Jesus’ embrace,
make us one in your healing and reconciling grace.
With boldness may we seek your peace,
do your justice, and tend the wounds of your world
till the circle is unbroken in the eternal dance of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Rev. Tim Smart sent the following list of sources for information on General Synod. Thank you, Tim. Let's keep all the delegates in our prayers.

The Anglican Journal
The Anglican Journal will provide its readers with up-to-the-minute coverage of General Synod on June 19-25 through its Web site,

In addition to regular online news updates, readers will be able to download and print copies of an eight-page daily newspaper, which will be made available to General Synod delegates.

Readers may also subscribe to receive news stories by e-mail at

The Journal is also producing an eight-page supplement of coverage of General Synod 2007, which will be included in a special summer issues, and be mailed in the first week of July.

The General Synod 2007 Website
The main site for General Synod is here:

“Anglicans from across Canada and around the world will be watching General Synod 2007 live by web stream. For more coverage and analysis, viewers can check out “Synod on Demand”, a daily analysis piece hosted by Tim Morgan of Winnipeg. Featuring interviews, synod highlights, and commentary by Tim and others, “Synod on Demand” is a must-see for General Synod followers.

You may also be interested in reading a recent statement by six retired archbishops of the Anglican Church of Canada in which they recommend Synod accept same-sex blessings.

There is also a helpful Q&A on the Blessing of Same-Sex Relationships.

Information about the Primatial Election scheduled for Friday, June 22nd is here.

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison reflects on these past three years as Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada

And just for fun, General Synod has produced some humorous posters that are sure to become collectors items.

I hope you enjoy your General Synod from the comfort of your armchair!

The Rev. Tim Smart

Director of Lay Education in the Diocese of Montreal.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Humility and Chutzpah

Last Friday night, we attended the ordination of a friend to the diaconate. Since it took place in New Hampshire, the presiding bishop was the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, doing what he was elected to do and loves best: simply being a bishop. (As he often remarks, if anyone wants to see what the church would be like when we've put the current issues behind us, they should come to New Hampshire...)

Characteristically, Gene reminded the candidate and the congregation that bishops, priests, and deacons are, in his opinion, the least among the ministries of the baptized. "Being ordained actually limits your opportunities for ministry," he remarked, standing in the center aisle only a few feet from the wide-eyed candidate and speaking directly to him, "because 99% of the ministry that is done in the world is done by them" - and he gestured toward the congregation. "Your job is to empower, help, and support them in recognizing and doing that work."

He went on to describe the work of a deacon as a combination of humility and chutzpah. The humility comes from recognizing oneself as a servant -- one whose job is to serve the poor, those in prison, those who are suffering. The chutzpah comes from having the courage to remind the rest of us that the poor, the friendless and the needy not only exist, but need our attention. Doing justice, and calling the Church to the work of justice, requires both humility and chutzpah.

Using one's gifts fully is part of our responsibility as God's children, he added. Being humble doesn't mean hiding our gifts, but using them appropriately and in balance - in other words, knowing one's place in the world and acting out of that knowledge. That's true for ordained people, and also true for those of us who have already been ordained to the priesthood of all believers by virtue of our baptism - the "ordination" he considers most important of all.

Gene was speaking about the concept of servant leadership, an idea that comes from Jesus's own comments about himself being "the least among you" when the disciples, to his dismay, began squabbling over who would get to sit on his right hand in heaven. 2000 years of Institutional Church later, servant leadership is still a pretty radical concept, but one that is gaining ground among both clergy and laity. There are plenty of clergy who are very threatened by the concept of sharing their traditional authority -- let alone ceding some of it --to the laity, and who do not see the work of the laity as primary at all. But as seminary enrollment declines, churches close, and the world becomes a more anxious and chaotic place, it seems to me that ALL of us bear increasing responsibility for sharing "the priesthood of all believers" and seeing our whole lives as opportunities for ministry.

Do you agree? If you are clergy, how do you see the changing role of those in ordained ministry? If you are a lay person, do you see aspects of your life as ministry? What sort of support do you need or want in order to do this work more effectively in today's world?

--Beth Adams

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Canterbury and New Hampshire

This cyber-forum began its life in concern about the inclusion of GLBT persons in the life of the church. In recent weeks the discussion here has been ranging widely, which I much appreciate, since my concern is that we are a space where a voice may be heard about many aspects of an interpretation of the faith which is progressive and able to communicate with the real world in which we live. We who live at this end of the Christian spectrum are generally not well represented in the media, and our ideas need to be heard.

However, a news item of the past week forces me to return to our starting point. We heard that the Archbishop of Canterbury had invited the Bishops of the Anglican Communion to Lambeth in 2008, but had not invited Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

The clergy associated with Christ Church Cathedral in Montreal have sent a letter to Archbishop Rowan Williams. This morning (Sunday), many of the lay members and worshippers at the Cathedral signed another similar letter which will soon be on its way.

Here is the text of the clergy letter:

The Most Rev’d and Rt. Hon. Rowan Williams
Archbishop of Canterbury

Your Grace,

It was with dismay and outrage that we received the news of your refusal to invite Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire to the Lambeth Conference as a participant on an equal footing with his brother and sister bishops of the Communion.

While disappointed at your refusal, we cannot say that we were surprised, as this action represents what seems to us further evidence of a grave lack of leadership in our Communion at a time when its commitment to the liberating and restorative gospel of Jesus Christ is obscured.

Over 400 persons were present at a Eucharist celebrated in our cathedral last July 27 when Bishop Robinson preached. This celebration brought together a congregation comprising the diversity of the Anglican theological spectrum. In this context, Bishop Robinson exercised a truly apostolic ministry of unity and hope. It is beyond credulity to imagine that a bishop of such integrity and humility could be excluded from the councils of the Anglican Communion.

Yours truly,

The Clericus of the Archdeaconry of Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal

God and Religion

I agree with both Nathalie and Beth that it is possible and desirable to keep discussion about God apart from discussion about religion. I am currently reading “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins and I find he moves from one to the other somewhat carelessly. But while Nathalie and Beth want to talk about God without talking about religion, I think it is also possible to talk about religion without talking about God. After all Buddhists manage to do it, so why shouldn’t we?

I do this for two reasons. First, as the Dean of a Cathedral, religion is my profession. Secondly, the arguments against belief in God advanced by Dawkins and other have been around a long time. But in many cases, Christian theology has not taken them seriously. Belief in God is, I believe, still possible within the world view offered by the sciences of evolution, geophysics and quantum mechanics, but the nature of that belief, and the understanding of God within that world view must be very different from the theology espoused by most believers today. The number of people who are sufficiently cognizant with both theology and modern sciences to undertake the task of thinking and talking about God with intellectual honesty and rigor is very small, and I am not among them. So, mostly, I restrict myself to talking about religion.

I see religion in this way: religion in general, and the Christian religion in particular is one part of the much larger flow of the human cultural tradition down through the ages. Its boundaries have always been fluid, and particularly over the past half millennium, many of the questions which once belonged in the religious stream of the tradition have been spun off into other streams, including science, philosophy and literature. But the central concerns of the religious tradition have always been ultimate questions of the meaning of life and death, of the purpose of life, and of right and wrong, justice and injustice, hope and fear. I have to agree with those who point to religion as a source of violence, war, oppression and injustice. But the stream of religious tradition is not a single flow. Even within the more specifically Christian stream there are enormous differences of approach to key questions which dance together down the ages. In God and Empire, Jesus against Rome, Then and Now, John Dominic Crossan builds on his earlier work in showing how violence and non-violence exist side by side in the Biblical texts, the foundation of the Christian tradition and how they continue to exist in the contemporary exponents of the tradition. Like Crossan, I want to opt for an interpretation of Christianity which is non-violent, inclusive, peace making and open to plurality and diversity. All this I find in the scriptural record and in the development of the tradition across the ages.

Because of my own history, I stand within the tradition of religion, but, with this interpretation, I can look out and dialogue with other parts of the human cultural tradition. I can meet with people of other faiths. I can consult with anthropologists, sociologists, and even stretch my mind to try to understand what scientists are saying. I can try to find in what ways this tradition can contribute to the future of society and humanity. All this I can do without spending too much time agonizing over the idea of God, except when that idea is abused by those who wish to oppress and dehumanize others.

Maybe actually it was something like this that Dietrich Bonhoeffer had in mind when he spoke of religionless Christianity. Unfortunately Bonheoffer did not live long enough to fill out his idea. If I am right about this, then perhaps what I am looking for is religionless religion. Anyway, let me know what you think.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Theists and A-theists Take off the Gloves

From the 2004 publication of The End of Faith by Sam Harris, through last year's book by Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, right down to today, we're seeing a host of books tackling both sides of the God question. Latest and perhaps most snarky (or so I hear) is the attack on religion by Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great: Why Religion Poisons Everything. In the Books section of this week's New Yorker Anthony Gottleib has written an article, Atheists with Attitude, about these recent books -- but even more about the history of atheism and its most notable proponents.

Why all these books right now? Gottlieb writes:

The felling of the World Trade Center in New York, on September 11, 2001, brought its share of religion. Two populist preachers, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, called it divine punishment (though both quickly withdrew their remarks), and not only the bereaved prayed for help. But September 11th and its aftershocks in Bali, Madrid, London, and elsewhere are more notable for causing an outbreak of militant atheism, at least on bookshelves. The terrorist attacks were carried out in the name of Islam, and they have been taken, by a string of best-selling books, to illustrate the fatal dangers of all religious faith.

One of the most interesting aspects of Gottlieb's article is what he says about historical disasters and their influence on thinkers of those times. One of its considerably less successful aspects, it seems to me, is the way he jumps back and forth between rejection of belief in God - atheism - and rejection of religious institutions. It's an expression of a genuinely thorny theological problem when someone cannot believe in God because he or she has difficulty accepting both belief in God, and the presence of random and undeserved suffering in the world. But making the same decision because human beings do - and have always done - terrible things in the name of their religions is not, I would suggest, the same thing at all.

Perhaps someone reading here might summarize the recent discussion about atheism that took place during the recent "Faith and Reason" course at the Centre for Lay Education at the Montreal Diocesan Theological College. I wonder, also, how readers feel about this whole question of atheism in recent popular books and articles. Does it concern you? Do you feel personally involved when someone attacks "belief"? In your life, have you felt that people made assumptions about you because of your faith? Have you ever tried to defend your faith to an avowed atheist - or have you (as I have!) ever called yourself an atheist?

--Beth Adams

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Pope Benedict in Brazil

Pope Benedict is in Latin America, exhorting Catholics there, as in Europe, to return to an earlier sense of faith and morality. His visit has also encouraged a good deal of theological speculation about the decline -- or is it viability? -- of liberation theology, a movement he tried hard to discredit and destroy when he was Cardinal Ratzinger. This speculation has led to some good articles, such as this one from The Economist, about the future shape of faith and religion in Latin America, where American-grown Pentecostalism is on the rise and has spurred a counter-growth in the Catholic charismatic movement. Today, in an important speech at the start of 19 days of meetings with Latin American cardinals and bishops on the future of Catholicism in their region, the pope again denounced Capitalism and Marxism, saying that religion must stay out of politics, while still working for justice.

Perhaps the topic of the pope might help to open up some discussion on this blog. In Quebec, because of the strong French Catholic culture, many Anglicans have more than a passing interest in what the pope says and does: a number of Quebec Anglicans have come from the Roman Catholic church themselves, and many of those who have not are coming from an Anglo-Catholic background or are interested in Catholic Church politics generally. For others - both former Catholics and not - the pope is, or has become, irrelevant.

So, readers, how do you feel? Have you been following the recent coverage of Pope Benedict's trip, and the major articles about his theology that have appeared recently? How do you feel about the pope in general? As an Anglican, do you see the internal struggles and official positions of the Roman Catholic Church as relevant to your life, and to our church, or not? And why? (It would be interesting to hear from Anglicans both inside and outside Quebec on this topic - so please don't be shy, let's hear some comments below!

--Beth Adams

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

Friday, March 30, 2007

Thoughts following the Quebec elections

In his 2003 Book “Fire and Ice”, Michael Adams reported his research into the changes in social values in North America over recent decades. He reported that Canada in general and Quebec in particular were moving in the direction of post-modernism, while the United States was moving in a different direction. Among the values he charted in the post-modern sector were adaptability to complexity, global consciousness, flexible gender identity, flexible families, and à la carte religion. The popular vote in the recent election in Quebec suggests that the trend tracked by Adams may be somewhat in reverse. There is certainly a move to the right politically, and the campaign had included references to homosexuality, immigration and “reasonable accommodation”.

Although our key concern in Anglicans Really Alive connects to questions around inclusiveness and diversity in the church, together with the place of scholarship and learning in the process of interpreting our scriptures, I believe we must widen that concern to include diversity and inclusiveness in society. We need to bear witness to the possibility of a different way of being society as well as to a different way of being the church.

A recent article in the Globe and Mail:

suggests that the shift in values is also to be seen in the field of intellectual endeavor. It is interesting to note that what is hinted at here is a cause common to Roman Catholicism, Christian fundamentalism and similar sentiments within the diversity if Islam. When I was ordained to the ministry nearly fourty years ago, I assumed that the battle for a Christianity which could take on board scientific knowledge had been largely won. All that was needed were a few mopping up operations. I guess I was way too optimistic. The struggle of the Church to embrace what Marcus Borg calls the new paradigm needs all our effort to support it. The success of the struggle for a new paradigm in society needs even more effort.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

This Week in the Media

A regular feature of this blog will be a weekly link back to our website's "In the Media" page, where links to articles of particular importance or interest are being posted regularly. The articles are gleaned from the Canadian, American and world press.

This week's offerings include an op-ed about homosexuality and science; a piece on the firmly-worded resolutions passed by the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops in response to the Anglican primates' communiqué; an essay about global warming from a spiritual perspective; two pieces on same-sex marriage in Canada; and an article about the Pope's recent affirmation of traditional views. They're all well worth reading; we hope you'll go take a look.

Thank you to Earl Love and Bill Converse for forwarding pieces to Anglican Really Alive. If other readers have articles to suggest for inclusion, please send us the links in an email to our gmail account. We can't publish links to everything but we'll be making a weekly selection of half a dozen or so, covering as many relevant subjects as we can.

-Beth Adams

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Thoughts from a courageous Bishop

Bishop Gene Robinson's reflections on the meeting of the Episcopal Church's House of Bishops meeting can be read on the Diocese of New Hampshire website:

More about Bible Study

Beth mentions Marcus Borg in her comment about Bible study. There are many other authors, who, over the past decade have added enormously to our understanding of the Bible and offered new ways of looking at these texts which form the foundation of the Christian Tradition. Among them are John Dominic Crossan, Karen Armstrong, Walter Wink, Robert Funk and Elisabeth Schuster Fiorenza. Some of these formed part of the Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars who tackled the perennial question of what we can know of the historical Jesus. In their attempt to make accessible the critical approach to understanding the Bible they were much smeared by conservatives and popular press alike, but I believe they have offered ways of making the Bible an interesting document for twenty first century thinking people.

But we really are faced, as Beth points out, with a huge problem in getting members of more liberal congregations, as well as those outside, interested in Bible Study. It is partly, as Beth points out, a question of dealing with the alienation from the texts arising from the experience of a pre-critical and narrow interpretative approach, which just does not speak to people who have had any exposure to modern education and scientific thinking. But I think there is also the question of the commitment required to undertake critical Biblical study. First even the most enthusiastic beginner has to overcome the pain felt when leaving behind a comfortable corner in their lives and moving out in an unknown direction to a strange land. Secondly a large amount of background reading and study is required. Thirdly, critical study does not deal with short passages, picked thematically from here and there to support particular theological/political positions, but with extended readings, whole books and whole genres of texts. Time and time again we see that even seminary-trained priests and pastors, once they have passed through the hoops of their churches academic requirements, just abandon it all and return to the simple, pre-critical ways of preaching and presenting the Bible.

But I believe it is vital that we pursue every way of making critical Bible understanding known to and welcomed in our congregations. For otherwise we fall back on two alternatives, neither of which is attractive. The first is to return to a pre-reformation situation where only a small elite can understand and use the Bible. The second is even worse, that we leave Bible study to the conservatives and evangelicals.

There is also another problem out there. For those looking for an alternative way of being a Christian, there are some recent works which are very seductive. Among them are The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail, The Da Vinci Code, The Jesus Papers and The Tomb of Jesus. While these books go beyond the canonical scriptures, and take into account other documents, artifacts and information, it is all processed through the same pre-critical lens as the fundamentalists use. Unreliable data processed by uncritical thought produces absurd conclusions.

So it is vital to, as I said in another post, to find ways of encouraging thinking Christians to take the leap into the new ways of reading and studying the Bible. We shall be glad to hear from anybody who has stories of successful (or unsuccessful) ventures in such work.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Some Bishops really do have spines

Good news from our colleagues in the United States. The Bishops of ECUSA have demonstrated that they did not have their spines extracted at the time of their consecrations. From their annual retreat in Texas, they have issued three documents refusing to accept some of the major demands of the Tanzania Communiqué, and stating clearly the lengths to which ECUSA has gone in attempting to maintain the cohesion of the Anglican Communion. Congratulations!

The full texts of these documentations can be found at:

I hope this encourages the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Canada to make a similar stand on other aspects of the communiqué at their forthcoming meeting.

As events unroll, I believe we are seeing that the divisions in our church to be not only theological and pastoral. I am seeing a profound difference between the churches which had their origin within the colonial system of the British Empire, on either side of the colonial process, and those whose very origin and nature is anti-colonial. I believe these differences of origin are still today affecting our ethos, our social psychology and spirituality.

Those who know me personally will realize that while my own roots and a sizeable part of my life and ministry have been spent in the colonial sector, it was a great joy and source of spiritual renewal for me to come to Canada nearly twenty years ago. For, while it is clear that, historically, our church grew up in the colonial system, I believer in ethos it is much closer to that of the United States. I have to add that this is my endorsement only of the anti-colonial nature of ECUSA and should not be read to involve any comment on the politics of our neighboring country!

Monday, March 19, 2007

A note from Earl

One of the topics brought up at Sunday's meeting were the booklets recently received by Synod delegates, containing information about so-called "rescue"ministries aimed at "curing" gay and lesbian people of their homosexuality through religious intervention. The Rev. Canon Joyce Sanchez has given links to two websites, Zacchaeus, and the Anglican Essentials Federation, so that we can be more informed about what these groups are up to and discuss how to address their arguments. She and other delegates ask for our feedback.

Some thoughts from Michael Pitts

A great meeting was held in Montreal yesterday evening. We are aiming to solidify a voice in this diocese, representing those whose theology is critical, liberal, progressive, call it what you will. A fuller report, with some plans for action will be published here in a few days. Meanwhile, a few personal thoughts from me.

In a recent post in his blog, one of our members, David Ore wrote:

“But even more essential, is the need for, and availability of critical scriptural study and commentary which is not afraid of including historical contexts and the events which resulted in the current scriptural cannon.Equally, concerned people of faith need to make scriptural texts, including both the Apocrypha and the Gnostic Gospels their own, through thoughtful reading and study. If the mouth-pieces of the frightened patriarchy quote scripture at us, we need to respond in an articulate informed manner.”

I think David is absolutely right. But I also think it is important not to respond in a way that buys into their view of scripture. Here are a few radical thoughts of my own.

When I am in discussion with more right wing Christians, I frequently get the feeling that we live on different planets. Scripture for them, as I understand it, consists of fixed and inalterable words dictated by God in ancient times, and to be used to delineate all moral and theological discourse ever after. This view of scripture, I believe, arose in an historical context, where the knowledge of reading and writing was confined to a very small number of people (mostly male). Scripture (=what was written) was therefore considered set apart (=holy). Aside from the religious context writing also occurred in the context of commerce and the royal palace. It was therefore part of what Walter Wink calls “the domination system”.

The view I have always held is that Biblical scholarship of the past two centuries has given us a different appreciation of Scripture. The written texts arose as part of a living tradition of faith within the Jewish and later the Christian community. They form a collection of material, some mythical, some legendary, some historical, some legal, some didactic, some poetic, which form a background narrative of the faith of the communities, and a treasury of spiritual material of universal value, mixed with other material of ephemeral importance only to the context in which it was first written. The texts in themselves show the development of faith, and the continual discovery of new meanings for new contexts. Through ongoing critical study, the work of interpretation (hermeneutics) is to discover anew in each generation and social context what is of beauty and value for that time. This is undertaken within the context of a continued living tradition, expressed in the church, in the academy, and increasingly today, more generally in society through literature film and television. Unfortunately some of this interpretative work continues to be based on the pre-critical understanding of scripture.

So, when we are faced with those seeking to impose moral, theological and even legal constraints based on particular Biblical passages, we must avoid their magical view of scripture, which we would fail to do if we tried to answer with other passages of Scripture. I think we should also avoid trying to show how the passages they throw at us really have another meaning. This may be true, but to take this line is to buy into their presuppositions.

Instead, I think we need to disseminate widely the post critical view of scripture (which also takes into account not only non-canonical scripture as David points out, but also the scriptures of other religious traditions.) This is to see scripture, both in its historic and present context as a wrestling between inherited spiritual truths on the one side and living in our current matrix of contexts on the other. Such an approach does not make for good ten second sound byte material, which is perhaps why more conservative Christians have the edge on us. But I hope our initiatives in Montreal, together this blog and website will join with other initiatives to form some counterweight to prevalence of pre-critical discourse.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Our next meeting on Sunday 18th March

All are warmly welcome to the second of our Lent meetings on Sunday 18th March. As before, the meeting place is in Christ Church Cathedral (635 Ste Catherine West), between 5 and 5.15pm. You are of course also warmly welcome at Choral Evensong at 4pm. The reason for meeting in this way is to avoid the necessity of having security at the usual entrance to Fulford Hall. If you are delayed and arrive after the Cathedral is closed, you could call me on 514 847 1316.

At the meeting last Sunday groups defined questions we might discuss this next week. I have brought them together in four sets, and I suggest that we begin this Sunday’s meeting again in groups, each group tackling whichever one of the sets of questions they choose. After a suitable time we will share our findings in the whole group, and then finish with informal discussion over a light supper. As part of our process is to encourage discussion and inter-reaction, I will suggest that we try to form into different groupings.

The following are the questions arising from last week.

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?

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?

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?

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?

ACC Response to Windsor Report

The Windsor Report Response Group of the Anglican Church of Canada today released a draft response to the Windsor Report, for study prior to General Synod.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Notes on the March 11 Meeting

About forty people gathered on Sunday evening to view a webcast of an address by the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katharine Jefferts Schori, about the recent meeting of the Anglican Primates in Tanzania. Afterwards, during a light supper, we broke into smaller groups and discussed our reactions to the address and to the primates' requests as stated in their official communiqué, as well as the draft of an "Anglican Covenant." At the Dean's suggestion, each table came up with some questions that might guide our discussion at next week's meeting: he asked us to focus especially on whether we felt our group should have a name or not, and what our goals should be, if any, going forward toward the preparations for General Synod. "Can our group add anything to the discussion that is already going on?" he asked.

If the talk at our table was any indication, participants were already thinking deeply about questions of identity, purpose, future action, and transformation of our communities beyond the particular issue of sexuality.