Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

Theological Essentials via Thomas Aquinas

Posted on: July 7th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Theological Essentials via Thomas Aquinas

Posted By Dr Christopher Wells

07 July 2017

I spent the week before last introducing seminarians to St. Thomas Aquinas as a “spiritual master,” whose manner of teaching the faith remains both lucid and accessible nearly 750 years on. Is this amazing? Not really — if God is alive and speaks to us in his Son, in whom the community of the Church subsists by the Spirit. Our faith is mostly not new and exceeds our control, since it follows from God’s initiation and providential fulfillment.

So says St. Thomas in the first question of his great Summa of theology (readily available online), which may be summarized as follows:

1. God seeks to save human beings by drawing them to himself both by thought and by action, and on both counts God reveals himself in holy Scripture. To believe in God is to know him, and Christian faith centers on a saving knowledge of God unavailable to natural reason.

2. Since God’s own action is primary and effective, Christian theology — “words about God” — starts with his nature and character, his unity and triunity, and relates all things to him, as beginning and end. God’s unique knowledge (scientia) “is one and simple, yet extends to everything,” says Thomas, likely with a text like Hebrews 1:1-3 in mind, which affirms God’s creating and redeeming of all things throughout history “by his powerful word” (cf. Eph. 1.22-23).

3. Christian faith and doctrine therefore also depend upon wisdom, says Aquinas, since God is wisdom and all of Scripture builds on this foundation (see 1 Cor. 3:10). Here the two main aspects of Thomas’s teaching converge as an urging to seek God out both by learning and by “experience.” We experience God by the gift of wisdom, which comes from the Holy Spirit, and especially by putting on Christ in his Passion through all the sacraments, to which Aquinas devotes the last part of his work, as the culmination and completion of the whole. On both counts, Christian theology turns out to be paradoxically practical: because its purpose, uniquely among all the disciplines and sciences, is “eternal bliss,” that is, life with God as our hoped-for end.

Dr. Christopher Wells is Executive Director of the Living Church Foundation.


Anglican Communion News Service, Daily update from the ACNS on Friday 7th July, 2017

“Welcoming the stranger”

Posted on: July 4th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments

"Welcoming the stranger"

Posted By The Revd Rachel Carnegie

03 July 2017

Last year I met ‘Binyamin’, a young refugee from Afghanistan, who had fled to Europe when he was just 15. He then spent the next eight years being bounced from one country to another, his asylum applications repeatedly rejected.

It was when he finally visited a church-based refugee centre in Italy that he was connected with a proper asylum lawyer and was given official status in just two weeks. At last he could settle and begin his life again.

‘Binyamin’ is a talented young man bringing so much to his host community. After his travels he already speaks four European languages as well as his mother tongue. He will be a gift to others wherever he stays.

I thought of ‘Binyamin’ last week during World Refugee Day last week. I thought of the many refugees I have met who have enriched my life with their stories and commitment to making a good future.

Last week we also marked St Alban’s Day. Alban lived in third century Roman Britain. His story tells how one day he gave shelter to a stranger fleeing from persecution – a Christian priest known as Amphibalus. Alban was so touched by the priest’s faith and courage that he asked to learn more about Christianity, at that time still a forbidden religion in Britain. And so Alban became a Christian.

Soon after guards came to arrest Amphibalus. Alban, inspired by his new faith, decided to change clothes with Amphibalus, allowing him to escape. When Alban was brought before the authorities, he refused to worship the Roman gods. He was then martyred. Amphibalus was also arrested and killed.

I find many things very moving in St Alban’s story: that he welcomed a stranger, and in that welcome he encountered Christ in and through his guest. And finally, that he chose to walk in the other’s shoes – to experience the other’s life – literally wearing the shoes and clothes of his guest and taking his martyrdom.

At the Anglican Alliance we are privileged to accompany a number of churches around the Communion who welcome the stranger – reaching out to refugees in their midst, people who have fled danger, conflict and persecution. And in each refugee is a person bringing gifts and vision for life, making a contribution to their new communities.

The cathedral in Cairo Egypt has hundreds of people coming each day, receiving health care, comfort, food and advice. Refugee doctors from South Sudan are part of their health care team.  In Canterbury England, the churches support initiatives for unaccompanied refugee children, helping with their resettling in local schools. In the US, Episcopal Migration Ministries has served to resettle thousands of refugees in local communities over many decades. In Amman Jordan, the churches support refugees from Iraq and Syria, running a programme for people with disabilities in the camps and providing comfort and support to Iraqi Christian refugees living in the community. In Rome Italy, a church uses its crypt as a welcome centre for refugees.  In Uganda, the churches bring practical and spiritual support to refugees from South Sudan. In Malaysia the churches offer language lessons to refugees.

The examples around the Communion are too numerous to list. Yet when I talk with the local churches I often hear echoes of St Alban’s story: how the churches instinctively reach out to welcome the vulnerable stranger; how in that encounter they meet Christ through and in the stranger, and how in that experience they too are transformed, learning to walk in the shoes of the other and to be blessed by the gifts that the other brings.

“For when I was a stranger you welcomed me.” (Matthew 25:35)

Revd Rachel Carnegie, Co-Executive Director, Anglican Alliance


Anglican Communion News Service, Daily update from the ACNS on Tuesday 4th July, 2017

Canadians have positive view of role of religion in their communities, sesquicentennial poll finds

Posted on: July 3rd, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By André Forget on June 30, 2017

Canadians are more likely to have a positive than a negative view of the impact faith groups have on their local communities, a new poll suggests.
Photo: Modfos/Shutterstock​

While Canadians are quite divided on the role religious and faith communities have played in Canada’s history and development, they tend to view the impact of religious institutions on their own communities more positively, according to a recent poll.

An average of 45% of Canadians view religious and faith communities as having a good (or more good than bad) impact on the development of their community, according to the poll conducted by conducted by Angus Reid Institute in partnership with Faith in Canada 150, an interfaith organization dedicated to celebrating and promoting the role of faith in Canadian life, which is backed by Cardus, a Canadian Christian think tank.

However, of the same sample, only 35% believe the overall contribution of religious and faith communities in Canada’s history and development has been good, with 21% responding that it has been more bad than good. The largest group, 44%, saw it as being a mix.

“Canadians tend to see the presence of churches and other religious buildings in their communities and to feel that that is generally something that enhances rather than detracts from their communities,” said Ian Holliday, an Angus Reid research associate who worked on the poll.

“When we ask about sort of broader, national questions about the role that religious and faith communities have played in shaping Canadian identity…you find much less goodwill.”

Holiday said a number of factors likely contribute to the apparent disconnect between people’s views on the presence of faith groups in their local communities and the impact of religion at provincial and national levels.

When asked about religion’s impact on a national scale, Holiday said respondents are more likely to think of large-scale issues that often have negative associations, like the sex abuse scandals in the Catholic church, for example.

If asked about the role of religion in their own communities, they are more likely to think about local matters that might not carry the same taint.

But there are also distinctly Canadian factors at play, namely the complicity of religious institutions in the Indian residential school system.

Only 9% of Canadians view religious and faith communities’ involvement with residential schools as having been positive, with 58% seeing it as negative. (Twenty per cent said it was a mix of good and bad, and 13% said they were not aware of any past role.)

“In the case of residential schools, you find a general hostility on the part of the general public toward the role that religion played in that policy,” said Holliday.

These views tended to carry over to more general opinions about how religious and faith communities have impacted Indigenous peoples. On average, 37% of Canadians view religious and faith communities’ involvement with Indigenous peoples since Confederation as being negative, and only 14% describe it as positive.

However, Holiday noted that when it comes to questions of faith, “there really is no such thing as an average Canadian.” Responses differ, and at some points differ dramatically between those who regularly attend services and view religion as being a major part of their identity and those who consider themselves non-believers.

For example, though 45% of Canadians believe that religious and faith communities have had a good impact on the development of their communities, that number rises to 76% among those who are religiously committed and sinks to 16% among non-believers.

For this reason, the poll sub-divides the population into categories of religiously committed, privately faithful, spiritually uncertain and non-believers, to provide a more fine-grained analysis of how different parts of the population responded to the questions.

As a rule, the religiously committed tend to view the impact of religion in the most positive light, and non-believers tend to see it as being more negative.

Still, even non-believers have a generally positive view of the role of faith groups in providing services to their communities. When it comes to developing social services, 35% said they had a positive impact, 31% that it was a mix of good and bad, with 11% saying it was negative. Regarding community programs, 25% saw it as positive, 27% as a mix and 9% as negative.

The poll is part of an ongoing project between Angus Reid and Faith in Canada 150 to explore the role religion and spirituality have played in the past 150 years of Canadian history.

About the Author

André Forget

André Forget

André Forget joined the Anglican Journal in 2014 as staff writer and social media lead. He also serves as managing editor of Whether Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The Dalhousie Review, The Winnipeg Review, and the Town Crier.


Anglican Journal News, June 30, 2017

The day of small things

Posted on: June 26th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments

The day of small things (Zech. 4.10)

The day of small things

Posted By The Revd Isabelle Hamley

26 June 2017

Watching the news in the UK over the last few weeks has been an interesting experience. Tales of horror and darkness, stories of unspeakable crimes and evil. And yet, in the midst of it, shafts of light in the darkness. Pictures of normal people, gathering together to help the wounded, the bereaved and the newly homeless. Pictures of first responders – fire crews, paramedics, police – simply doing their job, and yet doing so much more. And besides these nameless people giving what help they could, anger against the great and the good, against politicians who maybe promise too much and deliver too little.

There is a strange longing in human beings for saviours from above. For figures who will come and solve everything, change everything, lead the way. Politicians, religious leaders, public figures. We often idolise them, but when we realise their powers are sadly limited, we berate them. And so the last few weeks have reminded me of a verse from Zechariah, a verse that names and condemns the temptation to despise the ‘day of small things’.

The whole story of God’s dealings with human beings reflects this tension. Human beings want saviours – military leaders, kings, prophets. People who will make a difference, who will change everything. And yet the story of God is the story of working with the small things. With ordinary people, one person at a time. We even see this tension in the Gospel. As Jesus goes into the desert to be tempted, the devil offers him ‘all the kingdoms of the world’. This is a temptation to be the saviour people want. Someone who will come from above and change everything in the blink of an eye. Someone who will come with power and override everything that is wrong in the world, who will erase resistance and impose a new order, a better way.

But this is not the way of God. Instead, God works with us, not by forcing us into his ways, but by inviting us. It is harder and more time-consuming. Success is often mixed and unclear. Setbacks are frequent. Working with people takes time and persistence. God works in the small things. But it is in these small things, in daily faithfulness and following, in sharing our stories and our lives, that we in turn share in God’s work in the world around us.

The Revd Isabelle Hamley is Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury.


Anglican Communion News Service,  Daily update from the ACNS on Monday 26th June, 2017

It’s time to recalibrate expectations for clergy

Posted on: June 24th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Managing director, Leadership Education at Duke Divinity

Denominations and congregations have based their expectations on full-time, paid ministry — and yet the trend is toward part-time, bivocational and unpaid clergy.

Earlier this year, I taught an introductory parish leadership class to 40 part-time local church pastors. Most of them were bivocational, balancing the demands of ministry with their obligations as police officers, truck drivers, school teachers, nurses and social workers. Many were serving congregations at considerable distances from their homes (one had a 100-mile roundtrip journey on winding North Carolina back roads every Sunday morning). All of them were in congregations that would be without a ministerial presence if not for their service.

Those 40 are part of a steadily increasing number of American clergy who are part-time, bivocational or unpaid. Hartford Seminary’s 2010 Faith Communities Today survey (link is external) indicated that about 30 percent of American congregations are served by paid, part-time clergy (2 percent are served by unpaid clergy). A thought-provoking essay (link is external) by the Rev. Carol Howard Merritt (link is external) in the August 2013 issue of the The Christian Century offers a slightly starker picture, saying that roughly half — though it could be as high as 70 percent — of American congregations are finding themselves unable to afford a full-time clergyperson today.

This trend toward part-time, bivocational and unpaid clergy raises a whole host of questions for denominations and congregations that have based their expectations for clergy on a model of full-time, paid ministry.

Some of these questions are seemingly small and insignificant. What to do, for example, about a monthly, weekday clergy meeting when such a gathering might necessitate a person’s absence from her other job? Should a part-time pastor be excused from the meeting, recognizing that a two-hour meeting might represent as much as 20 percent of her compensated hours that week? Should the meeting be held on a Saturday to accommodate bivocational folks, even if that takes full-time and part-time clergy away from family and other obligations? All of these choices have pitfalls. Few have upsides.

Other questions are more vexing still, in some cases pitting long-held convictions against each other.

Some denominations are finding their commitment to a “learned clergy” in conflict with a missional need to serve smaller congregations and underserved communities. The question becomes how much training can a denomination reasonably expect a part-time or unpaid clergyperson to have? If not a three (or four) year master’s degree, then what? What are the non-negotiable elements of that training, and what are the elements that would be nice but are not essential? Must training precede ministerial service, or could people be trained concurrently with their service? There are no easy answers. In many denominations, no one is happy with a compromise.

Likewise, congregations have difficult decisions to make.

Imagine that a church can only afford compensation equal to quarter-time employment (which, in most cases, means that the clergyperson has to find additional paid employment to balance his personal budget). What can that congregation reasonably expect of that clergyperson, and what is the work of ministry must laity assume? This will require renewed education about the calling and ministry of the laity (a clear good in all of this!), and it will mean — and in some places, already does mean — that some ministries will no longer happen. Prioritizing the pastoral workload will be a new practice required of vestries, sessions and personnel committees.

In many settings, denominations and congregations have relied on the goodwill of part-time, bivocational and unpaid clergy and have not recalibrated their expectations about ministerial role and work. That is an unsustainable solution. Now is the time for creativity, innovation and experimentation to adjust to what is increasingly the new normal for congregations around the country.


Alban Weekly, Alban at Duke Divinity, April 03, 2017

Catherine A. Caimano: Rethinking ‘outreach’

Posted on: June 24th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments


The problem with ‘outreach’ is that it is ‘out there,’ and often presumes that we have no needs ‘in here,’ writes a denominational leader. But we are called to be near, to serve our neighbor both far away and in the next pew.

Whenever I ask congregations to tell me about their ministry, they almost always start by talking about “outreach.” Whether the parish is large or small, rural or urban, members tell me how they give out food and clothes, donate money to nonprofits and conduct Vacation Bible School for neighborhood kids. They tell me about their committees — even the ones that have only one or two members — and the many events and programs they manage.

But more and more these days, they also talk about frustration and exhaustion. It’s the same people doing the same ministry over and over, they say, the same programs and large events staffed by the same handful of volunteers. They believe deeply that the church should “do outreach,” but everyone is busy and overcommitted. The result? Much less gets done by the few who keep giving more.

Sometimes I wonder whether we should just stop. Stop trying so hard. Stop doing the same things hoping for different results. Stop “doing outreach” — at least as we now envision it. More precisely, I wonder whether we should take a step back and rethink our understanding of “outreach” and how it fits within the context of church and ministry.

The problem with “outreach” is that it is “out there,” somewhere far away. Jesus and his disciples, however, in their ministry, were close enough to touch. They served their neighbors; they healed people whose names they knew or with whom they spoke.

For us, “outreach” is too often about packing food or sending resources and money to others. To be sure, such help is needed, but rarely are we asked to actually know and be with those neighbors in need. Though we might spend time with them as part of our “service,” we are never truly with them. Not really.

“Outreach” too often presumes that we have no needs “in here.” Although most Christians I’ve met have great compassion for others, they — we — are often reluctant to know about, are even secretive about, the needs in our own communities. The priest might know who has lost a job or can’t pay the medical bills or whose house is in foreclosure, but not many other people do. Not those who share a pew with them, who pray alongside them, who receive the same bread and wine.

Because those matters are private. Because we are ashamed. Because we are afraid.

As we seek to serve the needs of others, of those outside our congregations, maybe we should also try to do better at knowing and sharing the needs of those within. We are called to be near. “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus was asked. A neighbor is “one who is nigh,” one who is near.

We are called to serve our neighbors. We are called to be near enough to others to understand their needs, to bear their pain, to truly offer ourselves. Do we know the needs of our neighbors — at home, at church, at work, even in our families? Are we willing to ask?

Being near, however, is scary. Whenever I ask church people what comes to mind when they hear the word “outreach,” the first thing everyone says is “soup kitchen.” Why? Because the average person in the average pew is far away from the average person in the average soup kitchen.

That person in the soup kitchen could never be me. Therefore, I never have to confront the needs of the kind of people I know, or even my own needs. I don’t have to know how needy we all are.

“Be not afraid,” Jesus said. We don’t have to fear the stranger, that person whose life could not seem more different from my own.

Receiving is even scarier. Christian service confronts us with the reality that each of us will likely be poor and vulnerable sometime. We are called to be as open to being served as we are to serving.

Learning to be vulnerable enough to give and receive is ministry. It’s not a ministry that can be easily quantified — like the number of meals served or mission trips completed — but it is one that is at the heart of what church is for.

The Christian community is not only a place where we worship God but also a place where members take the time to really talk, listen and reflect on their own lives and on the lives of others. It is a school where we learn to speak truth in love. It’s where we learn, by being neighbors, that all are neighbors, willing to share each other’s burdens. It’s where we learn to erase the boundary between “out there” and “in here.”

Caring for our neighbors, whether in the next pew or far away, doesn’t always require organized programs. In fact, in many congregations today, more energy is expended organizing and scheduling “outreach” programs than in actually doing the work of ministry. Sometimes feeding the hungry is as simple as buying or preparing a meal. Sometimes visiting the sick is just that. These are no less ministry for not being organized in the name of the church, or any other organization.

“If you love me, feed my sheep.” There are many ways to feed others and to be fed. There are infinite places and ways to serve others and to be served. But there is only one place to learn what the words of Jesus mean.

Church is not just another organization to do “good work.” It is a religious community for forming disciples. If we do better at that task, then maybe we will start to see that people “out there” who are hungry and homeless are also “in here,” with us, part of us.

And maybe our communities will grow until we really are all neighbors, all of us, whatever our condition. As Christian disciples, we will still be called to give and receive. But there may not be any more “out” to reach.


Alban Weekly, Alban at Duke Divinity School, June 19, 2017

Jennifer R. Ayres: Could more time for wandering transform theological education?

Posted on: June 21st, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Rural Vermont.  Bigstock / Snehitdesign

Associate professor, Candler School of Theology

Wandering and getting lost is crucial to the practice of ministry. And it must be honored in our seminary classrooms, the places where religious leaders are formed, writes a seminary professor.

Last year, on a vacation in Vermont, my partner, Dave, and I were delighted to discover that our smartphones did not work atop the mountains, in the valleys or along the byways of the verdant countryside. We picked up a couple of maps — those impossible-to-fold, colorful paper ones — and were on our way.

And we were lost.

Not lost in the sense of not knowing where we were. In fact, we understood the landscape in a sense far deeper than what is afforded by a little 2-by-4-inch screen on which the navigator is always, stubbornly, at the center.

A real map has a way of decentering us, locating our vulnerability and urging us to depend on livelier landmarks to find our way. Engaging a landscape in this way was something I had forgotten, and it was a delight to try to chart our path by streams and crossroads.

We lost ourselves in those maps and in those hills. The kind of lost in which the itinerary is tossed aside for the time being, in which you choose the most interesting way to get to a destination rather than the most direct. The kind of lost in which hours slip by and you only know it’s getting late because the sun is low and bright.

Time and the landscape are spacious; they invite wandering minds and hearts.

This wandering felt a little bit like when I first began to study theology and education. Hours passed while I immersed myself in the labyrinthine prose of Friedrich Schleiermacher, Rosemary Radford Ruether and Paulo Freire. I would get lost in those texts, as if solving a puzzle. The language was complicated, and I’d have to read some parts two or three times to decipher their meaning.

But the time spent wandering seemed worth it, like it mattered, because it told me something about myself, my relationship to God, and the work of justice and love in the world. My time in seminary and in my doctoral program convinced me that a life spent lost in words — and trying to live them out in the world with love and conviction — would be my calling, as a theological educator.

It seemed to me to be a good way to use my “one wild and precious life,” as the poet Mary Oliver once put it.

Each August, before classes begin for the year, our faculty holds a two-day conference. During this time, we take up themes that require more thought and imagination than our monthly faculty meetings afford.

The year I arrived, the faculty wondered how, in the midst of competing commitments, our students could develop a “rule of life.” Many of them are parenting, working and serving in their local communities. They are artists, writers and teachers.

Theological education should help them learn to balance these commitments with the deep practice and reflection that make up theological education. It should help them craft lives of meaning and purpose, with time to pray, read, exercise, write, build community, eat, play and serve.

But what if we, their teachers, are also in need of a rule of life? How can I, as a theological educator, speak with integrity to my students about protecting time for prayer, for play and for reading when I struggle to protect that time for myself?

I didn’t expect when I began this career that I would spend so much time staring at a computer screen, for example. Students, administrators, colleagues, church leaders, strangers with theological questions, organizations and academic societies fill my email inbox with urgent notices, reminders and suggestions. Many days pass in which this little box on my desk (or in my lap or in my hand) determines the course of my entire day. I seem to live my life in a continual state of reaction.

What kind of a rule of life is that?

And it is not solely a matter of how these screens consume my focus and my time. If it were, I could just take a course in time management and set my life in order — time blocked out for prayer, for eating, for loving, for studying, for working.

But these are technical responses to a deeper, more substantive question: What kind of time is needed to cultivate an abundant life? What kind of time is needed to learn?

The kind of learning that nurtures life abundant requires a degree of wandering, of getting lost. And if I am unable to do this as a seminary professor, how can I expect the religious leaders I am educating to do it?

Environmental education scholar David Orr argues that technological advances have changed how we understand learning and how we think knowledge is acquired and put to use.

Our culture of “fast knowledge,” he warns, assumes that progress depends on rapidity of knowledge generation, acquisition and implementation. But this pursuit is quite different from the slow and incremental process that nurtures the cultivation of wisdom.

And isn’t wisdom what we hope is nurtured in theological education? That’s the goal of what Orr has termed “slow knowledge.”

In his essay “Slow Knowledge,” Orr writes that “for all of the hype about the information age and the speed at which humans are purported to learn, the facts say that our collective learning rate is about what it has always been: rather slow.”

Wandering and getting lost, and protecting the time to do that, are necessary ingredients in the process of cultivating slow knowledge. It is in that space of wandering (wondering?) that creativity and wisdom are nurtured.

In theological and higher education, the demands of the present, of proliferating institutional labor and of ceaseless communication make wandering time increasingly difficult to find and protect. But that time is absolutely essential for our work.

Wandering and getting lost is crucial to the practice of ministry. And it must be honored in our seminary classrooms, the places where religious leaders are formed.

I haven’t fully worked out how to do this just yet. It is, to a degree, countercultural. To honor wandering is to reject the idealization of busyness, to resist the demand for deliverables and to reorganize my days so that getting lost is the first and most intentional thing I do. For now, I’ll just keep getting out the map.


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, Faith & Leadership, June 13, 2017

Becoming a donkey church

Posted on: June 20th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Jeffrey Metcalfe on June 20, 2017
Aldo and his goat companion, Alli, have been dubbed “the delight of old Quebec” by the CBC. Photo: Diocese of Quebec calendar

I will be the first to admit that I have never really been a fan of large, herbaceous quadrupeds.Growing up on a small hobby farm in southwestern Ontario, cows, goats, sheep, and horses were merely part of the landscape, and I never quite understood the excitement they would elicit from my more urban family members.

In fact, I resented it.

Every time my city cousins would come to visit, rather than wanting to race boats in the creek or play hide-and-seek in the forest, they would immediately rush to the horse paddock and spend what always seemed to be an inordinate share of their rare visits standing awestruck at the fenceline.

From the perspective of my eight-year-old self, equines stole my friends.

While a great deal of time has passed, my indifference to hooved animals, cloven or uncloven, has largely remained. So you can imagine my enthusiasm when, moving back to Quebec City, I found myself living with a donkey and a goat.

For the last several years, a parishioner at Holy Trinity Cathedral has kept a donkey and a goat within a walled garden inside the cathedral close. To be more specific, a walled garden that now serves as my family’s backyard.

The reports about these animals have not been exaggerated. Each day, a few hundred people amble toward the garden wall and, not unlike my childhood family and friends, stand awestruck at the stone fence line. They come from a variety of walks of life: tourists, professionals, school children and the city’s most marginalized.

Of course, they immediately won over my two-year-old, whose first words each morning, rather than the usual “Dada story?” are now some variation of “See donkey? See goat?”

An equine stole my daughter.

Yet, as I have come to understand, there is a significant set of differences between horses and donkeys, differences that I think we can learn from as a church.

While both horses and donkeys live in communities (herds), the community instinct of donkeys differs from horses. Wild horse communities tend to be larger and to stay fairly consistent over the years in terms of their membership. In contrast, wild donkey communities are smaller, more nimble, and their membership changes based on the context in which they find themselves. Donkey’s pair off, they welcome newcomers, fashion and refashion their small group according to the needs of their environment.

And this makes sense. Donkeys have evolved to thrive on the margins; they are the desert survivalists of equines.

Upon meeting a new and potentially threatening situation, donkeys do not spook—they investigate. Their brave curiosity and willful intelligence, undominated by a herd mentality, have given them a reputation for stubbornness. However, as my childhood sheep-farming neighbours knew well, this made them wonderful protectors of the weakest in the flock, as the donkeys would use these same traits to dutifully guard their sheep from predators.

But perhaps most of all, donkeys are humble creatures; they are an almost universal symbol of human communities that work close to the land, that live without pretension. As our liturgical calendar reminds us every year, emperor’s ride horses, but Jesus chose to walk his path, from birth to death, with a donkey.

These lessons were not lost on the cathedral community, which gathered recently to say goodbye to the donkey and the goat, who will soon be moving to a farm in the Eastern Townships. They thanked these non-human animals for their ministry, for the gifts of healing and hospitality they gave to the cathedral community and it neighbours. As Louisa Blair’s Daisy and the Donkey Church, a children’s story book based on their time in the close explains, “Jesus said we must love God, and we must love our neighbours as ourselves. [The donkey] and [the goat] are helping us do that.”

As I write this, I watch as a man without shoes, a man in tattered and unwashed clothing, a man clearly living on the margins, tiptoes up to the garden wall and begins to talk to the donkey. I have no idea what they are talking about, but it’s rather animated and it goes on for some time. The donkey just stands there without judgment and listens.

I wonder who will listen when the donkey is gone?

The church community will no longer have a donkey, but maybe in its absence we can become more of a donkey church.

About the Author

Jeffrey Metcalfe

Jeffrey Metcalfe

Jeffrey Metcalfe is the diocese of Quebec’s canon theologian.


Anglican Journal News, June 20, 2017



Former doctor in New Zealand to return there as a bishop

Posted on: June 20th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Posted on: June 16, 2017

Revd Dr Steven Benford
Photo Credit: Anglican Taonga

A clergyman who worked in New Zealand as a doctor in the 1990s is returning there as the new Bishop of Dunedin. Revd Dr Steven Benford, currently serving in the Diocese of London, was a doctor for twenty nine years.

Making the announcement, Archbishop Philip Richardson welcomed the appointment: “I look forward to welcoming Steven back to Aotearoa New Zealand. His experience of balancing vocations in the service of others will be invaluable as he leads the clergy and people of Southland and Otago to develop creative ways of serving their communities in the Spirit of Christ.”

Steven’s medical career initially took him to Leicester, Leeds and Gibraltar. Then in the early 1990s, he and his wife, who’s from New Zealand, brought their young family to live in the south of the country. From 1991-95 Steven worked as a GP in Oamaru, where he also established a free clinic. Over those years, he kept his hand in hospital-based medicine, working one day a week at Dunedin Hospital. In the family’s last six months in New Zealand, Steven served in the emergency department at another hospital.

Despite his love of medicine, Steven felt God’s insistent call to the ordained ministry from a young age. In 1996, he entered the ministry discernment process in the Diocese of York and was ordained there in 2000. In his first four years as a priest he served as a curate in a three-church rural cluster, while remaining a full-time specialist at a hospital in Yorkshire.

In 2004, Dr Benford reduced his hospital hours to half, to begin ministering as a half-time priest in the York city parish of St Luke, where he remained for 10 years, before entering full-time ministry as vicar of Northolt, in the diocese of London. In York, he supported dozens of candidates for lay and ordained ministry, and was appointed a diocesan lay ministry selector. He carries that passion for encouraging and developing vocations into his new episcopal role.

Steven’s Christian faith has led him to serve others using his medical skills. As well as his 19 years in rural health in Yorkshire, in 2003 he travelled to Baghdad to work with a medical NGO after the allied invasion of Iraq. Later, he joined medical teams in Haiti, following the devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2014.

Steven believes his faith gave him perspective in his work as a doctor: “I never viewed any person I was treating as a condition, or as a problem to be sorted out,” he said. “Someone might be in crisis because of their own mistakes, or because of what others have done to them, but they still have a past, and a future, and they are beloved of God. My faith helps me recognise the crisis as only one moment in the story of a whole life.”

Steven said he is looking forward to going back to Otago and Southland, which he remembers as the most beautiful part of New Zealand: “My question is: ‘How much is the church seeing itself as serving the community in which it is placed?’” he said. “That might be in the form of foodbanks, care for the homeless, or even offering practical help to people on farms and in neighbourhoods where our churches are located. I think our challenge is to engage in the love Christ has for the world, and to make that real in the community.”


Anglican Communion News Service, Daily update from the ACNS on Friday 16th June, 2017

Challenging a culture of silence

Posted on: June 14th, 2017 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Marites N. Sison on June 13, 2017

As long as there are those who feel that it is their duty to protect the church’s image rather than come to the aid of God’s most vulnerable, children will continue to be at risk. Photo: PhotoDonato/Shutterstock


(This editorial first appeared in the June issue of the Anglican Journal.)

In March, Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released its initial report on how Australian institutions—including churches, schools, sports clubs and government organizations—have responded to allegations of child sexual abuse.

The groundbreaking report revealed that children were allegedly sexually abused in more than 4,000 Australian institutions, including the Catholic and Anglican churches.

From 1980 to 2015, about 4,500 allegations of child abuse involving 1,880 alleged offenders were brought to the attention of authorities in the Australian Catholic church. In that same period, more than 1,100 complaints of child sexual abuse were made in the Anglican Church of Australia. The alleged abuses involved 285 laypeople and 247 clergy from 22 of the church’s 23 dioceses.

Since the numbers do not include unreported cases, the true magnitude of the abuse remains unknown. However, the inquiry clearly established the lasting and multi-generational impact of childhood sexual abuse and the great lengths institutions went to protect predators. The commission interviewed more than 1,200 witnesses in public hearings and held 6,500 private sessions with survivors and witnesses, including those in nursing homes and hospitals.

The impact of the commission’s work is incalculable and stretches far beyond Australia. Sexual violence against children remains a global reality. The commission’s report proves that governments and institutions continue to profoundly fail children.

One would think that after the highly-publicized sex abuse scandals involving pedophile priests in Catholic churches in the U.S., Canada and Ireland, things would be different.

But as Gail Furness, the senior counsel who assisted the commission noted, the accounts they heard from victims were “depressingly familiar.” Children’s complaints were disregarded by church authorities, she said. “Documents were not kept or they were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed as did cover ups.” Perpetrators were moved, with parishes and communities to which they were reassigned not knowing about their sordid, criminal past.

A culture that minimizes the crimes of abusers and belittles victims and survivors allowed the abuse to happen in churches, places that are meant to be sanctuaries, said Australian diocese of Newcastle Bishop Greg Thompson. Conflicts of interests around friendships were also a factor, Thompson told a public hearing of the commission in November. “People refuse to accept that their loved priest has been an offender.”

Shortly after he became bishop, Thompson recalled that he received pressure from influential, long-time parishioners to reverse decisions made by the diocese’s professional standards board to defrock four priests over child abuse allegations. “There are those who feel that this has brought shame to the church. That it’s brought shame on people they revered,” he said. Instead of caving, Thompson established parish recovery teams to support the victims and to work with communities in addressing past abuses. He issued a historic letter of apology to victims. He also went public with allegations that he himself had been sexually molested by a priest and a bishop when he was 19.

Thompson paid a huge price for his openness and advocacy to confront what he described as his diocese’s culture of silence and secrecy. He resigned, effective May, citing the toll it had exacted on his health and his family’s well-being. He had been publicly shamed and shunned even by those who had once received Holy Communion from him, he said. He and his staff also received an “avalanche” of vicious emails and have had their cars vandalized.

Surely, such appalling behaviour has no place in the church. The sad reality, however, is that as long as there are those who feel that it is their duty to protect the church’s reputation rather than to come to the aid and comfort of God’s most vulnerable, children will continue to be at risk.

In his open letter of apology to victims, Thompson urged survivors and witnesses to come forward to the police, to the commission and to the diocese. He did so by quoting the famous words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German pastor and theologian who actively resisted Nazism: “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”


About the Author

Marites N. Sison

Marites N. Sison

Marites N. Sison is editor of the Anglican Journal.


Anglican Journal News, June 14, 2017