Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

Confusion, relief over residential school ruling

Posted on: August 21st, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Leigh Anne Williams


The Ontario Superior Court ruling applies only to testimony given in private by former Indian residential school students to the Independent Assessment Process. Photo: Kuzma



Some former students of Indian residential schools are concerned and confused about an Aug. 7 Ontario Superior Court ruling that testimony about the abuse they suffered in the schools should be destroyed after 15 years unless individuals agree to provide their personal information to the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation.

The ruling applies only to testimony given in private by about 40,000 former students to the Independent Assessment Process (IAP), an out-of-court process set up following the negotiation of the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. The IAP was intended to hear individual claims and provide compensation for abuse suffered in the schools. Those who came forward and spoke of their experiences at the IAP were promised that their testimony was private and confidential.

The Rev. Andrew Wesley, a former residential school student, now an Anglican priest who works in urban native ministry with the diocese of Toronto, told the Anglican Journal that there has been some confusion among the people he works with at Council Fire Native Cultural Centre, who are mostly survivors. “They think they are the TRC [Truth and Reconciliation Commission] records that are going to be destroyed, but actually that’s not so.”

Records from TRC events and hearings that have taken place across Canada since 2010 are public and will be archived in the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation to be established at the University of Manitoba. (The TRC was established as a key component of the residential schools agreement; its mandate is to document the 130-year history of Indian residential schools and to educate Canadians about it.)

In a speech in June, IAP chief adjudicator Dan Shapiro read a few lines from a former student that underlined the reasons confidentiality was promised:

“In my IAP compensation hearing, I was questioned about my life before, at, and after residential school. I testified in excruciating detail about my most painful, devastating, intrusive and intimate experiences and suffering. I disclosed violations and trauma of which I never speak. The fortitude, support, and trust that was necessary for my compensation hearing is difficult to adequately describe. It took me many years to even consider taking my case through the IAP. The shame, mistrust and fear [that] I felt made me very hesitant to proceed.”

In August, Shapiro issued a statement praising the decision of Justice Paul Perell. “The Court has issued a clear statement confirming the privacy of claimants and others identified in compensation claim records,” Shapiro wrote. “This will be a huge relief to the thousands of claimants who have appeared at our hearings fully expecting that their accounts of the abuse they suffered at Indian Residential Schools would not be made public without their consent.”

Esther Wesley, co-ordinator of the Anglican Healing Fund, established by the Anglican Church of Canada, agreed that the decision will be a relief to many people who recounted their experiences to the IAP, trusting in promises of confidentiality made at each hearing. “I was concerned, too, because…[for] many of them, their families know some of the story but not the detail that was presented in those hearings…Some of the stories that were written are very graphic.”

She acknowledged that others may feel differently and want their personal information to be archived at the research centre. “They have that choice, which I think is wonderful.”

Shapiro’s statement said the IAP has also “supported this voluntary right of claimants, provided that documents are redacted to protect the personal information of others, the necessity of which the court also recognizes.”

Canon Murray Still, who has been an Anglican representative in the diocese of Rupert’s Land at the IAP, said that opinions about what should be done with the records are mixed among former students he has spoken with.  “They were promised that confidentiality, and that’s what we try to honour as the church. It should be up to those survivors to be able give the permission…whether their story is heard or not.”

The Rev. Andrew Wesley said that some of the people he has spoken to have said that they would prefer to have the transcripts of their testimony to the IAP returned to them rather than having them destroyed or archived at the research centre.

When the Journal inquired about that point, a communication officer for the IAP responded by email, writing that claimants can request a copy of their transcript in a number of ways:

  • asking the adjudicator at their hearing;
  • contacting the Chief Adjudicator’s Office directly at 306-790-4700306-790-4700 or
  • asking their lawyer to contact the Chief Adjudicator’s Office on their behalf.

Information identifying other people, such as staff or other students, will be redacted from the transcripts before these are mailed to individuals who have requested them, the spokesman wrote, noting that the IAP has received about 900 such requests to date.


Anglican Journal News, August 20, 2014




The rising tide of anti-Semitism

Posted on: August 21st, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Diana Swift


There is a noticeable spike in anti-Semitic acts each time there’s a conflict in the Middle East, says  a Montreal-based Jewish advocacy organization. Photo: Giovanni Dall’ Orto/Wikimedia Commons



Is Gaza an impetus or an excuse?

Berlin: “Jews to the gas!”

Paris: “Death to the Jews!”

Milan: “Nuremberg trial for Israel!’

Montreal: “The Diaspora is scattered around the world where they take economic control, provoke the hatred of local nations…They make Washington, Paris and Ottawa submit.”

These are not comments from the history books but examples this summer of an ugly, Hydra-headed phenomenon experiencing a dramatic surge since the most recent Hamas-Israel conflict broke out in June. A new wave of anti-Semitism is sweeping Europe whose roots would seem to go far beyond—and beneath—the political passions stirred by the latest Gaza-Israel conflict. And it’s reaching Canadian shores.

In actions reminiscent of 1930s Germany, comments are complemented by actions. British police have recorded more than 100 anti-Jewish hate crimes since the Gaza conflict began, double the usual number, including an attack on a rabbi and bricks lobbed through the windows of a Belfast synagogue. In Wuppertal, Germany, Molotov cocktails firebombed a synagogue and in Berlin, an imam openly called for the destruction of every last Jew. Europe would appear to be the leaving point of a new Exodus as increasing numbers of Jews plan to emigrate to Israel.

In May, a U.S. Anti-Defamation League poll of 53,000 people in 102 countries reported that 26 per cent are “deeply infected with anti-Semitic attitudes”—including 24 per cent of Christians and 14 per cent of Canadians.

PHOTO: Eta Yudin, director of public affairs and community relations for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Quebec. Photo: CIJA Quebec

As the conflict in Gaza dragged on this summer, Toronto pro-Palestinian protesters beat Jewish supporters at a rally. A Montreal woman carrying an Israeli flag was trampled at a pro-Palestinian rally; a Jewish man was punched in the face outside a restaurant; a Jewish community building was invaded by anti-Israel protesters. “They accused us of complicity in massacre. They took political discourse to an inappropriate level,” says Eta Yudin, director of public affairs and community relations for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Quebec.


If you thought such phenomena died with the destruction of the camps at Auschwitz and Dachau, you may find the resurgence surprising. But for Yudin, these flare-ups are nothing new. “Every time there’s a conflict in the Middle East we see these actions,” she says. What concerns Yudin about the current spike is the new climate of tolerance in Canada: “There’s a feeling that people are free to express classic anti-Semitic views without being called on it. It goes unchallenged.”

She referred to a recent Montreal talk radio show in which a hateful email was unapologetically read out on air. “Someone should have screened this or stepped in and challenged this, but there wasn’t even an apology. The host thanked everyone for their comments.” In her view, there’s a new comfort level with anti-Jewish remarks not seen before.

It’s that complacency rather than individual comments that Yudin finds more disturbing, and she urges all Canadian citizens to condemn such remarks. “Anyone who takes a stand makes the atmosphere less conducive to expressing anti-Semitic views,” she says. “It’s the responsibility of everyone to create a society that fits with our democratic values. This is not just a Jewish problem.” She adds that it’s one thing to take issue with Israel’s Gaza operations—the proximate cause for this summer’s Judeophobia—and quite another to question its fundamental legitimacy and call for its destruction.

To do anything less than stand up against anti-Semitism, Yudin says, is to invite the bleak scenario described in German pastor Martin Niemöller’s famous words stemming from a 1946 speech: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Archdeacon Bruce Myers, the Anglican Church of Canada’s co-ordinator for ecumenical and interfaith relations, echoes Yudin’s call to fight back against anti-Jewish acts and utterances. “Anti-Semitism is an insidious thing, and it needs to be challenged at every turn,” he says.

The church, in fact, categorically condemns all expressions of anti-Semitism. “We have consistently denounced acts of discrimination or violence against the Jewish people, and have sought through education and dialogue to demonstrate how anti-Semitism is both a denial of Christianity’s kinship with Judaism and a violation of our baptismal vow to respect the dignity of every human being,” says Myers. He notes General Synod’s 2013 passage of a motion on peace and justice in Palestine and Israel that specifically included a commitment “to resolutely oppose anti-Semitism.”

And in 1992, the church expunged from the Book of Common Prayer a Good Friday collect that was pejorative of Jews. “Our liturgy for that day now asks forgiveness for the church’s complicity in its persecution and scapegoating of the Jewish people throughout history,” adds Myers.

The church has been distressed to see the conflict between Israel and Hamas result in anti-Semitic acts in other parts of the world, says Myers. “We seek to be vigilant in naming and condemning it [anti-Semitism] when it rears its head here in Canada.”

A historian’s perspective on anti-Semitism

First of all, says Dr. Derek Penslar, a professor of Jewish studies at the universities of Toronto and Oxford, “Anti-Semitism is ill served by a single word to describe such a broad range of phenomena. This is too limited and cheap a word.”  He admits he cannot think of a better one.

PHOTO: Derek Penslar, professor of Jewish studies
at the University of Toronto and a visiting
professor at the University of Oxford.
Photo: Contributed 


Over the centuries, Judeophobia’s manifestations have ranged from the Old Testament expulsions of the Jews from Jerusalem, the Roman Diaspora, persecution in medieval Christian Europe, the Russian pogroms, the Holocaust and even the exclusion of Jews from 20th-century Canadian country clubs. And today, of course, the obsessive, heated animus against Israel.

Why are people so angered about Israeli military actions and occupations when these pale in comparison with those of other powers such as China, Russia and the U.S.?

“Location, location, location,” says Penslar. “Israel’s address is the heart of the world. The Holy Land is of religious significance—terra sancta—to more than half of humanity.”

Furthermore, though situated in the Middle East, Israel is a Western-style democratic country. “We have a lot of information about it; it’s accessible,” he says. And people have moral expectations of its behaviour.

Personally, Penslar deplores the tragic consequences to the Gazans of current Israeli operations—“Unlike the fantasy conspiracy theories about Jews’ controlling the press and the Communist parties, these deaths are real tragedies”—and he feels Israel has overreacted in its tactical responses.

Still, he maintains that Jews and Israel are easy targets for obsessive anger because they have Western ideologies. With its Western democratic values, “Israel is accessible and understandable,” he says. And unlike larger countries engaged in military operations, “it is small enough to be vulnerable.”


Anglican Journal News, August 20, 2014


Weighing the Anglican response in the Mideast

Posted on: August 19th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Leigh Anne Williams


Palestinians sift through the rubble of their destroyed home. Photo: UN Photo/Shareef Sarhan




As talks to extend the uneasy ceasefire between Israeli forces and Hamas continue in Egypt, the Associated Press reported Wednesday that an unexploded bomb in Gaza killed five people, including three Palestinian police engineers who were trying to disarm it, a Palestinian translator and an Italian photojournalist.

With the mounting death toll – 1, 922 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 67 Israelis, mostly soldiers – Canadian Anglicans, like so many others, may be asking themselves what can and should be done to address the ongoing strife. The Anglican Journal asked some Canadian Anglicans if they think the church should be involved in the issue, and if so, how?

General Synod tried to address the question of involvement in the decades-long Middle East conflict when it passed a resolution on Israel and Palestine in 2013. Dean Douglas Stoute of St. James Cathedral in Toronto spoke during the debate on the resolution, cautioning the church not to follow the United Church of Canada’s decision to boycott products created in the occupied territories. “I thought [it] showed a lack of sensitivity to the complexity of what’s happening,” he said.

What was eventually included was not a boycott, but a commitment to “educate the church about the impact of illegal settlements on the lives of both Palestinians and Israelis; about imported products identified as produced in or related to the illegal settlements and misleadingly labeled as produced in Israel; about the complexities of economic advocacy measures.”

The resolution also encouraged Canadian Anglicans “to explore and challenge theologies and beliefs, such as Christian Zionism, that support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, as well as theories and beliefs that deny the right of Israel to exist; and to and strengthen relationships with Canadian Jews and Muslims, to resolutely oppose anti-Semitism, anti-Arab sentiments and Islamophobia.”

But even as passed, the resolution troubled some Canadian Anglicans. Peter Malcolm of Victoria, B.C. wrote to the Journal to express his concern that it had an “anti-Semitic” tone, though he was glad it had not called for a boycott. “If I had been a United Church member, I would not be now,” he said. The church, he added, should not be choosing sides.

Canon John Organ, a Canadian who is serving as chaplain to Bishop Suheil Dawani of the Episcopal diocese of Jerusalem, listed theological, historical and political reasons for Anglicans to be involved and engaged with what happens in the region. From a theological point of view, Organ argued that, “as Christians, we really don’t have an option with regards to being involved in the Holy Land because our Lord was incarnated here. The particular matters, Nazareth matters, Bethlehem matters, Jerusalem matters, this Holy Land matters.”

Historically, Organ noted that the Anglican Church took root primarily among Arab Christians in the region. “For Arab Anglicans, this is their world, their community, their history, their story, their suffering, so we’re involved anyway whether we like it or not.”

Strengthening the Christian presence is important politically, he pointed out, because Christians have an important role as a moderating influence in the conflict. Christians, he said, “try very hard to be a bridge between the two communities, between the Israelis and the Muslim Palestinians…The presence of indigenous Christians here keeps it from a complete polarization.”

Laurette Glasgow, General Synod’s special advisor for government relations in Ottawa and a veteran Canadian diplomat, said she thinks that the resolution was important “because it is about learning and not making assumptions or making a caricature of the conflicts that are there.”

Glasgow added, “I can’t speak for what every Anglican should do because the whole approach of Anglicanism is to walk with people and share their journey.” Glasgow said, for her, engagement is closely tied to the Canadian church’s commitment to the diocese of Jerusalem. That means taking the “lead from [the diocese] in terms of what is helpful to them at any given time.”

That was a point where the differing opinions seemed to converge.  “I prefer to work through the church in Jerusalem rather than make these broad, sweeping statements,” said Stoute. “I’m asking for sensitivity and deference to the church in Israel to let them be the spokespeople, let people know that we are supporting them, but not giving them solutions because that’s arrogant.”

Malcolm said he and his wife are very happy to support Christian organizations in the region that are devoted to helping anyone in need, regardless of creed and race. “We all have political views, that’s just the nature of the beast, but our intent should be to make as comfortable or as possible the lives of those that are there…I think we as Christians have a responsibility, and I believe that the Anglican Church is carrying it out.

That, said Organ, is what the Anglican health care and education ministries are all about. “The diocese is very careful in fact not to be political about any of it… And from that perspective, it is worthy of us as Canadian Anglicans, as Anglicans from the Communion to be involved in the mission of the diocese, to care for the wider community, those in need.”

Support from Anglicans throughout the Communion is essential for ministries, he added, because the Christian population – once 20 to 25 percent in the region – is now down to about five percent. Christians account for two percent of the population in Jerusalem and Anglicans comprise only a small segment of that. “But our presence and our impact is way above what our number would represent,” said Organ.

Anglicans wanting to educate themselves should visit the Holy Land, Organ recommended, but in Canada, he suggested that Canadian Anglicans might look for opportunities to get to know Palestinian Canadians. The Israeli narrative is more familiar in the West, he said, but what Canadians know of the Palestinians may not show them in their best light. “In spite of what you see, in spite of Hamas, and in spite of what’s going on in the wider Middle East … they are not a violent people. Of course, there are extremists, but the majority of Palestinian people are extremely hospitable and loving.”

Organ recommended consulting with people in the diocese of Jerusalem before making statements or taking actions regarding the conflict. “There’s a saying here. ‘If you are here for a week, you can write a book. If you are here for a month, you can write an article, and if you are here longer, you are not so conclusive about anything,” he said. “It is extremely complicated and complex, and there is layer after layer, so I think you need to have the local indigenous input to be able to speak for the situation, and you do need to check in with them when making statements about them.”

Glasgow, who visited the diocese of Jerusalem and many of its ministries in June, passed on a frequent request from people who she met, including at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza. “Yes, we could fundraise. Yes, we can provide the kind of equipment and medication and financial support,” she said, “but the most important thing for them was for our presence to be felt by them, that they were not alone, that they’ve not been abandoned, that we’re supporting them in prayer as well as a sense of partnership, companionship and travelling with them.”


Anglican Journal News, August 14, 2014

Anglicans protest sex-trade bill

Posted on: July 29th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Diana Swift


 The Rev. Bruce Bryant-Scott, on why he’s opposed to Bill C-36: “Even if I don’t approve of the commodification of sex, that does not mean that I would set up the Criminal Code to condemn workers to a life of violence and potential death.” Photo: Contributed



A group of Anglican clergy and laity have taken a stand against Bill C-36, the Conservative government’s proposed legislation whose Scandinavian model shifts the main criminal burden in prostitution from vendors to buyers.

Bill C-36 proposes to decriminalize the selling of sexual services but not the buying of them.

Fearing the bill will further marginalize and endanger workers by driving sex-for-hire transactions underground, some 35 Anglicans led by Victoria’s Rev. Bruce Bryant-Scott recently sent an open letter to the hearings held by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights of the House of Commons. “We were too late for the panel discussions, but the letter has been noted as part of the public record,” said Bryant-Scott, rector of St. Matthias Anglican Church, diocese of British Columbia.

In the lingering shadow of Robert Pickton’s mass murders of B.C. sex workers, the signatories believe the bill will do nothing to prevent the recurrence of such a large-scale tragedy. “As a Christian, my fundamental ethic is care and concern for other persons, who are all created in the image of God,” said Bryant-Scott. “So even if I don’t approve of the commodification of sex, that does not mean that I would set up the Criminal Code to condemn workers to a life of violence and potential death.”

According to Bryant-Scott, “Creating a context that criminalizes the buyer only drives the transactions further underground. In the long run, it will create greater problems for those in the sex trade.” While he would prefer to see economic enhancement ease the financial pressures that turn many individuals toward the industry, “as a Christian, I cannot stand by indifferent to what happens to them now.” He proposes that rather than laying blame, Christians engage with sex workers, following the example of Jesus in Luke 7:36–50, where he accepts the hospitality and anointing of the sinful woman (prostitute).

The signatories also object to the bill as one more unilateral proposal from a government that refuses to hear. “The government is not listening to what people in the industry say or what their advocacy groups say,” said the Rev. David Opheim, protest-director-incumbent at All Saints’ Anglican Church in downtown Toronto, whose Friday drop-in program is frequented by many involved in the sex trade. “People in the industry say the bill will do nothing to protect them and feel it’s not enforceable,” he said. Another criticism of the bill is that it wrongly conflates prostitution with sex trafficking.

Sister Elizabeth Ann Eckert, reverend mother of Toronto’s Convent of the Sisters of St. John the Divine, signed the letter because she took issue with its one-sided, colonial-style imposition of values on major stakeholders by an uninvolved group. “Where are the conversations with the people engaged in the sex trade?” she said. “I’m coming from the perspective of having those involved in the work guiding the legislation. Let’s get the professionals talking about what it would take to make it safer for them to work.”

The original impetus for the open letter came from Marion Little, former executive director of PEERS, a Victoria advocacy group for sex workers. “I was concerned that, based on feedback from sex worker focus groups, the bill’s Nordic model did not reduce violence against sex workers in Vancouver,” she said. That failure was documented in a June article in the
British Medical Journal, and in other data the model also fails to reduce the influx of individuals into sex work or have any significant impact on human sex trafficking and exploitation.

The current Canadian debate presents only two choices regarding prostitution: criminalization or legalization as is the case in Nevada, Germany and The Netherlands. “But there’s a third choice: decriminalization,” said Little. This makes it an activity between consenting adults, and subjects it to protective legislation such as anti-trafficking, child-protection, anti-assault and harassment laws and employment standards. “These are not currently being applied to sex workers ” Little said. Introduced in New Zealand in 2003, decriminalization has stabilized the sex worker population and made for a safer relationship with the police.

For Little, the bill’s greatest danger is the potential risk to broader human rights. “This is legislation that erodes the constitutional rights of every Canadian,” she said. “If we permit legislation that violates the rights of one marginalized group…then it’s a short trip to violating the rights of other citizens. Who’s next—the homeless, addicts, immigrants, migrant workers?”

It’s unclear what immediate impact the letter will have on the bill. But for priests Bryant-Scott and Opheim, it should serve Anglicans as a wake-up call to begin a serious discussion of the role of sex and sex work in Christian theology, the church and society.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to include an additional comment from Sister Elizabeth Ann Eckert, reverend mother of Toronto’s Convent of the Sisters of St. John the Divine.


Anglican Journal News, July 25, 2014

Anglican, Lutheran leaders call for action on First Nations education

Posted on: July 13th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


On July 11, 2014 Anglican and Lutheran leaders wrote to the Honourable Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada concerning the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act.  Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald, and National Bishop Susan Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada called on the government to acknowledge the need for building trust between First Nations and the Government of Canada, and to take bold steps in making additional funding available for Indigenous education immediately. 

Please click here for a PDF version of their letter. Full text also follows below.

The Honourable Bernard Valcourt, P.C., M.P. Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada The House of Commons Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A6

July 11, 2014

Dear Minister Valcourt:

With our ecumenical partners, we have followed the challenging debate and negotiations surrounding the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, Bill C-33. We recognize in Bill C-33 a desire to address issues around Indigenous education. At the same time, we observe a troubling absence of trust between First Nations and the Government of Canada. We urge you to acknowledge the need for building trust and to pursue it with diligence and creativity in partnership with Indigenous peoples.

The funding announcements associated with Bill C-33 were a milestone – they serve as a clear and public acknowledgement that Indigenous education has been underfunded and that justice is required. The promise of $1.9 billion and the 4.5% escalator were a good first step towards addressing the pressing and unique needs of Indigenous students. We are thankful for this mark on the path of reconciliation and look forward to its implementation. Furthermore, we acknowledge the title of Bill C-33, The First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act, as a symbolic step away from deeply rooted patterns associated with the legacy of colonialism and assimilation. Deepening commitment to the holistic principles of Indigenous control of Indigenous education by Canada and Canadians, is essential for the truth of this symbol to be realized. The integrity of words and symbols are built on tangible action towards justice.

It is our understanding that in the midst of current tensions, work on Bill C-33 has stopped and no new funding has been released. Yet, there remains a huge gap between Indigenous and non- Indigenous peoples in per capita funding for education. We urge you to take bold steps in making additional funding available for Indigenous education immediately. Such action would be a hopeful sign.

The history of Indian Residential Schools, along with insights from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), highlight how easily one culture can fail to respect another with devastating consequences. In order to build trust with Indigenous peoples, a new process for justice and equity in Indigenous education is needed. This will require patient dialogue and resolute action that respect the diversity and unique needs of Indigenous communities and learners. As the TRC concludes its mandate, we move into an important era of continued healing, new understanding and the reversal of historic wrongs. Education was at the heart of these errors; education will be an essential element of healing and reconciliation, and the forging of better relations with the First Peoples of this great land.

We offer our prayers for the work of justice, reconciliation and equity in Indigenous education. And we pray for blessing and wisdom for you as you offer leadership on behalf of the Government of Canada.

Yours in Christ,

The Most Rev. Fred J. Hiltz Primate Anglican Church of Canada

The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Anglican Church of Canada

The Rev. Susan C. Johnson National Bishop Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

cc. Jean Crowder, NDP Carolyn Bennett, Liberal Peter Dinsdale, Chief Executive Officer, Assembly of First Nations Terry Audla, President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami


Anglican Church of Canada,  News from General Synod, July 11, 2014

Conversations that connect faith and daily life

Posted on: June 22nd, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


A barbershop is a surprisingly good place to converse about faith.  Photo: Diego Cervo


This column first appeared in the June issue of the Anglican Journal.

The other day, as I sat in the barber’s chair, I couldn’t help thinking how wonderfully strange it was. There I was, sitting in this shop surrounded by machismo and boasting, listening to testosterone-fuelled music, and all the while engaged in a deep conversation with my barber about Jesus.

I still can’t remember how the subject first came up between us. Probably it had something to do with where I work or what I do for a living. But two years later, our conversations about faith and work continue to challenge and refresh me.

As someone vocationally called to serve Christ’s church, I can’t think of anything more refreshing than having conversations with people who wrestle with what it means to follow Jesus out into the world. Lest I leave you with the impression that this type of conversation should be left to clergy, it may be pertinent to point out that I am not ordained. Rather, this sense of vocation is rooted in my understanding of and desire to live into our baptismal covenant.

Exploring the intersection between faith and life with folks outside of the church is the place where my faith and my faithfulness to Christ are challenged. In the midst of these encounters, I find myself reminded that an authentic Christian faith ripples forth from the waters of baptism and into the world. 

Opening myself to these conversations—with all manner of people—I notice common threads. I notice a desire to engage in conversation about ultimate meaning. I notice an inclination to live life well. I attend to the desire to make sense of those moments of chaos that plague lives seeking beauty and truth. Through it all, I find myself increasingly aware of our common human struggle to make meaning from the disparate threads of our lives. 

In recent days, I’ve been rereading a book by Kenda Creasy Dean and Andrew Root entitled The Theological Turn in Youth Ministry. At times a dense and cumbersome read, I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful, both personally and professionally. 

One of Root’s observations continues to affect me deeply. In discussing the ways in which Christian theology might bear on conversations with youth, he suggests that “ultimately, theology starts with a crisis.” That is to say, the ways in which we understand the relationship between God and God’s good creation and humanity provide us with the tools to both articulate and cope with the challenges of life—whether large or small. Taking it a step further, we could say this understanding can also provide us with the tools to accompany others in their own challenges, and even crises.

To accompany another requires relationship, a willingness to listen and our own sense of what God is doing in our lives. 

Many parishes across this country are equipping parishioners to pay attention to God’s work in the lives of individuals and communities and throughout the world. And that’s what we need— Anglican Christians ready and willing to respond to their neighbours, strangers on the street (and even their barbers!) in conversations about ultimate meaning. 

My own faith journey has been nurtured by several communities: Wine Before Breakfast at the University of Toronto, Ottawa’s parish of St. Michael and All Angels, and more recently the emerging St. Brigid’s community in downtown Vancouver. These communities have taken seriously the connection between faith and daily life, and have provided members with safe places to wrestle with life’s questions, together. What I’m most grateful for is the way in which they’ve also equipped me to accompany and journey with those I meet along the way, sharing my story and the story of the God who continually transforms and renews my life. 

Andrew Stephens-Rennie is a member of the national youth initiatives team of the Anglican Church of Canada. 


Anglican Journal News, June  21, 2014

It all starts with listening

Posted on: May 27th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Andrew Stephens-Rennie


This article first appeared in the May issue of the Anglican Journal.


Music was a deeply formative part of my adolescence. Along with Bible reading and daily prayer, my Christian music collection was incredibly meaningful to me. Audio Adrenaline, Amy Grant, DC Talk, Michael W. Smith, Petra and White Cross were just some of the bands in my collection.

I remember being on a bus trip one time, on my way to see Australia’s Newsboys in concert. I overheard one of my friends explaining to a new member of our youth group that going to see this band was going to be a way better experience than going to see R.E.M. Why? They were Christian.

In my adolescence, this was the litmus test. Not the musicianship, not the creative spark, not the way in which music engaged the complexities of the world around us, or opened up new possibilities. The test for good music was simply this: was it of the spirit or the flesh? Was it sacred or secular? Would listening to this music put you on the stairway to heaven or the highway to hell?

Over the past decade, I’ve had an incredible opportunity to minister among young people across this country. In parishes and dioceses, as a guest speaker at youth retreats and programs like Ask & Imagine, I’ve had the chance to engage young people in deep conversations about music, faith and creativity.

And I’m always curious to hear what they’re listening to. I’m always intrigued by the music that serves as a soundtrack to their lives. What do they listen to when they’re out with friends? What do they listen to when they’re coping with stress in their lives and they’ve reached their limits? What buoys them or carries them through?

Growing up in the world that I did, scripture was the place to start looking for such answers. My Bible had an index of places to look when I was facing a particular challenge or situation in my life. Such an approach seems far less common in the Anglican churches I’ve had a chance to visit in Canada. Where, then, do young people turn?

So often, when faced with their own limits, the young people I meet turn to music. They turn to the artists who can articulate (perhaps more clearly than they can) precisely what they’re feeling. So how do we engage?

It all starts with listening. It always starts with listening. Listening to young people, listening to their music and listening to the struggles and joys of their daily lives.

What comes next is the hard part: accompanying young people in the midst of the pains and struggles of everyday life, and welcoming them into the story we call our own: the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.

I said earlier that this is hard. But it shouldn’t be. In fact, in my experience, it isn’t hard at all. Looking for companions when forced to confront the limits of human existence, young people constantly blow me away with their deep desire for some good news. We’re good-news people. We’ve got plenty to share.

And yet we need to start by listening. We must listen to the depth of the wrestling in our young people’s thoughts and emotions. We must listen continually, because they might not tell us right away. And yet, what if we asked the question: “What music do you put on when life is getting you down?”

It might not be Michael W. Smith’s “Friends Are Friends Forever,” but whatever it is, it might just be the beginning of an incredible conversation.

Andrew Stephens-Rennie is a member of the national youth initiatives team of the Anglican Church of Canada. 


Anglican Journal News, May 26, 2014


A modest wondering about the Feast of the Ascension

Posted on: May 23rd, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Matthew Griffin



An image of the Ascension from Vanderbilt's Art in the Christian Tradition Project.The Anglican Church of Canada has seven principal feasts. Can you name them all, real quick? Christmas and Easter leap to mind; Epiphany and Pentecost may follow without too much thought. Trinity Sunday , All Saints’ Day, and Ascension Day lag a little behind in the memory palace.

One thing I find interesting about this list is that all but two are on Sundays, or can be celebrated on Sundays. Easter? Always a Sunday. So too Pentecost. Trinity Sunday, rather a give-away. Our calendar notes that “All Saints’ Day may be observed on the Sunday following 1 November, in addition to its observance on the fixed date,”  and that the “feast of the Epiphany may be observed on the Sunday before 6 January” if the sixth falls on a weekday. That leaves just two on fixed, immovable days. The twenty-fifth of December is indelibly marked as Christmas Day, and so many Anglicans attend church—well, or quite late the night before.

Left in the dust is the feast that we’ll keep next Thursday, May 29, 2014. The feast of the Ascension, commemorating the moment that Jesus ascends into heaven, having reassured the disciples that this is necessary and that he’ll send the Holy Spirit. Some of our Orthodox sisters and brothers refer to this feast as the ‘culmination of salvation’—and yet, it’s often overlooked. Happening forty days after Easter, it always falls on the Thursday before the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

I wonder if it’s time for us as Canadian Anglicans to ask some serious questions about how we keep this principal feast. Attendance at weekday Eucharists is on the wane in many places. Given that there’s provision to keep two of the other feasts that aren’t necessarily Sundays on a Sunday before or after—is it time to wonder the same about Ascension Day?

There are problems with such a proposal. One is that moving it to the Sunday before or after its actual date, we’d lose a significant chunk of the Easter reading cycles of the Revised Common Lectionary. Moreover, if we move it to the Sunday after, we would have three principal feasts on three successive Sundays: Ascension, Pentecost, Trinity, crammed together like Timbits in a box. But if we don’t do something, even with teaching about it, is it really a principal feast if it’s observed by so few people?

I’ve found myself musing about transferring Ascension to the Sunday after every other year. Though complicated, it has a useful pattern to it. If we started that next year, we’d see the following:

2014: Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year A)
2015: Ascension
2016: Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year C)
2017: Ascension
2018: Seventh Sunday of Easter (Year B)
2019: Ascension

…and then the pattern repeats in 2020 and following. Over the course of six years, we would hear the fixed Ascension readings three times, and hear each of the year A, B, and C readings on the other three years. We lose less, and I think we gain more.

Perhaps, in addition to wrestling with how to make the spiritual significance of the feast accessible, and reveal the good news of God at work in post-Copernican times, it’s time to change this aspect of our shared calendar.

Matthew Griffin

About Matthew Griffin

I’m a priest serving in the Diocese of Niagara, with both a pastoral and an academic interest in the relationship between liturgy and theology. I enjoy reading, cooking, and spending time with my beloved and our young son.


Weekly update from The Community,  May 23, 2014



A ministry blessed by people

Posted on: May 23rd, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments



(This article was published in the May issue of the Anglican Journal.)


The date was May 20, 1979, and the place was the Cathedral Church of St. James, Toronto. I knelt before Archbishop Lewis Garnsworthy, who laid his hands upon my head and said, “You are a priest forever…”

Some 35 years later, having shared ministry in five parishes and now in a sixth, and having contributed 10 years at the national office of the Anglican Church of Canada, I find myself feeling encouraged—and sometimes discouraged—about the church. 

The discouragement centres on structures and processes that bind rather than liberate, on self-centredness, lack of honesty and the misappropriate use of power. Richard Schmidt in Glorious Companions quotes the opening lines from a remarkable little book, The Authority of the Laity, by American lay theologian Verna Dozier: “A funny thing happened on the way to the Kingdom. The church, the people of God, became the church, the institution.” Schmidt continues the thought: “God calls the church, the people of God…to take the risk of faith in a world that denies faith. Very quickly, though, the church…like every institution, soon focuses its energy on perpetuating itself and maintaining its power.” 

And yet the church remains the people of God. For they, the people, have given me some very unique privileges over the past three and a half decades—from baptizing and sharing the eucharist to participating in weddings and funerals, to sharing in ministry in every diocese in this country and, on a few occasions, in different settings and countries around the world. More than ever, I feel people have blessed my ministry. 

I think of Malcolm, a gentleman who was financially and otherwise challenged, yet had travelled, alone, to Toronto from Montreal. He wanted to sing in a choir, and when I met him, he told me that churches kept telling him, “There isn’t a choir robe big enough for you.” I almost wept at how harsh a church can be—at how we can think God is more impressed with fine music than how the disadvantaged are treated. Malcolm proudly took a place in the choir of my parish. I think of four-year-old Larry, and how I persisted in his first communion class, teaching him to say “amen” at the moment when the host would be placed in his hand. On that glorious morning of his first receiving the sacrament, I placed the host in his hand and, with the widest grin imaginable, he looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you.” 

Larry knew what the eucharist meant. I think of an inner-city parish that I served, where drugs, alcoholism and prostitution were prevalent, and that existed near a large facility for the mentally challenged. Parish membership was increased by one when ‘The Torch” joined us. Faithfully, the community stood with her and her incredibly eccentric behaviour as she succeeded and failed continually to achieve sobriety.

 I think of the mother who joined me in the hospital chapel where I had paused to pray, and who asked, “Will my baby die?” Indeed the baby girl did die, but I was able to walk the journey with her parents while struggling with a thousand unanswered questions as to why. Other memories include working with a traditional parish to help a transvestite feel welcome and part of the community…sharing a community supper with a guest who was moved to tears because he was “allowed” to decorate a Christmas tree…befriending a schizophrenic man who walks miles every Sunday morning to be present with God in the parish in ways that I will never understand. I thank God that over the years, these people and many others have touched my life and showed me what the gospel of love really means. 


Anglican Journal News, May 22, 2014





Julian of Norwich

Posted on: May 17th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


Julian of Norwich

Daily Episcopalian: Dame Julian has much to teach twenty-first century Christians.


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, May 7, 2014