Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

What’s in a name? On (compass) roses, koinonia, and the gift of communion

Posted on: October 3rd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By The Revd Canon Dr John Gibaut

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”? Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare

Would the Anglican Communion—and our Compass Rose—smell as sweet if we were a “Federation” or “Association”? What is in the name “Communion” that shapes who we are, and informs our mission as a global church?

First, it lies deep within the biblical vision of the Church as koinonia, the Greek for communion. Since koinonia is translated by several words, its significance is easy to miss.

When Paul speaks of “the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13.13), the Greek says koinonia. The sign of reconciliation, the “right hand of fellowship” (Gal 2.7-10) is also koinonia. Paul’s “collection” for the poor in Jerusalem is a koinonia (1 Cor 16.1). The Lord’s Supper as a “sharing” in the body and the blood of Christ (1 Cor 10.16-17) is again koinonia.

Anglicans around the world are studying the World Council of Churches’ report, The Church: Towards a Common Vision, a fresh expression of the Church as koinonia. It begins, “Communion, whose source is the very life of the Holy Trinity, is both the gift by which the Church lives and, at the same time, the gift that God calls the Church to offer to a wounded and divided humanity in hope of reconciliation and healing.”

Overflowing from the communion of love within the Trinity, this communion is irreversibly restored in the paschal mystery of Christ. The sign and the servant of communion is the Church, as we engage together in mission, reconciliation, justice and peace, and mutual accountability, and as we pray for one another, support one another in times of need, and receive Holy Communion together.

Photo Credit: ACO

Most of us are drawn to communities of similar language, culture, politics, or education. In the Church those similarities can be theological conviction, the last word liturgical practice, piety, or moral discernment.

The Church, however, is to be more than a community of similarity; in the New Testament it is a koinonia, a communion in unity, diversity and even disagreement.

Whenever Christians are unable to agree with one another, yet choose communion, refusing to say “I have no need of you” (1 Cor 12.21), we proclaim that what binds us together is unshakeable.

Costly communion witnesses to the One through whom God was pleased to reconcile all things by making peace through the blood of his cross (Col 1.20).


What's in a name? On (compass) roses, koinonia, and the gift of communion

Canon John Gibaut is Director for Unity, Faith and Order of the Anglican Communion. The Church: Towards a Common Vision is available at ttp://


This reflection first appeared in the August Issue of Anglican World, the Anglican Communion’s quarterly magazine. Subscribe to Anglican World for more reflections and stories from the global Anglican Communion.


Anglican Communion News Service,  ACNS Today’s top stories, October 01, 2015

Has Canada become less open to refugees?

Posted on: October 3rd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Syrian refugees wait to cross into Macedonia at  the Greek-Macedonian border on September 24.  Photo: Ververidis Vasilis/Shutterstock

When the death of three-year-old Alan Kurdi brought public attention into sharp focus on the global refugee crisis, support welled up for those who have been driven from their homes by violent conflict in the Middle East.

And yet, even as churches, NGOs and private citizens lobbied for Canada to take a larger role in resettling and providing aid to refugees, those who have been involved in long-term refugee work were acutely aware of how little even the most generous proposals were willing to do.

The Conservative government previously pledged to resettle 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next four years, but in September—amidst criticism from its political rivals— Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander announced new measures to speed up the processing of applications to bring Syrians “a full 15 months earlier than anticipated.” He did not indicate whether they would be government-sponsored or privately sponsored refugees. The Liberal Party promised that, if elected, it would accept 25,000 government-sponsored Syrian refugees by January 2016, and the New Democratic Party said it would bring in 10,000 refugees by the end of the year, and a total of 46,000 government-sponsored refugees by 2019.

These numbers may pale in comparison to the roughly 1.8 million refugees currently living in Turkey, the further 1.8 million in Lebanon and even the 117,161 refugees the United Kingdom has welcomed, but they also pale in comparison to what previous generations of Canadians have been willing to do.

In the decade following the fall of Saigon to Communist forces in 1975, Canada resettled a total of 110,000 Vietnamese refugees—the famous “boat people.” Of those refugees, 50,000 were accepted between 1978 and 1980, at a time when Canada’s population was only 24 million.

So what happened between 1978 and 2015?

“In the 1970s, there was a really quite remarkable confluence of different elements,” explained Michael Creal, a retired professor of religious studies at York University and scholar at the York University-based Centre for Refugee Studies. “The government was on side, the civil service was on side, the media was on side, the churches were on side…this is a very different situation from today.”

Despite the fact that Canada did not have an extensive infrastructure for quickly processing refugees, the broad support for the project allowed for creative and efficient solutions. “In the 1970s, we dispatched civil servants to Hong Kong, for instance, and they processed refugees right on the spot,” said Creal. “They accepted them, arranged to have them flown by military aircraft to Edmonton and Montreal.”

Tom Clark, former interchurch co-ordinator for refugees for the Canadian Council of Churches, agreed with Creal that political will played a vital role in refugee resettlement in the past. But he pointed out that refugee resettlement in the 1970s took place in the context of the Cold War, and therefore also served an ideological purpose.

“What happened in that time was the need for the U.S., and therefore for its allies, to do the traditional thing, which is you don’t leave your allies out to toast—so the friends of the U.S. in Vietnam needed to be brought out.”

What started out as careful politics, however, morphed into a massive humanitarian undertaking, thanks in large part to the work of individual parliamentarians, most notably Progressive Conservative cabinet minister Flora MacDonald.

“Flora was a little special,” said Clark. “She had NGO connections right up until her death, so she really was willing to gamble on pushing [refugee issues] out to the people.”

For Clark and Creal, the changes in Canadian refugee policy can partially be explained by changes in mindset among government leaders.

Both were quick to point out that it was Joe Clark’s Progressive Conservative Party, one of the precursors to the current Conservative Party of Canada, which pushed for broad acceptance of the Vietnamese refugees in the 1970s. It was another Progressive Conservative, Brian Mulroney, who led refugee resettlement in the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse and instituted the formal refugee board that still hears refugee cases today.

These governments represented a brand of conservatism that saw Canada as having a responsibility to the international community to do its part in resettling displaced peoples, a role the current Conservative government under Stephen Harper has downplayed.

“I think this is something of an isolationist government, in many ways,” Clark said. “When I was active in refugee affairs, the Canadian government was—well, during the ending of the Cold War, Canada played the lead on refugee affairs.”

Creal did not mince words. “I think the record of the Conservative government with respect to refugees is, from my point of view, absolutely deplorable,” he said.

The Conservative government has created a climate within Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and Canada Border Services that is hostile toward refugees, he said.

“CIC and the border services have been set up primarily to get rid of people,” he said. “The culture there is ‘how do we get people out of Canada as fast as possible when rejected?’ ”

But Creal did not think this was representative of a cultural shift among the Canadian people.

“I think there’s no question that large numbers of Canadians are open [to having more refugees]. The calls from people saying they want to sponsor a refugee family have far exceeded the capacity of various agencies to handle.”

Clark agreed that the majority of Canadians are inclined to help refugees, but stressed that they usually need a push. If the government doesn’t provide it, it has to come from somewhere else.

“With a bit of media, you can get a huge popular empathetic movement—usually around something that is not particularly rational, like a picture of a small child,” he said.


Anglican Journal News, October 01, 2015

‘Are we still people of compassion?’

Posted on: September 21st, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Wayne Holst

For weeks, we have been exposed to a human catastrophe that began in nations such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and has spread into most European countries. We have learned, for example, that Germany opened its doors to refugees from these nations and is now struggling to accommodate overwhelming numbers who are attempting to migrate there.

Great refugee/immigrant influxes are nothing new for Europe. Sixty years ago, in the wake of the Second World War, Germany was itself the source of millions of displaced persons (“DPs” as we in Canada called them). Canadians did an admirable job of resettling hundreds of thousands of former “enemies.”

Thirty-six years ago, 60,000 Indochinese refugees were resettled in Canada following the Vietnam War.

Now, a new challenge awaits us as major Canadian political parties compete with each other, with one, the New Democratic Party, proposing to invite as many as 46,000 refugees from war-torn Syria over a four-year period.

Canadians were not always as accepting of immigrants and refugees. Our border officials rejected Jews escaping Nazi persecution in the 1930s.

What has caused this significant change of heart? We have become a more compassionate people, largely the result of personal experience. My own family history might reveal why. My father’s people moved from Lower Saxony to Upper Canada at the time of Confederation. I still proudly visit some of their gravesites at St. James Lutheran Cemetery, in St. Jacobs, Ont. I am a sixth-generation Canadian with German heritage. When the post-Second World War influx began, government officials saw our region as a natural place of resettlement. But that process did not occur easily. I still recall how challenging it was for us to welcome “those Germans” because they had strange customs, “took jobs away from us,” and sometimes acted as if they had a right to our country after they lost the war.

When I arrived in Calgary in the late 70s, I attended a meeting after a worship service on my first Sunday in the city. We were asked to help resettle some Vietnamese “boat people.” One old German got up and argued vehemently. “Why should we help them? Nobody helped us when we came here?” (Not quite true, of course.) Fortunately, his view did not prevail and we were able to assist several families to find their footing in a new land.

Now, the call is to help accommodate a new migration of “foreigners,” this time of Muslim background. Are we still people of compassion?

The young boy who heard some of his elders complain about “those Germans” and the young parent who heard similar refrains against “those Asians” is now challenged in his later years to support “those Arabs.”

Fortunately, I have learned from my experience to view most new Canadian refugees and immigrants with compassion and see them as a great investment in the future of our nation. Many of us are here because caring, justice-seeking citizens practiced “welcoming the stranger.”


Wayne A. Holst was a Lutheran pastor (ELCIC) for 25 years. He taught religion and culture at the University of Calgary for a quarter-century and co-ordinates adult spiritual development at St. David’s United Church, Calgary. 

Anglican Journal News, September 21, 2015

Finding common ground: On diversity and interfaith co-operation

Posted on: September 20th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Image by KVDP (own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Image by KVDP (own work) via Wikimedia Commons

Finding common ground: On diversity and interfaith co-operation

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The proposed Charter of Québec Values in 2013 was a watershed moment for interfaith dialogue in that province. Through their shared concern and opposition to the bill—which among other provisions would have banned the wearing of “conspicuous” religious symbols for public sector employees—members of different faiths found themselves united in a common struggle.

In the diocese of Montréal, Anglicans marched alongside their counterparts in opposition to the Charter, met to plan a public event underlining their solidarity, attended an interfaith forum organized by the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, and contributed to a brief against the Charter produced by the Christian Jewish Dialogue of Montréal.

“I feel confident in saying that Anglicans in Québec reacted strongly against the Charter and reached out to our brothers and sisters of all faiths to unite in our opposition,” diocesan ecumenical officer Stephen Petrie said. “Personally, I found the new and far-reaching interfaith discussions were a valuable opportunity to break down barriers and misunderstandings.”

Promoting diversity, inclusion and interfaith co-operation is one of the 10 issues raised in the 2015 federal election resource for Anglicans. With Canada a more pluralistic and multicultural country than ever before, the need to facilitate communication and understanding between members of different faiths has never been greater.

A crucial part of that initiative is the fight against intolerance and bigotry. Along with its long-standing commitment to combat anti-Semitism, the Anglican Church of Canada has increasingly sought to quell the rise of Islamophobia.

For the past two years, the Rev. Dr. Scott Sharman been involved in organizing a citywide Muslim-Christian Dialogue Day in Edmonton, which brought together upwards of 300 residents from Christian and Muslim backgrounds to build relationships and promote mutual understanding.

In his role as Anglican chaplain at the University of Alberta, Sharman has put together semi-regular gatherings of Muslim and Christian students, faculty and staff members (along with members of other faiths) to hear stories of positive relations between the two traditions, counteracting negative stories often seen in the media.

Among the topics discussed at the gatherings have been individuals in Christian communities who helped provide education for former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Omar Khadr, and Muslims who sheltered Christians from violence in Iraq during the onslaught of ISIS.

“I think a major factor [in the rise of Islamophobia] is that people have their impressions of Islam unduly shaped by the media coverage of atrocities by fringe groups across the world,” Sharman said.

“Sometimes what results from seeing all these negative images and headlines seems to be a stronger anti-religious sentiment in general, in addition to the specific case of Islamophobia.”

“Anglicans should be concerned because we value religious freedom and the role of religious discourse in public life,” he added. “This is something to be spoken up for on behalf of our Muslim neighbors and people of other faiths, as well as ourselves.”

The notion of free and open discourse is particularly relevant when it comes to criticism of the state of Israel, which is sometimes equated with anti-Semitism.

The Anglican Church of Canada’s Director of Global Relations Andrea Mann said that equating criticism of the state of Israel with anti-Semitism has the effect of discouraging inquiry and undermining efforts to hold a nation-state accountable for its actions.

“It puts people off a more measured, disciplined study of issues and dynamics within the current conflict,” Mann said. “I think that undermines an effective solidarity for peace with Israelis, Palestinians, Canadians and others.”

View the 2015 federal election resource sheet on interfaith inclusion.


Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, September 20, 2015

A look in the mirror

Posted on: September 19th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Why do priests and police officers often have the same effect on people? Photo: Joseph Sohm/Shutterstock

There are times when we each bump up against our own rules in very telling ways. Recently this happened to me while I drove from my home to the cathedral, a trip that takes me over the bridge between West Kelowna and Kelowna.

The speed limit where I merge onto the highway is 80 km an hour. Very quickly, however, upon veering round a bend that leads to the actual bridge, this speed limit changes to 60; not surprisingly, few people on the road reduce their speed—including, I hate to admit, myself.

On this particular trip, as I rounded the bend I noticed a police car coming up the next ramp—in fact, not just one but two police cars. Immediately upon seeing these vehicles, I, like everyone else on the highway, started to slow down to 60 km an hour. As I did this, I found myself feeling amused. Faced with the authorities and the possibility of a speeding ticket, I quickly began to jump through the hoops of the law, doing exactly what these authorities expected and wanted me to do.

What made me smile was the instantaneous connection I made between what I had done and what many people—who come to the cathedral to be married or to have their babies baptized—do. In order to receive the blessing of the church in either of these two sacraments, most people are more than willing to jump through all the hoops to make this happen. What became patently obvious to me was that there is only one difference between me reducing my speed when the police cars appear on the highway and the people who do whatever they need to do in order to be married or have their children baptized. While in the first instance I am the offender, in the second I am the offended.

Every organization has its particular set of rules and regulations, to which most people respond in varying degrees of responsibility and obedience. The church’s experience of this is anything but unique. On my recent sojourn over the bridge and into Kelowna, however, what was a unique experience for me was being hoisted on my own petard, which pointed out to me how it is that I myself often do the very thing that drives me crazy in the actions of others.

The Very Rev. Nissa Basbaum is dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Michael and All Angels, diocese of Kootenay. 


Anglican Journal News, September 18, 2015

‘The nastiness refined me’

Posted on: September 16th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Michael Coren

Michael Coren on his separation from the Catholic Church: “It was rather like a ball of theological wool unraveling.” Photo:André Forget

Did I swim the Tiber or was it a walk to Canterbury? Not sure. It felt at the time more like some sort of ersatz inferno. I suppose I have a certain media profile and was until relatively recently known as a very public Roman Catholic. My 2012 book on Catholicism (Heresy, McClelland & Stewart) had been on the Canadian bestseller list for 10 weeks; I was named columnist of the year for my work in The Catholic Register and had been given numerous awards by Catholic groups. I was one of Canada’s most high-profile champions of Catholicism.

The separation was gradual, of course. While I never swayed from Catholic theology—and continue in my adherence—I began to question, then doubt, then reject Roman Catholic teaching on papal supremacy, authority, contraception and especially homosexuality and equal marriage. On the latter, I simply could no longer glue myself to a church that described gay relationships as sinful and disordered and caused so much pain to so many good, innocent people.

It was rather like a ball of theological wool unravelling. As soon as it began, it was difficult to stop it. The glorious irony of all this is that as my questioning of Roman Catholic teaching developed, so did my faith and my love of God. It wasn’t lack of belief that drove me from Rome but the very opposite. Partly out of respect for the Catholic church, I could no longer receive its sacraments and call myself a Roman Catholic while rejecting so many of its values and views. I know many Catholics remain in their church while doubting or even denying, but that wasn’t for me.

Around 18 months ago, I began to quietly worship at St. James Anglican Cathedral, to meet with various Anglicans and to read Anglican theology. Then I started to regularly attend my local Anglican parish, then I was formally received—a photo of the event was posted online, and the inferno I mentioned began to ignite.

It was a noble infamy, but it still stung. In the space of one week, I lost three regular columns and 13 speeches. No matter. What did matter were the attacks on my children, the fact that people trolled their Facebook pages and alleged that they were gay—irrelevant to me and to them, but the attacks were intended to hurt. It was written that I was a thief, an adulterer, a liar and was mentally ill. Such fun!

But what I found was so much greater than any suburban persecution. Within Anglican Catholic orthodoxy, I could pursue socially liberal ideas; within a church of mingling theologies, I could be respected as a Catholic and respect those with different ideas and call them brothers and sisters; within Anglicanism, I could reach out in Christ’s beauty to all people, irrespective of sexuality or religion, and love everything about them.

I have never been happier or felt more motivated as a Christian than now. The nastiness refined me; my new faith defines me. Regrets? Oh yes. That I didn’t do this a long time ago.


Toronto-based author and columnist Michael Coren’s email address is [email protected]

[email protected][email protected]

Anglican Journal News, September 15, 2015

Shelter from the storm: Homelessness and affordable housing is an election issue

Posted on: September 14th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
A homeless man seeks refuge inside a bus shelter at York and Wellington Streets in downtown Toronto, Ont.. Photo by Danielle Scott, via Wikimedia Commons

A homeless man seeks refuge inside a bus shelter at York and Wellington Streets in downtown Toronto, Ont.. Photo by Danielle Scott, via Wikimedia Commons

Shelter from the storm: Homelessness and affordable housing is an election issue

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“Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” —Luke 9:58

Over his decade of work as a street outreach priest in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, the Rev. Matthew Johnson has seen firsthand the difference that affordable low-income housing can make in a person’s life.

He recalled the past experience of his friend Dennis (not his real name), who was not homeless but living in what Johnson called “an absolute hellhole—something that it’s hard to believe you would find in the First World.”

Visiting Dennis on two occasions in his 9’x10’ suite at a single-room occupancy hotel, Mr. Johnson saw cockroaches and a massive bedbug infestation right in the open, along with mice and rats. Each floor had a shared bathroom with no light bulb, toilet paper, bathtub plug, or door lock.

“It is hard to believe … Many people prefer to live rough and on the street rather than to live in accommodations like that,” Johnson said. “…those accommodations were taking a massive toll on his mental health.”

When purpose-built housing for individuals with mental health diagnoses was built in the neighbourhood, Johnson helped with the application process that enabled Dennis to move into a clean new apartment, with working doors and locks, a small private bathroom, and his own stove and fridge.

The positive change was immediate.

“His life has been transformed—absolutely transformed,” Johnson marvelled. “It is very difficult to put into words what I see in his face and what I hear in the tone of his voice, and what I know of his story since he has been housed.

“It has been like a resurrection for him, and it has put him on a stable footing from which he is able to again enjoy life, again volunteer and contribute, giving back to the community through volunteer service and just through his very presence here.”

Homelessness and affordable housing together make up one of the 10 issues highlighted in the Anglican Church of Canada’s 2015 federal election resource.

More than 235,000 Canadians experience homelessness each year. In his experience with homeless Vancouver residents, Johnson noted that many were survivors of trauma. Others suffered from issues such as addiction, mental and physical illness and poverty—problems that homelessness often aggravates and perpetuates.

The problem of homelessness is further exacerbated by the lack of affordable housing, noted Sonia Hsiung, program associate at Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice.

“Canada is experiencing a crisis in affordable housing,” Hsiung said. “Federal funding is decreasing. Meanwhile population has increased … Also, with the economy, with cutbacks in social assistance and all of that, it’s creating longer and longer waiting lists for affordable housing.”

Currently in Toronto, the waiting list for affordable housing is between 10 to 15 years on average.

With federal operating agreements that support mortgages for low-income residents about to end, many in social assistance housing are now in very precarious positions—particularly in northern, First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities where it is more expensive to build and maintain housing.

The Anglican Church of Canada currently works with two partner organizations, the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness and Housing for All, which respectively focus on homelessness and affordable housing.

With the federal election in full swing, the latter is pushing for the development of a national housing strategy and additional funding to preserve existing housing stock and add new housing stock.

“What we’re talking about are not bottom lines, but flesh-and-blood human beings, brothers and sisters,” Johnson said.

“When we are talking about affordable housing, that is what it’s about … When human lives are changed and where people are given just the basics—a safe place to stay—it turns their lives around and they give back, and everyone is enriched,” he added.

“Just as we are all diminished when neighbours suffer, we are all enriched when our neighbours thrive.”

View the 2015 federal election resource sheet on homeless and affordable housing.


Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, September 11, 2015

Michael Jinkins: They’re called students, not customers

Posted on: September 7th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments


Theological education isn’t about the transmission of information for which a customer pays but the transformation of people. And transformation is often an uncomfortable process.

Some years ago while I was serving as dean of another theological school a member of that board of trustees pressed our school’s administration and faculty to change the way we referred to those people who attend our seminary.

He insisted — and for some time with some success — that we stop thinking of them and treating them as students and start calling them customers.

This trustee reflected a cultural shift, and one I believe represents an attempt to instill a genuinely positive value. A customer purchases a product. A customer should be able to expect that the goods they are being sold are what they are paying for. I think this trustee was attempting to instill a level of accountability which he felt was lacking in higher education.

But of course, despite the positive motives, there are all sorts of values that ride piggy-back on the customer metaphor, values expressed in phrases like: “The customer is always right.” “You’ve got to keep the customer satisfied.” These values have a way of putting a strange spin on the educational process.

I can’t speak for other professional schools, but I can say with some authority that theological education is not primarily about the transmission of information for which a customer pays. It’s about the transformation of people. And transformation is often an uncomfortable process.

I know this firsthand. I entered theological education almost twenty years ago as a director of supervised practice of ministry. I was responsible for placing students in congregational and clinical settings in order to practice the varieties of ministry for which they were being trained and under the close educational supervision by experienced pastors, chaplains, therapists and social workers.

Placing students well required that we do careful assessments of each to discover the areas where they needed to grow if they were going to become competent ministers and leaders. And this meant that, at times, I needed to place students in settings that they would never have chosen for themselves, indeed, would have avoided if they could.

One crisp fall morning, I was standing at the blackboard before students returned from their summer supervised ministry experiences for the first day of class in the new term. I didn’t notice one student had already made her way quietly into the room. When I put down the chalk and turned around, she said:

“Do you know that I have been angry at you all summer?”

“No,” I replied.

“Well, I have been. The CPE program you assigned me to was a nightmare.”

I knew it would be. This particular program was in a tough county hospital in Dallas, Texas (about a million miles from the tony neighborhood of this student’s childhood), serving a population this student had never before met. The program had a brilliant supervisory staff and a great reputation for clinical supervision. I knew it was perfect for her when I reviewed her pre-placement assessment and interviewed her.

“Do you even care that I am angry at you?”

“No.” I said, “I care more about your education as a minister than your personal feelings about me.”

That was not the response she expected, but I meant those words from the bottom of my heart as a teacher.

It took some time for this student to unpack her experience in CPE. She talked often to me, to other students, to her other professors and her pastor. And she learned and grew into a superb minister and congregational leader.

If I had treated her as a customer, I might have backed off on sending her to that particular program when she objected. If I had considered her a customer, I would certainly have been duty-bound to try to make her happy, rather than to place her in a situation that was guaranteed to make her uncomfortable.

She was a student, not a customer, and she deserved to be treated with the dignity of a student, which means she deserved to be granted the expectation that she would be not only informed, but transformed by her educational experience.

During the last few years we have all read the stories of institutions of higher education under tremendous financial stress. And in times of financial stress institutions are compelled to do all sorts of things. Some changes can make for better schools: more efficient, more effective, more flexible and responsive to the changing needs of the society around us.

But some changes have nothing to do with their core mission of educating people as well as they possibly can. The change from calling students to customers is one of them.

For the sake of their education, and for the sake of the vocations to which they are called, we owe it to students to resist fads and call them by the right name.


Michael Jinkins is president and professor of theology at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

Random acts of evangelism

Posted on: September 4th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Michelle Hauser

Random Acts of Evangelism usually leave me grappling with a complex set of emotions. First and foremost, there’s anger. I sincerely do not want to talk to strangers about Jesus, and when they knock on my door with a Bible in hand, while I’m searing a roast, the meat gets crispy and so do I.

The only joy I get from these uninvited dialogues (monologues, really, but more on that in a minute) is when I tell them I don’t want a copy of Watchtower, or whatever, thank you very much, because I’m Anglican and we have our own newspaper, so don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Through the years, I’ve come to relish the crestfallenness that creeps across their faces during my big bad denominational reveal. It’s primarily fundamentalists who go door-to-door, and I think they prefer impassioned atheists to mainline moderates. Maybe it’s easier to catapult a prospective convert from one extreme to another? The middle, however, is a real challenge for zealous disciples: such a vast expanse of potential religious mediocrity to navigate. It’s no wonder Anglicanism seems to throw them off their game. (Of course, there are fundamentalist Anglicans, too, but that’s another column for another day.)

Anyway, anger is what I felt one day earlier this summer when I was minding my business, training my son to be a good guide for my mother-in-law (she’s visually impaired and needs to be accompanied on her walks) when two something-sisters-of-the-something-mission crossed the street and interrupted us.

In fact, the reason I didn’t read their name tags in full is because I was focused on showing my son a particularly treacherous section of sidewalk that could leave his grandmother stumbling into oncoming traffic if he weren’t extremely careful. My business was life or death—it’s unclear if it will appear on my heavenly scorecard on admissions day, but it probably won’t damage my prospects—and chewing the fat about Jesus, however good his news, was not on my agenda at that moment.

The two young women with golden curls and flowing skirts might have been resplendent in the sunlight, but their luminescence was diminished by their forced grins, which were creepy-sweet. Maybe living a good Christian life had genuinely overstuffed them with ecstasy, and I’m the sour cynic who’s missing out, but I saw strained enthusiasm, reminiscent of buskers who’ve given one too many performances under a big, hot sun. Even my son, who is eight years old, asked me later, “Why were they smiling like that?”

I was steadying my mother-in-law’s walker when the sisters launched into their spiel: “We’re just wondering if there’s anything we can do for you today?” followed, without nearly enough time for a breath, let alone a yes or no reply, “We just want to tell you about the Lord Jesus Christ, who can be your personal saviour.”

On this occasion, and so many others like it, my anger evaporated into total boredom. How could it not? It’s always the same script.

As a child, thanks to my spiritually ambiguous parents who were perpetually searching, I was exposed to a lot of conflicting theology and religious dogma without nearly enough religious practice to support any of it. Through the years, I became deaf to some of the more frequently rehearsed stuff, especially the monologues that are so overwrought with a particular kind of Christian vocabulary. Who really talks like that? Give me authenticity or give me nothing. As a result, during Random Acts of Evangelism, like the one with the sisters, I can tune out with minimal adjustments to my audio input.

This acquired hearing impairment is also what allowed me, at a crucial turning point years ago, to drown out some of the religious noise in my head and make a choice to connect with a church and believe something. And that choice has subsequently helped me to move beyond a would-be believer’s doubt and uncertainty, to explore Christianity, on my own terms, from within the comfortable confines of a denominational brand. My tolerance for people muddying my waters is pretty low.

“We’re good,” was my response to the sisters on this day. “We’re totally good.” I returned my attention to pointing out the hazards and deficiencies of municipal infrastructure and kept my guided-walk tutorial-train moving as quickly as it could in spite of the crowd of heavenly hosts clogging up the sidewalk.

But there’s nothing like the dust settling on an evangelistic brush-off to bring on guilt and self-reflection. Religious differences and competing print publications aside, maybe being closed-off to other Christians who don’t play for my team isn’t such a good thing? Is denominational identity a coping skill or a cop-out? And, most importantly, how will I know when I’ve become too comfortable?

“Why didn’t you want to talk to those girls?” my son asked.

“It’s complicated, Joe,” I said. “It’s really complicated.”


Anglican Journal News, September o3, 2015

The stained glass ceiling holds

Posted on: September 4th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Women bishops at the 2008 Lambeth Conference of Bishops. Photo: Marites N. Sison

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

On June 6, when Mary Irwin-Gibson, the dean and rector of St. George’s Anglican Cathedral in Kingston, Ont., was elected bishop of the diocese of Montreal, the Anglican Journal published an online story that carried the headline, First woman bishop for Montreal.

Irwin-Gibson’s election was met with what has now become a familiar response among Canadian Anglicans each time a woman becomes bishop anywhere in the world: jubilation on the part of many; disdain from a few still opposed to the ordination of women, let alone the idea of having them wear the mitre.

What was quite unexpected were reactions from some who were offended that the Journal chose to highlight her being the first woman bishop for Montreal, with one reader saying it was “so quaint and oddly sexist.” The comment, which was well-meaning, concluded: “It sounds as if being female is her most important attribute…When will we stop seeing this as a ‘man bites dog’ kind of thing?”

In stories, context is everything. In this case, as one reader noted, “the novelty is regrettable, but it is a novelty; she is, literally, the first.” Irwin-Gibson’s election was historic for the diocese of Montreal because it has never had a woman bishop—in its 165-year history. Even the secular media couldn’t help noting its significance, with CBC News tweeting: Mary Irwin-Gibson has been elected Anglican Bishop of #Montreal. First female in the role.

Highlighting this fact was necessary for other equally important reasons. Irwin-Gibson is only the ninth woman bishop in the Anglican Church of Canada, which has had male bishops since 1787. In 1986, the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod passed a resolution allowing the consecration of women as bishops, but it only elected its first woman bishop—Victoria Matthews, as a suffragan, in the diocese of Toronto—in 1993. Today, 22 years later, women constitute only 15% (six out of 39) of the total number of active members in the House of Bishops. It is still a big deal.

Elsewhere in the Anglican Communion, the numbers are more dismal. Of about 700 active bishops across 38 provinces, only 33 (or 5%) are women. The Communion had one female primate (national archbishop) out of 38—that is, until Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, whose election in 2006 was hailed as a breakthrough for women leadership in the church, ended her term this summer. This hardly qualifies as shattering the glass ceiling.

It bears remembering that only nine of the Communion’s 38 provinces have women bishops. The Church of England consecrated its first woman bishop, the Rev. Libby Lane in the diocese of Chester, only in January this year.

The situation of women in church leadership mirrors that of society. In Canada, considered one of the most progressive countries in the world, men are still two or three times more likely than women to hold senior executive posts, according to the Conference Board of Canada.

It is unfortunate and, yes, one longs for the day when neither gender nor race (The Episcopal Church just elected its first African-American primate, Michael Curry, in June) becomes the defining narrative of someone’s achievement. But until equality is achieved, it behooves us not to downplay gains.

The first woman diocesan bishop of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, Sue Moxley (ret.), was reminded of this necessity by a young woman who once asked her why she wasn’t wearing her purple (bishop’s) shirt:  “I need you to wear it,” said the young woman. “I need to know it is possible.”

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Anglican Journal News, August 31, 2015