Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

‘Brief Encounter’

Posted on: July 18th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard in the movie classic, Brief Encounter. Photo: Wikimedia Commons


What movies do you enjoy and why? My partner Marlene and I watch a lot of first-run films; but recently we’ve viewed some of the classics.

We consider this entertainment, but the teacher in me is always looking for human interest and wisdom to be gained. Here are my thoughts after a recent viewing of the 1946 English romance, Brief Encounter.

A key discovery? Human nature is unchanging, and our highest values, like fidelity in marriage, take work. Today, however, we seem to have moved from personal and societal certitudes to situational struggles and unclear grounding.

In this 70 year-old classic, much-feted director David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, Ryan’s Daughter) created a splendid adaptation of Noel Coward’s play, Still Life (1936), with great acting by Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard.

Laura, a conventional British suburbanite, is a married woman with children. Her mundane life becomes increasingly complicated after a chance meeting with Alec, a physician, at a greater-London railway station. He kindly removes a piece of grit from her eye. They share tea and return visits. One inadvertent meeting quickly evolves into a powerful love affair.

Matters become even more tangled when they are observed by acquaintances, and also when the couple visits a flat owned by Alec’s friend, who unexpectedly discovers them.

Frightened, Laura uses a back exit, feeling humiliated and ashamed. The lovers realize that a future together is impossible. Alec accepts a medical position in South Africa, and she is resigned to ending the relationship. We’re uncertain if it was ever consummated.

The experience, however, has affected them deeply. Their parting is heart-rending and a final goodbye is botched, leaving both of them distraught and unsatisfied. Laura sinks into a suicidal trauma, but blocks these impulses. She comes home to her husband, who, sensing her recent preoccupation, thanks her for returning.

Could a credible remake of this movie occur today? Certainly—infidelity remains problematic. But for today’s audience, the story details would need to be less discretely presented.

Women’s rights and freedoms have advanced considerably since the end of the Second World War. A feminist critique of this film may suggest that Laura and Alec acted “ethically” more out of social convention and fear, based on the good social example expected of them. Women bear the brunt of any fallout, but that, I believe, is also changing.

Gay people today might say that they are now saddled and seek release from the oppression of social conformity that postwar women endured.

I think the biggest change has been in the locus of ethical decision-making. It has shifted from society to the individual. In retrospect, we might be critical of the way both Laura and Alec seemed more dissuaded by the public perception of their behaviour than how they personally felt about it.

Infidelity remains a timeless issue. Today’s understandings might differ; the moral crux of the matter has not. Human nature is unchanged. How we act upon it varies.

Our highest values are not shaped, applied or realized without considerable struggle and soul-searching. Brief Encounter helped me rediscover that.

About the Author

Wayne Holst

 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, July 18, 2016

The church at its worst, or best?

Posted on: July 4th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Fasten your seatbelts, folks. It’s going to be a bumpy ride at General Synod 2016.

This, more or less, is what Canadian Anglicans have been telling one another.

The church’s governing body will meet in Richmond Hill, Ont., July 7-12 to act on a number of matters, including a controversial motion to change the marriage canon (church law) so that clergy can marry same-gendered couples.

This early, many have already expressed a great deal of anxiety about the meeting and some are anticipating the worst. There are concerns about the tenor and conduct of debates on the floor as well as possible protest actions that may ensue. Others worry about a fallout regardless of what decision is made. If the motion is passed, some Anglicans may decide to leave the church for good. If the motion is rejected, some Anglicans may also decide to vote with their feet. Either way, there will be disappointment and hurt.

Some bishops have expressed fears of possible civil disobedience if the motion is defeated, including clergy performing same-gendered marriages without their approval. Others are concerned about what an approval could mean for the church’s relationship with the rest of the Anglican Communion and with its ecumenical partners.  Still, some are trying to figure out a unique solution that need not be a zero-sum proposition for both sides of the divide.  All this to say that any decision will have an impact on relationships within and outside the church.

However, just as the worst possible scenario can happen, it is also entirely possible that the best possible outcome may emerge.

A lot will depend on how the meeting itself is organized and how General Synod members conduct themselves. Organizers say there will be a lot of time devoted to prayer and there is a plan for members to be in “neighbourhood groups,”  designed to be places for “everyone to be heard and everyone’s opinion to be valued.”

There will be some whose minds are made up and who may feel that these discussions will be an exercise in futility since they’ve “heard it all before.” But there should be patience, respect and humility to listen to the stirrings of the Holy Spirit and acknowledge that one may still learn something new.  Members must not fear honest, painful discussions. They need to be open about them—it shows a church struggling to be true to its mission instead of burying its head in the sand.

Church members closely following the proceedings via social media also have a role to play in ensuring that discussions online are respectful and helpful.  The point is not that there should be no conflict and disagreements—by now, people have clued in that it isn’t always a love fest in church, and it shouldn’t be, otherwise there is no accountability—but that one can have them without vilifying and tearing each other apart.

It is also important to remember that the church has been through many upheavals before—including the ordination of women to the priesthood and the remarriage of divorced persons—and it survived. It struggled, yes, but it survived by the sheer will and effort of its members, and by the generous grace of God.

About the Author

Marites N. Sison

Marites N. Sison

Marites N. Sison is editor of the Anglican Journal.


Anglican Journal News, July 04, 2016

Praying for patience

Posted on: June 27th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Photo: Denisgo/Shutterstock

When I was a teenager, I remember my youth pastor telling me, “be careful when you ask God to give you patience. God might just answer your prayer by giving you the opportunity to practice patience.”

I don’t remember asking God to give me patience, but I must have, because I recently found myself stuck in a room full of church leaders for an entire week. Being with church leaders is a perfect opportunity to practice patience because they are wonderfully annoying people. Chock-full of the regular angst of being human, they also come to the table feeling responsible for the collective angst of the human communities they serve. Regardless of the issue being discussed, it’s a recipe for frustration.

In this case, it wasn’t any particular theological belief that bothered me, it was the certainty of their convictions: the assurance that they were standing on the right side of history, and that given time, the entire world would come to see things their way. Having been raised in a fundamentalist church, I have developed an allergic reaction to indubitableness across theological and social-political spectrum. Certainty gives me hives.

As the anthropologist Wade Davis writes, “The world in which you were born is just one model of reality. Other cultures are not failed attempts at being you; they are unique manifestations of the human spirit.” I suspect the same might be true of theological cultures within our church. Other theologies (ways of reading the Bible, sources of moral authority, liturgical practices) are not failed attempts as being your theology; they are unique manifestations of the Holy Spirit—each offering potential gifts of insight to the other, and each baring within it significant limitations.

However, this requires a stance of openness to the other that would allow for the possibility that in our encounter with the other, our own perspective might be legitimately challenged and potentially changed. Insofar as we preclude this possibility we are engaged not in dialogue, but in proselytism. True dialogue requires patience: patience to listen, patience to sit with uncomfortable truths, patience to recognize that we are not the ones responsible for drawing the line that demarcates the right side of history.

As I sat for a week sincerely trying to listen to church leaders whose sense of surety had me scratching my arms, I had a sudden realization: am I not as certain as they are about my own stance of uncertainty? Is that not also a neatly marked out right side of history? Perhaps the indubitableness to which I was reacting was my own—more like an autoimmune disorder than an allergy.

Abba Anthony said: “I have seen all the snares of the devil spread out on earth and I said with a sigh: ‘who can pass these by?’ and I heard a voice saying to me: ‘humble mindedness.’”

About the Author

Jeffrey Metcalfe

Jeffrey Metcalfe

Jeffrey Metcalfe is a priest from the diocese of Quebec and a doctoral student in theological studies at the University of Toronto.


Anglican Journal News, June 27, 2016

Anglican call for action at World Council of Churches

Posted on: June 22nd, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments


Dr Agnes Abuom from the Anglican Church of Kenya is Moderator of the World Council of Churches
Photo Credit: WCC

[ACNS, by Adrian Butcher] The Anglican moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has called on the Church to move away from nostalgia and consider how to become catalysts of a moral force in a world beset by injustice, inequality and rising xenophobia.

Dr Agnes Abuom, from Nairobi in Kenya, told the WCC’s Central Committee in Norway that it was time to move from rhetoric to action and walk together with people who are denied justice.

“The witness of many in the forefront of struggles demand that we move away from the culture of conferences and statements and begin to get engaged in actions that nurture hope and alternatives,” she said.

“There is room in the gospel for disagreement but there is no room for disengagement,” Dr Abuom added. “Pilgrimage is about hope breaking into our present, motivating us to move forward, overcoming hurdles. . . We need to move from the nostalgia of the past, set aside our burdensome preoccupations and instruments that have outlived their purpose and venture into new and relevant areas of engagement.”

Dr Abuom praised the Church for engaging in the migration crisis in Europe. She said it was ironic that powerful nations and former colonial powers seem to be more affected by what she called the “fear of the other.”

“There doesn’t seem to be a place that is free of xenophobia and the consequential violence against minorities, migrants and refugees, many of whom are victims of war and poverty,” she said. “The images of rejection and mistreatment of millions fleeing from war and violence in recent times are still fresh in our minds. I commend the churches of Europe for their sensitive and generous response and their great witness, even if it meant facing the ire of their governments and the majority.”

Dr Abuom said the church had great responsibility and needed to be actively engaged in renouncing values and attitudes that glorified power. She said it had to denounce systems and cultures that diminished and denied life. The Church needed to be holding to account international financial institutions, military powers, industry and political systems – rather than opting to be their endorsing agents.

She said pilgrimage offered the Church immense possibilities to reimagine itself as a movement of God’s people in mission – open and agile and receptive to the promptings of the Spirit.

One hundred and fifty members of the WCC are attending the weeklong conference in Trondheim under the theme of Pilgrimage. Issues under discussion include justice and peace, the Middle East, religion and violence, and children’s rights.

  • Click here to read the full text of Dr Abuom’s address (pdf)


Anglican Communion News Service, Daily update from the ACNS on Wednesday 22 June 2016

What rhymes with ‘truth’?

Posted on: June 20th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments


The other day, I heard an interview on CBC’s The Current with the philosopher James Garvey. He was talking about his work on the impact of marketing techniques used in the context of public political and ethical debates. Instead of attempting to persuade people through reasoned argument and debate, we are being persuaded to form opinions on matters of great significance through the same means as we are persuaded to choose Coke over Pepsi.

One of the things he said stuck with me. We are more inclined to agree with something or believe something if it rhymes. This isn’t just because rhyming is inherently pleasing to our pattern seeking minds. It’s because rhyming makes things easy to think about and we are more likely to believe something is true if it is easy to think about.

We are more likely to believe something is true if it is easy to think about.

This is a huge challenge for the church. So little that we hold to be true is easy to think about. Our truth is complicated—full of paradox and mystery and questions and history and hope. And our truth is often uncomfortable—calling us to face the reality of sin, to take up our cross and follow our Saviour through death and resurrection.

The complexity and the discomfort didn’t matter so much, once upon a time, because popular opinion was with us, and agreeing with the crowd makes things easier to think about—or perhaps makes thinking about it unnecessary. Everything in our society worked together to tell the same story, to reinforce the same truth.

That advantage is gone.

So what are we to do? We can’t make the Trinity or the incarnation or the problem of evil or the nature of the Eucharist easy to understand. We can’t ignore the Gospel call to repentance and transformation for each one of us and for our world. We can’t make our faith simple or comfortable or the default position—and nor should we want to. So how can we get people to actually think about the Christian faith long enough and deeply enough to consider the life it offers?

By getting the order right.

Christian faith is not primarily an intellectual proposition or ethical position. It is a life—indeed, it is Life. The teachings, be they theological or personal, explain and enrich the experience of following Christ. Consider the biblical record. The Sermon on the Mount was delivered to the crowds who had been drawn to Jesus by his ministry of healing. Parables are offered to people who come either threatened by or desirous of what Jesus has. Peter’s Pentecost sermon was in response to the questions of those who witnessed the disciples in the grip of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s letters are written on the strength of his personal commitment to Christ and to the recipients, communities already seeking to live the new life of faith.

People will think about the Christian faith if they see Christian life as something worth having, something worth experiencing. We need to live with so much love and hope and courage in the face of injustice and suffering that some people are threatened and some people come looking for an explanation. Because I think it is easier to think about something we have actually experienced for ourselves—and if something is easier to think about, we are more likely to believe it is true.

About the Author

Rhonda Waters

Rhonda Waters

The Rev. Rhonda Waters is priest-in-charge at St. Matthew’s, diocese of Ottawa. 
Anglican Journal News, June 20, 2016

‘Look at the birds of the air’

Posted on: June 17th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Photo: Birdgal/Shutterstock

In his Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 6:26), Jesus advises us to consider that—even as the Creator cares for the birds of the air—we humans can learn from them and trust in God’s compassion for all creation. This is a basic ecological tenet of the Christian faith.

How well do we know the birds and their capacity to understand such all-encompassing care? Those questions prompted new insights for me when I discovered The Genius of Birds, a new book by Jennifer Ackerman. I also learned more about the amazing migratory capacity of millions of birds that pay annual visits to our rich Canadian forests. A recent visit to the Boreal Bird Centre and Lesser Slave Lake Bird Observatory in Alberta’s North inspired me to reflect further on Jesus’ words.

“One by one, the bellwether differences between birds and our closest primate relatives seem to be falling away,” says Ackerman. She writes about the avian genius for way-finding, their memories, the neuroscientific relationship between bird song and human language, their nest-building skills, sophisticated social intelligence, learning and evidence of empathy.

The author informs us that “there is the mammal way, and the bird way”—two distinct but related operating systems, honed through convergent evolution.

The bird centre and observatory are located on a major matrix for annual return migration. Birds like the Arctic Tern congregate, rest and feed in the boreal forest on their annual 40,000 kilometre circuit from Canada’s North to Chile’s South. Others, weighing no more than a pencil, arrive after an 8,000-km flight from South America.

Yellowtails and Warblers are netted, banded and released here, and may head south to California or cross the continent, following the Atlantic coast to the Caribbean and back. Most fly 500-2,000 metres high, but some have been spotted at 8,000 metres.

What guidance do they follow? Signals from observing the alignment of the sun and stars or tracking the Earth’s magnetic field, mountains and rivers. Some simply “follow the flock, while others lead by intuition”—just like humans.

Of all Western hemispheric birds (totalling 3-5 billion), 93% visit our boreal forests at some point on their journey, even though about half never reach their destination. Their goal? Good places for food, nesting and procreation.

Animals and birds share an intelligence with humans, but it is a different kind. We can “look at the birds of the air” and appreciate their complex cognitive ability in their own right, and not because they replicate some aspect of our own intelligence.

For those intrigued by these comparisons, learnings are limitless.

Traditionally, Judeo-Christian theology has viewed humans as the epitome of God’s creation. This has provoked much conflict, tension and abuse as we struggle to maintain our “privileged” or “responsible” position at the top of the heap. It is intriguing and ironic to discover from modern science that creation is more a level-playing field than a multi-layered hierarchy.

Wayne Holst

 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, June 17, 2016

Will Orlando be our moment of reckoning?

Posted on: June 17th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Natasha Brubaker Garrison

An interfaith vigil for victims of the Orlando shooting held June 12 in Houston, Texas. Photo: Ashton Woods/Wikimedia Commons

(The views expressed are my own and do not reflect an official position of the parish or its members.)

Once again, we are faced with the presence of evil and the horror of violence in the mass murder at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. Once again, my heart is breaking for this unfathomable pain and loss. The ugly spectres of race, homophobia (of both secular and religiously condoned variations), Islamophobia, anti-immigrant baiting and more are all present in this event and its aftermath—a hydra-headed monster staring us in the face. Prejudice against and fear of those who do not fit the neat box of male/female gender and heterosexuality, cut across religious, cultural and ethnic lines, and are supported by a dominant understanding of narrowly defined masculinity and justified by “tradition.”

In the setting of North America, the church’s position has profoundly shaped the norms and mores of the societies in which we live, even in this increasingly secular age. The Christian faith (in which I serve as a priest in the Anglican denomination) has historically named homosexuality as a sin and an abomination. Some parts of the church still do. More recently, the church has tried to be more pastoral by affirming that sexual orientations other than heterosexual are not in and of themselves sinful, but acting on them is. And it has also proclaimed that we “hate the sin, not the sinner.”

For many Christians, these distinctions seem inadequate and wrong-headed. Lively conversations are reframing Christian theologies of sexuality and marriage. Hence many Christians have come to a full acceptance of all sorts of sexual orientations and gender identities. They base their beliefs on sound theological reasoning in conversation with Scripture and tradition as well as insights from psychology, biology and sociology. These Christians reject outright any dogma or doctrine that defines non-traditional expressions of sexuality as sinful. There are many who still hold to the traditional teachings of the church. An honest and sincere debate continues within the church by a great variety of people who take their faith very seriously.

However, the events in Orlando must be a moment of reckoning for our common assumptions and many established doctrines. Such distinctions, no matter how finely parsed or subtly nuanced, which claim that to be a certain way by virtue of how one is born is not a sin, but to express and live out of that way of being is sinful, simply do not bear up under serious examination. They do not logically and rationally hold together.

While individuals may hold varying views, and I will respect their freedom of conscience to do so, the church, as an institution of power and influence, bears a different level of responsibility. Any religious teaching that denigrates a person, their personhood or the expression of their personhood as inherently sinful provides a divinely sanctioned rationale for intolerance and hate. Moreover, they create the very thing they claim to be overcoming: creating a hierarchy, a two-tiered humanity, of “those” kind of people vs. “these” kind of people. “Those” people are still understood as different, suspect and less in the image of God than “these” people. They feed the stream of contempt and disdain, fear and judgment, in which some people are identified as a priori better or more in the image of God than others. We have seen the consequences of this in other areas  (i.e., anti-Semitism, racism, colonialism and so on—all areas in which the church has taught theologies of support). They inform who is seen as acceptable to target and victimize. When was the last time we had a report of a “straight bashing”?  When did men have to draw attention to being groped or catcalled on a regular basis on public transit? And as such, they contribute to the cultural context that still is abusive to and discriminatory of GLBTQ2S (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Two-Spirited) persons. The events of Orlando require that such teachings no longer find any sanction in the church.

Beyond this repudiation, there must be more proactive movement. The church is invited to reorient itself in its views about the nature, purpose, scope and promise of our sexuality, gender and intimate relationships. It is called to widen its lens and celebrate the integrity and love embodied in the intimate and committed relationships between adults. It is a conversation about how we live holy and loving lives as sexed persons with a variety of sexual inclinations and gender identities. It is a rethinking of what “sin” means in a sexual context. Sexual sin happens when power is misused. It happens in acts that violate or objectify another. It happens when trust and commitments are betrayed. The church’s voice can, from this place, offer something life-giving and valuable.

God pushes the church as a body and each of its members to constantly expand and refine our understanding of love and how we embody it. This is such a moment. We are called, as best we can, to come down on the side of respecting the dignity of every human being and love. Every single time.


Natasha Brubaker Garrison is rector of St. Martin’s Anglican Church, Calgary.


Anglican Journal News, June 17, 2016

Honouring God’s love for the Earth

Posted on: June 10th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Opinion submissions on religious topics (maximum 500 words) will be considered for publication; send queries to [email protected]


I’ve always loved the outdoors. As a child, I spent endless hours playing in the Elora Gorge and camping on the shores of Lake Huron. My love of God and my love of the Earth blossomed simultaneously on adventures exploring rivers, lakes and forests.

Several years ago, my husband and I went looking for a new church home in Ottawa. We wanted a nurturing environment for our young family and a place where our thinking would be challenged and our gifts used. After one visit to All Saints’ Anglican Church Westboro, we intuitively knew we’d found our place.

As I reflect back, I remember noticing several hints that it was a church that said, “We care about creation.” I wasn’t consciously looking for a green church, but everything from compost bins to the gardens to the partnership with First United (and the sharing of the church building) signalled that this was our community.

God’s love for all of creation

I have endeavoured to follow the guidance God provides throughout Scripture and to live gently on the Earth. I’ve sought to live in a way that honours God’s love for the Earth. As the climate crisis looms large, I have tried to do my part to address the problem.

We power our home with alternative energy. We compost and have a backyard vegetable garden. We support local farmers and other local businesses. We buy second-hand clothes and sometimes upcycle worn articles into new items.  We share our house and car with extended family. Most of the time, we bus or bike to work and school. And, we emphasize intentional living and shared experiences over the accumulation of “stuff.”

I support initiatives at our parish and act on the many statements, letters and resolutions that the Anglican Church of Canada has made in support of climate justice. I was tremendously moved when, in 2013, the fifth Mark of Mission—to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the Earth—was reflected in a new question in the Anglican Church of Canada’s Baptismal Covenant.

Faith and climate action

Creation care is critical to the ministry of the national Anglican church.  As a Christian, I know I am called by God to respond to the human and ecological devastation of climate change with love and justice. So, I continue to do my part.

But climate change is an issue that requires action on a scale far greater than anything we can do alone. Last winter, the Government of Canada played a constructive role in the negotiation of the Paris Agreement on climate change.  It is now consulting Canadians as it develops a climate plan.  I encourage you to reflect on your place in creation and the role you wish to play in responding to the climate crisis, and to join me in calling for a bold and ambitious Canadian climate action plan.


Karri Munn-Venn

Karri Munn-Venn is the senior policy analyst at Citizens for Public Justice, a national faith-based organization that advocates for social and ecological justice in Canadian public policy. 


Anglican Journal News, June 10, 2016

Bishop’s pilgrimage about ‘getting outside our walls’

Posted on: June 6th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

The Rev. Chris McMullen (L) and Bishop David Edwards hike along the Bay of Fundy coast during the 2015 pilgrimage. Photo: Contributed

For the second year in a row, Bishop David Edwards of the diocese of Fredericton will spend the first two weeks of June walking the streets and highways of his territory, visiting parishes, praying with Anglicans and witnessing to the communities he visits along the way.

“As a church, we need to be getting outside our walls and proclaiming the good news of Jesus in all kinds of ways,” he said in an interview with the Anglican Journal. “In a sense, this is a symbolic gesture on my part: to say to folks that we can’t sit in our buildings, the gospel is something to be proclaimed in the streets and on the hillsides.”

The pilgrimage, which began May 29 and ends June 12, will take Edwards through the geographically large but sparsely populated archdeaconry of Chatham along New Brunswick’s rugged north shore.

It is part of a planned series of walks in which Edwards hopes to travel through each of the seven archdeaconries in his diocese. His aims are to connect with his parishioners and witness to the church’s presence in their communities.

Last year’s pilgrimage, which Edwards said went “extremely well,” took him across the much smaller archdeaconry of St. Andrews, on the mouth of the Bay of Fundy. This year, however, he will face new challenges.

Because most of Chatham’s six parishes and 14 churches are spread along the coast of the Gulf of St. Lawrence or nestled inland along the southwestern and northwestern branches of the Miramichi River, distance poses an obstacle.

Edwards explained that due to the geography of the archdeaconry, there are large areas with nothing but forest. For this reason, at certain points he and his walking partner, Trevor Fotheringham, will be lifted from one part of the province to another to save time.

The idea to walk around the diocese during summer came from Edwards’ mother, who told him stories when he was a child of how the bishop of her home diocese of Lichfield, England, would spend summers walking around the diocese. Following his election as bishop in 2014, Edwards thought it might be a good idea to try this approach in his own diocese.

As well as giving him a chance to meet with and encourage Anglicans in his diocese, Edward believes walking is a way of making the church’s presence known in a unique way to the wider community.

“There is a degree of visibility [in walking]…and the opportunity to draw people in and to pray for people who may need prayer as we go along the road,” he said.

“Also, Jesus did a lot of walking, as far as I can see.”

A website dedicated to the bishop’s walk has been created, where Edwards is live blogging his experience.


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 03, 2016

Checking privilege at the border

Posted on: May 27th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments



Flying back from a conference, I stand at the desk of an airport terminal’s gate, preparing to board, ticket in hand, passport at the ready. Like the security checkpoint prior to the gate, the boarding agent barely glances at my documentation before scanning my ticket and allowing me to board the flight for home.

I’ve participated in the rituals of border crossing so many times that they now seem both easy and natural. In truth, they are neither, but the degree to which they seem so says a great deal about my own privilege and the function that borders serve in the life of our nation-states.

As a white, blue-eyed, blonde-haired male who holds a Canadian passport, I can pass through most borders like a warm knife through butter. Not being stopped or scrutinized at borders, I am not often forced to think about them and that is how white privilege works—it gives you the luxury of thoughtlessness.

The reality is that my experience of borders is not the experience of the majority of the world’s population. About a hundred people will perish in the Sonoran desert this year, and hundreds, if not thousands more, will drown this summer in the Aegean Sea in an attempt to cross borders. They make these perilous attempts, for they know that their lack of proper documentation, their country of origin, their race or their religion will make them objects of scrutiny at the border; that rather than welcoming them as refugees, the border will harden into razor wire and walls, prisons yards and camps.

While countries that have signed the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees are required by international law to hear the asylum claim of any foreign national within their borders, this convention does not apply to those who are outside their borders. Respecting the letter of the law, Canada, like most northern nation-states, practises “interdiction,” a fancy term that means if a nation-state can stop refugees before they cross the border, they have no obligation to listen to their claims. We are happy to take the 25,000 Syrian refugees we select and deem worthy of crossing our borders, but we attempt to intercept, redirect and stop those who might try to make that crossing on their own.

This is one of the reasons that airlines check your tickets as you board the plane. Governments slap carriers with significant fines for allowing persons on board with faulty documentation. Since corporations are not subject to the Refugee Convention, they can refuse passengers even if they are forced migrants seeking asylum.  Nation-states, thus, use these fines to encourage airlines to stop potential refugee claimants before they arrive.

These kinds of restrictions are why many suffering, forced migrants will make the perilous journey over deserts and seas this summer to find a place where their claims of asylum will not be subject to our border regimes’ discrimination. In the words of anthropologist Shahram Khosravi, “Sacrifice is a primary act of worship. Sacrificing border transgressors is part of the worship of the nation-state and acknowledgement of its sovereignty.”

Yet, as followers of Jesus, we worship a God who has formed us into a people whose sovereignty is constituted and regulated, not by borders, but through our participation in the story of God reconciling to God’s self all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of Christ’s cross. (See Col. 1:20). In the light of Jesus’ sacrifice, every life sacrificed on the altar of borders to maintain the sovereignty of the nation-state is an act of idolatry and an abomination to God.

Sponsoring refugees is a critically important part of pushing back against the principalities and powers of our world that deny people a place to call home, but we cannot stop there. As followers of Jesus, we must also begin to ask ourselves how our own borders, political structures and cultures of privilege might also be denying people a place to call home.

As I sit on the plane waiting for takeoff, I randomly opened my passport and began to read it. To my utter amazement, I realize that the name in my passport is misspelled and does not match my tickets—maybe it never has. I’ve been crossing borders with faulty documentation for years, and nobody noticed. It isn’t luck that no one thought to check.


About the Author

Jeffrey Metcalfe

Jeffrey Metcalfe

Jeffrey Metcalfe is a priest from the diocese of Quebec and a doctoral student in theological studies at the University of Toronto.


Anglican Journal News, May 27, 2016