Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

Take courage

Posted on: December 18th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Marites N. Sison 


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


Many of us will likely say 2014 turned out to be another annus horribilis. Indeed, it seemed as if we were trapped in an endless cycle of violence and misery. At press time, 2014 was a banner year for bad news, often remembered as single-name locations or pithy hashtags: Gaza, Syria, ISIS, Iraq, Ebola, Malaysia Airlines, Ukraine, Boko Haram and, closer to home, the Moncton tragedy, the fatal hit-and-run in Montreal and of course, the Ottawa shooting.

In times like these, it is easy to shudder in fear or look at “the other” with increasing anger and suspicion. It is tempting to lose one’s faith in humanity, even perhaps to have an overwhelming desire to live in an underground bunker, away from it all. Or tune out “the noise” of the world with the technology of one’s choice. Still, for others, catastrophes can shake one’s faith in a benevolent God.

We ought to do better than that. It is important to remember the injustices and suffering that continue in the world, yes. As a people of hope, however, we can also choose to remember these horrendous events through a different lens and a more life-giving, ultimately more powerful narrative.

There were horrible people who committed unimaginable acts against other people. But there were also others who defied fear and plucked up the courage to do the right thing, sometimes at great cost.

As Cpl. Nathan Cirillo lay dying at the foot of the National War Memorial, there were fellow Canadians who, as the Globe and Mail reported, ran “not toward safety, but toward the shots” to help him. As one person applied CPR, another—lawyer Barbara Winters—urged him to hang on. “You are loved. Your family loves you. You’re a good man,” she told him. Simple yet cogent words that offered solace and hope to his family and to us all.

In Syria and Iraq, Muslims offered safe havens to Christians being persecuted by ISIS thugs, Christians refused to give up their faith, mothers made dangerous treks to flee violence and save their children, and journalists refused to let the beheadings of fellow journalists intimidate them. In Jerusalem, as Hamas and Israeli troops exchanged fire in Gaza, young Christian, Jewish and Muslim youth from Kids4Peace broke bread together for peace in Israel and Palestine.

While many of us have been swept up in the hysteria over Ebola, doctors, nurses and health workers in West Africa have died and are dying from complications of the disease, along with their patients. Let us remember one person in particular, Dr. Sheik Humarr Khan, who at one point was the only doctor left in Ebola wards in Sierra Leone and whose heroic efforts at saving lives cost him his own.

Love, courage and selflessness are, of course, a part of The Nativity Story: Mary and Joseph’s unconventional marriage, their perilous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the birth of Christ in a filthy stable, the magi who defied Herod, and shortly after, Mary and Joseph’s flight into Egypt.

As we celebrate Christmas and reflect on the year just past, may we remember the words of the angels to the terrified shepherds on the day of Jesus’ birth: “Do not be afraid; for see—I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10–11).


Anglican Journal News, December 17, 2014

The vocabulary of prayer

Posted on: December 15th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Michelle Hauser


You could set your watch by how quickly my dad would come uncorked after my aunt’s Christmas newsletter arrived—about 3.5 seconds, if memory serves. Auntie M. was famous for her long legs, enviable year-round tan, and saccharine seasonal epistles.

The Christmas letter is a literary genre unto itself where a certain amount of braggadocio is to be expected. Worsening the situation, in this case, was that it was the 1980s and my mother’s brother and his family were living the high life in Southern California: Fortune 500 Christians, reaping the rewards of Reaganomics and a mega-church prosperity gospel.

Our humble house in northern Ontario was one street away from the wrong side of the tracks. The contrast between our two families set a pretty dramatic stage for my dad’s unforgettable “God is not” sermon-from-the-couch one Christmas, when a particular installment sent him careening over the edge.

As usual, the correspondence was peppered with references to God. No detail, from the sublime to the ridiculous, had been overlooked by the Almighty—such was his concierge-like involvement in their lives that year. “The Good Lord” had been credited for standing by my cousin’s side during a performance in the school play, procuring my uncle’s most recent promotion, and helping the maid at Circus Circus choose a mint chocolate of unimpeachable quality to leave on their pillows during a recent vacation.

In fact, so varied and sumptuous were the holy feats, her letter left me wondering if there was a different God for Americans and why Canadians got stuck with the boring one, who only covered the basics like salvation and damnation.

My father was incensed by the silliness. With a King James Bible in one hand and a flimsy page in the other, my aunt’s Bobo-the-Magnificent Clown God and Dad’s Fire-and-Brimstone God went head-to-head. He was unequivocal: God is not holding anyone’s hand through their stage fright, God is not orchestrating an ascent up the corporate ladder, and God is most certainly not overseeing the housekeeping operation at any Las Vegas hotel.

In his moment of fury, Dad confirmed my worst fears: God was not in charge of my day-to-day life; making good things happen while keeping the wolves at bay. I went to bed that night utterly terrified. I was also deeply ashamed and got down on my knees and prayed The Great Apology Prayer for all the selfish nonsense I’d been pestering God with. I asked him to disregard my previous petitions and promised to get back to him once I figured out how to pray properly.

Unfortunately, I never did get back to him. Shortly after that, I gave up bedtime prayers altogether.

And so began my odyssey with a difficult prayer life and my tendency, to this day, to label most of what my heart conceives as selfish jibber-jabber that I shouldn’t trouble God with in the first place.

I ran into a priestly friend recently and she could tell that all was not well with me. She’s a woman of such searing intuition that she can see through my happy-face facade.

“How’s your prayer life?” she asked.

I stammered and shifted and performed a variety of awkward gestures, trying to find a resting place for my arms before accepting I had to tell her the truth: “It kind of sucks,” I said. It has always kind of sucked, and try as I might, I can’t seem to rise above a baseline of dysfunction that seems to be rooted in lack of practice and a weak vocabulary for talking to God.

“What’s with all the books?” is a question I’ve often fielded from non-churchgoing friends when they’ve worked up the courage to ask me about church stuff they don’t understand. Once upon a time, it seemed odd to me, too, that faithful people needed a script to follow every Sunday—hadn’t they memorized it by now?

But now I see the books, red or green, as an umbilical cord to God. In my case, they’ve been the only decent vocabulary I’ve ever been given for prayer. If I didn’t have them, I’d have nothing.

Be it red or green, when I hold one of the prayer books in my hands I can finally let go of my doubtful, noisy mind that always seeks to judge its choice of words.

Instead I can follow along, in a meditative trance, like a child, keeping to the path of the spoken word, each poetic phrase like a bread-crumb, helping me find my way home.


Michelle Hauser is a former fundraiser turned newspaper columnist and freelance writer. She and her husband, Mark, live in Napanee, Ont., with their son Joseph, and worship at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene. Her work includes contributions to CBC Radio, The Globe and Mail, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and The Kingston Whig-Standard. She can be reached through her website at  


Anglican Journal News, December 15, 2014


A distinct Advent/Christmas message

Posted on: December 15th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Wayne Holst



Christian religion that aligns itself with societal trends runs the risk of becoming indistinguishable from our culture. William Hordern, a recently deceased Canadian theologian and a mentor of mine would say, “It fails to tell the world something the world is not already telling itself.”

Several weeks ago, my wife, Marlene, and I attended the Advent Procession of Lessons and Carols at Christ Church, Calgary. It is an annual event that I find to be the ideal way to begin my own Advent preparation. I was impressed, this time, by “A Word about Advent,” included in the worship guide and prepared by one of the clergy to explain the purpose of the service. I take the liberty to quote the Ven. M. Ansley Tucker, the rector, with her permission:

“These days, even our secular culture is beginning to resist pre-Christmas saturation—mall music, tinsel, glitter, and the ubiquitous pressure to buy, buy, buy and give, give, give. The Church sees the four weeks leading up to Christmas as a completely distinct season, with its own themes and preoccupations, to which Christmas emerges as a welcome and surprising answer. So, before we move too quickly to the babe in the manger, and angelic choruses, shepherds in the field abiding, we pause to consider what might be described as ‘the human condition.’

“If Christmas is to be more than a lovely story, we need to know what need it answers. This service then, pulls up deliberately short of the birth of Jesus and the familiar carols of the Christmas season, and invites us instead to ponder our need for divine intervention, the ‘darkness’ from which we long to emerge, our hope for something better, and our conviction that one day, the ‘tree of life’ will no longer be forbidden to us.”

Reflecting on William Hordern’s striking contribution and M. Ansley Tucker’s service notes led me to an important realization. The church does have a distinct Advent message that is not mere mimicry of what is going on all around us.

The biblical message—beginning with the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament and our various Christian traditions—speaks of God’s intervention into a world enshrouded by darkness, our hope for better things and our anticipation that we will indeed come to know good from evil in the same way God does.

When I speak of being “countercultural,” I don’t mean being “anti-culture.” We are very much part of our culture. It is in that context that we need to make our Christian witness. I think of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who spoke of God as being “transcendent in the very midst of life” and that our faith stance must attempt something similar.

Well-planned and celebrated services of Advent and Christmas can provide us with spiritual discernment and vitality to help us live creatively and hopefully. Many people out there are onto something when they hesitate to participate in secular Christmas expressions like buying and giving.

God grant us the ability to recognize and reflect that something more.


Wayne A. Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and helps to co-ordinate adult spiritual development at St. David’s United Church in Calgary.


Anglican Journal News, December 15, 2014

We dare

Posted on: December 9th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Fred Hiltz



Among the glories of Canada’s great landscapes are its mountains. I think of Gros Morne in Newfoundland, the highlands of Cape Breton, the Gatineau Hills in Quebec, the Laurentians in northern Ontario and those foothills that take us into the Rockies of British Columbia and the Yukon. About them all, there is a grandeur that moves us to sing of how great God is and how wonderful the works of his hands.

In the scriptures, mountains are places of encounter with God. Time and again we read of how the presence of the Holy One settles over the mountain and from within the mists that shroud its crest comes a voice—giving a law, as on Mount Sinai; whispering a call, as on Mount Carmel; giving a word of instruction, as to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration.

Fond of mountain imagery, the prophet Isaiah writes of that day when “Many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths’ ” (Isaiah 2:3).

Advent is such a time—an invitation to learn anew the ways of the Lord and to live by them.

Elsewhere, the prophet writes, “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’ ” (Isaiah 52:7).

Advent is such a time—a season to rejoice in the gospel of salvation and peace embodied in the long-awaited Messiah.

In a world gripped by fear of terrorist activities at home and abroad, we dare to hope. In a year in which the world has witnessed some of the most atrocious crimes against humanity, we dare to pray. In a time in the history of humanity darkened by so much malice and wickedness in the hearts of some, we dare to light the candles of the Lord and sing once again the carols that tell of his coming.

He shall come down like showers

upon the fruitful earth,

and love, joy, hope, like flowers,

spring in his path to birth.

Before him on the mountains

shall peace the herald go,

and righteousness in fountains

from hill to valley flow.

(Hymn 101, Common Praise)

Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.


 Anglican Journal News, December 08, 2014

Why ACNA isn’t an ecumenical partner—yet

Posted on: December 7th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Bruce Myers


While Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby has called the Anglican Church in North America an “ecumenical partner,” Archdeacon and ecumenist Bruce Myers disagrees. Photo:


Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recently articulated his understanding of the status of the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), formed in 2009 by a coalition of a dozen groups that chose to break communion with the Anglican Church of Canada and, in the United States, with The Episcopal Church.

ACNA, said the archbishop in an October interview with the Church of Ireland Gazette, “is a separate church. It is not part of the Anglican Communion.” Instead, he described ACNA as “an ecumenical partner.”

The Anglican Church of Canada has a number of ecumenical partners. One, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, has become a full communion partner with which we enjoy a full and mutual recognition of ministry and sacraments. With others, like the Roman Catholic Church and the United Church of Canada, we’re still on that journey—an admittedly longer one.

To be an ecumenical partner means to repent of our divisions and to understand them as a scandalous contradiction of the will of Christ. It means to fervently desire reconciliation with the churches from which we are separated, and to manifest this desire in prayer, dialogue and action.

To be an ecumenical partner also means recognizing that the other with whom you are seeking to reconcile demonstrates signs of the Holy Spirit at work, even if you are in disagreement about some significant issues.
It’s far from clear that ACNA yet manifests these qualities of an ecumenical partner. Its repentance is, according to its constitution, limited to “things done and left undone that have contributed to or tolerated the rise of false teaching” in the Anglican churches from which it has chosen to walk apart. It’s still in a legal fight over property with two dioceses in the United States. It seeks recognition as a new North American province of the Anglican Communion without desiring reconciliation with those already existing.

The pain of this separation is very fresh, and a personal reality for many people. Time may not heal all wounds, but the history of the ecumenical movement tells us that it’s often a necessary ingredient in reconciliation among churches.
It took Anglicans and Methodists 150 years before they could recognize their mutual heritage and discuss reunion. It took Roman Catholics and Lutherans 500 years to acknowledge they shared a common understanding of justification. It took Eastern and Oriental Orthodox theologians 1,500 years to see their consensus about the natures of Christ got lost in translation.

In each case it was distance from the polemics and politics (not to mention excommunications, anathemas and persecutions) of the original division that allowed the separated churches to see their differences in a new, more dispassionate light. So it shouldn’t surprise us if reconciliation between the Anglican Church in North America and the Anglican Church of Canada seems unthinkable less than a decade after our separation. But such reconciliation is possible—and imperative. It may just take some time.

And humility. Repentance walks both sides of the street. For any kind of reconciliation to begin, both the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Church in North America will need to acknowledge that we have both in our own ways contributed to the creation and perpetuation of this sad division, one that compromises the credibility of our witness to the gospel and our fulfilment of God’s mission.

Archdeacon Bruce Myers is the General Synod’s co-ordinator for ecumenical and interfaith relations.


Anglican Journal News, December 05, 2014

The future among us

Posted on: December 5th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


This column was first published in the December issue of the Anglican Journal.
Everyone of us has an interest in the future health of our church. We are, together and individually, working and hoping for a vibrant, united and effective community. Recognizing that we won’t get there by staying the same, a number of possible approaches to our common future have been proposed.

Risking oversimplification, we could say that two interests have governed contemporary approaches to the future: in one, the interest is to recreate the conditions and practices of years past—a time, it is thought, when the church was unified, faithful and influential; in the other, the goal is to create a church that is more responsive, relevant and consequential to the perceived needs of people today—the future is embraced with commitment and enthusiasm. One side aims for the past. The other aims for the future.

The gospel is hostile to both of these approaches. It reveals their puny potential and the vanity of a human-centred attempt to bring health and well-being to the church. The coming reign of God—as announced by Jesus, enacted in his death/resurrection and present among us through the Holy Spirit—is the only aspiration that the church is allowed to have. Any aspiration short of the reign of God can only be a deception, a vain hope that human effort might, after all, be enough to save us, enough to make the world right.

It may seem that placing the church’s progress and destiny in the reign of God removes it from the realm of possibility; placing the church’s hope out of reach in an impossible ideal. But Jesus tells us that this hope animates the first rays of its reality and, at the same time, initiates our progress toward fulfillment. The reign is not for the church alone—it is for all of creation—but it lives in the church as a spark, lighting our way to the summit of creation and history. It says that our success is never our possession or accomplishment. The reign of God is God’s gift, but we must seek it with all our heart. That is our only livable and real future.

Bishop Mark MacDonald is national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Anglican Journal News, December 03, 2014

Justice for our children

Posted on: November 28th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Mark MacDonald


Years ago, we sat next to a father and his two young children—a boy and a girl, both probably between five and eight years old. As the food and beverage cart came by, each time the father would buy a beer; each time his children would beg for food. “We’re hungry, Daddy,” they cried. We were grieved that each time he responded, “We don’t have any money for food.”

Recently, while thinking about how future generations will view us, this incident came to mind. For one, climate change will certainly cause a negative evaluation of our moral priorities in the eyes of our children and grandchildren. It is not, sadly, the only way our unsustainable lifestyle will cause worldwide problems in the future. The growing disparity between rich and poor also staggers toward a global reckoning.

When our way of life hits the wall, Christian churches will certainly have to answer some challenging questions. Some are already raised on a regular basis: more and more, we are asked why we have so little to say about climate change. But, hidden in this question is a deeper challenge that speaks about our behaviour before the present crisis. We are not only faced with issues regarding our present inertia—we must face our complicity in the creation of this system.

We did not challenge a way of life that was never morally sustainable. The churches all but abandoned any ongoing moral evaluation of people’s economic priorities, at both personal and societal levels. Greed became good and the church became silent. In the face of such idolatry, we lost more than our moral voice—we began to forget the mandates of our basic Christian discipleship. The care of the earth, the most basic of biblical mandates, has all but disappeared.
For many years, we have eagerly and earnestly sought ways to make our churches attractive to people.

We have, at the same time, left people to make their own moral choices. As a result, we have not spoken to one of the most critical moral issues of our time: an unsustainable way of life that condemns the poor and threatens our children. Even Adam Smith, father of modern economics, said that the unseen hand of capitalism could not function in a moral vacuum. Today, a livable future for the world cries for a spiritual revolution that will provide a moral framework for a just and open society.


 Anglican Church News, November 28, 2014

A more complete joy

Posted on: November 28th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Rhonda Waters  

I hate winter. I hate the cold and the grey and the snow. I hate having to wear boots and mitts and hats. I hate the way my glasses fog up and my shoulders ache from hunching against the wind. I hate that it takes longer to get anywhere on slippery sidewalks and crowded buses. As autumn draws to a close, the dread builds and builds until the first snowfall when I can finally slide into bitter resignation.

On this year’s first day of snow, I was volunteering in my son’s Grade 1 classroom—perhaps an unfortunate location given my state of my mind. At the end of the day, as I grudgingly piled on my winter layers, cursing the weather in my heart, one of my son’s classmates, recently arrived from Mexico, came up to me and whispered, eyes wide with delight, “I have never seen snow before in my life. Is this all of it?”

I, of course, melted. In that moment, I was given the grace to take joy in his joy. My burden became this boy’s gift—which is not to say I suddenly liked the snow. I still hated it. I just no longer wished it gone because the joy in that whisper was of so much greater value than my comfort. I still dread the piles of snow that lie ahead, but I am also anticipating the wonder and excitement that awaits him in the coming (long, dark, miserable) months. His joy is my joy and I am better for it.

And so I wonder: where else might I allow someone else’s joy to transform a burden into a willingly offered gift? Where else might I place my comfort at the service of someone else’s joy?

I do so many things in the name of comfort and convenience. Where I shop and what I buy; who I associate with; what I read; how I worship—over and over again, my primary concern is what is easiest for me, physically or emotionally. As a result, my joy is a comfortable joy, but it is a small, limited, selfish joy. I want more. I believe that I—and each of us—was created for more.

Jesus told his disciples to love one another as he loved them so that his joy would be in them and that their joy might be full. Perhaps this is how that works. In loving one another—loving workers across the world; loving strangers and those who unsettle me; loving people seeking God in ways unfamiliar to me—I find joy in things that would not otherwise bring me joy. The burden of extra costs or awkward encounters or weird liturgy becomes a gift.

My joy is made full, because it is expanded by theirs.

Though I reserve the right to complain about the weather when no adorable children from warmer climes are around to hear me.


The Rev. Rhonda Water is associate priest of Christ Church Cathedral, diocese of Montreal. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Anglican Journal News, November 28, 2914


Posted on: November 24th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Fred Hiltz





(This article first appeared in the November issue of the Anglican Journal.)  

On a Saturday morning in mid-September, I was seated with three other people, forming a panel at a meeting of the board of ATR (Anglican Theological Review), a quarterly publication well known for its articles, poetry and book reviews. We were invited to speak to the subject of “testing the bonds of affection” and to offer some reflections on the state of relations within and among the churches of the Anglican Communion.

While we acknowledged concerns about tensions over any number of matters and our grief over impaired relations between some churches, we noted the blessings of indaba—that manner of speaking and listening and learning from one another with far less rancour and much more patience. We heard first-hand testimony of the growth in understanding and respect among Canadian and African bishops who have been in dialogue for several years. We celebrated the many companion diocese relationships that have transcended—and in some cases transformed—relations across the Communion.

One of our panelists, Eugene Sutton, The Episcopal Church bishop of Maryland, said that he is heartened every week by what he calls that great “nevertheless” moment in the liturgy. Knowing he had grabbed our attention, he paused, and with a twinkle in his eye leaned forward and said, “You know, that moment when we all say, ‘We believe’ ”:

“We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty… We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ… We believe in the Holy Spirit… We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church…” (The Nicene Creed)

Yes, no matter how endearing or strained our relations with one another may be, “we believe.”

This confession of faith that we make in the Nicene Creed crosses theological and cultural divides. It spans vast diversity in biblical perspective and pastoral outlook. And not only that, it unites us with all the generations of the church that have gone before us and all those who will come after us.

Like Eugene, I am heartened by this “nevertheless” moment, and I hope you are also.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada. 

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Anglican Journal News, November 24, 2014

Beeswax and sweetgrass

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

By Michael Thompson



As we gathered in the chapel to celebrate Eucharist, our friend and colleague Barbara was preparing to smudge the altar. In attempting to light her sweetgrass braid from the altar candle, she held it too close to the flame and for a moment too long, and the flame sputtered and died.

Well, one of the very best things about extinguishing beeswax candles, as many of us know, is the rich honey scent that the smoke carries across a space as it disperses from the tiny flame into the wide world and then vanishes.

It turns out that at the moment that Barbara’s sweetgrass braid put out the flame, an ember appeared on its tip. Its smoldering smoke joined that of the spreading honey-scented beeswax as Barbara slowly circled the altar. The blending of smoke from sweetgrass and smoke from beeswax filled the space with what you might call a providential aroma; both sweetgrass and beeswax were there, but so was something else, something at once brand new and ancient, the aroma of encounter, partnership, hope.

The encounter between beeswax and sweetgrass—between the settler church and indigenous peoples—has taken many shapes over the course of generations. And our shared history has left us both, in one way or another, diminished. The settler church lost the thread of God’s justice as it assumed a stance of cultural superiority and showed disdain for what the Creator was already doing before the first contact between Europeans and indigenous peoples. And the indigenous church was all too often denied its freedom to discern the incarnate Word in the languages and traditions written deep and long in the story of the people of the land.

The thing that has my attention is how the flame of the candle had to give way, if just for a moment, to the sweetgrass. The candle had to be at risk if the beautiful new thing—the smell of beeswax and sweetgrass—were to emerge.  It’s complicated. It’s as if I couldn’t know, couldn’t really know all the dimensions of the beauty in the beeswax I bring from the customs of my ancestors, until, by gracious accident, it yielded to the braid of sweetgrass, until, by gracious accident, the sweetgrass transformed the candle’s light to smoke.

There was a lighter not far from the altar. So as Barbara smudged the altar, as the smoke of beeswax and the smoke of sweetgrass filled our noses, another of us restored the light of the candle. Nothing was lost, really.  There was just that moment when one stepped back so another could thrive, and then there was more beauty, and then we prayed and gave thanks.

Archdeacon Michael Thompson is the general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada. His column, Refraction, appears every month at  ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Journal News, November 21, 2014