Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

Two-state solution is over, says Israeli activist

Posted on: January 23rd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments


Jeff Halper, co-founder and director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, says his group has helped rebuild 187 Palestinian homes that were destroyed by Israel. He describes the work as political resistance not humanitarian aid.  Photo: Leigh Anne Williams

The two-state solution to the decades-long conflict between Israel and Palestine is “way long and dead and over,” Jeff Halper, an Israeli peace activist and academic nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006, told an audience gathered at the Bloor Street United Church in Toronto on Jan. 21.

Halper said that the collapse of the peace talks led last year by U.S. Senator John Kerry marked the “almost official” collapse of the two-state solution. But he said it was “a good thing because it begins to clear the air. This whole two-state solution was always in a fog. It was never going to happen.” The United Nations, the United States, the Arab League and the European Union have been pushing for the two-state solution for the last 15 years. The two-state solution requires the creation of an independent state of Palestine in Gaza and in the Israeli-occupied territories of West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“I think we should stop talking about it because if you keep talking about a solution that is irrelevant and gone, you are simply muddying the waters,” said Halper, who is co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, a human rights and peace organization dedicated to ending the Israeli occupation over the Palestinians. His stop in Toronto is part of a cross-Canada multi-city speaking tour, organized by the United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel and Independent Jewish Voices-Canada, and sponsored by the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada, Canadian Friends of Sabeel, United Jewish People’s Order and Canadian Friends Service Committee

Halper noted that, in practice, there is already only one state in the area, referring to Israel. “In this whole country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River, there’s one government,” he said.  “There’s only one army, obviously. There’s only one currency. There’s only one set of border controls…There’s only one water system, electrical system…There is one state, and it is an apartheid state.”

The fact that the occupation should end is a given, Halper said, explaining that his aim was to try to push the conversation forward and toward new possibilities.

The current situation, he said, is in some ways worse that apartheid, and more like the “warehousing” of prisoners in jails. “Apartheid at least acknowledges that there is another people,” he said. “In warehousing, there is no other side. The prisoners aren’t a side. We don’t negotiate with them. They are a bunch of inmates, who, if they don’t behave themselves, will pay the price. And that’s exactly how Israel looks at Palestinians.”

As dark as that view is, Halper suggested that there is a way forward and that there are the beginnings of a one-state movement. “Our task is clear. There is one state today. How do we take that apartheid state today and turn it into a state of equal rights for all of its citizens?”

He outlined six essential elements for any just and workable solution. A just peace must, he said: find a balance between collective rights (self-determination) and individual rights (democracy) with equality for all; conform to human rights and international law; resolve the refugee issue (right of return, acknowledgement of 1948, resolution of the issue); be economically viable; address the security concerns of Palestinians, Israel and all in the region; and be ultimately regional in scope.

Halper even offered a model of a “consociational [power sharing] democracy” for a single state that would include two houses of parliament.

Along with the right of return for Palestinian refugees, an acknowledgement of injustice is essential, he said. “There has to be acknowledgement on the part of Israel of what it did in 1947 and 1948 and on.”

Aside from Israeli resistance to that, Halper noted that the concept of “bi-nationalism” also gets immediate pushback from Palestinians who don’t want to legitimize Zionism.

As intractable as those sorts of barriers seem, Halper said he thinks that civil society is increasingly organized around the issue. “The Palestinian issue has become an issue at the level of the anti- apartheid movement.”

Andrea Mann, director of global relations for the Anglican Church of Canada, told the Anglican Journal that the church is sponsoring the tour as a part of its commitment to learn more about the root causes and ongoing causes of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. “This tour is an opportunity for church members across the country to meet a leading Israeli peace activist, and examine his views,” she said. “Dr. Halper offers a different perspective from the news and analysis provided to church members through secular media. His thinking often challenges and disturbs listeners.”


Anglican Journal News, January 23, 2015

Words of hope and courage

Posted on: January 23rd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Mark MacDonald

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


Yesterday, I received this on Facebook from a friend. She says, in so few words, that which so many of us struggle to say with many:

“Went for an evening walk. Some scattered curled leaves on the ground covered in hoar frost reminded me of our lack of snow, of the imbalance of our world. Here, I carry this new life inside of me and I am grateful and I am blessed. And yet, I walk with the thoughts of a warrior, of a woman well aware of the troubles of the world, of the injustice, of the crimes against our Mother Earth. While I find time to laugh, to smile, to experience peace and love, and I do allow myself the excitement of bringing new life into the world, I also keep in mind always there is much work that needs to be done. I want our children to experience equality, I want them to have compassion and to be able to hunt and fish and keep our culture going. I don’t think that’s too much to ask, but I also know I’m going to have to fight for a change to the current system.”

—Princess Daazhraii Johnson, Gwich’in, Activist, Mother.

*  *  *

“I believe that the present suffering is nothing compared to the coming glory that is going to be revealed to us. The whole creation waits breathless with anticipation for the revelation of God’s sons and daughters. Creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice—it was the choice of the one who subjected it—but in the hope that the creation itself will be set free from slavery to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of God’s children. We know that the whole creation is groaning together and suffering labour pains up until now. And it’s not only the creation. We ourselves who have the Spirit as the first crop of the harvest also groan inside as we wait to be adopted and for our bodies to be set free. We were saved in hope. If we see what we hope for, that isn’t hope. Who hopes for what they already see? But if we hope for what we don’t see, we wait for it with patience” (Common English Bible, Romans 8:18–25).


Anglican Journal News, January 23, 2015

“May the words of my mouth…”

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

dictionaryIs the cup half empty, or half full? It’s a common question—so common in fact that it is probably met with groans and eye-rolls. Obviously, the question doesn’t actually have a definitive answer. There is really no logical manner in which we can decide if we should err on the side of filled or the side of emptiness. This is because the question about liquid in a cup is more about an investigation into how we interact with the world around us than anything else. What is our perception of life? The language we use to describe the nature of the cup, then, signifies our deep and inner attitude.

I have been thinking of that recently, particularly as it pertains to the life of the church and the language we use to describe things around us. Like the cup including a half-measure of liquid, the way we describe the world in which we live indicates the spiritual reality in which we live. The words and phrases that we use naturally point, not just to our personality and temperament, but to the very manner in which we perceive the world.

Two events made this clear for me. The first was from a member of the parish in which I serve, when I announced the final approval for a building project we wished to engage in. After receiving the approval we needed, in what seemed like a miraculously short amount of time, someone remarked ‘That was lucky.’ In response to this comment, another parishioner responded ‘No, that was God.’ We may see this as amounting to nothing more than someone being more practically-minded; yet I had to wonder if something more was going on?

The second event occurred around Christmas time. The Parish of Holy Cross decided to do something different around our celebration of Christmas. Instead of having a Sunday devoted to our Lesson and Carols, and another Sunday devoted to our Children’s pageant, we decided to have a special evening where we combined everything. The Holy Cross Christmas Gala was born! We had our choir, in tuxedos and dresses; a stringed quartet, and our children taking a part in establishing a visual representation of the Nativity set. When all was said and done, and I was thanking people for attending, no one said to me ‘That was wonderful’, or ‘I enjoyed that.’ Instead, people said “That was glorious”, “It was very worshipful”, “I was moved.”

In each case, natural, common, and popular phrases were discarded in favour of a more spiritualized vocabulary. Spiritually rich terms and phrases were used to describe the events of life. These things may seem very subtle. IT may seem like I am making something out of nothing. Yet these changes in language indicates the manner in which life is perceived. The words we use are windows into our internal Spiritual livelihood. After all, just as there is a big difference between the internal attitude of optimism versus that of pessimism, there is a big difference between attributing something to ‘luck’ and seeing the occurrences in our life as evidence of the Divine hand. To see something as luck is to interact with the world on a strictly individual and bodily manner. It is understand events solely in relation to our own effort and accomplishment. When an event or occurrence cannot be justified in such a manner, it is then attributed to randomness or ‘luck.’ Yet how does ‘luck’ coincide with our understanding of God as Lord of heaven and earth? Is the appeal to something as ‘Lucky’ actually a dethronement of God as Lord over all of creation? Similarly, when we say ‘That’s Great!’ in response to a blessing or a wonderful event, instead of saying ‘Praise God’, are we inadvertently suggesting that God has no claim on that occurrence of blessing and wonderment?

It is interesting to note that Scripture holds no understanding of luck. There are beautiful passages in scripture where God plays behind the scenes, yet we uncover God’s subtle yet present guidance through the words ‘as it happened’ or ‘in the fullness of time.’ The books of Ruth and Esther are wonderful studies on this very dynamic. In the New Testament, The epistle of James reminds us that instead of saying ‘Today and tomorrow I will do this or that, we should say ‘If it be the Lord’s will I will do this or that.’ The activity of life is seen in the context of God’s presence. God does not simply observe from afar, but continually dwells within the tapestry of life.

In like kind, the song of Moses, the song of Miriam, The song of Deborah, The song of Mary, and countless others in scripture all put the favorable moment of life in their proper context—that of eliciting praise and worship to the God of blessing and grace. And, just as favorable times produce praise and worship, unfavorable times produce lament and petition. Yet the dynamic is the same—one responds to life spiritually, and each moment of existence is a place wherein one is invited to reach out to the God in whose presence we live.

Is this why Scripture speaks in length about how we speak. Psalm 19 ends with the famous prayer ‘may the words of my mouth… be pleasing in your sight.’ It seems to me that the use of such unforced, uncontrived, yet spiritually rich language is a mark of a spiritually healthy person, let alone a community. Doing so testifies that our spiritually is not something we play at during certain moments of the week, but is that which is fully integrated into the fabric of what it means for us to live in this world.

How often do you use spiritual language to describe life around you? What is the language of your church? Is it easier to attribute something to luck, than to the Lord? How can you begin to go about changing the language you use, to better testify to the manner in which you spiritually live out your life?

Kyle Norman

About Kyle Norman

I am a Priest in the Diocese of Calgary, serving the wonderful people of Holy Cross, Calgary. I watch reality television, I drink Starbucks coffee, and I read celebrity gossip columns. I am also a magician and often use magic tricks to teach the children at church the lessons of the Bible. I believe that God is present in the intricacy of our lives, and thus I believe that Pop Culture can provide intriguing lessons, examples, and challenges for our lives of faith. Connect with Kyle on

The Community, An Update from The Community, January 16, 2015

Dear Christian trolls of the Internet

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


Photo: Patrick/Wikimedia Commons

Dear Christian trolls of the Internet:

We need to talk.

I think you know what this is about. Or at least I hope you do. Your passive-aggressive condescension and thinly veiled bullying have gone on for far too long. Sometimes, I wonder if you’re even aware of what you’ve become: trolls. That pains me, because everyone else seems to know. And the advice, “don’t read the comments” isn’t very helpful for those of us committed to fostering relationships, and building community online.

don't feed the troll Flickr: Bri (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Is that too harsh? I don’t think so. The word, in this context, means more or less the same thing that it does in fairy tales: those who hide in safe and protected places (under bridges is a good metaphor for our purposes), attacking pretty much anyone who crosses by. Maybe those victims are sharing reflections on their own spiritual journeys, whether here, or here, or here. Maybe they’re publishing news about developments or struggles in the Body of Christ, like here, or here, or here. But you, Christian trolls, are always ready and waiting, armed with snippets from sacred texts and memories of the church in days gone by. Someone interpreted scripture in a new way. Someone used the wrong prayer resource. Someone loved too hard, or served the wrong people, or worshipped too contemporary, or invoked the wrong saint, or demonstrated truthiness too truthily.

And so you attack. And you consume.

Listen: I get it. This was never your intention. You meant only to correct fellow Christians (whether or not you still see them that way) who had gone astray. But I’m not sure about your approach, Christian trolls. You see, I’ve watched you for some years now. And while you always seem to have something to say, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you add anything constructive to the conversation. Why is that?

We’re all trying to figure out how to accommodate fair and healthy conversations online. That, in itself, is a lively discussion, and many people are working hard to provide guidelines for civilized discourse. But you know what? I feel like this should be easier for those of us called to lives of discipleship. Those called to a lives of love. Those called to lives that witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, rather than ‘Jerks for Jesus.’

Of course, Christians have always been there to support and correct one another. St. Paul’s Epistles provide the perfect example: in his travels, and with his letters, Paul ministered to fledgling congregations in the early Church. And they weren’t all kittens and roses: Paul reprimanded the Corinthians for their divisions; he explained what servanthood looked like for the Philippians; he clarified the relationship between grace and law for the Galatians. But these corrections took place within the context of relationships that had been built around love and prayer:

I thank my God every time I remember you, constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil 1:3-6)

In short, Paul did not troll the early Church.

“But people are WRONG,” you say. “Wrong on the Internet!” Yes, Christian trolls, that can happen—just as people can get it wrong in face-to-face relationships. And in those circumstances, let me suggest a few options:

  1. Breathe. Take a walk. Eat a sandwich.
  2. Engage the matter, peacefully. A difference of opinion need not provoke name calling, personal attacks, or blanket statements about one particular denomination/gender/whatever. (Galatians 6:1)
  3. Contact the individual privately. Email them. Call them. Hear them out. (Matthew 8:15)
  4. Pray about it. Talk to your pastor or priest about your concerns.
  5. Continue to engage others in the public forum, exercising the fruits of the spirit. They may offer perspective you haven’t considered. Forgive others. (Romans 12:18, Colossians 3:12-15)
  6. Consider your witness: love others. (John 13:35)
  7. If none of that works, shake the dust from your feet, and walk away. (Luke 9:5)

Christian trolls, you are better than this. Be who you are: trolling is not the ministry to which you were called, and a troll is not the person God created you to be. Let’s live out the faith of baptism in our relationships with one another—both online, and offline.

About Jesse Dymond

I’m a priest from the Diocese of Huron, serving as Online Community Coordinator for the Anglican Church of Canada. I have a lifelong interest in computer technology, and continue to pursue interdisciplinary studies in science and theology. I love composing and performing music, cooking, photography, sailing, and riding vintage motorcycles.

The Community, An Update from The Community, January 16, 2015

The unfinished story

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


By Rhonda Water


“The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

So opens Mark’s account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, presented to us as a sentence in verse 1. But it’s not a sentence, not itself the beginning of the story. It’s an assertion about the story; a title.

One way to understand that title is as referring only to the opening verses about John the Baptist’s ministry. Read another (my preferred) way, it refers to the whole book, identifying the entire gospel as simply the beginning of this particular good news—the good news of Jesus, which doesn’t even actually begin with Jesus himself but with the prophet Isaiah, proclaiming the salvation of God in ages past. For Mark, this good news is a continuation of that good news, part of the story of the God of Israel, of Abraham and Sarah, Moses and King David. Jesus did not come out of nowhere. His story begins in that story—it is one story.

The second voice we hear in Mark’s gospel is still not Jesus but John the baptizer, reaching into the past while pointing to the future. John enters the story via the authority of the prophets but calls on those who encounter him to turn toward the one who is still to come—he who baptizes not with water but with the Holy Spirit. John is the embodiment of the continuity of the story from the prophets through to Jesus—and by virtue of our baptism, we are the embodiment of the continuity of the story from Mark into our futures.

For this story is not—and never has been—simply words on a page. This story is alive. It is written in our daily actions and conversations and decisions. It is written in our worship and our justice-seeking. It is written in our relationships, both intimate and structural. This living story demands to be lived.

So how will you continue the story? How will you point beyond yourself and this world to the kingdom of heaven? How will you make Christ’s liberating love manifest? What do you hear the living Word saying to a world hungry for renewal and salvation? And how will you share what you hear?

Like Mark, we know the story we write does not belong to us. We didn’t start it and we will not finish it. But for the time being, it is ours: The continuing good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. May we write it boldly.


The Rev. Rhonda Water is associate priest of Christ Church Cathedral, diocese of Montreal. 


Anglican Journal News, January 19, 2015

21st-century church hospitality at its best

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


By Nissa Basbaum


The atheist bus advertisement, which rolled out in Canada in 2009, was based on a similar campaign in the U.K. Photo: Jon Worth

I have recently been introduced to the Sunday Assembly, or as their members like to call themselves, “the godless church.” One of their more quotable quotes is: “We need the benefits that church provides without the god element.”

The brainchild of two British comedians, the Sunday Assembly began in England in 2013, aiming to provide atheists with all the good things church offers—all the good things, that is, except God. Since its London beginnings, attendance is upwards of 300 and offshoots are popping up around the world. Participants sing together, listen to a speaker and have coffee after their gathering. Funnily enough, they even pass an offering plate to pay for their costs.

Some may remember the atheist bus campaign, which drove through Canada a few years ago; the slogan on every bus read: “There’s probably no God…now stop worrying and enjoy your life.” Apparently central to both the Sunday Assembly and this atheist bus campaign is the idea that faith reflects an earnest and humourless existence. Church might be fun; God clearly isn’t.

When our daughter was 12, our church started a Sunday morning program for young teens. Rebekah wanted to remain in worship rather than participate in that program. Surprised she hadn’t asked if she could stay home, and risky as it was, I questioned why she wanted to go to church at all. “Oh,” she said, “I would hate not seeing the people every week.”

In that one moment, I felt that the church had performed well for our children. Not only had Rebekah bonded with this extended family, she also recognized how much life and sustenance these people—the Body of Christ—gave her from week to week. I was relieved and overjoyed that having two parents as priests had not suffocated our daughter’s relationship with the church! While no longer a regular attender, I’m certain that the impact of growing up with both church and God has left a positive imprint.

Humour and acceptance often go a longer way toward conveying the message of Jesus and teaching the tenets of faith than doctrine and exclusion. Hospitality is central to a worldview that includes God and therefore is central to the church. It would be a shame if God is left behind because we are unable to communicate this hospitality in a way that 21st-century listeners can receive.

The Very Rev. Nissa Basbaum is dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Michael and All Angels,  diocese of Kootenay.
Anglican Journal News, January 16, 2015

The grace of prayer

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


By Fred Hiltz


On Sunday, January 18, the Feast of the Confession of Peter, I will join Bishop Geoff Peddle in Upper Island Cove, Nfld., to celebrate with the faithful in Christ their 200th anniversary as a parish. It will be the first anniversary of his consecration as a bishop and the 20th of my own.

As a suffragan bishop working with Archbishop Arthur Peters of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, I learned a lot about a prayerful, conscientious and gracious approach to the exercise of episcopal ministry.

As diocesan bishop, I was blessed to have a very dedicated staff at the synod office. In “the care of all the churches,” our archdeacons and regional deans were wonderful partners in the ministry of episcope. One of those archdeacons, Sue Moxley, would succeed me as bishop and another, Ron Cutler, would succeed her.

When I was elected primate in June 2007, I felt completely overwhelmed by so broad a ministry. At times I still do, but I press on with the support of an incredibly gifted staff at Church House and a host of others throughout our church who serve the General Synod, the Pension Office, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund and the Anglican Foundation of Canada.

By far the greatest delight in this ministry is to visit dioceses and parishes all across the country. In every place I am grateful for the warmth of the welcome I receive. Invariably people will say to me, “It is good to meet the ‘Fred’ we pray for every week.” I usually respond by saying, “Thank you. It’s in the strength of your prayers that I go about my daily work.” Your prayers for grace and guidance, wisdom and insight, patience and perseverance in the way of Christ are a blessing I cherish deeply.

As I give thanks for that blessing, I invite you to join me on January 18 in giving thanks for our beloved church and its commitment to God’s mission in the world, and praying for all our bishops, clergy, congregations and chaplaincies.

“Pour upon them the continual dew of thy blessing, O God, that knowing the healthful spirit of thy grace they may truly and devotedly serve thee to the honour and glory of thy name, through Jesus Christ Our Lord. Amen.”

(Adapted, Prayer for Clergy and People, Book of Common Prayer)

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


Anglican Journal News, January 16, 2015

Why count our blessings?

Posted on: January 15th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Marites N. Sison



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

For over a decade now, many in the church have bemoaned the lack of reliable data about the membership of the Anglican Church of Canada.

The only thing that Anglicans seem to know for certain, based on national census data, is that their numbers continue to decline steadily.

The last three meetings of General Synod have called on the church to improve its statistical information. So far, no progress has been made. Each year, the national office attempts to gather statistics on church attendance, baptisms, confirmations and so on, but compliance has been spotty.

The general secretary, Archdeacon Michael Thompson, has announced a plan to update diocesan statistical returns. The returns will not only count the number of people in the pews but also help create a snapshot of congregational life. In addition, a “missional census” and “ethnographic research” will be undertaken. (See story, page 1.)

The census would ask local ministries about their activities to gather information “about the ways in which the church is actively making a difference” in Canadian life. The ethnographic research would be designed to develop an “official curiosity” about dioceses to gain a better understanding of their characteristics and context.

A lack of staff and resources has been identified as a key reason why some dioceses have been slow or unwilling to send statistics. Fair enough. But could the underlying reason be that statistics are not viewed as important or are held suspect?

The value of statistics—gathered honestly and interpreted fairly—cannot be overestimated. This isn’t a case of bickering about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Without sound and rigorous data, governments cannot make informed decisions about public policies, track trends and provide socio-economic and political analysis and forecasts.

Businesses use statistics to help them set benchmarks and adjust strategies. Advocacy groups rely on numbers to push for change. In the case of the church, statistics provide an indication of its health. But they can do so much more: help the church figure out how best to allocate limited resources, identify areas of growth as well as stagnation, and assess its role and mission in the world.

Statistics are powerful because they tell stories. The Church of England, for instance, on its website, states that its congregations give more than £51.7 million annually to charities, which is “even more than the BBC’s annual Children in Need appeal,”  and that 68 per cent of Britons consider their local church “an important part of their local community.” Two facts, but already these help portray a church that is very much a part of the national fabric.   

If Anglicans care about their church and its future, and if they want a narrative other than the dispiriting one that harps, “Will the last Anglican please turn off the lights?” they should take these plans seriously and endeavour to participate in the proposed surveys. The numbers might even pleasantly surprise them. General Synod, for its part, must not drop the ball on this undertaking and provide assistance to dioceses when needed.



Anglican Journal News, January 14, 2015

Je Suis Charlie isn’t all that complicated

Posted on: January 12th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments


By Michelle Hauser


The New York Times estimates that nearly 1.6 million people marched in solidarity through the streets of Paris this past weekend. World leaders linked arms—Christians, Muslims and Jews alike—Francois Hollande, Benjamin Netanyahu, Ibrahim Boubackar Keita, Angela Merkel and Mahmoud Abbas, to name a few.

A public demonstration of such magnitude hasn’t been seen in France since 1944 and the Liberation of Paris from the Nazis.

Did one-and-half million people march because they were loyal readers of Charlie Hebdo? No. If that had been the case, the demonstration would have maxed out at around 30,000 people.

Immediately following the attack last week, the Anglican Journal published a story that included a chorus of unequivocal condemnations of the attack by the world’s religious leaders. The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby said, among other things, that it was “cowardly in its denial of the basic human right of freedom of speech.” The Vatican condemned it as “an attack against people as well as against freedom of the press.”

Is it possible that the mailrooms at Lambeth Palace or the Vatican were weekly recipients of Charlie Hebdo? Probably not.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I read the Focus page of last Saturday’s Globe and Mail, this country’s so-called national newspaper. In a spectacular irony, the space most frequently occupied by the Globe’s own satirist, Tabatha Southey, offered an article by feature writer John Allemang—not on freedom of speech and it’s having been threatened in the wake of the massacre, but “The Power of Speech,” a lengthy narrative offering numerous words of warning about—get this—the dangers of satire.

The Globe’s readers gave Allemang spanking enough in the comments section, so I don’t need to do that again here. But if I were Tabatha Southey, I’d be asking for danger pay based on the case he made for satire being “inherently dangerous.”

Inherently dangerous. Really? More so than any other type of opinion or commentary? What about columnists—what happens when they “break with the code” as Allemang suggested was the case for Charlie Hebdo?

Perhaps Le Journal de Montreal columnist, Lisa Ravaray—who has been critical of Islamic extremism here in Canada—has earned the right to be a victim of terror-related piracy, as was reported by Sun Media on Saturday. Perhaps Ravaray failed to navigate Allemang’s “precarious balancing act” of political provocation.

I must have missed the launch of The official guide for journalists attempting to decipher “the code” and walk the tight rope of freedom of speech. Maybe, if I look really hard, I’ll find it in the bookstore next to Reporters Without Borders Guide for journalists who are forced to flee into exile. The latter publication, of course, is real, and provides strong evidence of the mortal danger in which many journalists find themselves.

The question for them is will it be death by extremist regimes, or death by equivocation in the face of extremism.

Unfortunately, the tone of justification in the Globe article was not a stand-alone. It permeated a dialogue I had in numerous other places this weekend—a complicated dialogue that had more to do with Canadian cultural squeamishness than with defending freedom of speech.

For the people of France, the reasons for standing in solidarity, for supporting “Je suis Charlie” are simple. A friend of mine from France said it best in an email last week, “I thought many times about the 3 values that make the cement of the French democracy: liberté, égalité, fraternité. It is these 3 values that the terrorists attacked through their victims, and it is for these 3 values that French people stood in the streets.”

For religious leaders, the reasons for being unequivocal were also simple: standing against brutality and the massacre of innocents.

The Canadian Press, and the Canadian people, could learn a few lessons from both of these groups.

Explaining satirical cartoons to an eight-year-old, as I am frequently called to do whenever my son brings me The New Yorker magazine, is complicated. Taking an unequivocal stance in support of freedom of expression and against violent extremism—that’s pretty simple.

I’m not going to wait until journalists on our own soil are attacked before I’m willing to stand up and say, “Je suis Charlie”—there’s been more than enough killing for me to be able to say it right now.

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, January 12, 2014

Laura Stern: Cut off or cast away?

Posted on: January 8th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments

As a tough winter gives way to spring, a pastor on an island cut off many times during the season wonders if her church has fared a little too well in isolation.

Photo courtesy of Laura Stern
The Ocracoke Lighthouse  is familiar to summer visitors, but it’s rarely covered with snow.

April 8, 2014

The American landscape changed this winter. With record low temperatures, snow, ice and wind, backyards and city centers filled with snowmen, abandoned cars, icescapes and broken tree limbs.

On the remote island where I pastor, we saw children sledding down snow-covered dunes and icicles dangling from T-shirt shop signs. Perhaps most unusual for this island accessible only by boat, however, was the sight of ferries tied up in the harbor, going nowhere.

To a certain extent, Ocracoke residents accept isolation. Heavy fog, strong winds and maintenance issues often result in canceled ferries. When the ferries do go, they travel at 10 mph and take nearly three hours to cross the sound. Travel north on the island is not much easier, as there are frequent complications with the channel, roads or bridges. One simply cannot go anywhere fast or easily.

But even by our standards, this winter has been particularly trying. The polar vortex’s strong winds, ice and power outages left island residents grounded for days. Nor’easters whipped up the waters so badly that one passenger ferry got stranded for 10 hours. On several occasions, our remote island became a cut-off island.

This hiatus has practical implications. Prescriptions fail to get delivered, mail stops arriving, and dumpsters fill to overflowing. Some tourists cannot start their vacations; other tourists cannot end theirs. Everyone starts eating locally caught fish.

Yet unless one is in dire need of a root canal, day-to-day life remains pretty much the same. People continue to go to the post office for news and gossip, regardless of whether they actually get their mail. Kids dangle from monkey bars, wetsuit-clad surfers paddle out for waves, and old-timers swap stories.

Church life, like the rest of community life, goes along much the same as before. People drop by the church office with bulletin announcements or hymn requests, not with longing or existential angst.

But is this a good thing? It seems to me that the ability to continue on, regardless of being physically cut off, speaks highly of a community and poorly of a church.

The village has both the infrastructure to survive and the type of people who fare well on their own. Yet it is concerning when the stranded church works much the same as the connected church.

God told Abraham, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 NRSV). The promised land is a land beyond our own tightknit communities, a land that is foreign, a land where kinship is defined by faith, not blood. The work of God’s church, the life of a Christian and the way of salvation all require seeking lands outside the familiar.

When the biggest concern of an isolated church is whether or not the poinsettias will get delivered, there is a problem. It’s not that I want the daily work of the church to be canceled; I want it to feel inadequate.

As we go about worship, study and fellowship while stranded, I want us to feel a palpable sense of loss and impatience — to model ourselves after Tom Hanks in the movie “Cast Away,” relying on our creativity and resourcefulness, all the while scanning the horizon for signs of renewed contact.

Perhaps our easy acceptance of isolation is actually just relief. The world and its constant needs, tragedies, heartbreak and turmoil can crush even the most hardy of souls. Well-intentioned organizations bombard local churches with requests for funds, goods and participants in their particular cause. The temporary reprieve of isolation limits both the scope of ministry and the solutions required.

But however tempting it is to retreat, the true church is focused outward. William Temple’s maxim “The church is the only society on earth that exists for the benefit of nonmembers” speaks to orientation as well as evangelism.

While our church is literally cut off, many other churches are metaphorically cut off, operating as if they too were on isolated islands. Yet if churches continue to hunker down, fooling themselves into thinking they are doing so only for the duration of the storm, they risk being separated from the work of God’s kingdom as well as one another.

Perhaps as the spring breeze replaces the winter gale, the church will sense the Holy Spirit blowing it in a new direction.


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, Faith and Leadership Newsletter, News & Ideas, January 08, 2015