Archive for the ‘Discussion’ Category

Rocking religion with my mega-contemporary mom

Posted on: March 5th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

By Michelle Hauser

The bilingual bookmark was meant to be a peace offering—a talisman around which my mother and I could meet religion halfway.

The Rule of Life was a promotional gift from the Anglican Diocese of Montreal, printed in French and English. I gave the slim piece of cardstock to my mother, French side up, as evidence of the openness and tolerance of the Anglican Church of Canada: proof that my church is hospitable enough to celebrate French language and culture.

My mother is a proud French-Canadian, born and raised in a community that suffered its linguistic diversity beneath a thin veneer of civility. Growing up, she saw the Anglican Church as the bosom of English power and authority. My later-life decision to be confirmed as an Anglican baffled and to some extent, insulted her.

To complicate matters, my mother had long ago rejected organized religion. Although the argument could be made that organized religion rejected her: when the Roman Catholic Church turned its back on her, and her baby born out of wedlock, differences became irreconcilable. Even without a marriage certificate, she still saw her little girl as a gift from God—why didn’t they?

On so many levels, my spiritual and religious pilgrimage didn’t make sense to my mother. After years of fiery debates, I learned to steer clear of land mines such as, “Are you coming to church with us?” I adopted a “don’t-ask-don’t-tell” policy about church in order to keep the peace. Things changed, though, after the untimely death of my uncle, Mom’s younger brother. It was a catalyst for soul-searching and wresting with life’s difficult questions. A return to religion was, apparently, no longer out of the question.

There are certain phrases I thought I’d never hear in my lifetime. Disembarking from a flight: “Welcome to Mars, Mrs. Hauser, did you enjoy the ride?” Shopping at Sears: “My dear, those pants are way too big—I’ll get you a size 6.” In my mother’s guest room, readying for bed: “So we’ll aim for the 9:15 service at church tomorrow, okay?” This last phrase—the most improbable of all—is what I thought I heard her say on a recent visit.

“Come again?” I said, struggling to find the neck-hole in my nightgown. “Make it to the…what at your… what?” I was sure the flannel shroud had muffled something.

“My church” she said. “There’s a service at 9:15.” After crickets began chirping audibly through the drywall, Mom finally broke the silence with, “Why don’t we just play it by ear? Sleep tight!”

In the morning, not wanting to spook her, I asked no church-related questions, and remained quiet even as we drove into the parking lot of what looked like a Cineplex movie theatre. At the entrance, a greeter passed me a card and that’s when all the pieces started to come together. The card read: “The Meeting House: The Church for People who aren’t Into Church.”

The theatre had filled up with at least several hundred people by the time we found our exceedingly comfortable seats. The band was warming-up while we sipped coffee—yes, they have cup holders, just like at the movie theatre. Mom seemed nervous. “This is so exciting,” I said, hoping to put her at ease.

The service started, and we stood and sang with the band as they rocked-out some contemporary praise music for about 15 minutes. Afterward, we exchanged greetings with our neighbors and then sat and listened to the usual list of announcements. Even the mega-church can’t escape that banality of announcements.

Wearing a pair of cargo shorts, Bruxy Cavey—part pastor, part rock-star—walked on stage. The sermon that morning was part of a series called “One Church,” meant to educate the congregation about other branches of the Christian Church. It was more teaching than preaching, and the dialogue opened people’s eyes to the challenges facing the Arab Christian community.

The service was totally un-Anglican, but it was inspiring and soul-filling, nonetheless. I left the Meeting House grateful beyond measure that my mother had found a place that’s right for her.

I was also thankful that this church had helped us move from the symbolic to the actual in terms of meeting halfway about religion: there we were, singing the Lord’s praises together, the religious tension between us having floated up, up and away.

 

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 www.michellehauser.ca.

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Anglican Journal News, March o4, 2015

Gearing down in an age of speed

Posted on: March 5th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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By André Forget


Kenton Lobe and Caroline Chartrand harvest their hand-pollinated squashes. Photo: Contributed


In the modern world, most of us live highly specialized lives. We generally assume that it is more efficient to trade our time for pay and then to pay other people for their time rather than doing things like growing food and making clothes ourselves.

But there is a movement that has started questioning these assumptions. Called “voluntary simplicity” by many of its adherents, this movement is about slowing down and reconnecting to food, communities and the natural environments we live in. While there are pockets across North America, the Anglican Journal contacted some loosely connected members of a particularly vibrant group in Winnipeg to learn more about their motivations for gearing down and living more simply.

DeLayne Toews works in construction and holds a degree in biblical and theological studies from the Canadian Mennonite University (CMU). He has always been skeptical about industrial systems. “Economically, socially and spiritually,” he explained, “I have had this suspicion that the more we interact with a capitalist system, the more we hurt ourselves and others.” He started becoming seriously interested in voluntary simplicity several years ago when he began volunteering at the Wiens Family Share Farm, a small co-operative outside of Winnipeg.

“Working on the vegetable farm, you start to observe everyday miracles happening in the way that ecosystems work,” Toews explained. “One of those miracles is how waste is converted back into nutrients…Our disgust for our own faeces and urine has led us to send these things as far away from us as possible, but we end up taking all of those nutrients coming through our bodies and depositing them in places that don’t need them, like Lake Winnipeg.”

Toews’ interest in farming led him to participate in creating the CMU Farm, a one-and-a-half-acre co-operative affair on the grounds of the CMU in Winnipeg, and his conviction that there are better ways to deal with human waste led him to build a simple composting toilet. With the support and patience of his roommates and landlord, he began turning human waste into manure to be used in his garden.

The toilet is a simple device: a wooden box contains a bucket. Instead of flushing, wood shavings are used to cover the waste, which masks any odours. When the bucket is full, it is emptied into a hole in the backyard and covered with a layer of soil. While he was very pleased with how the toilet worked, he admitted that many people would find it impractical. “It’s hard to do it as a tenant,” he acknowledged, laughing. “I was fortunate that my roommates were very open-minded about it.”

For Jen Regehr,  however, simplicity is all about two things: food and relationships. Regehr manages Folio Café at CMU and runs Sam’s Place, a café owned by the Mennonite Central Committee. Hospitality and food are, for her, essential to the good life. “There is something about the dynamic when people gather around real food that has been prepared by someone they know,” she explained. “It includes an attitude of respect toward the food itself that I find really enhances my experience of the food.”

Regehr considers herself part of the “slow food” movement, a response to the rushed and often unhealthy way in which people approach food in modern urban contexts. Slow food emphasizes fresh, ethically sourced ingredients, careful, artisanal preparation and a more relational way of eating.

“There are a lot of people who, when they first come into a restaurant that is more driven by slow food and relationships, are a little surprised. They’re used to fast food. They’re used to customer service that is really based on anonymity,” she explained. “There is definitely a mixed response, but I find when people get past their surprise, they find it engaging in a different way and memorable.”

Not everyone comes to voluntary simplicity for the same reasons. Adam Klassen Bartel, who works as a cook, started changing his lifestyle because of environmental and social concerns. Criticizing what he perceived as a cultural desire for “perpetual growth,” he pointed out that “there are only so many natural resources, and most of them aren’t coming back. So what happens when we run out of them?”

In response to feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the problems his generation faces, Klassen Bartel started exploring voluntary simplicity. “When you start asking ‘How can I change the world?’—if you ask the question that way, you won’t be able to do anything. The world is too big; there are too many problems. What you can do is look at your own life.”

For Klassen Bartel, unplugging is important to maintaining perspective. “We are being bombarded by information all the time,” he said. “There is so much happening. It makes me anxious, and it just fills me up so much that I don’t actually have time to pull back and think. Simplicity, to me, is a way of focusing on the tasks that I’m doing, and actually trying to understand them.”

Speed is a common theme among many who are seeking to simplify their lives, and for Kenton Lobe, who teaches international development studies at CMU and is heavily involved in running the CMU farm, farming is an important corrective to the instantaneous nature of the industrialized world.

“When you’re farming,” he noted, “the mistakes that you make take a year to correct. If you screw something up, you could lose a whole crop. You learn that lesson really well, and you will have a whole year to think about it before you can take another crack at it.“

Lobe came to voluntary simplicity after working in the non-profit world for several years. “I had been working abstractly for a long time, and wanted to understand the concrete,” he explained. “Rather than talking about Bill Gates and soil fertility in Africa, I wanted to understand the nuts and bolts of soil.”

Lobe and his wife share the equivalent of a single full-time job, and are exploring other ways of gearing down. “We got rid of a car, and it was an opening of time in another way. Home-schooling our kids is exactly the same thing. There’s no more getting up and rushing around in the morning…All of these things open possibilities for imagining what time might look like in one’s world.”

Lobe knows that others might find his family’s lifestyle baffling, but going back has no appeal for him. “We can’t imagine stepping back into that flow—not because it’s some idyllic world that we’re living in, but because we’ve lost the capacity to cope with moving that fast happily.”

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Anglican Journal News, February 27, 2015

Living a richer life with less

Posted on: February 25th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

By Leigh Anne Williams

 


The Gusdal-Kiyooka family (l to r): Siri, Jeff, Hanae and Emi. Photo: Contributed


 

Edmonton doctor Jeff Gusdal says that he recently calculated that he and his wife, Hanae Kiyooka, could have been among the “one percenters,” the wealthiest segment of the world’s population.

Although there is still a huge range of income within that one per cent, according to a 2014 Credit Suisse report, the entry level net worth is US$1 million. Gusdal and Kiyooka met while studying at the University of Alberta. He became a family doctor and she became a teacher. Their lives could have revolved around the idea that “we could be rich here; let’s just go for it and see how much we can pile up,” Gusdal says with a little chuckle. By now, they and their two teenage daughters could be living in a grand home, driving an expensive car or two and regularly flying off to exotic destinations. Instead, they chose a different kind of lifestyle.

They live in a modest, 100-year-old home that they have worked hard to renovate to be energy efficient; recently they added solar panels. For five years, they had no car. They now drive an old car they bought from friends, but they still try to walk and cycle as much as possible. They do some travelling, but often spend their holiday time camping just a few hours from home.

Their faith (they are members of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church in Edmonton) and concern for the environment have shaped their way of life, but neither speaks of their choices as sacrificial. In fact, they say, their choices are liberating.

For Gusdal, one major freedom was a decision to work half-time. He discovered in the early years of his family practice that, as an introvert, intense days with his patients left him feeling drained. “Hanae said, ‘Why don’t you work less?’ So I tried it, and when I worked less, I felt better,” he said. “And I can do my job better because I am not as tired by the end of the day.”

They have found that his reduced income has been more than enough for their family, even after Kiyooka left her job in the public school system to care for their children, and as they grew, to home-school them. Gusdal says he has experienced a sense of abundance. “I work way less than my colleagues, yet at the end of the year, we’re able to give away tons of money to charity,” he said, adding that he hears other doctors, who make two or three times as much money, complaining that they can’t afford to take vacations because they are paying off million-dollar homes.

Working less has allowed Gusdal to not only spend more time with his family, but has also given him time to “be more of a citizen and less of a consumer,” getting involved in projects to promote more sustainable housing and the preservation of agricultural land in the city.

Kiyooka says that decision was key for her, too. “I don’t know if I would have chosen to home-school if he hadn’t had that balance in his life.” But she says she also felt a need for  balance “and space for myself and my own pursuits, as well as giving my children that opportunity.” (Emi, 15, and Siri, 13, have focused on artistic interests including music, theatre and literature.)

“Most of us are so busy just going about our daily lives that we don’t have a lot of time built in where we can really ask ourselves, ‘Is that what I really value?’”

Kiyooka says. “I think that’s the gift I’ve had in my life…time to contemplate some of those things and research them and make those decisions that made sense to me.”  Aside from home-schooling, Kiyooka has also devoted time to changing the family’s diet to one that has little meat (Siri became a vegetarian when she was seven), establishing a community garden at their church and replacing the conventional lawn around their home with indigenous species of plants and trees that not only provide food for their family but also attract beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies.

Gusdal adds that balance allows time to be creative. He is writing a book that argues that an economic system dependent on infinite growth on a finite planet has to change to something more like a steady state economy, with a more equitable distribution of wealth. His writing draws on their family’s experience that consuming less has increased their quality of life.

He acknowledges that a doctor’s income allows some choices that are not possible for others. “If you are making minimum wages and you have three children, to work half-time is not really an option. But in an economy…based on interdependence and sharing, a belief in abundance, there would be a much more equal distribution of wealth, and everyone would be able to live comfortably.”

Both say that their faith has shaped their choices. Gusdal says he likes the biblical story of the rich young man who asked Jesus what he should do to gain the kingdom of heaven. “[The story] says Jesus looked at the man and loved him, which I think is a beautiful thing…[and Jesus] said, ‘Go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor and come and follow me.’ And the man went away, grieving because he had many possessions.” Gusdal emphasizes that he continues to struggle with consumerist desires in many ways, but says that Jesus’ countercultural messages have given him “a platform to consider alternatives.”

Kiyooka says the message she has always heard as a part of her faith is a call “to be conscious of who we are in creation…We are stewards, and our lives are gifts, and so how do we live that life?”

 

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Anglican Journal News, February 25, 2015

Make space for grace

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

Don’t do it. This was the message delivered in December by the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) when the Canadian church sought its opinion about amending canon (church law) to allow the marriage of same-sex couples. (See story, page 1.)

It was not a surprising response, given the very public, internecine tug-of-war over sexuality in the Anglican Communion. The IASCUFO said as much. While the Canadian church has the right “to address issues appropriate to its context,” pushing the envelope would “cause great distress for the Communion as a whole, and for its ecumenical relationships,” it stressed.

Predictably, various sides of the theological divide have latched on to IASCUFO’s statement to justify the rightness of their own beliefs. It is an all-too-familiar, enervating terrain that Canadian Anglicans have found themselves trapped in for quite some time now. It is also a default reaction that suffers from a lack of courage, humility and, dare one say, imagination.

The next 17 months between now and July 2016, when General Synod decides what to do concerning the question of whether the church should allow same-sex marriage, provides an opportunity for every member of the church to look at the issue deeply and differently. (Personal, theological and legal submissions made by church members and ecumenical partners about the possible change to the marriage canon are available online: http://bit.ly/1wGlkqT.)

No doubt, some will pass up the opportunity and say that this issue has been discussed and debated to death: enough already. Others will say it hasn’t been discussed and debated enough, and therefore, more time is needed. But the reality is that the church now stands on the precipice of decision, and like it or not, action is required.
Standing at the crossroads demands a great deal of prayer and trust. But it also requires an honest appraisal of the underlying basis for the certainties of one’s convictions and an authentic openness to considering uncomfortable, opposing views.

This period of discernment could be both helpful and critical, especially for those who will vote on the motion at General Synod. For one, it could deflate the demonization of those whose opinions are contrary to one’s own. It could also make space for grace. Such a grace may not necessarily lead to a softening of stances. But what it does is help strip away smugness and arrogance, freeing up room for the wondrous spirit of wisdom and kind understanding to enter.

Of course, one harbours no illusions that whatever General Synod decides in 2016 will be acceptable to everyone. It won’t. But at the very least, it will demonstrate that it was not a decision borne out of necessity or arising out of fear, but rather, one that came from a prayerful, thoughtfully considered place.

email: editor@anglicanjournal.com

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Anglican Journal News, February 23, 2015

Sacred experimentation

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

Twelve years ago, I conducted an experiment to find out if I was called to a life of ordained ministry in the church. The context of the experiment was the first Montreal Ministry Internship (or Challenge as it was called then), an intensive summer discernment program for young adults that was run by the Montreal Diocesan Theological College. The program offered mentorship, hands-on experiences, theological reflection, peer support, prayer and lessons from people engaged in a wide variety of ministries. The experience of trying it out opened my imagination and created space for me to hear the Spirit calling me into my future.

This year, I am on the planning team for the 2015 Montreal Mission Internship. Like the Ministry Internship, it is an intensive summer discernment program for young adults, but this year’s interns will be experimenting with more than the idea of ordained ministry. This year’s interns will be experimenting with the idea of mission, developing projects that will offer them the opportunity to explore what it means to work deliberately and intentionally in partnership with God for the good of God’s world. We don’t know what the interns will do. We don’t know what the interns will learn. We don’t know if their projects will “work.” But we know the experiments will stretch their imaginations and ours.

The church needs experiments, now more than ever. The world around the church has changed. The world inside the church has changed, too. Old models of membership, of worship, of education, of service are all challenged by the ways we now organize our time, our communication, our families and our identities. There is no longer (if there ever was) a one-size-fits-all version of church. We all need to be experimenting, trying things out and seeing what happens, and then imagining what might come next.

This is hard for many of us. Trying something new is always risky. We want assurances that it will “work,” whatever that may mean. We want to run trial versions and needs assessments and make contingency plans. And sometimes that is appropriate—I am not advocating reckless church leadership. But all too often we let fear get the upper hand. We don’t want to fail. We don’t want to invest energy in something that might not last. We don’t want to admit we don’t know what will work. But those are not reasons to not try.

We can’t simply think our way into the future of the church; we have to try it out and see what happens. Experiments, whether they succeed or whether they flop, offer us the opportunity to expand our understanding of ministry, of church and of mission. They stretch our imaginations, creating space for us to hear the voice of the Spirit and see new possibilities for ourselves, our churches and our world.

As Richard Buckminster Fuller said:  “There is no such thing as a failed experiment. There are only experiments with unexpected outcomes.” Let us offer our experiments, unexpected outcomes and all, to God, and see what God has in store for our future.

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

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Anglican Journal News, February 23, 2015

Climate change behind brutal winter, says Christian scientist

Posted on: February 23rd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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By Debra Fieguth

 

Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and devout Evangelical Christian, has been on a mission to convert climate change deniers. Photo: Mark Hauser


In a winter when much of Canada has endured frigid temperatures and heavy snowfall, it may be hard for some to take climate change seriously.But the deep freeze many of us have experienced this winter, said renowned climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe, is actually connected to the overall warming of the planet.

“Massive snows are a symptom of climate change. A warmer planet increases the risk of heavy snowfall too,” Hayhoe told about 140 people who gathered on Feb. 19 to hear her speak at St. George’s Cathedral in Kingston, Ont. The diocese of Ontario’s Green Group, with support from the Sisters of Providence of Saint Vincent de Paul organized the event.

And if central and eastern Canadians are still not convinced, Hayhoe pointed to the unusually warm winter on the West Coast, where cherry blossoms and daffodils are blooming early.

Dubbed a climate change evangelist by actor Don Cheadle when he profiled her for TIME magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2014, Toronto-born Hayhoe is known both for her academic credentials and her Evangelical Christian perspective.

“Science can tell us why climate is changing,” she said, “and what is going to happen if we continue on our current trajectory. But science can’t tell us what is the right thing to do [about it]. That’s why it’s so essential to link our faith with our science.”

For Hayhoe, explaining the link has been a tough task. When she moved to the U.S. for graduate studies, “I had never met anybody who didn’t think climate change was real.” Then she met her husband, pastor and linguist Andrew Farley, who had never met anyone who did think it was real.

“A couple of months after we were married, we had ‘the conversation.’”

Farley was her first convert.

Now living in oil-rich Texas, where she teaches at Texas Technical University in Lubbock, Hayhoe faces daily opposition, including volumes of hate mail from people who are steeped in an ideological position that makes no room for a difference of opinion, or even scientific facts.

Many of those who deny climate change are Christians.

“We have confounded our faith with our politics,” said Hayhoe.

The real issues are not scientific or biblical, but political, she said, relating the story of a man who stood up after a presentation she gave in Texas and said, “I don’t want the government to be telling me how to set my thermostat!”

That deep-seated fear that the government will control people’s lives is behind much of the denial, she said, noting that more and more Canadians are tuning in to American networks such as Fox News and CNN, which, according to her, perpetuate false news reports.

“I feel like it’s getting worse in Canada,” said Hayhoe. “It’s coming from south of the border.”

People might not like it, but governments have to get involved by setting policies that reduce the use and effects of fossil fuels, she said. “Climate change is a tragedy of the commons…We need collective action.”

Humans “are the most vulnerable species on the planet,” she said, noting that a billion people depend on water from rapidly disappearing glaciers.

Green Group co-chair Paula Walker agreed with that collective approach. “As consumers and voters we can influence the politicians and corporations who can make the changes we need,” she said.

A small and personal starting point is to measure our carbon footprint and see what changes we can make to reduce it, said Hayhoe. She also urged people to join the Citizens’ Climate Lobby, which has a strong Canadian branch.

For Christians, “the theology is very simple,” said Hayhoe. “Climate change impacts the most vulnerable people who God has asked us to love.” If we are faithful disciples, we will do what we can to protect them.

Diocese of Ontario Bishop Michael Oulton said Hayhoe’s presentation “pulls back the veil of rhetoric surrounding the climate change debate.” He added:  “She provides both a clear and reasonable presentation of the science and the importance of Christian engagement with this topic as a principle of putting our faith in action.”

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Anglican Journal News, February 23, 2015

Moral injury and the future of Canada

Posted on: February 17th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

In recent years, it has been more widely recognized that there are a number of not immediately recognized costs to participation in war. Post-traumatic stress disorder is the most well-known and understood psychological war wound, but a new category of psychological war injury has emerged: moral injury. This refers to the negative consequences of observing and participating in the massive and systemic moral breakdown associated, especially, with war.

The wounds of moral injury are not always visible. Guilt and shame are a part of it, but a persistent incapacity for many of the aspects of moral life—commitment to life, compassion toward other creatures and hope reaching for a positive future—leaves the morally injured with something far short of the fullness of human life. We are reminded here that the quality of our life is entirely dependent upon moral thinking and behaviour—something that is often forgotten in the swirl of modern life and its hypnotic possessions and pursuits.

The treatment of moral injury, I understand, begins with understanding and forgiveness, offered and received by the morally wounded. Within this framework, a new, perhaps higher, morality emerges. Like me, you have most likely met the wounded in recovery; they are compassionate and whole in a way that inspires and motivates. It would be wrong to pass by this comment without noticing how well the disciplines of following Jesus seem suited for the task of restoring the morally wounded.

As important as these observations might be to those individuals who are wounded in war, its real significance may be found in a larger field of concern. Society, it would seem, can also be morally injured. The moral wound of slavery, for example, was not healed by making it illegal. The injuries persist at many levels, and are so painfully visible in our prisons and other elements of our criminal justice systems in North America. Participation in the numerous systemic moral failures associated with colonialism is another relevant example. The devaluation of human life that allowed abuses to occur in the past still wounds the moral capacity of Western societies. That the suffering of indigenous women and the inequalities that still plague indigenous communities is so hard for the Canadian public to see is an ever-present reminder of the deeper wounds that stunt our future.

Noticing, once again, that the way of Jesus seems uniquely suited to call the morally wounded to new life, our churches should stand at the forefront of a moral renewal in our nation. We have made some of the first steps in the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. It would seem though, that—acknowledged, understood and forgiven by Jesus—we must move deeper and farther into the life of recovered healing.

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

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Anglican Journal News, February 17, 2015

A model for intra-faith dialogue

Posted on: February 17th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

By Wayne Holst

The world seems full of conflict, even warfare, associated with religion today.

While the role of true religion in these developments may be questioned, there is no doubt that many people are distressed over the apparent links between religious faith and violence to the human body, mind and spirit.

Some of the most unfortunate faith conflicts occur within our own families, congregations, denominations and communions. Next time, I hope to discuss “beyond our faith families.” It is the “closer to home” issues that I want to address now.

Where might we find models to help us deal with our “intra-faith” concerns?

N.T. (Tom) Wright is a former Anglican bishop and practising theologian, living in the U.K. Marcus J. Borg, an Episcopal theologian, recently deceased, spent his teaching career in the U.S.

Wright and Borg were New Testament students who met and became friends at Oxford. Both were influenced during their graduate studies by leading biblical scholars, such as G.B. Caird of McGill University.

Wright and Borg were outstanding examples of men who differed quite significantly on how to approach important faith matters, but who nevertheless respected and learned from each other. They could discuss conflicting perspectives with compassion for each other and for those who observed and learned from them.

Both developed dramatically different understandings of central Christian doctrines. Wright emerged as a prominent proponent of “orthodox” Christianity while Borg became a leading figure of “progressive” liberal theology.

On one occasion they gave joint lectures and led discussions in Vancouver. This resulted in a book first published in 2000, entitled The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions. It was apparent to many that these scholars, at the prime of their careers, were determined to reframe an acrimonious debate that was raging in public and private discourse. Each testified to the fact that they could live and worship as one in the spirit of their resulting book, even as they embraced a different paradigm of biblical reality.

I am one of their many disciples and seek to emulate their dialogical style.

What might we learn from their example? First, they saw each other as humans created in the image of God. As much as they were convinced of their own evolving faith understandings, they did not allow this to promote any kind of personal rightness against the other.

Second, they sought common ground and similar principles to uphold. Both acted out of a mutual sense of witness to the gospel “that the world might believe” and recognized that many would critically observe how they demonstrated their faith before accepting what they said.

Third, they clearly delineated the key themes over which they differed, such as the meaning of Christ’s cross and his resurrection. They explained effectively why they came to their differing conclusions.

Fourth, in a spirit of holy manners, they agreed to continue debating and struggling with the issues together, and were guided by a larger agenda than their own individual purposes.

Whatever our situations of religious conflict, they set a good example.

 

Resources

 

The Meaning of Jesus (Borg/Wright)

 

The Meaning of Jesus Study Design

 

 

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.

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Anglican Journal News, February 17, 2015

Anglicans weigh in on assisted-suicide ruling

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

 

By Anglican Journal staff

Anglicans may differ in their opinions about doctor-assisted suicide but all agree that the church needs to offer “prayerful and loving support” even in the darkest times.


 

Excerpts of the interviews conducted by the Anglican Journal about the Supreme Court ruling legalizing doctor-assisted suicide.

Bishop Jane Alexander
Anglican diocese of Edmonton

This is such an enormously complex issue… We’ve got a year it seems to me to grapple with some massive, massive questions. Our hope, of course, is that the discussion is going to be within the context of changes in the health care system because from our perspective, the Anglican Church has a long history… of providing health care and healing and support of the suffering and dying. We’ve supported development of palliative care facilities and pushed for development of hospices and those kinds of things, and so now how are we going to, in what seems like a very new way, bear witness to.. Christ, and [offer] a message of hope in this.

The Anglican Church has been talking about this since about 1975.  The first report that came out [was] on “[Considerations Concerning] the Passage from Life to Death,” and so the conversation has been going round as various challenges to the law have come up. One of the key things in our conversations is how do we look at the special risks for people in society…who are already vulnerable by the nature of their illness?

There’s a concern that there might be social or family coercion or dealing with people who have got undiagnosed depression and the pressures of all of those kinds of things for very vulnerable people…We don’t quite know how this picture is going to unfold.

In the church we spend a lot of time with people who are really suffering and facing all kinds of end-of-life decisions… We want to protect… human dignity all the way through and working out how people confront death because we don’t live in a society that has totally always embraced… that sooner or later it happens.  And [the question is] how can we support people at those times of their lives when they are in the most difficult situations of trying to make decisions?

I suspect that one of the questions that families might have for chaplains and clergy is, ‘Do you think I am doing the right thing?’ Those kinds of conversations are going to be very difficult to walk alongside because it is for people to make those decisions for themselves. Our job is to be there and provide prayerful and loving support and to proclaim hope even in these darkest of times.

There are Christians who will be on both sides of the discussion that’s going to happen and they’ll begin from the same starting place… from the sovereignty of God. Both groups will want to protect human dignity, preserve the freedom of individual peoples, choose how to confront our frailty, and in the face of death, they’ll all view life as a gift that has been given to us… We do understand that we are called to have hope in suffering and in suffering we find God, but that doesn’t imply that we think people should be having painful deaths, which is why I think, for us, there’s been a real push in terms of palliative care and hospice care.

 

Bishop Stephen Andrews
Diocese of Algoma

I was disappointed for a couple of reasons. I didn’t think that the judgment was particularly helpful or insightful. [It] was lacking in definition, so it uses the term “a competent adult person,” but it doesn’t define what competence is. It talks about the need for them give consent, but it doesn’t describe what consent is. I’ve just been in too many situations where people are in extremis, where there are a host of psychological and emotional factors involved, which could complicate the decision under the definitions provided by the Supreme Court. For example, if an individual was severely depressed, would they be competent, would they be capable of giving rational consent?

It does talk about the idea that [people have to be] in a grievous or irremediable medical condition, which again isn’t very clearly defined. If you want to take it to absurd extremes, we all have a grievous and irremediable medical condition because our lives will end in death anyway.

The Supreme Court says that intervention is ok in situations where the suffering is intolerable for the individual. Suffering that is intolerable to the individual is my second major concern. It is even greater than the sort of lack of definition in the Supreme Court’s decision. I think that the health of a society is measured by its ability to care for those who are in greatest need, and so there’s a sense in which you can’t talk about individuals without talking about individuals in community. It seems to me that it is the community’s responsibility to [uphold]  the dignity of the individual’s life, and it is the case that our medical care today is sophisticated enough that it alleviates a great deal of suffering. It can’t eliminate suffering altogether, but our medical establishment and the Hippocratic Oath obliges them to alleviate as much suffering as possible without— and this is the point of the Dying With Dignity document of the national church— actually taking an initiative to terminate a person’s life.  We recognize that life is a divine gift. The granting of life is something that is still the prerogative of God and thinking about it too, in the Christian tradition, we recognize that our life belongs to God, it’s on loan from God, and so it is not ours to shorten.

I’m afraid that some of the implications of this decision are that there could be a weakening of the doctor-patient relationship, especially for elderly patients who are approaching the end of life and are just not confident now that the legal system is such that their doctors have a duty under our laws or however legislatures enshrine the Supreme Court’s decision to preserve life as long as possible.

I think people with disabilities are worried about this. That there may come a point where somebody has an illness that will certainly result in their death before the sort of mean age of dying… so at what point will they be regarded as a drain on the public coffer and not a priority in terms of health care?

One of the other things that comes to mind, and this comes out of a personal experience because I know people relate to these things at the experiential level, and that is that my dad died in October. He had a massive stroke and my brother and I were able to fly down to be with him and he lingered for a little less than a week. We talked to the doctors about not taking any heroic efforts; he had signed a life directive saying that he didn’t want any heroic measures, and so it was a real question for us, as to the degree to which his suffering was something to shorten by shortening his life. And just as we were discussing this, I saw him with his own family —two sisters – and people from the community rallying around him…a sense in which, in his need and suffering, he was contributing to the depth of human community around him. He gave us the opportunity to care for him. I saw my aunts minister to my dad in a way that has completely changed my relationship with them, and so there’s a sense in which it is not just about the individual. And just because a person may not have, let’s say, a cognitive function,  or may be on some kind of life support system, it doesn’t mean that they are not making a contribution to the integrity of our humanity and the integrity of our community.

I think that when we diminish the value of life in this fashion, then we are devaluing all of our humanity and the value of human community.

We did have a discussion about this at our last House of Bishops meeting, and I think it is certainly something we need to discuss more because I am not convinced that the church, as with many of the issues that we are dealing with in our culture, I’m not sure that we are thinking about them from a theological perspective. I think we need to talk a lot more about the nature of life and the difference between the intention to shorten life and the intention not to prolong the dying process. It’s a fine distinction.

Bishop John Chapman
Diocese of Ottawa

I’m ecstatic…Current practice, prior to the new legislation, has been so black and white that it has been unhelpful for those people who are living with unbearable suffering. This new legislation actually now puts the decision back into the hands of the individual, medical professionals, and drawing upon the strength of their faith to make a determination about what action they should take. It’s a compassionate decision.

The freedom comes with enormous responsibility that will need to be exercised with prayerful caution and integrity –  integrity that respects the dignity of human beings. It’s a huge challenge before us.

I think our role is that we will need to speak to it – I expect that the people will be looking to the church to provide compassionate, helpful and insightful guidance in how they will understand the legislation. So I think a challenge now rests before every diocese in the country to do whatever they can to help people to understand this new legislation, understand the implications of this new legislation.

 

Bishop Linda Nicholls
Diocese of Toronto, Trent-Durham

Public opinion has been moving in this direction for some time, but I still am concerned that not enough in-depth conversation has happened for Canadians around the fact that no one is required to seek treatment. So this idea of intolerable suffering, there may be occasions where medical assistance cannot relieve that suffering. In the case of terminal illness, there’s no reason to continue treatment, that’s always been an option. Patients always have the right to decide whether to seek treatment or not to seek treatment and to refuse treatment. I just am concerned that that’s not been sufficiently understood, although I’m sure the courts have considered it.

I am concerned about the court’s lack of definition of what would constitute intolerable suffering…It is not just terminally ill patients. It does require that it be competent persons [who will] make the request.  I also have…some concerns for those in the medical profession who disagree with this…. Already on public radio there have been conversations with health professionals about what this will mean for them because they are not all in agreement with this.

I think it was Matt Galloway on CBC interviewing someone who was involved with ethics in hospitals, and his comment was that despite the fact that Europe has had this kind of legislation for some time, less than two per cent of people access it. And he said he thought it had more to do with people’s desire to know they have a choice even if they don’t choose to exercise that choice, and that that fit with his sense of a Canadian ethic of individual freedom. I thought that was a very interesting observation, which might lead you to feel a little more comfortable that this would not be accessed unduly.

But it does raise the question again of what role does the whole community play in supporting individuals, in supporting families, in supporting people who are faced with these tough decisions. It is certainly something that we, as a church, need to have a conversation about…. I don’t know what the task force is working on, but I would hope that they would create some kind of an educational resource that will help people to reflect on this kind of decision and reflect on it theologically.

Just because people have the legal right to it doesn’t mean that that is a decision or a choice that they will make and that’s where chaplains will need to sit with people –and particularly chaplains in hospitals…where they are dealing with people of all faiths and no faith – their role will be to listen very carefully to how human life is understood by the individual. And, where they are specifically acting in the capacity of an Anglican Christian chaplain, to help the person to think about how the church has understood this. That doesn’t mean that they are giving them an answer or insisting that they act in a particular way because, at every level, a person’s conscience is the final judge. But it, I hope, will push us as communities to ask how do we better support people who are facing suffering that is chronic or terminal or intolerable. What are we doing to address those needs of an individual and to support them and their families if they choose to make a decision that we disagree with?

Anglicans do theological reflection on issues such as this, and we believe strongly in the sanctity of life and the gift of life. But we also respect that, in the face of very difficult decisions,  individuals may choose in a way that is not in the direction that church policy would take. That’s not to, in any way, say that that person is unacceptable to the church. We all recognize that there are times when we make decisions that seem to be the best or only one we can make in that moment for us and those aren’t always shared by others.

There was a young couple in one of my parishes where a parent was on life-support and had to make the decision to cease life-support…People have made choices to cease life-extending treatments like artificial ventilation, where there is no medical probability of recovery and where the person was known to have not wanted extraordinary intervention. I’ve certainly had conversations with people about what kind of intervention do they want at a time that they might be incapacitated because often it is a family member that has to make that decisions, so in one of my parishes we did a lot of work on living wills and conversations about that. Who do you need to have a conversation with?…. You think when you are well that you couldn’t possibly tolerate being incapacitated in some way but when people reach that place, sometimes it is quite different.  Life has a different quality, even if one can’t walk or if one can’t do other things.

 

The Journal asked hospital chaplains about whether the Supreme Court ruling would have a major impact on their work. Their responses:

The Rev. Joanne Davies
Chaplain, diocese of Toronto
Ecumenical chaplain, Mt. Sinai Hospital

For families, …[assisted dying] is one more thing that they could ask for, or one more thing that they could be afraid the doctors are going to suggest to them because everyone approaches this differently.  For some people, the question is ‘How are you going to keep my loved one alive?,’ which is the same for the patient, ‘How am I going to stay alive?’ And for others, it is ‘How am I going to be comfortable and have a good passage to death?’ Those are the ones that I always cheer on and am relieved by because they are easier to care for from a chaplain’s point of view. Sometimes that’s harder for the doctor. When people are focused on understanding a good passage towards death, other than palliative care doctors, they struggle because for them often death is a failure, if they haven’t cured them. … Palliative care is very different.

I struggle with the time it takes for us in the hospital to talk to people about dying. I’m not talking about imminent dying, dying in the next month or anything, but over time with their illness and what that might look like and what their life as they move toward death will look like. It takes us ages to do that.

For me, the most wonderful thing that happens because of this court decision, it means that we’re actually going to talk about death and dying and actually name it. I’m hoping that some of those euphemisms — passing away, gone on, left us, lost — are all going to stop, that we will actually say death and dying and that we will do that in the church as well. As I begin to look at it, that’s the best part… that people will actually start to think about it and that passage to death is one form of care.

People write advance directives when they are quite young, and they may change their mind when they are in their 80s. I think it is a process. I think writing about it and talking about it when we are young is great, but to keep doing it and not think all the decision are made because they are not…. Sometimes we can put up with all sorts of things when we are older than we [thought] we could. …

So when people start being afraid of this court decision, it opens up conversation and possibilities, but I would also hope it does is open up [a conversation] about the sacredness of life that includes death and dying.

[Will this ruling raise questions for an ecumenical or interfaith chaplaincy about what various denominations and religions believe about an individual’s right to hasten death?]

Those issues come up constantly already because religions have views on many things, some less clear than others… I find the best thing is if somebody says ‘What does my religion’ or as in the case of Christianity, which I know best but is so broad,  ‘What does my denomination say about this?’ Sometimes they know and ask me what they do about that. That’s a hard one, particularly if they are a faithful committed person to their church and then they suddenly find themselves facing a decision. When someone says that to me I kind of know that the decision that they want to make is quite opposite to what their own church is telling them, so it is a conflict. So as a chaplain, I’m honest with them, [I tell them] this is what it says within your faith group, and then I ask them to talk about where they are with God.

Some people will not accept that because, in the long line of it, one is an institutional rule as such and the other one is you and God, and then you and God and your community. And if we’re lucky, our community will uphold us in prayer even when we disagree and even when in our prayers, we’ve come to another conclusion with God. I believe that our faith is a community faith as well, but that doesn’t always happen, so sometimes people walk alone, and I have to help them make that decision. … One of the things that is clear to me is, apart from whatever my personal decision is, should it come to be that there is a physician that will assist death in the hospital, I would be with that patient, no matter what my opinion was. It does help me when I know that I have a community in prayer upholding me in my work.

I have had patients who were very sure that the comfort for them at dying would be to choose to die now when [they] choose it rather than go through that last piece. And most people don’t even have in mind a time or a moment, but what they do have in mind is when something happens to their brain or to their body and they want to talk about it and there has not been the ability to talk to their doctors about it until now…. Some doctors may feel relieved because they can talk about, and others may ..not want to….. It’s hard for them. They don’t want to ever been seen to be doing something that will harm somebody, and you know what, that’s really good. …. Just like all forms of care, it’s not for everyone.

 

Dean Iain Luke
St. James Anglican Church, Peace River
Diocese of Athabasca

What I see at the nursing home is mostly not directly with the people themselves, but with their caregivers, their family members. So then it really is about how to support people and be with them as they are dying, and that is really mostly about simply being there. Family members spend a lot of time with the people they love when they are near death, and I think that partly,  they need that affirmed —that that is worth doing…When people aren’t responsive, my role is simply to say to family members that it matters that you’re there.  People often can hear things that we don’t realize they’re hearing, but even if they can’t hear, there is a sense in which simply being there counts for something.

It’s going to take a lot of getting used to, by a lot of different groups. Certainly the church, and in our community here, we have a palliative care group that is going to have to adapt to that [ruling].  I also was thinking particularly of doctors – there are going to be doctors who are asked to make decisions that they are not familiar with or perhaps comfortable making. So that was my first reaction, that things are really going to have to reshape themselves around this decision. It remains to be seen what is going to happen in terms of legislation, if there are going to be other provisions put in place to narrow and regulate the way this is going to be focused.

We’ve now fully got to the place where the church, and Christian people who might speak on behalf of it, for us this is simply the lay of the land. The world we are in has changed in this decision, and in a public policy sense it doesn’t matter much if we are for it or against it. And actually, from a Gospel sense, I’m not sure that it matters that much either. The question is, how are we going to proclaim the gospel in the world as it is now? Certainly you can’t help but feel for people who are so anxiously looking forward to their own death, or have been through that with somebody who has…I certainly wouldn’t want to take anything away from what they’ve experienced. My question would be in terms of pastoral care and sharing the good news, how do we make sure we are there for people who are in that situation.

The gospel concern I had about the decision was that here we have a statement that dying and suffering around death have no value, and in fact, have a negative value – so much so that it is worth dying first before going through that suffering. The Gospel doesn’t glorify suffering for its own sake, but it does say that there is something to be found there, and that that is not the worst thing that can happen to you. People talk about dying with dignity a lot, and my own experience has been that I’ve never met anyone who died with anything but dignity, and that came from within them; it has nothing to do with the circumstances of the conditions in which they died, it was something that shone out of them. I think we are in a place as pastoral and spiritual caregivers or other people who do that within the church where we’re able to affirm that. And that might change the way people live with that decision even if it doesn’t change the decision.

The church’s involvement in palliative care has certainly grown along with the growing concern for and interest in palliative care in the communities I’ve worked in. In these kinds of places, there is a kind of community care for the system. Everyone has to get behind it in order for things to happen the way that we would want them to happen.  In Peace River, there is a significant palliative care association made up of volunteers who advocate for palliative care provision in the hospital and who provide [visitation]…and have a commemoration each year for people who have died as well so they continue to walk with those who grieve.

As with so many good things that happen in our communities, it is not solely Christian people, but there are a lot of them. Some people who are very active in church congregations are very active in palliative care work and see it as ministry, see it as there way of sharing the love and presence of God at a difficult time.

I think part of it was the simple act of connectedness – people who are dying or who are letting go of someone who is dying can feel very disconnected and very alone, and that is a spiritual experience in itself, to be cut off from what you have come to assume is the nature of your existence, which for most people is very social.

The hospital experience often cuts people off from their social network, and the experience of illness —especially if it takes away their faculties of communication — cuts people off from each other, and so that’s a kind of desert experience, spiritually speaking. So there’s that need for support and presence and affirming those who are there for people who need them.  I think there is also an element of coming to grips with meaning. It’s not very often that people have the leisure when they’re dying to sit back and say, “What have I done with my life?” You don’t really have a retreat moment like that, but it often comes through in the way people are relating to friends and family members around them. Sometimes where I’ve seen a person surrounded by a large and loving family, I certainly get the impression that that gives them the impression that what they’ve done with their life has had meaning because that’s visible in the response, and the love in return that they’re receiving.

Sometimes if I need to have a role in that, it will be in inviting people to tell – a number of times when I’ve been asked to come and pray for someone there, I’ve gathered the family around to pray with me, and their prayers often express something of what the person has meant to them. Whether or not the person can actually hear that is a different question. But certainly they can get that sense that the meaning of their life is still present in the people surrounding them.

My hope would be – and some of the news coverage I’ve seen indicates that this might be the direction – that it would actually receive more resources, because if people are confronted by the reality that others are going to choose death because they don’t have appropriate care while dying, that may stir people to say that we need to be there for them. Both in terms of financial resources, space in the health system, and personnel that have been trained for that kind of care and that would also volunteer in the ways that are needed – I hope it would enhance that.

I think that the complications are going to come more at the front end, where people who themselves don’t really understand what palliative care might offer might say, ‘I won’t really go for that, I want the exit door right now.’ And that would be where doctors would need to be well-equipped to deal with people in that position.

 

The Rev. Keirsten Wells
Coordinating diocesan health care chaplain
Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island

I’m not sure, I really don’t know. It seems like a really good decision for competent individuals diagnosed with a terminal illness and want to decide how they are going to engage in their own death.

I don’t know how it will impact people in the hospital who hadn’t anticipated their imminent death. There’s a whole bunch of layers underneath the tip of this iceberg. There are people who get up in the morning and think they are going to have a normal day and have a huge stroke and by the end of the week they are in discussions with doctors about whether to continue life support, removal of treatments and so forth. Those patients and their families talk to me a lot about medically assisted death, and I’m not sure how this ruling will apply to those people.

Even among competent individuals that are deemed medically to have capacity to decide, there is a wide variety of decision making styles and influences. You see it all the time with people making healthcare decisions that are going to be least upsetting for their families, for example, and that’s in competition with the decisions they might make if they were only making decisions for themselves.

So there are a multitude of factors that are going into people’s decisions, and illness and diagnosis and mental health are part of it; they’re going to have to have some pretty rigorous structures put around them…What do we consider “intolerable suffering?” Is that part of a group or corporate decision, or is it solely a personal decision? The physicians are going to need to weigh in, the ethicists, the theologians, the chaplains, all the special interest groups… I don’t believe the court’s idea was to just let everybody make the choice lightly. There’s going to be a lot of safeguards, and that is my hope. It won’t be an easy or terribly quick process to enter into, but I hope it will be meaningful and very consultative.

Personally, I think that it is a positive development, and my observation of what patients and families have said to me over the last 15 years of working in healthcare is that this is an option that people want to have available. It’s not an option that they want to have forced on them, and there is concern over the vulnerable and all of the discussion around the “silver tsunami.” This is not a solution to overburdened healthcare systems. And that is a concern, and it’s a worry. But I think that individuals that are going through their illness and their suffering and their death think about this subject in a way that they perhaps never have before, and they want to talk about it, and many of them would like the option. And because of that I think this is a good thing; I think that it represents the majority of popular opinion, and the desire for people to have autonomy over how they engage their death.

As a chaplain, we work with the content that the client presents. If it is important to a person, they will raise it pretty much as quickly as possible. And once it is raised, it is my role not to help them make a decision but to explore their feelings about the circumstance they find themselves in, to explore their hopes and fears about their faith, about the transition from life into death and what happens after death. I hear a lot of frustrations of people coping with the healthcare system. It is my job to listen and reflect and to help as much as I can people work through their distress. At the end of life there is a lot of distress – there is pain, there is anxiety, there are a lot of questions.

When people are approaching their death, palliative care is the best that we have to offer right now. It doesn’t alleviate everyone’s spiritual and physical and emotional suffering. For some, it does a great job, and for others not so much, because we’re all different. So do people in palliative care still suffer in their dying process, and would some of them still choose to end their life earlier? I believe that they would. I don’t think that there is a problem with the palliative care, I think [it] goes way beyond that into more personal choice, and what the individual and family desire for themselves. I don’t think that this is an alternative to palliative care –some people are very happy with palliative care, and some would choose to have more autonomy over their death regardless of palliative care.

This ruling is not black and white – and I don’t think dying is ever going to be black and white, from a legal perspective or a theological perspective or a medical perspective, because people aren’t. I think the church needs to do some thinking about this. We haven’t done a lot of talking about this in awhile, and I think we have a lot of questions we need to ask ourselves about the meaning of death. Is it a failure? Is it harmful? What does God think of our personal autonomy? Is suffering always a good thing? These are questions that we really have to put some weight behind, and some time, because a lot of people really do care about what the church thinks. A lot of people really wouldn’t make a decision that they feel would be contrary to their faith, and they link their faith to the doctrine of the church, and that is why it is really important that we get out there and lead on this issue.

I think the church should operate out of its strengths. I think our strengths are that we meet regularly at the local level, and we have real opportunities to engage each other in discussions about this issue. Because we don’t really have anything prescriptive on the books about this, our statement from the nineties, Care in Dying, is more of a pastoral directive. I think that we have the ability to engage our membership in intelligent and informed and theologically founded principles of our faith at the local level. We are all members of the society, we can all vote, we can all write to our MPs, and some of us are going to be involved in making these laws, and I think it is our obligation to really name it and explore it and to wade into the discussion at the local level and let it filter as it will through society, through each of us as individual members.

(Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comments from Journal readers.)

In view of the recent Supreme Court ruling, which removes the law prohibiting assisted suicide, I hope and pray that the end-of-life issues task force can provide a credible voice for compassionate care in truly good death, in such a way that life is respected as God’s gift.Those who are dying, and those with other great suffering, often have psychological and spiritual pain as well as physical distress. There is, therefore, a great opportunity for the church to lead, by supporting and creating effective places of hospice and palliative care.

Nancy Craig
Family physician
Edmonton

 

We asked our friends on Facebook this question: What are your thoughts on the Supreme Court’s ruling that Canadians have the right to doctor-assisted suicide? 

My doctor of some years ago when I brought this up told me to look up “dying with dignity.” When I did and I tried to answer the questions put there, I realized there was no way I could…not knowing how I’d really be close to the time of dying and how capable I would be to talk to people, etc. So I’m leaving it to my present doctor to make such decisions. George Ryder I think this is a sad commentary on “life”—we already have amazing [facilities] offering palliative care to those who are dying in a compassionate way. What if the person who makes a decision to die changes their mind? But now they are in a state where they cannot express the change of desire. Having worked in hospitals as a registered nurse, I can say that palliative care has been available to all the patients I worked with, [wherever] they were. I would not think that a physician, whose role is to save [lives], would want to participate in an active role of ending a life in such a dramatic function.
Louise Campbell 

I’m in favour. You can argue slippery slope to your heart’s content, but the fact remains that we’ve prolonged life to such an extent that sometimes existence itself becomes pure torture. This isn’t wholesome, correct or moral. Marion Thompson I’m very much in favour. It’s a very personal decision.
Roger Woodford

I have faith in [God’s] communication to the individual, that they, [together] with God, can make the right choice. Only they know the conversation happening between themselves and God.
Christopher Lambe

I’ve [helped] save [hundreds] of people from suicide because I had hope for weeks and months when they didn’t. Killing people is so much easier than resuscitating them. It’s cheaper, too, and doesn’t take much [training] or experience. Let the games begin. Mathew Alexander McPhee William, you seem to make abortion doctors look bad. Of course, the case isn’t like that at all. They don’t make money off “people’s deaths”; they earn income from medical procedures.
William Hay 

Canadian civil law has no bearing on God’s laws. Put another way, there’s no need for a new report because the theological issues that caused the report to oppose euthanasia and assisted suicide have not changed at all.
Matthew Perreault

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Anglican Journal News, February 12, 2015

Confusion over Syrian refugee sponsorships

Posted on: February 9th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Discussion

By Leigh Anne Williams

 

A Syrian refugee girl sits with her brother at a makeshift shelter in Bar Elias, a town in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley. Photo: Mohamed Azakir/Reuters


Early in January, the Canadian government pledged to welcome an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next three years.

The announcement answered a call from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for nations to help settle 100,000 refugees from Syria by 2016. It was also seen as a response to criticism from refugee advocates and opposition parties that Canada was not doing enough to meet the needs of more than three million Syrians who have fled violence in  their country. In December, Canada had committed to resettle only 1,300 people.

Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said that he expected that about 60 per cent of the 10,000 would be sponsored privately by sponsorship agreement holder organizations, which include many church groups; the remaining 40 per cent would be government-assisted refugees. “Roughly, the same proportions we’ve always had,” he said, in a report in the Globe and Mail.

That comment caused a stir among sponsorship agreement holder groups, who told the Anglican Journal that they were not consulted before the minister suggested that they should be responsible for sponsoring an additional 6,000 refugees over the next three years. They also noted that it represented a sudden shift away from the principle of “additionality” that has been a part of the private sponsorship program since it was created in 1979. “It’s always been that government announces what they are going to do, that’s their commitment; they fill those spots and then we fill those additional spots as we’re able,” said Alexandra Kotyk, a member of the Sponsorship Agreement Holder Council, sponsorship director of the Toronto-based Anglican United Refugee Alliance (AURA),  part of the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) refugee network. “To have us be part of the [government’s] pledge is pretty unprecedented.”

On the matter of proportions of sponsorship that would be private and government assisted, a source at Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC), who offered background information, said that Alexander mentioned “only notional numbers” for the commitment and that the government would be “very flexible through time as the situation evolves.”

Refugee advocates have also asked for some assurance that this will indeed be 10,000 refugees over and above the number of refugees Canada regularly takes in annually. In an open letter to Alexander, the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) expressed concern that the commitment would fall within existing resettlement numbers. “This would mean that the commitment to the Syrian refugees is at the expense of other refugees, who are also very much in need,” said the CCR.

Bill Brown, a CIC media relations officer, told the Journal in an email that “those commitments would be accomplished within the levels plans that the government tables in Parliament each year.” The 2015 plan estimated that the total number of refugees accepted would be between 11,000 and 13,500.

Refugee advocates have pointed out that the 2015 estimates are not higher than the 2014 estimate of between 11,800 and 14,200 refugees.

The CCR also urged the government not to restrict its commitment to Syrian refugees to religious minorities, which it said would “mean discriminating against Muslim refugees in need of resettlement.”

When the Journal raised that issue, the response from CIC was that the UNHCR, which works with the international core group on Syria, has identified eight priority groups for resettlement. These include women and girls at risk, people with physical protection needs (including persecuted ethnic and religious minorities), and sexual minorities. The email added that “Canada’s commitments give priority to the most vulnerable, for which—as Minister Alexander has said—‘we will not apologize.’ ”

Don Smith, chair of the refugee working group for the diocese of Ottawa and also part of PWRDF’s refugee network, wondered if the government would lift a restriction on another type of sponsorship, which allows a group of five individuals to collectively sponsor a refugee. In recent years, groups of five have only been allowed to sponsor people who already have a UNHCR refugee status determination document, he explained. “Coming out of Syria, it is impossible [to get this determination] because UNHCR is so overloaded, all they are doing is registering people.” Allowing groups of five to sponsor will take a lot of burden off Sponsorship Agreement Holders, he said.

The CCR letter also asked the government to consider introducing special measures such as allowing family members of Syrian Canadians to come to Canada with temporary resident permits, with the possibility of applying for permanent residence later.

Editor’s note: The description of our source at CIC has been edited for accuracy.

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Anglican Journal News, February 04, 2015