Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Theology of Money report criticizes capitalist economics

Posted on: October 23rd, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By André Forget on October, 21 2016

The report of the task force on the theology of money argues that the current economic system is an example of “structural sin.” Image: Saskia Rowley

On October 18, an Anglican Church of Canada task force has released “On The Theology of Money,” a report calling the faithful to embrace a “vision of ‘enough’” when it comes to material wealth.

Many Christians in the 21st century are torn between their faith, which teaches that hoarding wealth is wrong and that Christians should support each other, and an economic system that values individualism, limitless growth, and commodification, says the Rev. Maggie Helwig, a priest in the diocese of Toronto and member of the task force.

Using Biblical texts, early church teachings, contemporary theology and political theory, Helwig’s essay, Non nobis, Domine (Not to us, Lord) provides the main substance of the report, a result of two years of research, reflection and study.

Helwig makes the case that the current economic system and the value it places on money are antithetical to authentic Christianity, and should be seen as a kind of “structural sin.”

The essay takes its title from Psalm 115, which attacks the idolatrous worship of images made of silver and gold,  “the work of human hands,” and argues that the money economy, as it is currently practiced today, is a similar form of idolatry.

Citing stories like God’s feeding of the children of Israel with manna in Exodus 16, to the early church practice of holding goods in common described in Acts 2, Helwig points out that the Bible consistently teaches that Christians are called to be satisfied with what they need, and to share with those who have less—an argument she believes is backed up by the Bible’s frequent denunciations of lending money on interest.

She notes, however, “This vision of ‘enough’ is not only very different from the ever-spiralling growth of the money economy, it is actually hostile to it. If we are satisfied with simple, basic human lives of good work and mutual care, we will ‘fail’ according to the terms of our economy.”

Furthermore, Helwig argues that, because the capitalist economic system sees no intrinsic value in human life, it is completely indifferent to the suffering of those who find themselves unable to succeed on its terms.

“The inability of the market alone to ensure adequate human lives for the majority of the population is increasingly clear, as the gap between rich and poor, both globally and within nations, increases,” she says, quoting a report from Oxfam, an international confederation of groups working to fight poverty, that shows inequality as hgrown dramatically over the past 30 years.

“These statistics speak of human lives stripped down to the voracious needs of an economic system’s implacable internal logic,” she adds.


The Rev. Maggie Helwig is the rector of the Anglican Church of St. Stephens-in-the-Field, in the diocese of Toronto.

Photo: André Forget

Helwig’s essay acknowledges, however, that living outside the market is not feasible.

This is not only because, in a globalized world, the market “restricts the agency of persons and societies who may wish to live differently,” but also because the money economy has fundamentally shaped the way people think about themselves and the world around them.

As Helwig puts it, “We are embedded in a global money economy from which we simply cannot remove ourselves…nor are we able to create major rapid change to this system.”

Instead of trying to escape the world, Helwig argues that Christians should instead attempt to embrace “the healing and reordering of desire” and “return to a fuller understanding and practice of the ‘works of mercy.’”

Practically, this can be done through small actions, like living less wasteful lives and being satisfied with fewer possessions, and more systemic changes, like “declining to participate in interest-based investment profits, or at least investing in credit unions that support community initiatives.”

Helwig also believes Christians should have a voice in the political arena, pushing for more redistributive economic policies and resisting trade agreements that “have been proven to limit the ability of persons and societies to make choices for the local common good.”

Finally, Helwig encourages Anglicans to see the salvation offered by Christ as also being salvation from the collective sin caused by participating in the market.

“We believe that we are saved from this matrix of sin,” she writes. “We believe that we are transformed by an act of free offering on the part of god, an act that entirely defies all the principles underlying the modern economy.”

The origins of the report go back to the 2010-2013 triennium, when the Occupy Wall Street movement drew attention to rising economic equality in Western nations. General Synod, the church’s governing body, asked the faith, worship and ministry committee to find a way to engage with the questions raised by the Occupy movement, and specifically to reflect on “the meaning of money.”

A task force, chaired by the Rev. Jeff Metcalfe, of the diocese of Quebec, was set up to discuss what a Christian approach to money might look like.

In addition to Metcalfe and Helwig, members included Joshua Paetkau, of the diocese of Rupert’s Land, Bishop Michael Oulton, of the diocese of Ontario, Monica Patten, then-director of General Synod’s Resources for Mission, the Rev. Jeff Pym, of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada’s Eastern Synod, and Elin Goulden, parish outreach facilitator for the York-Credit Valley area in the diocese of Toronto.

The report also includes extensive supplementary materials, including a discussion guide that outlines how clergy and lay leaders might help their parishes engage and respond to the work of the task force, and a collection of liturgical resources for those who wish to meditate on the task force’s findings as part of their regular worship.


About the Author

André Forget

André Forget

André Forget joined the Anglican Journal in 2014 as staff writer and social media lead. He also serves as managing editor of Whether Magazine, and his writing has appeared in The Dalhousie Review, The Winnipeg Review, and the Town Crier.


Anglican Journal News, October 20, 2016

52 countries still outlaw blasphemy—including Canada

Posted on: October 14th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By Tali Folkins on October, 12 2016

Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani, has been on death row in Pakistan since 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed. Her final appeal hearing is scheduled Thursday, Oct. 20. Photo: A Call for Mercy

We may be living in what Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor (and many others) have called a secular age, but that doesn’t mean governments around the world have stopped trying to control the religious behaviour of their citizens. According to an article published this summer by the Pew Research Center, an American think-tank, laws against blasphemy and apostasy not only exist in many countries, but are often still enforced.(Blasphemy is a show of contempt to God or the sacred; apostasy is the abandonment of one’s religious belief—for atheism, for example, or for another religion.)

According to Pew’s reckoning, as of 2014, blasphemy was outlawed in 51 countries; of these, 36 continued to enforce their anti-blasphemy laws. Laws against apostasy existed in 25 countries, 22 of which continued to enforce them.

Such laws were particularly common in the Middle East and North Africa, Pew research associate Katayoun Kishi says; about 70% of countries in this part of the world had anti-apostasy laws, and 90% had anti-blasphemy laws. Still, she points out, such laws exist in many other parts of the world also. According to the Pew Center study on which the article was based, anti-blasphemy laws are still enforced in Greece, Poland and Russia. Blasphemy and apostasy are prosecuted in India and also Nigeria, home to large populations of Muslims and Christians, including many Anglicans. Countries that have anti-blasphemy laws on the books, even though the laws are no longer enforced, include Denmark, Ireland, Italy and a smattering of Caribbean countries.

The article notes that although the U.S. does not have federal anti-blasphemy laws, several individual states do. But the U.S. constitution would “almost certainly” prevent such laws from being enforced, it says.

One country that does not appear in the article at all is Canada—and yet it has an anti-blasphemy law. Section 296 of the Criminal Code prohibits an activity called “blasphemous libel,” and specifies that anyone found guilty of this offence is liable to up to two years’ imprisonment.

Contacted about Pew’s apparent omission, Kishi responded that Canada seemed not to have been included in its study because its blasphemy law was not mentioned in any of the 17 sources the study drew on. Probably these sources didn’t mention the law because it is used so rarely, she added.

Countries that had a law, rule or policy on blasphemy at some level of government in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center. Not included on the map is Canada. Source: Pew Research Center

In recent years, a number of voices in Canada have been calling for the repeal of the law. In January 2015, not long after the shootings at the office of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, leaders of two Canadian secularist groups – the Centre for Inquiry and Humanist Canada – announced they would begin lobbying the Department of Justice to repeal the law. On June 22, 2016, these groups, together with the BC Humanist Association, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and other organizations, launched an online petition, sponsored by Ali Ehsassi, Liberal MP for Willowdale, Ont. Online petitions can be tabled in the House of Commons if they get 500 or more signatures in 120 days.

As of press time, the petition to repeal Canada’s blasphemy law, which expires Oct. 20, had garnered 6,542 signatures.

In a 2015 opinion piece, Derek From, staff lawyer with the Canadian Constitution Foundation, a Calgary-based charity, criticized the law as both hypocritical and potentially dangerous.

The law, From says, was essentially copied in Canada and other Commonwealth countries from an original British version. In Britain and many of these countries, he says, the law has been repealed. It remains on the books in Canada even though it has not been used to successfully prosecute anyone since 1935 (when it resulted in the conviction of an Anglican priest).

Historically, courts have interpreted the law as intended not to protect the person—God—who is allegedly being libeled, From says.

“If you’re saying something bad about God, a court really isn’t the forum for God to invoke his rights and seek redress,” he says dryly.

Instead, judges have taken the purpose of the law as the protection of society from the conflict that might result from speech that offends people’s religious beliefs.

In the 1935 case, for example, the Rev. Victor Rahard, of Montreal’s Church of the Redeemer, was charged with blasphemous libel after putting up a poster outside the church condemning the mass and other Roman Catholic practices. “Judas sold Christ for a large sum of money; the Roman priests sell Him every day and even three times,” the poster reads, as quoted in the judge’s decision. “Judas repented and threw his money away; the Roman priests do not repent and keep the money. Now what do you think of the papist religion?”

In his ruling, the judge cited case law arguing that the purpose of the statute was to protect the peace of the community—which, he argued, was threatened by Rahard’s poster.

“I maintain that these terms are offensive and injurious to the Roman Catholics and of such a nature that they may lead to a disturbance of the public peace,” he wrote, and found Rahard guilty.

Rahard’s 1935 trial was not the last time charges were laid under Canada’s blasphemous libel law—and not the only time an Anglican priest was involved. In 1979, a charge was laid against a cinema in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., after a local Anglican priest, the Rev. Michael Eldred, complained about its screening of the Monty Python film The Life of Brian, which takes a satirical look at the life of Christ. Ontario’s attorney general stepped in to stay the charge, however.

If the law were used today to prosecute someone, From says, it would probably be struck down as unconstitutional, because the importance of protecting freedom of speech would be judged greater than the need to protect the public peace in this context. Still, From says he’s concerned that courts might not always see things this way. It’s not a “flight of fancy,” he says, to imagine it at some point being used to criminally prosecute Canadians making cartoons of the prophet Mohammed, for example.

“All it takes is one generation who have different social views and different prejudices than the generation that we’re living in right now,” he says. “They might see the need to constrain speech. My personal view is that we need to get rid of this…This is a tool that could be very authoritarian and very detrimental to the health of a free society.”

Protests and riots, many of them violent, erupted in many countries around the world after a Danish newspaper published cartoons of the prophet Mohammed in 2005.

The world’s blasphemy laws have been a subject of concern among member churches of the Anglican Communion. In a unanimous vote in 1998, the Lambeth Conference of bishops condemned sections of the blasphemy laws of Pakistan and called for the release of  “all prisoners unjustly accused” under them. Blasphemy can carry a death sentence in Pakistan, although the state has not yet carried out a death sentence for the crime.

More recently, members of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) have been campaigning for the release of Asia Bibi, a Christian Pakistani who has been on death row in Pakistan since 2010 after being accused of insulting the Prophet Mohammed. At its meeting in Lusaka, Zambia this spring, the ACC passed a resolution urging Pakistan to re-open the case and acquit her. This September, Shunila Ruth, an ACC member for Pakistan, said the global Anglican body needed to step up its efforts to press Pakistan to free Bibi and reconsider its blasphemy laws.

A final appeal of Bibi’s conviction is was to be heard by Pakistan’s supreme court Thursday, Oct. 20, but the hearing was adjourned after one of the judges claimed a possible conflict of interest in the case.

Tali Folkins

Tali Folkins

Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal.  His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.


Anglican Journal News, October 13, 2016

Praying the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals

Posted on: October 7th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Global Goals Logo. All right reserve (CC-BY-NC) by Getty Images and the UN. Sourced from Wikipedia; believed to be used under fair use rationale as educationalThis post introduces the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in brief prayers. More information can be found at

1. Holy One, help us to recognize our position of (relative) abundance. May we be inspired and empowered to support people, frameworks, and resources to END POVERTY IN ALL ITS FORMS EVERYWHERE, that all your children may know the abundant life your Son came to deliver.

2. God of plenty, we celebrate the beauty of the harvest. We delight in the systems and structures that exist, allowing us to know the 5 A’s (availability, accessibility, acceptability, appropriateness, agency) of food security. Help us to improve these systems, to share the manna you provide, as we work to END HUNGER, ACHIEVE FOOD SECURITY AND IMPROVED NUTRITION, AND PROMOTE SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE.

3.God of healing, you are the great physician, promising spiritual health. As your Son taught his disciples to heal, may we use our gifts of memory, reason, and skill to ENSURE HEALTHY LIVES AND PROMOTE WELL-BEING FOR ALL AT ALL AGES. May our work in research, development, and provision reflect your compassion for everyone, everywhere, to overcome those realities of our world which threaten our health.

4. God of learning, in our baptism we ask to receive the gift of an inquiring and discerning heart. We are privileged to be nourished and encouraged by education as a “pervasive life experience.” May our grateful response be to work to ENSURE INCLUSIVE AND EQUITABLE QUALITY EDUCATION AND PROMOTE LIFELONG LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL.

5. God of love, you have made us in your image. Male and female, You created us; yet we continue to discriminate against half of your children. We pray, O God of equality, that we may help create societies where gender does not initiate rejection, violence, and injustice. May our hearts yearn and inspire to ACHIEVE GENDER EQUALITY AND EMPOWER ALL WOMEN AND GIRLS.

6. Holy One, you repeatedly teach us of the fluidity of grace and justice through the simple element of water. In our baptism we receive the promise of true life as we are physically and spiritually made clean. May we, with joy, ENSURE AVAILABILITY AND SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF WATER AND SANITATION FOR ALL, so all may know water to be a wondrous and healing gift from you.

7. The wind blows where it wishes, and the sun shines where it will, and the waves and tides are directed by forces beyond this earth. While we may not fully know where such energies come from, we trust in the Spirit who reveals their potential to us. May we use this trust to ENSURE ACCESS TO AFFORDABLE, RELIABLE, SUSTAINABLE, AND CLEAN ENERGY FOR ALL.

8. Empowering God, your Holy Spirit pours upon each of us wonderful gifts, encouraging us to use and share these spiritual gifts through the works of our hands. Help us to PROMOTE SUSTAINED, INCLUSIVE, AND SUSTAINABLE ECONOMIC GROWTH, FULL AND PRODUCTIVE EMPLOYMENT, AND DECENT WORK FOR ALL, celebrating everyone’s role as contributors to the building up of our earthly societies and of your glorious kingdom.

9. God of patience, throughout the ages we have failed to live in equality. Forgive us our greed, and help us to mature and grow. May we BUILD RESILIENT INFRASTRUCTURE, PROMOTE INCLUSIVE AND SUSTAINABLE INDUSTRIALISATION AND FOSTER INNOVATION, thereby encouraging a more just society, to the benefit of all.

10.Gracious God, you made us all in your image, yet we find and create ways to discriminate. Help us to see beyond the divisions of social, economic, and political exclusion, and REDUCE INEQUALITY WITHIN AND AMONG COUNTRIES, delighting in the great variety you create from your perfect love.

11. Unifying God, you call us together in your love to be one family. May this inspire us out of patterns of co-existence into celebrations of community. May we intentionally MAKE CITIES AND HUMAN SETTLEMENTS INCLUSIVE, SAFE, RESILIENT, AND SUSTAINABLE, using our living spaces as a tool to promote your promise of belonging.

12. Holy One, you provide an array of colour to amaze and inspire us. We thank you for the potential to use and share the resources around us to delight in beauty. Help us to recognise and appreciate that which we are given, protecting the resources of this world to ENSURE SUSTAINABLE CONSUMPTION AND PRODUCTION PATTERNS, that all future generations may be equally delighted at what is possible from your creation.

13. Creator God, who breathed the cosmos into existence, you included us in your Garden and declared your creation to be whole and very good. As we take this masterpiece for granted, we have disobeyed your call to care for your world. Help us to realize and repent for our sins, and TAKE URGENT ACTION TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE AND ITS IMPACTS to reconcile ourselves to you.

14. O Lord, who made the sea and all that is in it, help us to understand the importance of all that is below the surface, and its connection to all that is above. May our actions to CONSERVE AND SUSTAINABLY USE THE OCEANS, SEAS, AND MARINE RESOURCES FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT reflect a desire to appreciate all your works.

15. May we recognize the universe as “a single celebratory event” and be inspired to redevelop our relationship with the entirety of the cosmos. Help us to shift from a human-focused perspective a one which is based in respecting the beauty of all of existence, and PROTECT, RESTORE, AND PROMOTE SUSTIANABLE USE OF TERRESTRIAL ECOSYSTEMS, SUSTAINABLY MANAGE FORESTS, COMBAT DESERTIFICATION, AND HALT AND REVERSE LAND DEGRADATION AND HALT BIODIVERSITY LOSS(quote from Thomas Berry, “The Dream of the Earth”)

16. Your peace you gave to us, a peace that the world cannot fully understand. Inspire us to strive for this peace, that it may be known through all the world. Breathe this peace upon us, renew within us your call to work for justice, anoint us with the passion to PROMOTE PEACEFUL AND INCLUSIVE SOCIETIES FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, PROVIDE ACCESS TO JUSTICE FOR ALL AND BUILD EFFECTIVE, ACCOUNTABLE, AND INCLUSIVE INSTITUTIONS AT ALL LEVELS.

17. Just as the entirety of our world is interconnected and interdependent, help us to re-imagine and re-create our systems of finance, technology, capacity-building, trade, and policy and institutions. May we STRENGTHEN THE MEANS OF IMPLEMENTATION AND REVITALISE THE GLOBAL PARTNERSHIP FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT to your Glory, uniting the potential and reality for all of your people into just and healthy relationship.

A downloadable PDF of these prayers can be found embedded at:

The Rev. Laura Marie Piotrowicz, Anglican Fellowship of Prayer (Canada) Executive

About Laura Marie Piotrowicz

I’m a high-energy priest, now serving in the Diocese of Niagara, catching glimpses of the kingdom in daily life. I consider church to be a verb, and I’m passionate about prayer, eco-theology, and social justice. I love travel, reading, canoeing, camping, gardening and cooking, playing with my dogs, and drinking good coffee.

The Community, An update from The Community, October 07, 2016

L. Roger Owens: The desert monastics offer a lesson in discernment

Posted on: September 28th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

Icon of Saint John Cassian Pravicon / Author unknown



A classroom exercise in reading John Cassian opened students’ imaginations to the way ancient practices can be applied to contemporary issues, writes a seminary professor.

I urged my students to use their imaginations as I handed out pages of John Cassian’s conversations with the monks of Egypt.

“It’s an experiment,” I said. “You’ve never read the desert fathers this way.”

I was asking these doctor of ministry students to use the fifth-century text to shed light on our topic: practicing communal discernment. They were skeptical.

Many of these students were pastors of congregations locked in conflict, anxious about decline and struggling to navigate the whitewater of change.

Many had engaged in the familiar contemporary approaches to solving these problems: crafting vision statements, articulating stretch goals and drafting strategic plans.

As useful as those are, though, I think what’s more critical is whether communities can discern, whether we can notice and respond to how God is present among us and in our world.

For that, I suspected the ancients might have wisdom for churches today.

If we read the monks with our imaginations, I thought, then even the sometimes strange things they had to say about discernment (a monk mistakes an angel of Satan for an angel of light, who convinces him to cast himself down a well — a case study in discernment gone awry) might be instructive for communities today buffeted by constant change.

So I passed out the pages, set my timer for 30 minutes and instructed the students to read with this possibility in mind. They then discussed the reading in groups of three and reported their insights to the whole class.

“We’re not monks,” one student said during the discussion, “and this stuff seems very distant from my congregation. But I can already see some relevance: Abba Moses says that discernment holds all the virtues together — it’s the most important. There’s always so much going on in my church — but what holds it together?

“This makes me wonder whether practicing discernment can become the guiding center of our activity.”

I nodded in agreement. That’s imaginative reading, I thought, which is itself a key pastoral practice. This student allowed the odd and distant — this ancient, monkish discourse — to bump against the near and familiar — the life of her congregation — and it gave her a new take on her present situation.

The rest of the conversation continued to confirm my suspicion: there is wisdom in this ancient source for us. Here are some of the insights my students gleaned from an imaginative reading of the text:

Discernment is a gift from God that needs to be learned. Abba Moses tells Cassian that the virtue of discernment is not one that “can be seized … merely by human effort; it is ours only as a gift from God,” yet then goes on to say that a monk must “do his utmost to acquire it.” This is a paradox.

A congregation is wise to hold this paradox. Declining organizations often exhaust themselves with problem solving — what leadership expert Ronald A. Heifetz calls “technical solutions.” These kinds of fixes, my students would say, are exactly what many congregations want, even though they generally do not address the complex problems at hand.

What a relief it must be, then, to discover that what congregations need most is God’s invitation to dismount the hamster wheel of fruitless problem fixing and to receive the gift God has already provided: the capacity to discern, given at Pentecost, still present today.

Yet the gift must be learned and honed, never taken for granted. This is where the role of the leader comes in — not in doing the discerning for a community but in creating the spaces where a community can learn discernment.

Abba Moses talks about “deliberative processes of discernment” — which the class interpreted as ways of being together, listening to God and making decisions that can be practiced and improved.

Discernment helps us see and name what spirit is moving us. “Discernment of spirits” — that’s the biblical phrase for the practice. Cassian’s work is full of cautionary tales of monks who mistook evil spirits for angels of light and suffered for it. The evil spirits, like the spirits of pride or lust, fooled the monks. Discernment is the art of telling the difference.

Communities in decline need that kind of discernment. Even if you no longer believe in literal demons, you can be moved by spirits nonetheless, and we need to be able to identify them.

Is the building campaign, strategic plan or outreach effort being driven by a spirit of fear, pride or envy? Is the spirit of nostalgia leading us to believe we can avoid risk and innovation by recovering a distant past?

Congregations need to be able to discern what spirit is moving them so they can be free to follow the Holy Spirit.

Naming the spirits that move us requires nonjudgmental space. One thing is clear from these desert monks: when a spirit is discerned and then named, it loses its power. When a monk finally confessed his secret habit of stealing, one of the elders said, “Take heart, my son; … your confession has set you free from this captivity. Today you have won a victory over the adversary who had beaten you.”

Missional theorists Alan Roxburgh and Fred Romanuk have said that many congregations are captive to “unarticulated anxiety.” My students know this to be true; they’ve seen it in the congregations they serve. Congregations need — and leaders have the obligation to create — the space where these anxieties, these spirits, can be confessed.

Moses blames the judgmentalism of some of the older monks for the failure of young monks to confess. If elders don’t create an atmosphere of nonjudgmental compassion, he says, they will “frighten off those who run the risk of damnable despair.”

Congregations that are sinking often work feverishly to stay afloat. What they need is the space where they can, without fear of judgment, name honestly the spirits that drive them and the anxieties that fuel their frenetic activity. Without this space they are doomed, maybe not to damnable despair, but to fighting to keep a past that is no more, missing the Spirit’s guidance in their midst.

Discernment is about God: noticing, responding, following. My students and I learned from Cassian that this gift of discerning what God is up to is one we have to hone, and that honing means doing the hard work of naming the spirits that inspire our frantic efforts so that eventually, the only Spirit we follow will be the Spirit of God.

Soon in the course we would turn to contemporary writers. But we would do so with an energy that sprang from our wrestling with these ancient sources. We would do so already knowing that what Abba Moses said of monks led astray — “lack of discernment prevented them from reaching the end” — might apply to our congregations as well. Without discernment, we will labor fruitlessly to reach the end God has for us.


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, Faith & Leadership, September 20, 2016

Mel Williams: What I’ve learned from Baptists, monks, Quakers and backpackers

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

BigStock / Oneinchpunch



A Baptist pastor has wondered throughout his career: Why do seekers show up and engage in worship or other spiritual practices?

I’ve had a lifelong, relentless wonderment about what compels people to seek a spiritual community.

“Why are you here?” I often asked myself as I walked into the sanctuary, facing a roomful of worshippers. Climbing the red-carpeted stairs to the pulpit, I would gaze out at my parishioners’ faces. Over and over, I would look out and ask myself, “Why are they here?”

The reasons are many — habit, pleasing grandmother, seeing friends, enjoying the music.

But I’ve always known that there is something deeper. There must be a restlessness, a longing that stirs us to show up. When I’ve asked directly, I’ve received typical answers: “I come to get my batteries recharged”; “I come to find a way to get through the week”; “I have a need to be with my people.”

Even as membership in mainline churches declines, people’s interest in spiritual practice remains vital. Those who say they’re “spiritual but not religious” may not identify with institutional religion; still, the spiritual impulse motivates them.

It may lead them to attend a mindfulness meditation group or a Buddhist retreat, or perhaps to seek a spiritual director or a life coach. Whatever direction people’s spiritual paths may take, I always want to ask them, “Why are you here?”

My question has reverberated with astonishing persistence. For 20 years, I have gone on retreat at a monastery, where I’ve repeatedly asked the monks, “Why are you here?” They give me a quizzical look and typically say, “I’m here to deepen my communion with the divine.”

Since retiring from pastoral ministry, I’ve been spending most Sunday mornings in a Quaker meeting, where about 75 people sit together in silence. There is no sermon, but persons who feel prompted by an inner message may speak.

As I sit silently among the Quakers, the questions continue to echo in my head: “Why are you here? Why am I here? Why are we here in this service of worship?”

When I ask my Quaker friends directly, they often say something like, “I’m here to attend to the inner light that resides within all of us.”

But none of the answers I’ve received gets at the core reason. So after my years of interrogating, what’s my answer to the Big Question?

I believe that we come to church, synagogue, mosque, Quaker meeting or mindfulness meditation because we want our life to be restored.

We want to come back to life. We want to be fully alive. We want the life force to rise within us with such strength that we can face our struggles, fears, dilemmas and pain.

At the monastery, I discovered that one of the earliest Christian prayers was, “God, remove the deadness. Make me fully alive.” These Christians did not focus on beliefs or dogma but on the gift of full aliveness.

They saw the human Jesus as Life Giver (“I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” John 10:10).

I’ve concluded that we come to worship, to our spiritual practice, with the same plea: Remove the deadness.

That means that we enter into a spiritual process seeking to release the pain, to let go of the struggle that saps our energy, to hand over the anxiety and the sorrows. We seek to empty ourselves of whatever may be blocking the free flow of aliveness.

As the monastic writer Bruno Barnhart has said, Jesus awakens in us “that which lies at the core of [our] own being.”

This is inner work; the living water will flow freely if we are willing to clear away the obstacles to the inner wellspring. We then awaken to embody the qualities of aliveness we learn from spiritual traditions: kindness, compassion, justice, love.

Such inner work opens the heart, releasing the love and compassion that are essential for engagement with the world.

My practice has emerged from different sectors of my life. Yes, it has come from my experience in Christian worship, where “confession” is part of the liturgy, a practice that releases one’s inner struggles to hear the word of forgiveness and newness.

I’ve learned it at the monastery, where the rule invites: “Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God.” I’ve learned it from Quaker worship, where silence is the path to the inner light, the deeper self.

It may seem odd, but I’ve also learned it from my longtime group of backpacking friends. Five of us take annual jaunts into the wilderness, including the Appalachian Trail, where we can get back into the forest. We call it “the sacred center.”

Here we come to a meeting. It’s not formal worship, but it has some parallels. We hit the trail together to release stress, to bask in the moment, to feel invigorated, to realign with core values, to re-connect to life-giving energies. We take a journey together to come alive again.

My experience with Baptists, monks, Quakers and backpackers has prompted me to be more aware of the “come alive” moments in my daily journey.

I come alive in spirited conversations with my friends and colleagues. I come alive with my longtime folk group as the music takes us over and we feel that the song is singing us.

I come alive with my family as I rediscover the bond of love and laughter. I come alive in my community as I invest myself — with passion and perseverance — in advocating for economic justice, pushing to open opportunities for our neighbors to move toward economic stability.

This focus on aliveness gives clarity to how we approach our work in the world. As the teacher-mystic Howard Thurman said, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”


Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, Faith & Leadership, September 20, 2016

We must stand together against antisemitism

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

Abp Justin Welby

Posted By Abp Justin Welby

27 September 2016

The Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby reflects on the “insidious evil” of antisemitism and the role played by the church in its development.

Antisemitism is an insidious evil. The habits of antisemitism have been burrowing into European and British culture for as long as we can remember. In England, during the late mediaeval period, the Jewish community faced constant persecution: Shylock, the great villain of the Merchant of Venice, was a cliché of his time. By the time Cromwell reopened England to Jewish settlement under the Commonwealth in the 1650s, antisemitism had mutated within common parlance and culture.

It is a shameful truth that, through its theological teachings, the church, which should have offered an antidote, compounded the spread of this virus. The fact that antisemitism has infected the body of the Church is something of which we as Christians must be deeply repentant. We live with the consequences of our history of denial and complicity.

Even today, in the 21st century, it is shocking that antisemitism still has traction; the virus continues to seek a host. It latches onto a variety of different issues: financial inequality, wars and depressions, education, politics and government, grave international issues, such as the rights of Israelis and Palestinians, and interfaith tensions. It twists them to its own ends, with the perverted and absurd argument that a small group runs or plots against our society and manipulates international affairs.

Antisemitism is at the heart of racism. Yet, because it is so deeply entrenched in our thought and culture, it is often ignored and dismissed. This tendency must be vigorously resisted; antisemitism needs to be confronted in every part of our communal life and cultural imagination.

Alongside a robust condemnation of antisemitic discourse, it is imperative that we celebrate the extraordinary contribution of the Jewish community to British society over the centuries through science (Chain on penicillin), ethical finance (the Rothschilds) and the arts (Menuhin), to name but a few. To write a book on Jewish contributions to British life would require multiple volumes, not merely these few names at the front of my mind.

As a nation we continue to benefit from a flourishing and dynamic Jewish community. It is a privilege of my role that I am one of the patrons of the Council of Christians and Jews, who work tirelessly to educate our nation on historical issues like antisemitism, who strive to bring healing to some of our most divided communities through social action and who equip individuals with the language and skills to engage in meaningful dialogue with one another. I am also enormously grateful for a warm and close relationship with the Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, whose faith, wisdom and leadership is a constant inspiration. It is through building these genuine friendships that I believe the discourse will begin to change.

Antisemitism is not a problem for one political party, one community or one sector of our society. It permeates and pervades all that it touches when it is swept under the carpet, denied and not confronted head-on. The challenge for us is to be united in facing the uncomfortable truths of our history and for faith groups to take a lead in being transparent and honest in exposing the hidden recesses of prejudice. The goal is ambitious but attainable: if we eliminate antisemitism we take a huge step in undermining the whole tradition of racism in our society.

All humans are made in the image of God. Antisemitism undermines and distorts this truth: it is the negation of God’s plan for his creation and is therefore a denial of God himself. There is no justification for the debasing and scapegoating of other people. Antisemitism is the antithesis of all that our scriptures call us to be and do, to work together for the common good and to seek the flourishing of all.

The challenge for us is to remain vigilant, to stand together and to speak out. A historic threat can be faced today by a society that is resolute in its defence of its minorities and confident in its willingness to confront those who seek to undermine its foundations of freedom of religion, equality in law and mutual respect. A commitment to building a cohesive and dynamic civic life can be the new, but this time healthy, contagion.

This essay was first published in “Lessons Learned: Reflections on antisemitism and the Holocaust”, a series of short essays published by the Holocaust Educational Trust and Community Security Trust. Click here to read more.


Anglican Communion News Service, Daily update from the ACNS on Tuesday 27 September 2016

Congregational development: On the importance of leadership

Posted on: September 21st, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Members of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Edmonton attend Festival Sunday, an event co-led by all ages that takes place every five weeks and includes intergenerational telling of the Scriptures. Rector Christopher Pappas is standing at centre in the back. Submitted photo

Members of Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Edmonton attend Festival Sunday, an event co-led by all ages that takes place every five weeks and includes intergenerational telling of the Scriptures. Rector Christopher Pappas is standing at centre in the back. Submitted photo

Congregational development: On the importance of leadership

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The following is part of an ongoing monthly series on congregational development, which features reflections from Anglicans on how they are responding to the challenges facing churches today.

More than any other factor, the Ven. Christopher Pappas sees effective leadership as the single most vital quality of developing parishes and congregations.

“We need good clergy leaders and we need good lay leaders … In healthy parishes, these are not mutually exclusive,” says Pappas, currently rector of Holy Trinity Anglican Church and diocesan archdeacon for congregational growth and development in the Diocese of Edmonton.

Pappas cites the importance of learning from both church and secular thought leadership, as well as the need for diocesan support, praising the example of Bishop Jane Alexander.

“Your bishop has to be inspiring, has to be open to experimentation, and has to enable leaders,” he says. “You need to be able to step back in a congregation and look at the big picture … Good leaders are necessary to help us tackle our problems, to be vital, and to help engage the world around us.”

A graduate of Yale Divinity School and Berkeley Divinity School at Yale, Pappas himself has served in both church and secular leadership roles, including as the Assistant Secretary of State for Connecticut.

His interest in congregational development was spurred on through attending consultations on Vital Parishes more than a decade ago. Pappas has served as a member of the Diocesan Congregational Development Commission in the Episcopal Diocese of Rhode Island, and is currently studying for a Doctor of Ministry in Congregational Development.

“To me, congregational development [and] parish development are ways to help our parishes to serve, to reach their potential to become healthy, to become vital, and to impact their surrounding contexts … to build up the kingdom of God in our parishes and in our context in order for us to effectively carry out God’s mission.”

Pappas applies ashes to an Edmonton commuter as part of the diocesan Ashes to Go program, which offers ashes and blessings to city residents on Ash Wednesday. Photo by Margaret Marschall

Pappas applies ashes to an Edmonton commuter as part of the diocesan Ashes to Go program, which offers ashes and blessings to city residents on Ash Wednesday. Photo by Margaret Marschall

Effective congregational development, he says, begins with helping parishes and congregations find out where they are and where they wish to go. For the Diocese of Edmonton, Pappas uses an analytical framework known as the Congregational Assessment Tool to identify the strengths, weaknesses, hopes, and goals of congregations as a starting point.

“I’m a big proponent of using their strengths to grow parishes, to move them forward … I don’t think we should be pouring resources into the areas that we’re weak.”

The other key element is for congregations to determine how to engage the surrounding culture based on their own role as a church in God’s overarching story.

In the case of Holy Trinity Anglican Church, members focused on the arts as a way to increase their ties with the community, looking for ways to “make Christ visible” through the visual, musical, and theatrical arts.

Pappas highlights increase in traditional growth indicators such as increased attendance and money given to the community, but also measures success in less measureable indicators such as the congregation’s increased sense of mission and closeness to its neighbours. Holy Trinity has further developed its relationships with the community by administering ashes and going caroling in light rail transit stations throughout the city around Christmas among other ways.

“The people in our community now know who we are,” Pappas says. “Six years ago, if we went out in the streets, three blocks away from the church, many people wouldn’t know where the church was.

“Now we walk into markets and places throughout the city and you mention Holy Trinity and they’ll say, ‘Yes, you’re the church that does this stuff with the arts; you’re the church that’s engaged in the neighbourhood.’”

In assessing successful congregations, Pappas finds a number of common factors within the Diocese of Edmonton:

  • High satisfaction, marked by a sense of wholeness and prosperity;
  • High energy, as members find a compelling purpose or message and feel highly engaged in the process;
  • Flexibility in approach, e.g. if the church wishes to reach children and families, it may be willing to change its time or style of worship;
  • High hospitality to newcomers;
  • Healthy ways of resolving conflict;
  • Educational opportunities, promoting life-long discipleship;
  • Good governance structures, in which members feel represented by their leaders; and
  • Good worship and good music

Across the diocese, he adds, there has been a consistent emphasis on putting mission first.

“We shouldn’t be looking for church-shaped missions,” Pappas says. “But we should be a mission-shaped church.”


Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, September 20, 2016

Anglican Church of Canada Resolution Corporation return bolsters Inuit ministry in Montreal

Posted on: September 8th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

The Rev. Annie Ittoshat currently serves as Aboriginal community minister for the Diocese of Montreal. Submitted photo by Janet Best

The Rev. Annie Ittoshat currently serves as Aboriginal community minister for the Diocese of Montreal. Submitted photo by Janet Best

Anglican Church of Canada Resolution Corporation return bolsters Inuit ministry in Montreal

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In February 2015, the Anglican Diocese of Montreal hired a diocesan-sponsored clergyperson to focus exclusively on Indigenous ministries. Originally from the northern Quebec community of Kuujjuarapik in the Diocese of the Arctic, the Rev. Annie Ittoshat brings a strong cultural and professional background to her position as Aboriginal Community Minister. Her newly-created position offers a particular focus on ministry to the large population of Inuit in Montreal who have come from northern communities for employment opportunities, social services, or to seek medical treatment.

An alumnus of John Abbott College and Wycliffe College, where she became the first Inuk person to obtain a master of divinity degree, Ittoshat has helped bolster the outreach to Inuit residents through hospital visits, prison chaplaincy, and regular services in Inuktitut within the diocese of Montreal.

With the return from the Anglican Church of Canada Resolution Corporation, the diocese was able to extend its support for this vital ministry. This sign of support extends Ittoshat’s contract, covering the cost of the Aboriginal community minister further into the future.

Archdeacon Bill Gray estimated that the Diocese of Montreal had received a return of approximately $54,000.

“The money came from the residential school settlement [return],” Archdeacon Gray said. “So I think we wanted to use it in particular for something that would have that connection—something that would be connected to Aboriginal ministries and benefit the Indigenous communities.”

The decision to sponsor an Aboriginal community minister, he said, arose from a context of dedicated focus within the diocese to issues around Indigenous ministry and community, which coincided with the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada.

Along with the national response of the Anglican Church of Canada to the report’s Calls to Action, the Diocese of Montreal had made its own local response a priority.

“Annie was a key part of that reflection … giving us advice on what our response should be and raising the profile in our diocese as to the need to focus on this,” Gray said.

By the time the diocese decided it wanted to establish its Aboriginal community ministry, Ittoshat had become a trained and ordained Anglican priest, making her an ideal fit for ministry to the city’s Inuit population, many of whom are Anglican.

“There’s a big number of Inuit living in the south [of Quebec], and so there’s that need for the Inuit to have services,” said Ittoshat, who is currently based at the Parish of St. Andrew and St. Mark in Dorval.

The benefits for Inuit Anglicans of being able to hear services in their own language, delivered by a priest who shares their cultural background, are essential.

“We do understand each other, and I understand where they’re coming from, what they might have gone through,” Ittoshat said.

Besides offering worship services in Inuktitut, Ittoshat also regularly visits patients at local hospitals. She also makes monthly visits to serve as a chaplain to inmates at the federal prison in Laval.

Having had her initial one-year contract extended for an additional two years, Ittoshat indicated a wait-and-see approach as to whether she would continue as Aboriginal community minister past that point, based on the diocese’s assessment of whether there is an ongoing need.

“At this moment, it’s a perfect time to be here, and it feels right … I really appreciate being here.”


Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, September 07, 2016

A story of our time

Posted on: August 19th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

By John Higgins

It’s late May, and our last day in Canada before we fly back to Scotland. We’re sitting on a bench on Granville Island, Vancouver, taking in the atmosphere in the warm afternoon sunshine and trying to eat large ice creams before they either fall to the floor or rise skywards in the beak of some ever so attentive seagull. The “we” consists of myself, my wife, Kay, and a young married couple we first encountered half a world away.


Let me go back to the beginning. It’s 2012, and I’m working in Ankara, Turkey, as the priest at the Church of St. Nicolas of Myra, within the British Embassy complex, and ecclesiastically within the Church of England diocese in Europe.


Amongst the slowly growing number of refugees seeking out St. Nicolas is a nervous young couple recently arrived from Iran. They’re penniless, lost and facing an uncertain future, but what has brought them here? They say that love is blind, but sometimes it is stupid, too, for this is a Romeo and Juliet story set against the backdrop of cultural and religious prejudice. The boy is from a minority sect in Islam, but through patient searching and online ministry, he has become a Christian. The girl is from a large and passionately orthodox Shiite family—even worse, her uncle is the presiding judge of a religious court. In secret, they commit themselves to each other and are married, and only then tell her family. They are angry beyond words. They attack her, cracking her skull, breaking her nose, ripping off her ring and forbidding her to see him again.


That night the young man escaped to Turkey and the following day our “Juliet” joined him. Sometime later they found their way to St. Nicolas and to me. In the months that followed, they grew in faith and commitment, both to each other and the religion that so many of the refugees there described as “one of love and life”—the very opposite, they said, of their experience in the world from which they’d fled.


But back to our story. Obviously we did not expect a refugee to contribute financially to the church, but often they insisted on making a contribution in kind, and this couple took on the cleaning of the church, while at the same time attending catechism and Bible study, which often went on for two or more hours after the Sunday Eucharist, led by my colleague, Fr. Ebrahim. In due course, they were baptized and confirmed.


For the next two years, earning whatever few coins they could through hard, unpleasant manual work that is so often the lot of refugees in order to pay for their rent and food, they not only survived but slowly made their way through the UN’s refugee processes and then those of the Canadian embassy to which the UN has referred them. Little by little, the pieces fell into place, until after what seems a lifetime to them, they fly out of Turkey and on to Canada; eventually into the pastoral care of an Anglican parish priest in Burnaby, Vancouver.


That was two years ago, and these past few days have seen both a tearful and a joyful reunion, one in which their Ankara past and their Canadian future have been given equal expression, as together the priest and I prayed both with them and for them. Theirs is just one journey amongst so many in today’s world, but one in which the church, its message of faith and love, and its ability to join hands across the world, has been central to every aspect of it. Lots of hard work lie ahead for them both as they continue to build their new lives in Canada, but they have such determination, faith and commitment to each other that they will unquestionably succeed— with the faith and faithfulness of the Anglican congregation in Burnaby, Vancouver, which will be with them every step of the way, as was that of the congregation of St. Nicolas, Ankara, before them.


Anglican Journal News, August 19, 2016

The exodus of Fleet Street

Posted on: August 19th, 2016 by CEP Administrator No Comments

The exodus of Fleet Street

Posted By The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce

19 August 2016

The closure of the London editorial office of the Scottish newspaper the Sunday Post earlier this month, marked the end of an era, as the last two journalists working in Fleet Street, Gavin Sherriff and Darryl Smith, bade farewell to a place that has long been synonymous with the newspaper and printing industries. The Revd Canon Dr Alison Joyce, Rector of St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, is de facto chaplain to the British media. In this column she reflects on the role of the press in society.

It was a story that began in the year 1500, when William Caxton’s apprentice, Wynkyn de Worde, relocated his printing press to a site adjacent to St Bride’s Church. Other presses followed suit, and Fleet Street swiftly became the hub of the printing industry in the city. St Bride’s remained at the heart of this development, exercising a distinctive ministry, initially as the Printers’ Church.

In 1702, the first British daily national newspaper, the Daily Courant was launched in Fleet Street; other newspapers were then founded here, and, as the industry developed and broadened over time, so the ministry of St Bride’s evolved in tandem, providing pastoral care and support to journalists as well as printers.

The turbulent days of the Wapping dispute in the 1980s, and the radical changes in technology and working practices that accompanied it, marked the beginning of the end of the old Fleet Street days: one by one, the newspapers moved away, culminating in the departure of Gavin and Darryl on 5 August 2016. Yet, interestingly enough, the ministry of St Bride’s to the media industry remains as active and significant as ever: these days it extends to newspaper proprietors, journalists, photographers, and those working in film and television, social media and for on-line publications.

This is, in part, because the challenges faced by those working within the industry have never been greater. Journalists are under more pressure than ever before: increasing numbers of reporters are working freelance, without the job security or support of a news organisation behind them; and the instantaneous nature of communications in the digital era can make the sheer pace of work hard to manage: as one seasoned political journalist observed to me recently, contrary to all his professional training and instincts, finding sufficient time to check his sources adequately was starting to feel like a luxury rather than a requirement.

For those reporters working in conflict zones the stakes are even higher. The days in which the word “PRESS” on the back of a flak jacket could offer a reporter a measure of protection from gunfire are long gone: today it is more likely to single out the wearer as a target. One of the most significant occasions in the St Bride’s calendar is the annual Journalists’ Commemorative Service. In November 2010 the foreign correspondent Marie Colvin spoke at this event. Fifteen months later she was herself killed in Syria.

The Journalists’ altar at St Bride’s features memorials to journalists who have lost their lives during the course of their work: James Foley, Steven Sotloff, and Kenji Goto, beheaded in Syria, are all commemorated, alongside those murdered in the Charlie Hebdo massacre. In addition, candles are lit each day for the journalist John Cantlie, held hostage in Syria since 2012. The journalistic community is global and inclusive: in 2015, St Bride’s hosted a memorial service for Ammar al Shahbander: an Iraqi Muslim working for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, who was killed by a car bomb explosion in Baghdad (ironically on the eve of World Press Freedom day).

We need journalists; we need good journalists; and we need to celebrate good journalism. Although the reputation of some sections of the British press has been tarnished in recent years, the need for quality reporting and good investigative journalism, which can give a voice to the voiceless, and tell stories that would otherwise remain untold, has never been more urgent – particularly as press freedom is curtailed in so many parts of the world.

The departure of the last two journalists from Fleet Street on Friday 5 August comes at a time when one of the most exciting, positive and creative developments in the history of communications – the advent of on-line journalism – is rendering the future of print journalism increasingly uncertain. That is a fact of journalistic life. However, one of its more worrying side-effects can all too easily be overlooked. Because not only have we become accustomed to news that is instantly accessible; there is a rising expectation, particularly amongst a generation that has known little else, that news should also be available free of charge. And that is where we enter murky waters.

Because the need for “slow journalism”: the kind of extensive and detailed investigative journalism that can take months to undertake, remains essential to the quality of our press reporting. A case in point would be the exhaustive and time-consuming research which exposed the appalling child abuse scandal in Rotherham, involving as many as 1,400 victims.

That story would never have seen the light of day, had it not been for the readiness of a newspaper editor to grant the journalist Andrew Norfolk, whose painstaking research uncovered that horrific reality, both the time and the resources to make it possible. And that kind of journalism does not come cheap. Nor will advertising revenue alone (which, in any case, can introduce an agenda of its own) provide the solution. Good journalism is a very costly business – but at its best it is worth every single penny.


Anglican Communion News Service, Daily update from the ACNS on Friday 19 August 2016