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‘Outward be fair, however foul within’

Posted on: November 26th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

By John Arkelian

Michael Keaton, Liev Schreiber, Mark Ruffalo, Rachel McAdams, John Slattery and Brian d’Arcy James star in Spotlight, which is based on The Boston Globe’s 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of sexual abuse in the Catholic church. 


Directed by Thomas McCarthy

Released November 6, 2015

128 minutes

Rated 14A

In 1761, the poet Charles Churchill penned these words: “Keep up appearances; there lies the test; / The world will give thee credit for the rest. / Outward be fair, however foul within; / Sin if thou wilt, but then in secret sin.”

The present day has no shortage of such “secret sin”—and among the worst is the shocking betrayal of trust (and criminality) that sees ministers of God prey upon innocent children. Based on a true story, Spotlight takes its name from an investigative journalism unit within The Boston Globe newspaper, which, in early 2002, revealed pervasive sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in the archdiocese of Boston. The investigative reporters who start looking into allegations of such abuse can scarcely believe their ears: the truth is too appalling to credit, until it becomes impossible to dismiss. It’s bad enough that any priest sexually abused any child, but the predators who have done so have done so repeatedly—these are serial sexual predators. And there are many of them. An estimate given in the film that six per cent of Catholic priests have “acted out sexually against children” proves to be dead-on: the journalists uncover 87 predatory priests in Boston alone. And that predation consists of the sexual molestation and rape of children—the most vulnerable (and trusting) among us.

Can things get any worse? Alas, yes they can: senior church officials (up to and including the archdiocese’s cardinal, the film suggests) were actively involved in covering up the heinous crimes committed against their flock of believers. Pedophile priests are simply shifted from one parish to another, and while they’re waiting for their new parish they’re designated as being on “sick leave” or “unassigned”—code words used to disguise their status as criminally deviant offenders. But admission of wrongdoing, let alone criminal prosecution, is conspicuous by its absence. Instead, the church successfully silences complainants, quietly settling their claims for a pittance or simply discrediting them (victims often came from poor or broken families, precisely because it was easier to impugn the credibility of such victims). Other elements of society, among them some lawyers and police officers, also play a part in this systemic corruption and cover-up—usually in the cause of protecting ‘the good name’ of the church. Secret sins indeed! Misguided loyalty to an institution, self-interest and simple complacency all play their role in perpetuating an appalling, longstanding and covert epidemic of child abuse by persons in positions of trust.

As one character says, “If it takes a village to raise them, it takes a village to abuse them. That’s the truth of it.” And this is very much a story about truth—and the quest for justice for those so badly betrayed. Indeed, the title Spotlight does double duty here, for it also signifies the light of truth that finally uncovers secret sins of shocking proportions. A well-acted ensemble drama, Spotlight is the second strong movie about investigative journalism (along with Truth) of the year.

Caution: Some coarse language and sexual references


John Arkelian is an award-winning author and journalist.


Anglican Journal News, November 24, 2015

‘We’re a united church of difference’

Posted on: November 21st, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

Canon Robert Kereopa thinks it is “necessary” for Indigenous Anglicans to achieve self-determination in Canada. Photo: André Forget

Last summer, Canon Robert Kereopa was invited to give a keynote at the 8th National Anglican Sacred Circle in Port Elgin, Ont., where he spoke about the Aotearoan church’s experience of self-government.

Kereopa is the executive officer for the board of Anglican Missions of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa and a member of the Anglican Indigenous Network.

Since 1992, the Anglican Church of New Zealand has encompassed three distinct entities, or Tikanga, as they are known in the Maori language: the Anglican Church in New Zealand, the Anglican Church in Aotearoa and The Anglican Church in Polynesia. Each is self-determining, with its own governance structure and primate, though they function together as a single province of the Anglican Communion.


What made it possible for your church to achieve self-determination?

The church caught on to a movement in the country…to honour a treaty between the government and the Maori peoples—the Treaty of Waitangi. The church had a major part to play in establishing that treaty. The early missionaries translated it, and were brokers for discussions between the Maori chiefs and the government. The treaty was the foundation of the nation.

The church went through a long period, starting in the late ’70s, of establishing a commission to look at bi-cultural arrangements in the church. [There was] a recommendation to move toward bi-cultural development; it allowed for parallel growth and partnership.

Eventually the Tikanga Pakeha—the dominant [non-Indigenous] partner—decided to vote for it. Before we had the partnership change, there was only one group making all the decisions.


Was there a lot of resistance that had to be overcome?

There would have been those who would disagree with the separation— that would be part of our constituency. We’d still have that today. We have people who say it would be far better to have one way of doing things.

When some of my Pakeha brothers or sisters say it would be better if we had it one way, I say to them, “So you think you’d be very happy worshipping in the Maori language?” and they say “Oh, it didn’t occur to me that we’d do it that way…”

It becomes a bit of a challenge, to see that actually we’re a united church of difference.


Was there a significant change in the way that governance happened?

It was huge. Maori were free to make their own decisions on how they conducted their own affairs. Maori people don’t want to be restricted within the Tikanga Pakeha boundaries. Diocesan boundaries were drawn with no consideration of tribal boundaries. Tikanga Maori redrew the map for regions around tribal boundaries, which means that a Maori bishop could be overlapping with three or four Tikanga Pakeha bishops’ areas.

Tikanga Maori have responsibility for their own church assets. Tikanga Maori had to start establishing new structures to oversee their administrations.

It also meant that the Maori would ordain the people they felt were most appropriate. In the past, if you had a theological degree, you were the best person for the role, but in Tikanga Maori society, you need to be part of the people, with the people, to know the language and the culture.


Do you think it’s possible for a similar thing to happen in Canada?

I don’t know if it’s possible, but I think it’s necessary.

My sense, though, is that the dominant colonial church is self-absorbed—and that’s understandable—and probably doesn’t know how to relate to its Indigenous partner and may not even want to, because of their own theological understanding.

But it is necessary because the Indigenous peoples have been marginalized in this country, and have been marginalized in the church as well. Now is a huge opportunity for the church to say, “Let’s practice what we preach about bringing good news to the poor. Let’s talk about how we can empower our Indigenous peoples for their ministry, and maybe one of the best ways we can empower them is to get out of the way.”

A model of equal partnership would be for the dominant colonial partners to seek an equal partnership with the peoples of the land. An equal partnership allows space for your partner to breathe…to seek God and God’s vision of the future.

The other alternative is to say, “We were complicit in terms of marginalizing the Indigenous people. So actually, we should hand the whole governance of the church over to the Indigenous people.” But I’m sure if you did that, the Indigenous people would hand it back again and say, “No, let’s work in partnership together.”


Anglican Journal News, November 20, 2015

CoGS, NCC discuss fossil fuel divestment

Posted on: November 21st, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

Bruce Cook, lay representative for ELCIC National Church Council’s eastern region, talks about fossil fuel divestment before a joint ACC-ELCIC session at CoGS November 18. Photo: Tali Folkins

What kinds of things ought the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) take into account in any decision to divest from fossil fuel companies? The question, when posed to a joint session of Council of General Synod (CoGS) and ELCIC’s National Church Council (NCC), brought a range of responses, with many participants voicing notes of caution and underscoring the need for more information, given the complexity of the issue.

The question arose from a gathering on November 14, looking back at the Joint Assembly Declaration (JAD), a statement jointly released by the two churches following their joint assembly in 2013. The declaration, said the Rev. Paul Gehrs, ELCIC’s assistant to the bishop, justice and leadership, committed the two churches to work together on a number of social issues, including homelessness, affordable housing and responsible resource extraction. The declaration, he said, also made mention of the 2007 UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

It also states that mining and drilling projects are often carried out on the traditional territory of Indigenous peoples without their consent.

Meanwhile, since the JAD was issued, a number of faith groups have moved toward divesting from fossil fuels, and Anglican Church of Canada Primate Fred Hiltz and ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson both felt the session on might provide a good opportunity for the members of both churches’ national councils to discuss divestment, Gehrs said.

Faith groups that have decided to divest from fossil fuels include the Church of England, The Episcopal Church, the Lutheran World Federation and the United Church of Canada. The World Council of Churches, which currently does not invest in fossil fuel companies, has confirmed that it will not invest in them in the future. In Canada, the Anglican dioceses of Ottawa and Montreal have voted to divest also.

At the joint CoGS-NCC session, attendees were divided into a dozen groups to tackle the problem. Henriette Thompson, the Anglican Church of Canada’s public witness for social and ecological justice, introduced the main points for consideration.

One, she said, is that there was now scientific consensus that carbon emissions need to be kept to a level that will result in a global temperature increase within two degrees Celsius—meaning current emission levels will have to be decreased dramatically given current trends, she said.

“At current emissions levels, we are heading to a four degrees Celsius increase,” Thompson said. “Scientists predict that this level will produce severe disruptions, damage and dislocation in all global regions, and we’re seeing evidence of this already. To reduce emissions, the majority of fossil fuel reserves need to remain in the ground and unburned.”

Another point, she said, is that divesting from companies involved in fossil fuel extraction is one way to signal to those companies the necessity of curbing their efforts to mine and drill.

A third point, Thompson said, is that the current climate crisis is ultimately a spiritual issue.

She asked CoGS and NCC members to consider three questions: what are your reflections on the call to divest from fossil fuels and invest in alternative energy? How do we balance the seemingly competing interests of environment, jobs, sustainable livelihoods and Indigenous rights? What do we need to take responsibility for in order to address the climate crisis?

After a quarter-hour of discussions, not one of the groups called for immediate divestment; most seemed to voice either opposition or at least a call for caution.

Some questioned the merits of divesting from fossil fuels companies, as opposed to reducing consumption of fossil fuels as a way of reducing carbon footprint.

“The problem is not necessarily around extraction but consumption,” the spokesperson for one group said. “It’s not just the idea of changing how we get energy, but changing how much energy we take in general.”

Others expressed fears that the divestment movement would lead to the “demonization” of energy-sector employees and companies.

“It’s an emotional issue,” one spokesperson told the gathering. “My biggest concern is we do these things without thinking, sometimes too fast, and we hurt our own people. For those of us from the west and north, those are big issues for us…They’re our families, and our children.”

Several groups argued that, given the complexity of the issue, they simply didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision.

“This is an extremely complicated process,” said one group representative. “You get some people who really push for it and don’t think of the consequences on the ground.”

Another group spokesperson said the members of his table were not even informed enough to be aware of the gaps in their own knowledge of the issue.

Speaking last, Hiltz, who had discussed the issue with Johnson and others, said their consensus was that CoGS and NCC should enlist the help of experts in the energy sector, labour issues and Indigenous rights for future conversations about divestment.

“We need the benefit of some expertise in the room,” he said. “Imagine what it would be like if we had a panel with three or four people that engaged us, stretched us, pulled us, and then we moved into these conversations together.”

These experts, he said, could easily be drawn from the Anglican Church of Canada and ELCIC themselves.


Anglican Journal News, November 20. 2015

Theologian documents global scale of gender-based violence against women

Posted on: November 19th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

Students of a midwifery school in El Fasher, North Darfur, participate in a march in December 2013 as part of a campaign against Gender Violence.
Photo Credit: UN Photo / Albert González Farran

[ACNS, by Gavin Drake] A new book by the Anglican theologian Dr Elaine Storkey, Scars Across Humanity, documents her extensive research on gender-based violence against women and the role that the church plays – for good or ill – in the struggle against the global problem. It is being launched today in the Speaker’s rooms at the House of Commons in London.

Dr Elaine Storkey, a former member of the General Synod, served as president for the Christian relief agency Tearfund for 16 years and in that role travelled the world to see for herself how rape and other forms of sexual violence is often used as a weapon in war and conflict.

“War embodies a gender paradox,” she writes. “It is traditionally fought by male military combatants, yet from every international or non-international war zone we hear reports of brutal violence against women. In our contemporary world, according to Amnesty International, 90 per cent of casualties in modern warfare are civilian and of these 75 per cent are women and children.

“The number of women involved in coercive violence is staggering. In the 100 days of genocide that ravaged the small African nation of Rwanda, an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 women and girls were raped. In Sierra Leone, between 1991 and 2000, about 64,000 internally displaced women endured sexual assault.

“In the Balkans tensions of the 1990s, thousands of women in Bosnia- Herzegovina and Kosovo experienced terrible violations involving mass rape: 20,000 to 50,000 women were violated in the Bosnian conflict over three years. During the Liberian civil war, from 1999 to 2003, about 49 per cent of women aged 15 to 70 experienced sexual violence from soldiers or armed militia. . .

“As recently as 2014, chronic instability and lawlessness in the Central African Republic opened up another wave of violence against women, and the brutal barbarity of Islamic State fighters continues the vicious process. Yet none of this awful scenario is new. Sexual violence was prevalent in Europe as far back as the 1914–18 War; it was in Asia during the Asia–Pacific Wars, and across more than one continent in the Second World War.

“One hundred years after the outbreak of the First World War, the National Catholic Reporter called for us to properly recognize gender-based violence in war for what it surely is: ‘Beheadings and bombings are seen as terrorist acts, but the systematic rape, abduction, and trafficking of women as a war tactic is still viewed only as a women’s or humanitarian issue. Until we recognize these acts of sexual violence as acts of terrorism and not simply as a humanitarian concern it will be difficult to combat these ongoing, catastrophic attacks on women.’”

Dr Storey’s research doesn’t focus exclusively on the use of rape as a weapon of war. Her research addresses a full spectrum of gender-based-violence including rape, trafficking and prostitution, intimate-partner violence, so-called honour killings, child marriage, child abuse, and female genital mutilation.

Bookcover _scars _against _humanityIt also addresses what Dr Storey refers to as violence before birth – selective abortion and infanticide based on the sex of the foetus. She points out that in India, where female infanticide has existed for centuries, female foeticide has now joined the fray.

“Dr Sabu George, a Delhi-based researcher, has spent the past quarter-century exposing what he calls ‘the worst kind of violence’ in Indian history – the elimination of millions of unborn girls,” she writes. “He regards it as nothing less than ‘genocide’, and describes the first few months in the womb as ‘the riskiest part of a woman’s life cycle in India’.

On child marriage, which she refers to as “child abuse by another name,” Dr Storkey says that “Every three seconds a girl under the age of 18 is married somewhere across the world – usually without her consent and sometimes to a much older man.

“The United Nations Population Fund suggests that, every day, 39,000 girls marry too young. It is predicted that more than 140 million child brides will have entered marriage in the decade up to 2020, 18.5 million of them under the age of 15; if nothing changes, the annual figure will grow from 14.2 million in 2010 to 15.1 million in 2030. As the General Secretary of the World Young Women’s Christian Association observes, the number of children married under age is now higher than the total population of Zimbabwe!

“Figures like these do indicate the massive numerical scale of the problem and the difficulties in eliminating it. But they do not unpack the human misery enfolded inside them. A moving exhibition mounted in 2014 by the United Nations in Geneva opened that up. Through very sober photographs and short, poignant narratives we came face to face with the wrecked hopes and tragic lives of survivors of child marriage.

“Ghulam had wanted to be a teacher, but was pulled out of school at 11 to marry a 40-year-old man; 14-year-old Afisha, in Ghana, was unable to be educated because of her father’s poverty, and instead was sold as a bride for cola nuts and 60 Cedis [about £10 GBP]; Asia was ill and bleeding from childbirth at 14, as she cared for her two-year-old child and new- born baby.”

Ian _Britton _Elaine _Storkey

Elaine Storkey pictured here as she addressed the 2008 Baptist Assembly in Blackpool, England. Photo: Ian Britton.


The accounts within Scars Across Humanity are blunt and harrowing. But they need to be. The issue of gender based violence is not a soft, fluffy, comfortable issue. The book brings this home without hiding the brutality involved.

Jackie Harris, the editor of Woman Alive magazine, described the book as “Powerful and absorbing” and says it “painstakingly documents the gross injustices facing women around the world.

“Some of the stories made headlines, many passed unnoticed and too many occurred much closer to home than we might realize,” she says. “This is not an easy book to read, but it is a necessary book. I hope the stories she shares and facts she brings before us will encourage us all to pray – and to join in the work of bringing healing and an end to gender-based violence.”

The founder of the Santa María Education Fund in Sante Fe, Paraguay, writer and theologian Margaret Hebblethwaite, said that “We all know that acts of violence against women are a problem, but never have we realized the scale of the problem is so huge.

“Where others would be cautious to speak out for fear of offending the sensibilities of other cultures, Elaine Storkey is clear and fearless, inspired by true compassion. Scrupulously researched and documented, illustrated with both statistics and personal stories, this is a book that changes perceptions and could play a substantive role in achieving change.”

And the Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons in the UK, said that Dr Storkey “captures most vividly for her readers the way in which patriarchy, religious and cultural traditions, complications in the law, lack of education (not always) and isolation can combine and lead to women being abused, being permanently disfigured or their untimely death.

“This violation of the human rights of girls and women is indeed a ‘deep scar’ across humanity. The collusion that perpetuates the deepening of this scar will only cease when there is true respect given to girls and women in societies throughout our world.”

Scars Across Humanity is being launched at a private reception in the Speaker’s rooms in the House of Commons today. It will receive its public launch at the Christian Resources Exhibition in Eastbourne and the Church House Bookshop in Westminster next Wednesday, 25 November, to coincide with the UN’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

It is published by SPCK.


Anglican Communion News Service, ACNS Today’s news, November 19, 2015

Highlights from the Council of General Synod: November 15, 2015

Posted on: November 18th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

Bishop Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), leads a prayer alongside Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, prior to watering a tree outside the Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre on the third day of a joint meeting between the ELCIC National Church Council and the Council of General Synod. Photo by Matt Gardner

Bishop Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), leads a prayer alongside Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, prior to watering a tree outside the Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre on the third day of a joint meeting between the ELCIC National Church Council and the Council of General Synod. Photo by Matt Gardner

Highlights from the Council of General Synod: November 15, 2015

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Council members gathered at 9 a.m. at the Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre in Mississauga.

Joint Assembly 2019

Speaking to members of the Council of General Synod (CoGS) of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC) and the National Church Council (NCC) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), General Secretary Michael Thompson introduced a discussion about the Joint Assembly between Anglicans and Lutherans set for 2019. He recalled a conversation with ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson about how full communion requires hard work, and cited the current joint meeting as evidence of the ways in which members of each church continue to make space for each other.

The 2019 Joint Assembly is likely to take place in the lower mainland in or near Vancouver. The choice of city is based on the fact that Vancouver will be the host synod that year for the ELCIC and it will allow the ACoC to break a recent pattern of hosting major meetings in central Canada.

Bishop Johnson invited CoGS and NCC members to have conversations in their table groups to help plan the Joint Assembly, encouraging those who attended the previous Joint Assembly in 2013 to say what they would do the same or differently, and for newcomers to say what they would want the event to be like.

After 10 minutes of discussion, table group representatives relayed their responses to the audience. A common theme was a focus on social justice issues. Groups cited the right to water discussion and the reading of the Joint Declaration in 2013 as highlights and suggested a public event at the 2019 Joint Assembly. One group spoke about the need for education on such issues.

Worship was another theme, with groups pointing to the importance of worshipping together through shared prayer and Eucharist services. The need to discuss challenging issues such as church structures and how bishops make decisions also came up.


Various members of CoGS and the NCC took turns at the podium to reflect on topics of discussion from their respective meetings over the course of the weekend.

The Lutherans spoke about the strategic plan discussed at their national convention, which they had reviewed after hearing the Anglican baptismal covenant on Friday, modifying the language to include more references to justice and peace. ELCIC representative to CoGS Pat Lovell spoke about plans for their 2017 national convention and the shift after the 2019 convention from holding the event every two years to holding it every three years.

The Rev. Marc Jerry, chair of the Faith, Order and Doctrine Committee, discussed the committee’s work looking at orders of ministry in the next biennium, which included questions such as the theory of vocation, and its plans to produce a study guide and white paper for the ELCIC. The Rev. Dr. Cameron Harder spoke of the Lutherans’ work on physician-assisted death, which included a review and updating of its 1997 statement Decisions on the End of Life to reflect recent legislative changes, as well as plans for a new study guide in 2018.

NCC members also spoke about plans for the 12th Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Namibia in 2017, which will reflect on the growth of the Lutheran church in the Global South, and provided updated numbers on the Reformation Challenge to help celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation by planting 500 trees, awarding 500 scholarships, hosting 500 refugees in Canada and giving $500 to the LWF Endowment Fund.

On the Anglican side, Dean Peter Wall summarized his report on the work of the General Synod Planning Committee. Bishop John Chapman related the discussion held for the Working Group on how to hold a conversation at General Synod on the possibility of blessing same-sex marriages. The General Secretary laid out the CoGS agenda for that afternoon. Hanna Goschy, treasurer and CFO, discussed her report on the 2016 budget. Bishop Lydia Mamakwa summarized the presentations on Indigenous Ministries—including discussion of Sacred Circle 2015 and the proposed fifth ecclesiastical province—as well as reports from the Council of the North and the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice.

Thanking CoGS and NCC members for their reflections, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the ACoC, reflected on his shared gratitude with Bishop Johnson for the ability of Anglicans and Lutherans to meet regularly and worship together. He expressed the appreciation of Anglicans for the Lutherans’ commitment to walk with the ACoC as it strives to become a new church by partnering with Indigenous peoples in their quest for self-determination, and also thanked the ELCIC for their invitation to Anglicans to take part in the commemoration of the Reformation.

Council members broke for coffee.


CoGS and NCC members took part in a Eucharist service in the chapel at the Queen of Apostles Renewal Centre. Archbishop Hiltz and Bishop Johnson presided, with the Primate delivering the sermon.

Taking advantage of the warm, sunny weather, the two church leaders led their members outside to gather around a tree which had been planted in the front yard of the facility some time ago. Bishop Johnson said a prayer before she and the Primate watered the tree, an act rich with symbolic meaning as the two churches continue to grow closer together.

Council members broke for lunch.

Statement of Investment Policy

CoGS members heard a presentation on the investment policy of General Synod, including returns on its consolidated trust fund. Interest rates, which have been largely going down for decades, now look likely to increase by the end of the year. Meanwhile, the bond market, which has been considered a safe investment for the last 30 years, may be less so in the near future.

Proposed resolutions were put forward that would modify the church’s investments in line with changing market trends, expanding its approach into a market-neutral strategy and maintaining alternatives in real estate and infrastructure. Council members adopted each resolution by consensus.


That the Council of General Synod amends the Statement of Investment Policy as follows:

  • For Bonds, reduce the strategic target to 30% (from 35%) and revise the range to 30%-75% (currently 30%-80%);
  • For Market Neutral Strategies, increase the strategic target to 10% (from 5%) and the maximum of the range to 10% (from 5%);
  • Replace all instances of “Market Neutral Hedge Fund” with “Market Neutral Strategies”


That the Council of General Synod amends the Statement of Investment Policy Statement as follows:

  • For Canadian Equities, reduce the strategic target to 22.5% (from 30%);
  • For Foreign Equities, increase the strategic target to 22.5% (from 15%) and revise the range to 15%-60% (currently 0%-30%)

Physician-Assisted Death

The Rev. Canon Eric Beresford, chair of Task Force on Physician-Assisted Death, gave a presentation that offered updates on the task force and engaged CoGS members to help guide its work going forward.

Offering some background, Canon Beresford noted that in the late 1990s, he had engaged CoGS in the process that eventually led to the church document Care in Dying, which he described as “not without controversy, but generally well-received” as a contribution to the debate on physician-assisted death both in and outside the church, providing some helpful clarifications of terms.

While the document had concluded that a change in law would not be helpful “at this time,” it recognized both the diversity of opinions within the ACoC and, perhaps more importantly, the common values shared among those who may disagree on how the church should approach the issue of physician-assisted dying.

Those values included seeing life as a gift, not a possession; the dignity of human life; the importance of community and the role of care in that community; the need to recognize death as a part of life; the complexity of our relationship to suffering and the difficulty of speaking helpfully about suffering, particularly the suffering of others; and the importance of justice, especially with regard to the vulnerable. None of these principles or all taken together necessarily led to the conclusions drawn in Care in Dying, but the document represented a particular position and an invitation to further theologically informed conversation.

In the wake of the Feb. 6 ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada that struck down the previous ban on physician-assisted death, “We’re now in a different place,” Beresford said. Though the task force was established long before the ruling as a priority at the beginning of the triennium, the Supreme Court decision nevertheless has a great impact on its work. As an aside, Beresford noted that the change in language from “physician-assisted suicide” to “physician-assisted death” arose from the desire for a less emotionally charged term.

As a result of the Supreme Court ruling, the law has changed. But the decision also left a series of unanswered questions in its wake, which will now spill into regulations related to the new situation. Beresford pointed to numerous implications of the decision, including:

  • The definition of an adult. Multiple definitions currently exist in Canada.
  • The question of stages of illness. If the court decision is simply read at face value, Canada will be the only jurisdiction in world where physician-assisted dying is available for those who are not terminally ill.
  • How requests for physician-assisted dying are made in terms of assessing the genuine competency of patient, to verify that a decision is not being made out of depression or particular circumstances related to the illness or treatment.
  • Will we require more than one physician to be involved as other jurisdictions do, or can you make a request for assisted death to a single physician?
  • The issue of accessibility, which the Supreme Court did not address. It was clear that physicians have the right to not participate in physician-assisted death if it is against their conscience to do so. But the court was completely silent on what that means for patients who are seeking assistance for dying, but living in areas where physicians are opposed to this (not an insignificant problem, since the majority of Canadian Medical Association members are opposed to physician-assisted death).
  • The implications for families, e.g. for insurance. In the decision of the court, the word “family” is never mentioned, suggesting an understanding of the autonomy of the individual that is at the very least un-nuanced.
  • No reference to issues of delegation of decisions by physicians and whether people can move across medical jurisdictions.
  • The court decision seems to rest on a consumer view of the relationship between physician and patient, which is different from what the relationship between care provider and patient relationship has been historically and socially.
  • Palliative care. In the process of hearings before the court, the issue of palliative care was dealt with and thrown out very early. Proponents of palliative care as opposed to moving in the direction of physician-assisted death were unsuccessful in making their case, because palliative care in Canada is spotty at best and often poor. Adequate accessibility to palliative care is an issue.

The Task Force on Physician-Assisted Death brings together Anglicans from across Canada with a range of expertise including medical practice law, palliative care, ethics, and nursing. While having its conversations by conference call has been less than ideal, thanks to additional funding it made a huge step forward in the fall with its first face-to-face meeting, which helped task force members consolidate where they needed to go and the issues they needed to address. After a call for submissions in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, the task force received 30 submissions from Canadian Anglicans representing the full range of opinions one would find in Canada and within the church.

At the moment, the task force sees no need to re-visit the Care in Dying document, which played an important role in setting the stage for the current debate. Rather, the task force is currently focused on writing reflections on theology, the pastoral process, and providing theological and pastoral resources. It is examining legal definitions and looking at areas of advocacy still remaining around the issue of palliative care, as well as issues of potential regulation that may benefit from intervention.

With such a huge range of material for a relatively small task force, members have identified a set of priorities, which Beresford presented to CoGS members in the form of a chart labelled “The Priorities Pie.” The priorities, listed in no particular order, were:

  • We need to engage our ecumenical partners’ desire for a strong statement;
  • We need to re-articulate and hold on to our underlying principles;
  • We need to advocate for workable guidelines that will be just and protect the vulnerable;
  • We need to help people think about this issue theologically; and
  • We need resources that support pastoral approaches that honour diversity.

Beresford asked CoGS members to imagine that they had one dollar and to determine how they would divide up that dollar among the five priorities. Members broke into their table groups to discuss how many cents they would allocate to each priority, writing down their responses which would go to the task force to help them identify the most pressing priorities.

Briefly summarizing their responses, table group representatives identified pastoral care and workable guidelines as their biggest priorities. Engaging ecumenical partners, though still important, was generally viewed as secondary to the task of enabling the church to first determine its own perspectives and response. Beresford thanked them for their help in facilitating the work of the task force.

Settlement Agreement

General Secretary Thompson presented two resolutions to CoGS members on the redistribution of funds related to the Amended Residential Schools Settlement Agreement. Council members adopted both resolutions by consensus.


The General Secretary is authorized to return the funds to the Anglican Entities which were not required under the Amended Residential Schools Settlement Agreement as set out in the attached schedule.


The amount returned to the General Synod will be used for the administrative costs of the Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation, as determined by the General Secretary.

Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Discovery and The Church: Towards a Common Vision

Ecumenical and Interfaith Coordinator Bruce Myers presented two resolutions to CoGS related to ecumenical initiatives. The first related to the church’s response to the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, while the second concerned the extension of the date of our response to the World Council of Churches document The Church: Towards a Common Vision.

Council members adopted both resolutions by consensus.


That this Council of General Synod affirm the proposal by the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith, and Order, that the meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council 16 consider a resolution of its own indicating that the Anglican Communion affirms the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.


That the Council of General Synod direct the Coordinator for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations to prepare a draft official response of our church to The Church: Towards a Common Vision for consideration by the Council at its fall 2016 meeting; and further submit the final version approved by the Council to the Faith and Order Secretariat of the World Council of Churches no later than December 31, 2016.

Anglican Communion Relations Advisory Council

Prolocutor Harry Huskins provided an update on the work of the Anglican Communion Relations Advisory Council (ACRAC). He recounted how General Synod 2013 passed a resolution in which CoGS would offer a recommendation to the next General Synod on the proposed Covenant of the Anglican Communion, a response to emerging issues based primarily around Scripture that many Anglicans saw as causing divisions within the communion.

ACRAC thought it best to put a range of possible motions before CoGS that would allow members to choose the intent and wording of the motion to send to the floor of the next General Synod. The possible motions include directing that the present consultation process continue; neither adopting nor rejecting the Covenant; supporting part of the Covenant text, but rejecting another portion; an implicit, but soft, rejection of the Covenant; and a motion implicitly rejecting the Covenant.

CoGS members will be emailed texts of the possible motions, though the final text may not necessarily reflect any of them. Planning and Agenda Team member Jane Osler asked council members to review the possible motions, pray on them, and provide feedback to her team.

Nominating Committee Report

Deputy Prolocutor Cynthia Haines-Turner reported that no further nominations had been made to fill vacancies for positions on CoGS. Resolutions that council affirm the nomination of one member while forwarding the name of another as an appointment to the Financial Management Committee were both adopted by consensus.

Evaluation and Key Messages

Taking a different approach to evaluation from previous CoGS, Osler presented council members with a sheet offering guidelines for a brief discussion. Noting that the present session of CoGS had eliminated the time associates spend with their coordinating committees and instead offered the Market Place session, it asked members to discuss the props and cons of the new Market Place format relative to the time spent with their coordinating committees, as well as what they saw of value and whether it was something they would like to see continue.

Following the discussion, CoGS members approached the microphone to offer their thoughts on the weekend to determine the Key Messages of the latest council meeting. Among their responses:

  • Worship was a key highlight, with messages, baptismal vows, and morning Eucharist really speaking to members
  • Intentional and respectful conversation about how to have a conversation about a difficult topic
  • The meeting was well-paced, with break times allowing members to feel more engaged in the time we did spend together
  • Enjoyment of the time spent with brothers and sisters in Christ in the ELCIC and getting to know them. The Lutherans added much value to the meeting and help us laugh more. Re-emphasis that the two churches have far more similarities than differences. Desire to have two meetings per triennium together
  • Appreciation of how much information was provided in packets ahead of time and how little that was referred to in the meeting. It proved a good use of time, in that CoGS wasn’t reiterating reports members had already received.

Osler reminded CoGS members that the next meeting of CoGS in spring 2016 would be longer, lasting four days rather than three. The Primate thanked the Planning and Agenda Team for its work.


The General Secretary led CoGS members in a concluding prayer before adjournment.

The meeting concluded at approximately 3:30 p.m.


Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, November 18, 2015


Posted on: November 17th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

Reading The Bible Amid the

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,
by Walter Brueggemann

Westminster John Knox Press
Louisville, KY. Aug. 2015.
Paper. 88 pages. $18.00 CAD
ISBN #13-978-0-664-26154-2.



Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

It is foolish to continue applying biblical precepts
to modern situations when historical, social and
cultural circumstances have changed.

The Bible’s understanding of the role of women, for
example, is now considered needing re-interpretation
by almost all Christians today except the most
fundamentalist. That holds for Judaism as well, where
many enlightened Hebrew thinkers have been voicing
considerable disagreement with those Jews who hold
to traditional biblical gender role understandings.

The same holds true for people of both faiths who seek
to engage the seemingly insurmountable problems
facing modern Israel and its internal and external

When our travel group from Western Canada visited
the Holy Land recently, we wanted to go with “an
open mind” and sought to hear representatives of
Jewish, Christian and Muslims there – seeking truth
and justice for all. This was no small desire, and a
guarenteed road to frustration I might add.

Still, as Brueggemann says above, the challenge
remains to continue our deep concern for the Holy
Land and all its people, simply because the meaning
of the place and the situation demand it.

The book consists of four main chapters that deal
succinctly with the Bible and the conflict; the issue
of what it means to be “God’s chosen people” –
both claim and problem; what the term “Holy Land”
means today; and concerning matters that relate
to Zionism and Israel.

This is followed by a “Q and A” with Breuggemann;
a helpful glossary of terms and a guide to studying
this book with local groups.

If study groups are done locally in your case, I
would suggest that members might include
liberal and conservative Christians, as well as
constructive members of the Jewish and Muslim
communities known to you.

I have discovered, as a result of our travels in
the Holy Land, that it is not realistic to deal only
with people or groups with whom you agree.
What is needed, is mutual respect and a willingness
to listen to what members differing from you are
saying authentically from their hearts.

We owe visionaries like Jimmy Carter, Bill
Clinton and other political figures much gratitude
for their tangible investment in Holy Land
affairs. We owe religious visionaries who have
worked with people of all backgrounds to apply
peace and justice to inter-faith as well as
political matters.

There are too many intransigent people on
all sides of these complex issues, but honest
dialogue and progress remain possible, it
seems to me.

In spite of weariness and disappointment, we,
along with teachers like Breuggemann, must not
disengage from so great a cause.

And we owe it to ourselves to “not grow weary
in well-doing” as we seek to be open and involved.

I find this book most helpful and am grateful to 
the author for writing it from the wisdom of his

Buy the book from


Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Colleagues List, Vol. XI, No. 13,  November  15th, 2015


Not in God’s Name

Posted on: November 17th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

Confronting Religious Violence

by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

Random House Canada, 2015.
Hardcover. 305 pp. $23.79 CAD
ISBN # 978-0-8052-4334-5.



Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

Many have recently read Karen Armstrong’s
scholarly volume “Fields of Blood – Religion
and Violence” an extensive, enlightened study
of the association between two powerful forces
in our world. The connection between the two
has existed from time immemorial.

Still, Armstrong believes that true religion is
compassionate and seeks peace in spite of
what many have done in its name.

Armstrong writes from a British Christian
background, with a strong global and interfaith

The Sacks book under consideration here
is by a British author who is Jewish. Like
Armstrong, he has strong academic credentials
but addresses the issue of religion and violence
from a Hebrew Bible perspective.

That is the first important point that stands
out for me. Christians take the Hebrew Bible
as authoritative, but they also view things
from the perspective of Christ and the missionary
impetus of the early church. Christianity was
based in Judaism but evolved into a faith that
has appealed primarily to Gentiles.

The similarities and differences between
Judaism and Christianity are important to
keep in mind as we move from a Christian
to an interfaith discussion on a pivotal theme. 

“Abraham himself,” writes Rabbi Sacks, “sought
to be a blessing to others regardless of their faith.”
That idea, ignored for many of the intervening
centuries, remains the simplest definition of
Abrahamic faith. “To be a blessing to others
regardless of their faith” is not classically the way
we might describe the missionizing and conversion-
seeking focus of Christianity (or Islam for that matter.)

There is much we can learn from a faith tradition
that is, at its heart, not a missionary one but a

The second important point that stands out for
me is that the three religions of Jerusalem are
being addressed by a representative of Judaism,
the founding tradition of the three. In addition,
the author is concerned about religion and violence
in all the great religious traditions – both east and
west. Thus, he is concerned about global missionary
as well as non-missionary faiths.

We are fortunate to read from a scholar firmly
grounded in the Abrahamic tradition but open to
all traditions.

Finally, I would suggest that what we learn from
Armstrong and Sacks opens the door to a similar
contribution from the Islamic perspective. The
commitment to justice, peace  and reconciliation 
is also very real in Islam. We need to hear that.

Sacks brings to the attention of Christians
and others a view of faith and reality that we
should respect “from an older brother.”

As you, like me, continue to seek guidance and
pursue truth from an ever-expanding array of
religious insights, I highly recommend this book
to you.

The author shares many of my own perspectives
on the subject and helps to refine and enhance

Buy the book from


Dr. Wayne Holst teaches religion and culture at the University of Calgary and  helps  to co-ordinates Adult Spiritual Development  at St. David’s United Church in that city. ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Colleagues List, Vol. XI, No. 12,  November  8th, 2015

Intentional Discipleship in a World of Differences approved as theme for next Anglican Consultative Council meeting

Posted on: November 17th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

Anglican Witness


???????????????????????????????The overarching theme for the next year’s Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-16) meeting in Zambia, “Intentional Discipleship in a World of Differences”, has been chosen by the Standing Committee of the Anglican Communion as a response to daily Christian challenges.

Director for Mission at the Anglican Communion Office (ACO), Canon John Kafwanka, welcomed the theme as “the best news for the Communion at this point in time.”

Mr Kafwanka explained that “It has become evident in many parts of the Communion that the challenge we face today in Christian discipleship is the divide between ‘professed faith’ and ‘lived faith’. This is mainly because we have not taken seriously the need to intentionally equip ourselves and our members in considering the implications of faith in Christ in every sphere of our life. The theme for next ACC meeting calls us back to that.”

In the past two years, the Anglican Witness group of Anglican leaders and mission practitioners has been advancing the centrality in the life and mission of the Church of equipping all God’s people for intentional discipleship, so that Anglicans and Episcopalians everywhere become intentional in considering how their faith bears on their everyday life experience.

Focus on intentional discipleship has come as a response to Christian challenges such as failure to connect faith and professional life, low commitment and impact on community life, lack of confidence to share personal faith and pass it to next generation, and decline in Church membership in some cases.

A video, “Being a Christian in everyday life” has been recently published to illustrate some of the current issues both in the Global South and North, and why intentional discipleship is critical.

The chair of the Anglican Witness core group, the Archbishop-elect of South East Asia, the Rt Revd Ng Moon Hing, said: “In this season of turbulence, intentional discipleship is the way of going forward. . . I hope and pray that ACC will promote a season of intentional discipleship in the Anglican Communion.”

Anglican Witness is gathering a variety of resources to help churches equip their members to be Christ’s credible witnesses in every sphere of their life. It aims to promote good practice from dioceses and parishes where an emphasis on discipleship is already being implemented.


Anglican Witness Press Release, November 17, 2015

Exploring the future of reconciliation in Canada

Posted on: November 17th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

Archdeacon Lynne McNaugton, of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia, calls for the building of relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people at the local level. Photo: André Forget

Mississauga, Ont.
How best to continue the process of reconciliation, now that Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has issued its final report  and released its Calls to Action? The future lies in personal relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada, said a group of Lutherans and Anglicans—but how to build these relationships is less clear.

During a joint meeting dedicated to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP), both Council of General Synod (CoGS) and the National Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) wrestled with the question of how the declaration  might be made real for the average parishioner. An international instrument adopted by the United Nations in 2007, UNDRIP sets out “the minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous peoples of the world.”

The declaration was recommended by the TRC as a “framework for reconciliation,” and both Henriette Thompson, director of social and ecological justice for the Anglican church,  and the Rev. Paul Gehrs, ELCIC’s assistant to the bishop on justice and leadership issues, believe it provides a practical primer on reconciliation for Anglicans and Lutherans.

When asked to think about what needs to happen for Anglicans and Lutherans to more deeply understand and comply with the UNDRIP, and what things should be considered as the churches continue to work toward reconciliation, it quickly became clear that ignorance remains one of the most significant barriers.

“The people at our table were largely unaware of the UN Declaration,” said Canon Terry Leer of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land, “and we thought that, important in this whole discussion, would be for us to confront privilege. Even our lack of understanding is part of that privilege. We simply assume too many things about our own status and our own power.”

In addition to this ignorance, there was also the feeling, shared by many who spoke, that there were not a lot of interactions between non-Indigenous and Indigenous people.

“We don’t know our Indigenous neighbours particularly well,” said the Rev. Marc Jerry, a Lutheran from Alberta and the Territories, speaking for his discussion group. “We have an important role to play to share this.”

For Archdeacon Lynne McNaughton of the ecclesiastical province of British Columbia and Yukon, this tied into the question of how Anglicans and Lutherans can incorporate this work into their own context.

“How do we build relationships where we are locally?” asked McNaughton. “Not at the national level, but in our individual communities?”

This led to several practical suggestions, such as Tannis Webster’s  idea of incorporating the declaration into the weekly liturgy.

“I’ve never read [the declaration], and I’m assuming that many have not,” said Webster, of the ecclesiastical province of Rupert’s Land. “And after having read it, I think if we were to read one article a week in the prayers of the people, it would make many of us much more aware.”

After the delegates shared their thoughts and concerns, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican church, drew attention to the fact that Gehrs has drafted a report on how the ELCIC might implement the UNDRIP, and suggested it might be useful for both churches.

“It’s a very helpful report,” he said. “It’s got some really practical suggestions in it, and I think it holds a lot of potential for us.”

He went on to stress, though, that “any and all conversation about the Calls to Action and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People has to be done in consultation with the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples [ACIP].” ACIP is composed of Indigenous Anglican leaders across Canada.


Anglican Journal News, November 16, 2015

A time for frankness, friendship

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General, Reviews

Cole Guenter, a Lutheran from Saskatchewan, the Rev. Norm Wesley from the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, and Sr. Elizabeth Rolfe-Thomas, chaplain to CoGS, discuss Anglican-Lutheran relations. Photo: André Forget

Mississauga, Ont.
Anglicans and Lutherans have developed very close ties since entering into full communion in 2001, but keeping those ties strong requires members of both churches to engage both prayerfully and candidly with each other, their representatives say.

Members of Council of General Synod (CoGS) and the Lutheran Nation Church Council (NCC) want to make sure both can happen when the churches meet for Joint Assembly in 2019.

“Full communion is a choice that we make every day,” said Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada. “It is something that requires our daily attentiveness, because it is so easy to slip into the habit of thinking that one or the other of us is the norm and the other is the departure.”

Recent rumblings of discontent among some Anglicans over the decision by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) to allow lay people to preside over the eucharist in extraordinary circumstances have been a reminder that, as the Anglican Church of Canada’s primate Archbishop Fred Hiltz put it, full communion is still about “two autonomous churches that feel called by God to be a in a relationship with one another.”

Although two churches have been in full communion since 2001, the first time they brought their respective national bodies together for a joint assembly was in Ottawa in 2013. In 2019, they will meet for the second time, but will likely be following a different process.

“We don’t know how that meeting will be shaped,” said Thompson. “The churches have different things to do in different ways at that joint assembly, so it seems unlikely that we’re going to have the kind of joint assembly we had in Ottawa, where we begin and end at the same time.”

In order to get a sense for what that might look like, the joint meeting of CoGS and the NCC asked members to talk about the things they appreciated and the things they would like done differently in 2019.

“We think we should have the opportunity, as much as to celebrate our relationship, to really have an opportunity to get into some of the issues and challenges,” said Lt. Col. the Rev. Marc Torchinsky from the Anglican Military Ordinariate of Canada, noting in particular the controversy over authorized lay ministry. “Let’s not neglect the hard issues.”

At the same time, many members spoke warmly of the time spent in shared worship, and stressed the importance of giving Anglicans and Lutherans a chance to get to know each other on an individual basis.

The Rev. Paul Gehrs, assistant to Lutheran National Bishop Susan Johnson on justice and leadership, stressed “the value of table group discussion, because of how it maximizes the diversity of Anglican and Lutheran people coming from different geography and experiences.”

Any such shared time would need to be carefully planned in 2019, according to David Jones, chancellor of General Synod.

“In 2013, there was a lack of time for Anglican business—we got it done, but it was too tight,” he said. “In 2019, we think there will be some significant legislative business for Anglicans, so however it’s planned, we need to make sure there’s time to do that.”

The Joint Assembly will take place somewhere “in or around Vancouver,” Thompson said, because “it has been a long time since the Anglican church has  held its national meeting in western Canada.”​


Anglican Journal News, November 16, 2015