Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Reconciliation goes beyond residential schools, says forum

Posted on: March 3rd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

 

Shakir Rahim, a graduate of the University of Toronto, asks the panellists to further explain a point about the reconciliation process. Photo: André Forget


The now-defunct Indian residential school system may be one of the most well-known examples of how imperialism has done deep damage to Canada’s First Nations, but it was only a symptom of a larger problem.

This was the message driven home at a public forum organized by the Hart House debates committee at the University of Toronto on Feb. 25.

“The evil of the system, and the part that is hardest for us now to grapple with, is the fact that the children taken were Indian children, and the reason they were taken was to strip them of their culture and language,” said Douglas Sanderson, a law professor at the University of Toronto, former government advisor, and member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation.

“Money payments and criminal trials do nothing to address the inter-generational implications of having parents and grandparents who were never taught to love and care for their brothers and sisters…who were instead taught to hate their cultures, languages, and by implication, their communities and families.”

Sanderson was part of a four-person panel titled “The Legacy of the Residential Schools System,” moderated by legal scholar and Trinity College provost Mayo Moran. Other panelists included Delia Opekokew, a Cree lawyer from Canoe Lake First Nation in Saskatchewan and one-time candidate for leadership of the Assembly of First Nations, and Bob Rae, former NDP premier of Ontario and former interim Liberal leader.

The panellists looked both at the origins of the residential school system in blatantly racist European colonial policies, and also at the ways in which the damage done by the residential schools goes far beyond the individuals who attended them.

For Rae, understanding the toxic attitudes of European superiority is necessary to understanding where the system came from in the first place. “If you believe that the cultures in which young people are living are inferior cultures,” he said, “then you delude yourself into thinking that you are doing them all a favour by taking them out of that inferior culture.”

The ongoing denial of the colonial project in Canada, Rae noted, is manifested by Stephen Harper’s claim in 2009 that “Canada has no history of colonialism.”

“Canada’s history is the history of colonialism,” Rae said. “That’s who we are, that’s where we come from as a country.”

For Rae, actually moving toward reconciliation will mean a radical shift in indigenous-settler relations, not least of all when dealing with issues like governance. “How do we create a postcolonial agenda for Canada,” he asked rhetorically, “recognizing that we are a product of the colonial experience?”

That sense of European superiority is ingrained in the education system, and actually moving past the residential schools requires a rethinking of the system itself, Sanderson said. “First Nations must be able to make a system that reflects their own values,” he said, “and positively affirms their cultures and values and traditions. Otherwise, we do nothing more than ask indigenous communities to create their own little residential school systems.”

Opekokew, who is herself a residential school survivor, focused on talking about how the effects of residential schools have created rifts between indigenous peoples and communities. “People who have suffered abuse at the school learned that behaviour,” she explained “and have unfortunately continued that behaviour in their adult lives.” For her, one of the most important areas where reconciliation needs to happen is within indigenous individuals and communities.

One of the events organizers, undergraduate student Sarah Harrison, said she and her fellow-organizers were inspired to organize the event after hearing Mayo Moran speak on the residential schools resolution process.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Journal, February 27, 2015

Anglican Alliance director strengthens partnerships at ‘lunch and learn’

Posted on: February 24th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

 

The Rev. Rachel Carnegie, co-director of the Anglican Alliance, speaks to Church House staff members.

The Rev. Rachel Carnegie, co-director of the Anglican Alliance, speaks to Church House staff members.

 

Matt Gardner

The co-director of the Anglican Alliance stopped by Church House on Friday, Feb. 20 for a visit that highlighted ongoing work of the Alliance as well as how the Anglican Church of Canada might continue to build and strengthen effective partnerships.

The Rev. Rachel Carnegie, named as joint executive director in 2013, spoke with Church House staff members as part of a “lunch and learn” event discussing the Alliance, which was established in 2011 to bring members of the Anglican Communion together in the global struggle against poverty, inequality, conflict and injustice.

“Because the Anglican Alliance is working across the Communion and it’s not just focusing on the so-called developing countries, we’re actually now very intentionally trying to understand the life and ministry of the churches in all parts of the Communion,” Carnegie said.

Her visit to Toronto arose out of a desire to gain more insights into the work of the Anglican Church of Canada and to support its international mandate for the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF).

“Obviously PWRDF has been part of the Alliance story from the beginning, and was absolutely key to helping conceptualize what the Alliance should be and how it should function in the Communion,” Carnegie said.

The Anglican Alliance, she added, was interested “not just in the life of the agencies, but also in the life of the church…to understand more and connect more with the Anglican Church of Canada and the work that it’s doing on the ground on issues of social exclusion and poverty and justice.”

Offering a brief history of the Alliance, Carnegie noted how it grew out of recognition of the need for a more co-ordinated approach by churches, missions and development agencies.

She compared the Alliance to the indigenous Sacred Circle, saying it serves more as a gathering for conversation than a structured agency. Through a series of consultations, organizations across the Anglican Communion—including the PWRDF—identified three pillars of the Alliance: development, relief and advocacy.

Carnegie provided examples of the Alliance’s work in each area, such as bringing together Anglicans from Australia and the Pacific Islands to press government leaders to address climate change during a G8 summit.

Identifying global themes for its efforts stemming from regional priorities, Carnegie pointed to the empowerment of youth and women, such as through campaigns against gender-based violence; combatting human trafficking; helping refugees and striving for peace and reconciliation; and tackling issues related to climate change and food security—with the latter currently a major focus for the PWRDF.

Subsequent discussion focused on work in Canada that might be bolstered through the Alliance, such as addressing concerns of indigenous peoples related to tar sands development.

Reflecting upon her visit, Carnegie noted, “I’m struck yet again by…the richness in the life of the church here, the integrity that’s being sought in the life of the church here as you look at historical issues and especially around the indigenous peoples.

“I think there’s a real sort of humility in the way people are trying to understand and engage with that, which I find incredibly powerful and moving…To meet many more of the partners and the staff of PWRDF…I think that they’re really trying to re-configure traditional development partnerships into something that is much more interdependent and equal.”

Learn more about the Anglican Alliance.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, February 24, 2015

Diocesan eco-justice unit stirs debate on B.C. transit referendum

Posted on: February 20th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

Nigel Haggan__Ireland_2013
Nigel Haggan

 

As Metro Vancouver residents prepare to vote in an upcoming transit referendum, members of the Diocese of New Westminster Eco-Justice Unit are hoping to promote discussion on wider issues of social and ecological justice.

Starting on March 16 and running through May 29, Elections B.C. will administer a plebiscite through a mail-in ballot in which voters will be asked to approve a 0.5 per cent increase to the Provincial Sales Tax in order to fund new transit projects.

The Metro Vancouver Alliance (MVA), a coalition of faith groups, union locals, academic departments and non-profits, has organized events in support of a Yes vote.

While the Eco-Justice Unit of the Diocese of New Westminster is a member organization of the MVA, the Rev. Margaret Marquardt, chair of the Eco-Justice Unit, said her group was mainly focused on promoting debate.

“Metro Vancouver Alliance is committed to a Yes [vote],” Marquardt said. “But let’s talk about it. Let’s think about it. Let’s engage people. Let’s think about what our role is as Anglicans in terms of reflecting ecologically, theologically and [on] the well-being [of] those who really struggle financially…being able to get where they need to go.”

One member of the Eco-Justice Unit, Nigel Haggan, has been vocal in his support of a Yes vote, and penned an op-ed for the February issue of the diocesan newspaper Topic in favour of the transit funding plan.

A marine biologist by trade, Haggan described eco-justice as the linking of social and ecological justice, and put the fight for accessible transit in the context of the church’s ministry as a whole.

“The mission of the church, as far as I understand, is to comfort the poor, the afflicted, the lame…the blind, the imprisoned, the socially disadvantaged,” Haggan said. “Bad transit falls most heavily on the most disadvantaged and least able to pay for it.”

Connecting the transit issue to the Marks of Mission, Marquardt said participation in the campaign is an example of deepening the Anglican understanding of being engaged with the world, caring for God’s work and nurturing the parish community.

Haggan added that environmental degradation caused by inadequate public transit ultimately affects rich and poor alike.

“You have reduced air quality and much higher instances of respiratory [illnesses] and other complaints…That is even-handed because there are rich and poor who live there. So even people who don’t take transit could suffer from the lack of transit or poor air quality.”

In the lead-up to the plebiscite, the Eco-Justice Unit, as part of the MVA, is helping organize events to raise awareness of the vote, such as a pair of recent public forums attended by mayors and city councillors.

Other contributions include creating flyers and posters, engaging with residents on the ramifications of a Yes vote and encouraging them to get their ballots in.

“We’re just [doing] our part, which I think is kind of a healthy way to see ourselves as a church, both giving leadership but also working collaboratively with others,” Marquardt said. “It seems to be really appreciated and respected within the wider community.”

On the question of whether the church should be involved in politics, Haggan responded, “I think the answer to that is a resounding yes.”

“Where there are issues of justice,” he said, “the church should be there.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

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

Seeing with the ‘eye of the soul’

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


BOOK REVIEW
The Meaning of Blue: Recovering a Contemplative Spirit
By Father Luke Bell, OSB
Angelico Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-1621380825
314 pages

 

Not many books use a potato to explain spiritual wholeness but Father Luke Bell manages to do this and more in The Meaning of Blue: Recovering a Contemplative Spirit. As a monk-priest at Quarr Abbey on the UK’s Isle of Wight, Bell is well placed to teach us about contemplation and potatoes.

At first, a guide to contemplation seems unnecessary. After all, the church calendar offers ample opportunity to hone our contemplative practice: Advent and Christmas provides 40 days to direct our thoughts toward others; Epiphany’s 12 days allow us to reflect on the light of Christ’s birth; Lent gives us 40 days and nights for spiritual self-flagellation and improvement. With all that contemplation, do we really need more? The problem, according to Bell, is that our contemplation is superficial.

The fundamental cause for this is our pathetic observation skills. Too many of us have grown accustomed to seeing merely the temporal without seeing and understanding the intrinsic link between objects and the divine, and between people and the divine. We have gained knowledge from the periphery at the expense of knowledge at and of the heart. As our perception of the world becomes increasingly myopic we teeter on the edge of divine anaesthetization. To possess a truly contemplative spirit means having the ability to think with the heart and not always with the head, which is in direct opposition to the way society teaches (or wants us) to observe.

Bell believes that reclaiming a contemplative spirit starts not with God or Scripture but with understanding the symbols that bring us to God—nature, language, numbers, scripture, and sacraments. Guiding us through the process he attempts to wrestle us away from our acquired tunnel vision in order to ponder the world with wide-eyes and soulful thinking.

Hence the potato: A potato not eaten eventually sprouts growths, and if that potato is planted those growths will yield new potatoes. Through Bell’s extrapolation we see that all the potatoes you find in the stores are actually grown from one potato.  Within this observance of nature we can appreciate our relation to God and to one another. Spiritual wholeness enables us to make that link at a deep level.

Disclosure: I met Father Luke several years ago at Quarr Abbey. He’s soft-spoken and his posture seems permanently inclined to contemplation. He also has a dry sense of humour, which comes out in his writing. With a poet’s heart and a philosopher’s brain he infuses his thesis with philosophical musings, physics, Scripture, poetry, and every-day references. As a former teacher of poetry, it is not surprising that Bell recommends the ambiguity inherent in poetry as an effective tool in allowing our minds to both transcend the obvious and ruminate the deeper meaning.

Just as St. Benedict exhorted his monks in the 6th century to “listen with the ear of your heart” so Bell in the 21st century encourages present generations to “see with the eye of your soul”.

Jane Christmas is the author of And Then There Were Nuns (Greystone Books)

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Journal News, February 19, 2015

Lenten Lent

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

LENTEN LENT
A Way to Refresh Your Spirit
by Donna Shaper

Woodlake Books, Kelowna BC 2015,
Paperback, 70 pages. $11.00 CAD
ISBN #978-1-77064-793-0

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

Donna Sharper has been writing inspirational
books for ordinary Christians for some decades.
She has written for the Alban Institute and
other publishers who serve the spiritual needs
of people in congregations.

The Canadian publisher, Woodlake Books of
Kelowna BC = long a publisher for parishioners –
has produced this book of Lenten devotions
and we are the better for it.

Lent encourages us to give special attention to
spiritual needs in our lives and this book is a
helpful addition to resources available to us.

The author has selected forty plus one scripture
passages for Lent and Easter from both Hebrew
and Christian testaments. She uses various
biblical translations because the words she
selects are important to her.

Readers can be both disciplined or periodic
selectors of these brief (rarely more than just
a page in length) inspirational pieces that are
supported by biblical passages in each case.

I know that I will be using this booklet as
a Lenten resource this year, and I encourage
you to do the same

 

Buy the book from Woodlake:
http://tinyurl.com/kplf5p7

Buy the book from Amazon.ca:
http://tinyurl.com/l326688

 

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. X, No. 27,  February  15th, 2015

Convictions: How I Learned What Matters Most By Marcus J. Borg

Posted on: February 11th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

CONVICTIONS
How I Learned What Matters Most
By Marcus J. Borg

HarperOne: Toronto. $21.00 CAD.
December, 2014. 241 pages.
ISBN #978-0-06-226997-3

 

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

This volume contains a short, pithy,
but well-crafted summary of eleven
key theological/spiritual themes that
have emerged from a lifetime of good
reflection, teaching and writing

These themes have become the core
constructs of Borg’s faith in God, Jesus
and Christianity. He prompts a resonance
in many of his readers.

I can certainly accept all eleven and now
realize how influential Borg has been
in the reshaping of my faith during the
20 years that I have been reading him.

Listed below, without comment are
those eleven core themes:

Context matters
Faith is a Journey
God is real and is a mystery
Salvation is more about this life
than an afterlife
Jesus is the norm of the Bible
The Bible can be true without
being literally true
Jesus’s death on the cross matters –
but not because he paid for our sins
The Bible is political
God is passionate about justice
and the poor
Christians are called to peace
and non-violence
To love God is to love like God

To arrive at these core meanings
(he does not like the term ‘beliefs’)
he has studied classic Christian, as
well as modern thinking, within and
beyond the Christian faith. He has
also kept connected with what moderns
are seeking to know and understand.
He is not confined by the traditional
creeds, but neither is he a slave to
modernity.

I consider him progressive but mature
in his spiritual/theological convictions.

As Borg says in his preface, he writes
from an American context but is also
hopeful that many non-Americans
will find value in what he has to say.

Perhaps most importantly, he uses
language for a progressive Christianity
that is respectful of those who do not
agree with him, but who are willing
to engage in constructive, hopeful
dialogue.

This proved to be the author’s last
published book (at least in his
lifetime) and is a worthy summation
of his thought. It is a refresher for
those who read him again, and a good
summary of his life’s work for those
who meet him for the first time.

“Convictions” will certainly hold a
special place in my library.

 

Buy the book from Amazon.ca:
http://tinyurl.com/ond49dx

 

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. X, No. 26,  February 8th, 2015

Simply Good News

Posted on: February 10th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

SIMPLY GOOD NEWS
Why the Gospel is News
and What Makes it Good
by N.T. Wright

2015,HarperOne, Toronto, ON
Hardcover. 189 pages. $20.00 CAD
ISBN #978-0-06-223434-3.

 

 

Review By Wayne A. Holst

My Thoughts:

I have always appreciated the theology of
N.T. Wright because he reflects what I myself
seek to emulate in terms of my Christian faith.
That does not mean, however that I always
agree with him.

He speaks with both head and heart language.
He does not avoid the challenges of reason, but
he is also aware that faith needs to be grounded
in personal experience and a living spirit.

Wright believes that many people are seeking
good news today. When they go to hear it in
church, however, what they often get – at best –
is good advice. They miss what Christians from
the beginning have responded to – the Gospel
as Good News.

This is not only true for those of us in the more
liberal churches where maxims and common
wisdom are offered. It is also true for many in
the more conservative churches where the
Gospel is presented as a series of biblical
propositions.

Wright rejects both approaches. The real Gospel,
Wright believes, comes as news about Jesus rooted
in a history complete with a backstory and heralded
as an event with real personal entailments and
social implications.

Wright wants us to rethink and re-examine
the Gospel. So much of what passes for gospel
today does little justice to Jesus’ life, death,
resurrection and exaltation. He continues:

“For something to qualify as news there has to be
(1) an announcement of an event  that has happened;
(2) a larger context, a backstory within which this
makes sense; (3) a sudden unveiling of the new
that lies ahead; and (4) the transformation of the
present moment, sitting between the event that
has happened and the future event that therefore
will happen.”

Wright introduces these themes in chapters one
and two, while the rest of the book elaborates
with great power the implications of embracing
the Gospel as Good News in proclamation and
practice, just as it happened for the first Christians
in the context of their lives and times.

We err when we think that our circumstances
needs and hopes are different from those who
first heard the Good News proclaimed and
witnessed to by the first believers and apostles.

Wright makes the biblical message come alive
for us because he not only takes it seriously
but understands and interprets it in a real-
live set of circumstances.

This is Wright’s third book of a series using both
erudition and immediacy. Previously, he wrote
“Simply Jesus” (2006) and “Simply Christian”
(2011) – employing the same theological process
and literary method which works well for him.

For those who need a faith grounded in real history,
(I personally am not in need of this) Wright serves
as an enlightened guide and is well worth reading.

Buy the book from Amazon.ca
http://tinyurl.com/njdpxxm

 

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. X. No. 23,  January 18th, 2015

 

 

 

The Spirit surprises

Posted on: February 3rd, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

 

By Leigh Anne Williams

 

(l to r) Shred la Messe founder Nicolas Morin describes his experience with a skate church in Montreal in a panel discussion with the other speakers the Rev. Graham Singh, Bishop Mark MacDonald, and the Revs. Jasmine and Terence Chandra.  Photo: Leigh Anne Williams


The speakers who kicked off the 2015 Vital Church Planting Conference in Toronto, which ran from Jan. 29 to 31, reminded those attending that for new ministries or fresh expressions of church to thrive, they have to grow naturally out of the existing community and they must be tended with honesty and authenticity. What emerges may surprise even those who did the planting, they added.

National Anglican Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald offered the example of the Navajo nation, which, he said, in the 1970s was considered among the least responsive to missionary efforts in the world. “After hundreds of years of attempts at mission, only two per cent had converted,” he said. Now, however, about 70 per cent of the population of 300,000 have converted to Christianity. But, he said, this remarkable change “has not registered on any church’s radar screen,” because the conversions happened in a way that was so “non-Western that no church has noticed that they happened.”

In the Canadian context, MacDonald described the current popularity of gospel jamboree hymn-singing events that take place every weekend in most indigenous communities in northern Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The events often stretch through the evening until 1 or 2 a.m. and are broadcast to other communities as well. “This is pattern of worship you can find well-documented in the early 1800s—it was very popular, it spread across the land,” MacDonald said, “but the missionaries didn’t like it because it seemed to compete with Sunday morning worship.”

Today, in many pockets across the land, indigenous people are the most Christianized population in Canada, MacDonald said. “Praise God for this, but also remember that, as it happens, it looks very different than the Western church does, and very different than you might expect.” He described some of the ways the new indigenous diocese in the Anglican Church of Canada—the Spiritual Indigenous Ministry of Mishamikoweesh—is different from traditional dioceses, in ways such as its leadership development, decision-making processes and the place of elders working as part of non-stipendiary ministry teams.

Nicolas Morin, an evangelical minister, started a church for skateboarders, Shred la Messe (which he translated as “Ride to the Mass”) in Montreal.  Skateboarders are invited to skate free on Monday evenings from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with a break in the middle of the evening for donuts or pizza and a time to talk about God, life and spirituality. What began with 18 people, including the organizers, in October has now grown to about 90 people attending, he said. The success attracted people from outside the skateboarding community who wanted to volunteer, but he said he explained that he and the people who have created the church have reached skateboarders because they were already part of the community. People coming from outside that world would not seem authentic. “In whatever we do in the church, in mission, in the way we express what it means to be a Christian, what life was intended to be, we have to be natural,” said Morin. “It has to be who we are as human beings but also as followers of Christ.”

The Revs.  Jasmine and Terence Chandra, a married couple who have started an “incarnational” ministry, living among the marginalized in subsidized housing in the inner city of Saint John, N.B., drew a very similar message from their experience.

“Incarnational ministry, yes, does mean living with the people you are serving. It doesn’t mean trying to fit in,” said Terence. He and his wife are “incurably middle class,” he quipped. “If we were to go into our community and try to hide this aspect of ourselves and try to blend in, so to speak, it would be really inauthentic and it would defeat the purpose of trying to build trust with our neighbours,” he said. That requires being humble and admitting that they are ignorant of many things. “So, no, I have no idea what it is like to support my family on a welfare cheque. Tell me what it is like.”

As they began their ministry, which is supported by the Stone Church in Saint John, Jasmine said they were advised to “just hang out with people on their own turf.” Unlike many of their neighbours, they have a car, so they have gotten to know people while driving them to appointments and the hospital. They’ve met inmates at a half-way house, invited new immigrants to their home for dinner and been invited for dinner by people who rely on the food bank. “Every day we ask God to give us eyes to see, to give us ears to hear and to give us the words to say,” she said. “And what we’ve found is that God has led us to people in ways that can only be directed by the Holy Spirit.”

Jasmine added that she thinks Christians are unnecessarily burdening themselves by looking for measurable success. “What if having a successful ministry…was not a matter of what programs we’re running or how many people are coming out to our events, but what if success meant how we are connecting with the poor in our midst?”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Journal News, February 02, 2015

Accepting uncertainty, embracing weakness

Posted on: January 30th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

 

By André Forget

 

Darryl Dash of the Liberty Grace church plant in Toronto speaks at the Vital Church Planting conference. Photo: André Forget


On the frosty morning of January 30, participants at the Vital Church Planting conference at St. Paul’s Bloor Street in Toronto took some time to explore the virtues of slowing down, accepting uncertainty and embracing weakness.

The session, titled “Course Correction,” looked at the struggles new churches face in the first years after they are founded. It featured the Rev. Duke Vipperman, incumbent at the Anglican Church of the Resurrection in Toronto, Kevin Makins, founding pastor of Eucharist Church in Hamilton, Ont., the Rev. Grayhame Bowcott, founding priest of the Anglican Regional Ministry of South Huron (diocese of Huron), and Darryl Dash, leader of Liberty Grace Church in Toronto.

The Course Correction panel, inspired by the conference’s theme of the church as a ship on a journey, dealt with a question that many church plants face: what happens when you achieve your vision but it doesn’t turn out to be what you expected?

Vipperman started the session by talking about the “slow church movement.” He explained that at the first church planting conference he attended about 10 years ago, experts from the United States said to give new starts three to five years of declining revenue, then cut off the stream.

“That doesn’t work in Canadian waters,” he said. “We’re now looking at seven to 10.”

Building a community takes time, and not all of that time will necessarily feel purposeful. “You cannot create community unless you can waste time together,” he stressed. “The Rez [the Church of the Resurrection] is now a healthy resource parish with 500 on the parish list because we learned to waste time together and with our neighbours in a variety of ways.”

This was a point that Makins also noted. Reflecting on his experience planting a church in downtown Hamilton, Makins was candid about his struggle to accept that building a congregation involves time and a good deal of uncertainty.

Having originally planned for his church to be a neighbourhood church rooted in a few square blocks of the city, as it grew he began to realize it was made up of people from all over downtown Hamilton.

Although it wasn’t easy for him at first to acknowledge what was happening, he learned to accept it. “None of us really know what we’re doing. We’re all just experimenting and trying things out and trying to be faithful,” he said, adding laughingly that he found the process “strangely liberating.”

Bowcott came at the problems of growing a church from a very different place, but arrived at remarkably similar conclusions.

Working in a rural part of the diocese of Huron, Bowcott has personally seen the deconsecrating of 30 churches. But he has also seen the rebirth of one of those churches, St. Anne’s Mission Church, in Port Franks.

“When we die, we leave all the depression and all the baggage of the old church behind,” he said. “In a mission church, all of the new members get a chance to make decisions…it’s chaotic, it’s beautiful, it’s a choose-your-own-adventure Christian faithfulness.”

For Bowcott, surrendering the comfortable but failing older structures in favour of an approach to church in which the parishioners take ownership and leadership, may be unsettling, but it leads to renewed growth.

The final speaker was also the most personal. Dash spoke of his own challenges doing mission in Toronto’s up-and-coming Liberty Village neighbourhood, a part of the city thick with condominiums but “bleak” in terms of faith.

Dash spoke of the importance of accepting weaknesses and limitations as a core part of doing ministry, rather than a cause for shame. “Revel in your weakness—God loves to meet us in our weakness.”

It was a message that seemed to resonate with many of those present.

“This is probably the best conference I’ve been to—ever—and I’ve been a priest for a long time,” said the Rev. Annette Gillies, who serves the rural parishes of Holland Landing and Roches Point in the diocese of Toronto. “It’s new, it’s refreshing, and it’s not someone telling us how to do our job.”

Ken McClure, a layperson works alongside Gillies, agreed. “One of the most powerful statements this morning was that none of us know what we’re doing—we’re all in this confusing state of experimenting—but we’re doing it together.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Journal News, January 30, 2015

Inequality as injustice

Posted on: January 29th, 2015 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

 

By Leigh Anne Williams

 


American author and blogger Rachel Held Evans and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby take part in the Trinity Institute’s conference on economic inequality. Photo: Leah Reddy


Located at it is on Wall Street in Manhattan, Trinity Church was an apt place for four panelists to wrestle with the question of when inequality becomes exploitation and sin.

Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby opened the discussion, which was part of the Trinity’s Institute’s conference on Creating Common Good: A Practical Conference on Economic Inequality, Jan. 22 to 25. Examining scriptures from both the New and Old Testaments, he said, “There is an ambivalence, an acceptance of wealth as blessing and yet a hesitation, a doubt, a fear about its consequences.”

Of course, examples of people who have created great wealth and used it for the common good, such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, spring to mind and are reason to give thanks, he acknowledged. There is no biblical injunction against all personal wealth but, he said, there is an injunction against “the systematic and indefinite accumulation of grossly unequal [wealth in] societies.”  That, he said, “always leads to abuse, even if every wealthy person is generous, because the asymmetries of power means that wealth allocation becomes a matter of paternalism not a basic issue of justice.”

Putting the problem in a recent context, he recalled that in the financial collapse of October 2008, British finance minister Alistair Darling was told, after negotiations with two major banks in England, that unless he immediately underwrote a cheque for £250 billion, the banks would not open in the morning, the cash machines would not work and the whole economy would cease to function. “He looked down the barrel of that gun and realized he had no choice,” said Welby. He noted that despite this “catastrophic failure,” the banks now seek “to get back to the enormous levels of leverage and gearing and freedom from constraint totally inappropriate to an industry that can destroy an economy overnight or at least over a few weeks.”

The example, Welby said, illustrates the theological understanding that “wealth is always in danger of corrupting its holders and in most cases, the corrupted become too powerful.” He said that economists such as Lawrence Summers foresee growing inequalities that will mean a few people will be able to enjoy the benefits of new technology such as artificial intelligence and gene therapies, but the large majority of people will see their incomes stagnate. “We face the challenge of a society in which inequality of education or health and opportunity becomes a life sentence to poverty.”

Welby then joined a panel with the Anglican bishop of Panama, Julio Murray; R.R. Reno, editor of First Things magazine; and author and blogger Rachel Held Evans.

Murray said Christians must have the courage to question the system that is causing inequalities and injustice. “When you talk about economic growth, there’s no trickle-down effect to everyone within the society. What we see more and more is a smaller group getting richer and a larger group getting poorer,” he said. How the church addresses this issue “is the challenge of the time,” he added.

Murray suggested that the church needs to raise awareness of such issues, particularly “life-threatening issues,” and try to impact public policy, reaching decision makers and helping those who are marginalized make their voices heard.

Evans said that in moving Christians to take action against injustice, it’s important to get beyond speaking about sin in general and making it concrete. “It’s the dirty water and the dirty air that disproportionately affect the poor,” she said. “It’s the fact that when my black friends talk about giving their children ‘the talk,’ they don’t mean the birds and the bees, they mean they are going to talk to their children about how not to get shot. It’s in that moment when I come face to face with both the system and my complicity in it.”

Relationships are also vital, Evans said. “I used not to believe that the system was rigged. I used to think that people were poor and people struggled because they were lazy; it wasn’t until actual relationships challenged that, that I repented.”

Evans grew up in an evangelical tradition but now attends an Episcopal church. She noted that she has seen a growing interest in evangelical churches, which have more typically disproportionately emphasized personal sin, in examining systemic injustices. With that, she said she has also seen a new openness to ecumenical dialogue and partnerships with mainline churches. “We can both learn so much from one another.”

When talking about where to start taking action, Evans suggested starting close to home, in one’s own faith community. “My friend Shane Claiborne puts it like this: a lot of people talk about loving the poor, but not a lot of people know the poor. In true friendships, you kind of rely on one another,” she said. “If we can just start with our own faith communities, making them real [partners] with the poor, real communities that watch out for one another, I think that’s where it starts, and then we could cast a vision for the rest of the world.”

Welby offered this note of hope: “The church, in the grace and providence of God, holds within its hands the beauty of opportunity that can change our world, liberate the enslaved, create the conditions of human flourishing and bring in the common good.”

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Anglican Journal News, January 28, 2015