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Grant Wacker: America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation

Posted on: December 19th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

Grant Wacker: Billy Graham was a model for what Americans wanted to be

The author of “America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation” explains how the great evangelist reflected and changed 20th-century American culture.

 

The story of Billy Graham — the North Carolina dairy farmer’s son who grew up to preach to millions and hobnob with presidents — is well-known. So why write another book about him?

For historian Grant Wacker, the existing books still left some important territory unexplored.

Grant Wacker“I thought that the many biographies already written did not address one of the most interesting questions, which is the intersection between Graham and the American culture,” said Wacker, the Gilbert T. Rowe Professor of Christian History at Duke Divinity School.

In his new volume, “America’s Pastor: Billy Graham and the Shaping of a Nation,” Wacker explores these questions and also shares his experience visiting with Graham, who recently turned 96.

Graham’s appeal — particularly to white, middle-class Americans — and his sophisticated use of media helped make him one of the most powerful and revered men in the nation and the world.

Wacker spoke to Faith & Leadership about Graham and his impact on American culture. The following is an edited transcript.

Q: You say he had an uncanny ability to adopt trends and use them for his evangelical purposes. What are some examples?

He interacted with the Southernization trends. He was always proud of his Southern roots, and he made no attempt to hide them or to mask his Southern accent. He maintained a typically Southern style of self-presentation — more casual, down-home.

The second way is that he astutely understood the power of media in the post-World War II age. He understood the power of the sound bite, the crisp word, the crisp answer.

He grasped the power of electronic media, so he established the “Hour of Decision” radio and television programs. He also established Christianity Today, which is now the most widely read Christian periodical in the world.

He also was very good with reporters. He was extraordinarily handsome, and virtually all newspaper accounts in one way or another referred to his Hollywood face, his Hollywood looks — the blond hair, blue eyes and tall and athletic physique. He exercised rigorously, and he was aware of his appearance.

I think the third way he appropriated trends is that he was a great organizer. He organized the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, and he knew how to find and deploy people who could do what he could not do.

And then I would say that he was very effective at understanding the desire for building bridges. He never used the word “ecumenism,” but he pioneered the practice among evangelicals. He went out of his way to reach out to the mainline, to reach out to Roman Catholics, to Pentecostals, Mormons, Jews.

He went as far as he could, without sacrificing his own message, to emphasize the commonalities.

So unlike, let’s say, the ’70s and ’80s, where we see a deep bifurcation, in the era that Graham rose, there was a desire for the commonality.

Q: How did he influence larger culture?

I would say that what was very important especially within the evangelical world is that his personal life modeled what he preached. And whether or not Americans maintained those standards in their personal lives, they admired Graham for doing so.

He maintained an impeccable record of marital fidelity. His finances were never questioned. He stressed honesty in reporting the figures.

He won a great deal of approval because he refused to criticize or even respond to criticism. He received vitriolic criticism all his life from the left and the right and from all corners, and he refused to respond.

So I think all of these traits, habits, commitments flow together, and Americans saw him as a model for the kind of lives that they would like to live.

Q: In what other ways did he change Christian life in America? Can you say, “Before Billy Graham it was like this, and after him it was like that?”

I do not know of a firm marker. I can infer from a lot of evidence that he was instrumental in changing things in a number of ways.

The first is civil rights. He was not in the vanguard on civil rights, but he was far ahead of his constituency. He made clear that one could not be a Christian and still hold racial prejudice in one’s heart. It’s hard to measure, but he insisted from the early to mid-1950s onward, with great vigor, that racism was sin. It wasn’t just a mistake; it was sin — and that sin could not be tolerated.

The second way that I think he helped change the landscape is that to become part of the public conversation, evangelicals needed to respect their conversation partners. They needed to come to the table and respect the views of people who did not agree with them theologically.

Q: Which was different from the tradition from which he came.

It was dramatically different. In his early years, he was a purebred fundamentalist. But very quickly in his ministry, he changed. He didn’t change his own ideas very much, but there was very little that he saw as cause for disfellowshipping others.

America's PastorQ: Your book has been praised for looking at Graham evenhandedly, although you are an admirer of his and you don’t hide that. What do you think were his weaknesses and his biggest mistakes?

I would break down the question into mistakes and unproductive character traits. There were two major mistakes. The first and the more prominent one was his entanglement with Richard Nixon. He followed Nixon in the Vietnam War long after most Americans had become deeply skeptical of the warrant for the war.

And then with Watergate, he defended Nixon far beyond the time that most Americans saw that something was terribly amiss. So the first and greater problem was this vulnerability to Nixon’s malign charisma.

And the second problem also related to Nixon. In 1972, Graham was having what he thought was a private conversation in Nixon’s office, and Nixon made scurrilous statements about Jews, and Graham contributed to this conversation by saying that Jews controlled the media, and then he made other odious comments about Jews.

He was drawn into this by Nixon. I know of no other place in his entire record — among the millions of words he uttered — I know of no other place where he uttered any anti-Semitic comments.

So those were definable mistakes, and he repeatedly apologized. In later years, he regretted his involvement with Nixon. He repeatedly apologized for what he had said about Jews when it was revealed in 2002.

The character issue is that I think he never fully grasped his legitimating power, how his presence legitimated other people, other causes, and so in that sense he was naive. Now, what also has to be said here is he was a deeply humble man. Everybody said it, and I saw it in my visits with him. He couldn’t imagine himself having this power. I think that’s the heart of it. Nonetheless, he allowed this to happen, and it limited his influence.

He also enjoyed the association with power. And maybe that would be another character limitation. He was enamored with power, with the glamour of power.

For 10 consecutive presidents, he was a constant presence in Washington, and with four of the presidents he was very close. He routinely overnighted in the White House.

Q: Was there a tension in his own life between the ego and the humility?

His vision was expansionist without limitation. He wanted to preach the gospel to everyone, everywhere. He preached to more than 200 million people face to face. And until John Paul II, this was undoubtedly more people than any other person had ever faced, evangelist or otherwise.

I think there is no question that he was extremely ambitious with reference to his work, his profession. He was a very humble man personally, but sometimes those realms overlap.

Q: Graham has been criticized for not doing enough in race relations, yet he’s also been held up as being progressive. What do you think?

He grew remarkably over the course of his career. He started as a son of the South. He grew up viewing African-Americans as people who should be treated politely, but the attitude was paternalistic, and he acknowledged that.

His early crusades in the 1940s were segregated. Sometimes it was self-segregation. Sometimes they were separated by a rope down the middle. That was the evangelical tradition in the South.

By the early ’50s, this began to gnaw at him, and he admonished his own Southern Baptist Convention for their policy of not accepting African-Americans into their schools. And then in 1953, in a crusade in Chattanooga, Tennessee, he saw the ropes out there and he personally went and pulled them down.

He wavered later in that same year. The ropes went back up. And he became more cautious in the 1960s in the face of the rise of black power, but these were peregrinations in an overall trajectory that was without question a progressive one.

By 1982, he said when he was in a crusade in Moscow that he’d undergone three conversions in his life. The first was to Christ, the second was to racial justice, and the third was to nuclear disarmament.

Q: The fear of communism and Soviet power and nuclear weapons was powerful at that time.

The most dramatic change in his life was his attitude toward international affairs. In the late ’40s, the early ’50s, he was a strident anti-communist. Now, most Americans were, and most prominent Americans were, so that’s nothing unusual, but he was among the most strident, and he was unapologetic about it.

By the end of his public career, he became a strong proponent of nuclear disarmament. He felt that the human race was on the precipice of destroying itself, and the only solution was an immediate attempt to mutually disarm.

Q: Was he leading change in American culture, was he influenced by the changes around him, or was he riding the wave of change?

In most respects, he was riding the wave of change, but he was near the front end of the wave. As I said with reference to race, he was not in the vanguard. There were other evangelicals, like his brother-in-law Leighton Ford, who were on the vanguard. Graham himself was not there.

With reference to war, I think he was absolutely at the vanguard. I can’t think of any other evangelical that took a public stand as he did by the late ’70s and the ’80s.

Now, another area where he was progressive was with reference to building bridges with Roman Catholics. He was far ahead of virtually all evangelicals here. Today, that doesn’t seem so courageous. In the 1970s and the 1980s, that was courageous.

Q: How much depth did he have as a theologian and a thinker?

He was not a theologian and never pretended to be. He saw himself as an evangelist, and he defined that as a person who invited others to a Christian life.

He believed that the average person had a working vocabulary of 600 words or fewer, and so he tried to keep his vocabulary as simple as possible, his sentences short.

Now, what was the message? It was boilerplate evangelical theology: humans are broken, humans have sinned, and God has provided the means for redressing that sin through the death of Jesus Christ and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And all the people have to do is accept that gift that Christ has made possible and then to live an upright Christian life. So that was the core of it.

One of his associates said that if you’ve heard 10 of Billy’s sermons, you’ve heard them all. I would say if you’ve heard one of Billy’s sermons, you’ve heard them all, because the actual text of every sermon was John 3:16.

Q: What was the biggest discovery you made in your research for the book?

The most important part of Graham’s ministry for me in the research was the reading of a sampling of the millions of letters that people sent him.

And what one finds in reading these letters is how powerfully he changed the lives of ordinary people. They wrote to him about their problems, addictions, sexual infidelity, other kinds of lapses and failures. They wrote about their loneliness; he once said that the second-most frequent topic of the letters was loneliness. The first would be addictions.

But the majority of the letters spoke of how his preaching had helped them change their lives. It gave them a sense that they would have a second chance, with God’s help. And through Graham’s words, they found renewed courage for their lives.

This was really very gratifying for me. It was very inspiring to see how people viewed him — ordinary people, the grass roots.

For middle Americans, this is his central legacy, to provide on one hand the role of a priest confessor, someone to whom people could pour out their feelings of failure, but also, and more importantly, a person who helped people gain new orientation in their lives.

The envelopes are amazing, too. Many of the envelopes have no address. They’re addressed just as “Billy Graham,” and they get there. My favorite is the one that had a full address, but then down at the lower left it said, “In case of Rapture, never mind.”

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Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, Faith & Leadership Newsletter, December 16, 2014

WCC launches global ecumenical network for advocacy for just peace

Posted on: December 10th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

 

Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, WCC representative to the UN, at the WCC consultation in Sigtuna
Photo Credit: WCC/Magnus Aronson

[WCC] To build just and sustainable peace, engaging churches, ecumenical organizations and civil society, the World Council of Churches (WCC) has launched an Ecumenical Peace Advocacy Network (EPAN) at its conference held from 1-5 December in Sigtuna, Sweden. The work of the EPAN aims to turn into concrete actions the theme “pilgrimage of justice and peace” described in a call issued by the WCC Busan Assembly in 2013.

The WCC consultation and workshop on Peace-building and Advocacy for Just Peace was hosted by the Church of Sweden, the Uniting Church in Sweden, and the Christian Council of Sweden. More than 80 ecumenical advocacy experts, church leaders, as well as civil society and United Nations partners from 37 different countries, took part in the event.

“This consultation intended to create programme synergies and develop collaboration methods, sharing best practices and lessons learned in peace-building, conflict prevention and advocacy for peace,” said Rudelmar Bueno de Faria, WCC representative to the UN in New York.

The workshop focused on a framework for advocacy for peace, as well as practical strategies and tools required to support coordinated international advocacy for a peaceful world. Such a strategy would be employed by ecumenical organizations, including the WCC and its member churches, the ACT Alliance members, national councils of churches and other partners from civil society.

Buena de Faria added: “The consultation and workshop have been seen by the WCC as part of the wider pilgrimage of justice and peace, and have served as a base for an intentional process to equip the ecumenical movement to play a more meaningful and effective role in advocacy for just peace”.

“As a follow-up to the consultation and workshop, two events will be organized in 2015 in Africa and the Middle East with the purpose of preparing advocacy strategies and plans to promote just peace, reconciliation and conflict prevention,” he added.

Bueno de Faria said: “The new Ecumenical Peace Advocacy Network is a great opportunity for churches to act collectively to address issues related to peace on a global level. Churches and ecumenical organization have the responsibility to mobilize themselves on specific peace issues and influence processes that brings about lasting and just peace”.

Bueno de Faria underlined that the events brought together passionate and committed peace-builders who have shared experiences and discerned together the best way to promote peace, also considering important aspects such as gender-based violence, youth and women’s engagement in peace-building and interfaith cooperation for peace”.

“We need each other, if we want to see global changes. We need networking on prioritized global peace issues and effective advocacy work to promote peace among the peoples,” said Geronimo Desumala III, advocacy officer at the WCC UN office in New York.

Bueno de Faria concluded, “The engagement of the ecumenical movement in peace-building and advocacy for peace is sine-qua-non to promote and ensure peace with justice. The WCC’s understanding of the pilgrimage of justice and peace is the framework which will inform our actions for advocacy for just peace.”

Christians are called to be peacemakers and to build just peace (WCC news release of 2 December 2014)

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Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), December 10, 2014

Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order (IASCUFO) Communique (10 December 2014)

Posted on: December 10th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

 

 

The Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order met at the Ecumenical Centre, Chateau de Bossey, Switzerland, 3 to 10 December 2014.

For the first time an Anglican Communion Commission met in the ecumenical context of the historic city of Geneva. IASCUFO met with staff leadership of the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, and students and staff of the Bossey Ecumenical Institute, where the meetings were held.

On Sunday the members worshipped in three parishes: Holy Trinity Church (Diocese in Europe); Emmanuel Church (Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe); and St Germain (Swiss Old Catholic Diocese of the Union of Utrecht). They are all in full communion with each other. As always the Commission celebrated daily Eucharist, and prayed the offices. Bible study engaged the First Letter of John.

The Commission benefited from hearing stories from the provinces of the Communion represented, and time spent with the students and Director of the Bossey Institute. IASCUFO is grateful to all who showed hospitality to the Commission.

The ecumenical context shaped this meeting: we enjoyed hearing first-hand from the Rev. Dr Kaisamari Hintikka and her colleagues in the LWF Department of Theology & Public Witness about their work. This included plans for the commemoration of 2017 (marking the 500th anniversary of the publication of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses).

At the WCC members of IASCUFO heard about inter-religious dialogue, about mission and evangelism, and about the unity statement from the 2013 Busan, Korea Assembly of the WCC.

The WCC Deputy General Secretary, Yorgo Lemopoulos, spoke to the members of IASCUFO in light of the WCC Busan Assembly: Missionary Perspective in the 21st century. ‘We can understand ourselves as fortresses, and heritage concerns feed this, but the alternative is to see the Church as a missionary body going to the world. Hence the question, how can I better work with others?’

At Bossey the Commission heard from the Methodist co-chair of the Anglican-Methodist dialogue in Aotearoa New Zealand, the Revd Tony Franklin-Ross, currently a post-graduate student at the Bossey Institute. The Commission reviewed requests from the Church of Ceylon and the Anglican Church of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia for advice on the deepening of ecumenical relations in their regions. The Commission prepared and adopted a report on the interchangeability of ordained ministries.

The Commission celebrated the Agreed Statement on Christology from the Anglican-Oriental Orthodox International Commission.

The working group devoted to Communion life considered how Anglicans read Scripture, commit to a life of prayer, and engage in mission. Reflecting on our Instruments of Communion we recognized the importance for our life together as a Communion of engagement with Scripture, the Eucharist, and prayer. The theme of communion and mission underlines the rhythm of being called into relationship and sent out to serve the world. The WCC document, The Church: Towards a Common Vision, reminded us of the insight that communion is the gift by which the Church lives as well as the gift God calls the Church to offer to a divided and wounded humanity.

The working group on theological anthropology has chosen to begin their theological inquiry with the question Where is humanity hurting? The report on theological anthropology is one of the resources being prepared for ACC-16 which will meet in the Province of Central Africa.

This was the last meeting for the Revd Canon Dr Alyson Barnett-Cowan as Director for Unity, Faith and Order. The Commission is enormously grateful for Alyson’s superb and dedicated leadership, support and guidance of the Commission from its inception.

The next meeting will take place 2–9 December 2015 in a place to be determined.

Present at the Bossey meeting

The Most Revd Bernard Ntahoturi, Province of the Anglican Church of Burundi, and Chair of the Commission
The Revd Professor Paul Avis, Church of England
The Revd Sonal Christian, Church of North India
The Revd Canon Dr John Gibaut, World Council of Churches
The Rt Revd Dr Howard Gregory, The Church in the Province of the West Indies
The Revd Professor Katherine Grieb, The Episcopal Church (USA)
The Rt Revd Kumara Illangasinghe, Church of Ceylon, Sri Lanka
The Rt Revd William Mchombo, Church of the Province of Central Africa
The Revd Canon Dr Sarah Rowland Jones, Church in Wales
The Rt Revd Victoria Matthews, Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia
The Revd Canon Dr Charlotte Methuen, Scottish Episcopal Church/Church of England
The Rt Revd Prof Stephen Pickard, Anglican Church of Australia
The Revd Dr Jeremiah Guen Seok Yang, The Anglican Church of Korea
The Revd Canon Dr Alyson Barnett-Cowan, Director for Unity, Faith and Order
The Revd Neil Vigers, Anglican Communion Office.

Not present at the meeting:

The Rt Revd Dr Georges Titre Ande
The Rt Revd Prof. Dapo Asaju
The Revd Canon Clement Janda
The Revd Dr Edison Kalengyo
The Revd Canon Dr Simon Oliver
Prof. Andrew Pierce
The Revd Canon Dr Michael Nai Chiu Poon
The Most Revd Hector Zavala

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Anglican Communion News Service (ACNS), December 10, 2014

First Nations need more than a ‘band-aid solution’

Posted on: November 28th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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By André Forget

 

Shawn Atleo, former National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, visits one of the homes in Pikangikum that received a new water system. Photo: Bob White.

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A project funded by Anglicans to provide water facilities for 10 houses in Pikangikum First Nation, a fly-in reserve located 500 km northwest of Thunder Bay, Ont., has succeeded in turning on the taps, but the work of advocacy is just beginning.

Grassroots Anglican group Pimatisiwin Nipi (Oji-Cree for “Living Water”) has been working in conjunction with other concerned partners such as the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the Pikangikum First Nation Working Group (PFNWG), Frontier Foundations and the Pikangikum First Nation itself to provide water to the community of roughly 450 households, 430 of which lack indoor plumbing.

The households that received new facilities had been ascertained by the band council as being in serious need. Most people in the community have to get their water from central outdoor distribution points served by a water treatment facility.

While many First Nations communities living on reserve struggle with similar problems, Pikangikum has become metonymic for the dismal standard of living many indigenous Canadians experience. The community of over 2,400 people, the majority of them under age 25, has been plagued by an extraordinarily high suicide rate: between 2001 to 2009, there were 58 suicides and 481 attempted suicides, according to an Ontario coroner’s report in 2011. In 2000, the British sociologist Colin Samson, an expert in First Nations communities in Canada, declared Pikangikum to have the highest suicide rate in the world.

The project began back in 2011 when then-deputy chief coroner Dr. Bert Lauwers, who had been sent to Pikangikum to investigate the suicides of 16 young people between 2006 to 2008, called for the creation of a group of volunteers to work in solidarity with the Pikangikum First Nation to develop long-term solutions to the community’s problems.

Bob White—a Catholic member of the Toronto Area Interfaith Council and Toronto Urban Native Ministry and management consultant for sustainable development consulting firm BRI International—became involved, and in consultation with Pikangikum created PFNWG.

The group decided the best way to contend with the despair and frustration felt by many of the young people would to be address some of the underlying infrastructure issues that have made life in the community difficult, and the band council noted that water was one of the key needs.

At the same time, the group that would become Pimatisiwin Nipi was forming in southern Ontario around the question of water as a spiritual issue. They approached National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald, who was also involved with PFNWG, to ask how they could help indigenous communities struggling to secure adequate water facilities, and he put them in touch with Bob White and PFNWG. At this point, PWRDF was also brought on to manage the project.

With the support of many individual Anglicans and parishes across the country, Pimatisiwin Nipi were able to raise around $100,000 toward the project through the Advent Conspiracy, a grassroots ecumenical initiative that encourages Christians to spend less money on presents at Christmas and more time with family and then donate the money saved to projects that help those in need.

When the Journal contacted Bob White, he explained that the original plan was to have the federal government match the money raised. However, despite the fact that providing water resources to First Nations reserves is a federal responsibility, and the fact that PWRDF and PFNWG were implementing a system that would allow them to provide water for a fraction of the price that government quotes had suggested, the government backed out. “They said that they didn’t have enough money at the time,” White recalls.

Fortunately, the Frontier Foundation, a charitable development company based in Toronto, stepped in to fill the gap. Together, all the partners were able to provide clean water and waste water facilities to 10 households, at a cost of roughly $20,000 a house.

The federal government said it would cost around $80 million (roughly $200,000 per unit) to install a comprehensive system that would pipe water from the treatment plant to every home in the community, said White. PFNWG and PWRDF were able to undercut this per-unit cost by using a system in which homes are given individual water tanks that are serviced weekly by a water truck.

Attempts were made by the Journal to contact both the band council of Pikangikum First Nation and the department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, but neither was able to respond with a comment by press time.

But while water is now being provided successfully to 10 homes, hundreds are still going without, and MacDonald was quick to point out that this is not something that Anglicans and other members of civil society should have to do in the first place. “We are very concerned about getting our government to honour its commitments and responsibilities in terms of providing clean water to Canadian communities—especially indigenous communities,” he said. “We are providing emergency help to a community that has requested it. Our urgency in asking the government is even more important.”

Carolyn Vanderlip, director of PWRDF’s Canadian Anglican Partnership Program, underscored the project’s limitations. “It’s not just water, it’s housing, it’s schools. It’s just a lack of concern [on behalf of the government] for what’s happening in these communities…outfitting 10 homes with water does not solve the problem…”

For that reason, Pimatisiwin Nipi is getting involved in advocacy as well, lobbying for the government to live up to its responsibilities rather than simply trying to raise funds for “a band-aid solution.”

The Rev. Martha Tatarnic, who serves at St. George’s Anglican Church in the diocese of Niagara and has been involved with the initiative from the beginning, said that the advocacy aspect of the work will be especially important in the context of next year’s federal election. “We’ve written letters to our MPs, and we’re hoping to get in touch with them following the election to let them know that this is a priority for us.”

For their part, Pimitasiwin Nipi will continue to raise funds for water relief in Pikangikum.

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Anglican Journal News, November 28, 2014

‘The public square has been emptied out’

Posted on: November 27th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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By André Forget   Catholic scholar and activist Mary Jo Leddy speaks on the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Canadian Council of Churches. Photo: André Forget.


In celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) on November 19,  prominent Catholic scholar and activist Mary Jo Leddy spoke about the challenges the 21st century church faces in a world where the importance of common space and the public good has diminished.

The event, “Faith in the Public Square,” was, quite appropriately, held at the Anglican Church of the Redeemer in downtown Toronto, a building which literally stands within a city block of the University of Toronto, Queen’s Park, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the upscale neighbourhood of Yorkville, one of Canada’s wealthiest stretches of street.

While bad weather kept away many members of the CCC, which was meeting in Mississauga, Ont., many clergy, laypeople, and citizens from a variety of backgrounds came out to hear Leddy speak.

Leddy, who founded and wrote for the Catholic New Times in the 1970s and went on to found the Toronto-based refugee aid organization Romero House in 1992, began the lecture with an anecdote from her childhood in Saskatoon, where Protestants and Catholics lived together in a kind of vaguely hostile mutual ignorance. She praised the ways in which the ecumenical movement and the CCC have worked hard to overcome these barriers of ignorance and distrust in order to work for justice and peace.

She went on to add, however, that the CCC “is taken for granted by the vast majority of people in our country.” While the churches may speak in the public square, “the question now is who is listening.”

This is the problem to which Leddy returned throughout her lecture; while the CCC is a witness of Christian unity, and speaks on behalf of its members on many social issues, that doesn’t necessarily matter in a post-modern world where, as she put it, “you can say ‘this is what I believe’ and the answer can be ‘yeah, whatever.’”

Leddy argued that while it would be “all too easy to go on at some length about how the church itself is responsible for some of its loss of voice in the public square,” the church’s struggle for relevancy is tied to a decrease in public engagement in a country where “the public square has been emptied out.”

Speaking of political changes that have taken place over the past decades under the aegis of various political parties, Leddy argued that the public square is increasingly controlled and manipulated to serve the interests of those in power, which in turn has led to a growing cynicism about politics on the part of the general population. “The heart of the matter is that the churches, like many other people in this country, have actually lost faith in the public square itself.”

In this kind of a political climate, all voices of authority are viewed with suspicion, and so, Leddy noted, “the churches may be speaking, but the effect in the public square is not obvious.”

But Leddy also saw hope, particularly in her interactions with the volunteers and interns working at Romero House. Leddy suggested that there is still a hunger to make the world better, but that for the younger generations words alone are viewed with suspicion. The questions they are asking, she said, are about action. She said that she frequently hears “we know what the churches say, but we don’t take it seriously; because we look at how the people live, and when we say how they live we know they don’t mean what they say.”

For Leddy, the conclusion was quite clear: it is not enough for the CCC to simply deliver statements in support or condemnation of things. “I think in this post-modern culture, only our lives give weight to our words.” ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ Anglican Journal News, November 26, 2014

Conference targets ugly reality of human trafficking

Posted on: November 27th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
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By Diana Swift

 

The Rev. Canon Alice Medcof, conference moderator, and Glendene Grant, an Anglican from Calgary, who spoke about the personal impact of human trafficking in her life.      Photo: Contributed


 

Each year, millions of children, women and men are trafficked into forced labour, domestic servitude and sex. It’s a multi-billion dollar global business, and estimates of the number of Canadians lost annually to this trade range as high as 16,000.

Human trafficking—for which Canada is a country of source, transit and destination—was front and centre at a conference held Nov. 14 at the Sorrento Retreat Centre in Sorrento, B.C.—a week after Canada’s new prostitution law, Bill C-36, received royal assent. Sponsored by the International Anglican Women’s Network (IAWN) Canada in partnership with the Compass Rose Society of Canada, the event attracted about 50 people, lay and clergy.

The emotional core of the conference was the story of its first speaker, Glendene Grant of Calgary, whose “typical girl next door” daughter Jessie Foster was forced into prostitution in the U.S. at age 20. She had gone on vacation to New York and Atlantic City with a trusted male friend she’d known since she was 15. Unbeknownst to Jessie, the smooth-talking friend had become a sex trade recruiter, and she ended up in a house in Las Vegas, coerced into sexual captivity.

Grant has not seen her daughter since Christmas Day 2005 and has not spoken to her since April 2006. Thanks to her mother’s efforts, Jessie’s case received wide media attention in the U.S., but to no avail. “I think she may have been murdered or moved out to another country,” said Grant. She has since worked tirelessly to prevent others from meeting her daughter’s fate, founding the organization MATH, Mothers Against Human Trafficking.

“I was totally ignorant that such a thing could happen so easily and effortlessly,” said the Rev. Canon Dr. Alice Medcof, conference moderator and ecclesiastical province of Canada link for IAWN.

Joy Smith, a Winnipeg MP, noted that traffickers make up to $280,00 per victim. “It’s second only to the drug trade in profits, and it’s happening in every community” she said. And young middle-class girls are quite susceptible. “They are easy to convince, easy to scare, easy to shame. It’s a gigantic manipulative game.”

Sister of Charity Nancy Brown, an advocate for young people at risk for sexual exploitation, outlined programs and services offered by Covenant House and the Salvation Army. She called the conference important in light of changes to Canada’s prostitution laws. “These new laws will only be effective if they are implemented in the community, said Brown. “Education of the public will be key. This conference was a good starting point for educating members of the faith community as to their particular roles in advocacy.”

TV coverage of the event by CFJC Kamloops can be viewed online. In the coming months, IAWN’s website will make available a free e-book with conference presentations, reference materials and reflections from participants.

The world’s faith leaders are joining the efforts against human trafficking. In March, the Vatican, the Anglican Communion and the Grand Imam of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University signed an accord to work to end this global scourge by 2020. “The Archbishop of Canterbury would like every parish across the Anglican Communion to be having a conversation about human trafficking. It’s the number one concern,” said Medcof.

—with files from Mary Margaret Dempster

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Anglican Journal News, November 26, 2014

Blessings in Disguise

Posted on: November 26th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
Books, Reviews

 

The Unfashionable Genius of Marilynne Robinson

In her essay “When I Was a Child I Read Books,” the novelist Marilynne Robinson describes how, growing up in northern Idaho in the 1950s, she “preferred books that were old and thick and hard.” Reading was, for Robinson, a portal to a time and place before and beyond her own. Books introduced her to ancient splendors: “I knew a good deal about Constantinople and the Cromwell revolution and chivalry.” The old-fashioned nature of her reading, its discontinuity with her own experience, was part of the enchantment. As she writes, “Relevance was precisely not an issue for me. I looked to Galilee for meaning and to Spokane for orthodonture.”

This sense of willed anachronism should be familiar to readers of Robinson’s work. She has pointed to nineteenth-century American writers like Dickinson and Melville as her most cherished influences (“her old aunts and uncles,” she has called them), and Robinson’s writing can seem as if it emerged, Rip Van Winkle–like, from an earlier time.

Robinson told me in an e-mail exchange that “the modern period has succeeded much too well in putting aside metaphysics.” Her own work tries to correct this. Her novels—Housekeeping, Gilead, Home, and now Lila—are slow, meditative, and religious, more Ralph Waldo Emerson than Zadie Smith. The last three all take place in Eisenhower-era America, long before the Great Recession or subprime mortgages. In her writing as in her reading, relevance—that is, making her novels of their specific moment—is not a priority for Robinson.

To her fans—and there are many, from the New Yorker’s book critic James Wood to Barack Obama—Robinson shows that old-fashioned virtues like seriousness and simplicity are still, in fact, virtues. To her detractors—and there are some—Robinson’s work is stylistically accomplished but frustratingly backward-looking, ignoring much of what has happened, both fictionally and socially, over the past three decades. In a recent essay, the writer Jess Row described Robinson’s characters as “quirky, salt-of-the-earth, hardworking folks, nearly all of whom happen to be white.” They are, in short, characters from an earlier America, if not an imaginary one. On this view, Robinson is an accomplished novelist of nostalgia.

Such criticism makes sense only if you think that fiction lives or dies by its explicit engagement with contemporary life. Relevance isn’t the only aesthetic criterion, and social realism isn’t the only defensible literary style. As Henry James writes, “The house of fiction has…not one window, but a million.” Not every writer has to be Jonathan Franzen.

Robinson doesn’t write social realism, but that doesn’t mean she ignores social existence. Her new novel, Lila, is a sustained examination of what it means to live within and without community. Neglected as a child and raised by a wanderer, the main character, Lila, lives an itinerant life on the margins of mid-century America. Such freedom can be exhilarating. It can also be painful. Lila knows homelessness and despair, and this knowledge shapes how she reacts to future gentleness. When she marries a kind preacher and moves into the small community of Gilead, Iowa, she can’t help but pull back: “That was loneliness. When you’re scalded, touch hurts, it makes no difference if it’s kindly meant.” Few novelists write better about the attractions of solitude, but Robinson acknowledges that it comes at a cost.

What most distinguishes Robinson from her peers, however, isn’t her lack of interest in writing an “issues” novel. It’s her deeply felt, deeply reasoned, deeply committed Calvinism. In essays, lectures, interviews, and novels, Robinson has returned again and again to the beauty of Calvin’s thought. For her, Calvin’s much-maligned doctrine of total depravity actually shows how loving God is: Despite our weakness and sinfulness, God loves and sustains us at every moment. Total depravity, Robinson argues in an introduction to Calvin’s writings, is really about God’s unfathomable condescension: “It is as if we were to find a tender solicitude toward us in the fact that the great energy that rips galaxies apart also animates our slightest thoughts. It is as if we were to propose that that great energy only exists to make possible our miraculously delicate participation in it.”

This “tender solicitude,” Robinson writes, is “continuous, unmediated,” and directed at “individual consciousness.” Robinson is firmly Protestant in taste: she told me she prefers Milton to Dante, Augustine to Aquinas. I suspect that this is because of Protestantism’s focus on the individual believer and his or her direct access to divine grace. God, Robinson writes, is “at the very center of individual experience and presence.” Robinson finds herself most moved by those thinkers who take individual experience most seriously.

Faith, Robinson argues, is a “great, continuous instruction in perception itself,” and to perceive correctly is to see “that the beauty that floods our senses has the meaning of vision and revelation.” Robinson is a realist, but she’s a visionary realist: a writer who senses that the real—the world we experience in our bodies and in our consciousness—is awash with divine meaning and intention.

ROBINSON WAS BORN IN 1943 in Sandpoint, Idaho, a world of mountains and lakes that continually reminded her of her own smallness: in such a landscape, she writes in “Psalm Eight,” she seemed “a mote of exception, improbable as a flaw in the sun.” In the early 1960s, she attended Pembroke College, then the women’s college at Brown, where she worked with John Hawkes—a writer whose postmodern fiction could hardly be more different from the novels Robinson would go on to write. She then studied for a PhD in English at the University of Washington. Unsurprisingly, she chose to write on an unfashionable text: Shakespeare’s Henry VI, Part II.

While researching and writing, Robinson started jotting down metaphors on scraps of paper. “After I had finished my dissertation,” she told the Paris Review, “I read through the stack of metaphors and they cohered in a way that I hadn’t expected. I could see that I had created something that implied much more.” That much more was Housekeeping. Robinson began working in earnest on the novel and, in 1981, it was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It is one of the most astonishing debuts in recent literary history.

Housekeeping tells the story of Ruth, a fierce, lonesome girl raised by a series of female relatives in the town of Fingerbone, Idaho. From its first words—“My name is Ruth”—Robinson declared her epic ambitions: to write a female Moby-Dick of the American West, exploring the bonds of community and the lure of isolation, the visionary nature of perception and memory.

At first glance, Housekeeping doesn’t look much like a traditional religious novel. The work seems unconcerned with theology, and Ruthie doesn’t go to church. So it isn’t surprising that critics paid more attention to the work’s wild metaphoricity than to its metaphysical roots. Housekeeping is Christian like much of nineteenth-century American writing was Christian: in its Calvinist oscillation between despair and ecstasy, in its regular recourse to images of death and resurrection, in its sense that what we see is, in Ruth’s words, “a sheet dropped over the world’s true workings.”

Robinson’s second novel, Gilead, did not come out until 2004, twenty-three years after Housekeeping. Despite the gap, Robinson was hardly idle during this time. In 1991 she joined the faculty of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where she still teaches today. It’s a rich irony that Robinson, who has said she doesn’t read much contemporary fiction besides the work of her students, has helped shape so many promising young writers, including Paul Harding (author of Tinkers), Chris Adrian (The Children’s Hospital), and Leslie Jamison (The Empathy Exams). Robinson told me that teaching has given her a renewed appreciation for writing’s many difficulties: “I have learned as much respect for the writers who, to all appearances, fail to master the art as for the ones who excel in it. It is simply so difficult to do, and they are all so exposed in making the attempt.” In between her first two novels, Robinson also wrote two exemplary works of nonfiction: a collection of essays, The Death of Adam, and a polemic against Britain’s disposal of nuclear waste, Mother Country. But she didn’t publish any fiction, and so Gilead was received with intense expectation.

Gilead puts the lie to those critics who say that contemporary fiction doesn’t engage seriously with religion. It shows how Christianity is both a lived practice and a system of belief, a deposit of artistic riches and an endless source of intellectual exploration. The novel’s language is soaked in voices from Christianity’s past: Augustine and Donne, Herbert and Hopkins, Bonhoeffer and Barth. Here is its opening sentence:

I told you last night that I might be gone sometime, and you said, Where, and I said, To be with the Good Lord, and you said, Why, and I said, Because I’m old, and you said, I don’t think you’re old.

We soon learn that the time is 1956, that the speaker is an elderly Congregationalist minister named John Ames, and that Ames is speaking to his seven-year-old son. More precisely, he’s writing to his son: Ames, seventy-six years old, knows that he will not see his son grow up and so decides to put his thoughts down on paper. The novel is, in the old sense of the word, a reckoning: an account of Ames’s life as a preacher in Gilead, Iowa, of his Christian faith, of his early widowhood and late rediscovery of love, and of the ways history has touched him and his family. (Ames’s grandfather was a radical abolitionist in the Civil War, his father a pacifist during World War I.)

Gilead is a startlingly beautiful novel. On almost every page, you find yourself marveling at how inevitable and right each sentence sounds, at Robinson’s exquisite control of cadence and imagery. Beyond its stylistic brilliance, Gilead makes a fundamentally good man seem interesting, and part of what makes Ames so interesting is his willingness to talk intelligently about matters of faith—in particular, his willingness to talk about the sacraments.

When I asked Robinson about the sacraments, she said that they were “a little hard to write about.” Despite this difficulty, Ames does it well. Here he remembers an incident from his childhood, when he and some friends baptized a litter of kittens:

I still remember how those warm little brows felt under the palm of my hand. Everyone has petted a cat, but to touch one like that, with the pure intention of blessing it, is a very different thing. It stays in the mind. For years we would wonder what, from a cosmic viewpoint, we had done to them. It still seems to me to be a real question. There is a reality in blessing, which I take baptism to be, primarily. It doesn’t enhance sacredness, but it acknowledges it, and there is a power in that. I have felt it pass through me, so to speak. The sensation is of really knowing a creature, I mean really feeling its mysterious life and your own mysterious life at the same time.

In this passage, we have both a description of sacramentality and an enactment of it. If, for Ames, to bless is to acknowledge creation’s mysterious life, then Robinson here blesses her readers: we are left with a sense of wonder before the world’s splendor. Robinson wrote to me that the sacraments “are an utterance above language, the kindest deed ever done, the purest gesture of love ever made.” Robinson, through Ames, gets close to capturing in language the mystery and majesty of baptism.

GILEAD EMBODIES ROBINSON’S aesthetic of wonder—her sense that humility before the vastness of the world and our experience of it is the proper attitude for the artist to take. Robinson’s moral and imaginative vision could serve as a gloss on the opening of Psalm 19: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”

For Robinson, if creation is wondrous, it is no less wondrous that we are able to appreciate it. I asked her about the relationship between beauty and pain in the Christian vision, and she responded:

The life and death of Christ are addressed precisely to the fact that beloved humankind are, in greater and lesser degrees, sad and erring creatures, often enough bitter and mean-spirited creatures. Yet here is brilliant Creation shining all around us, and here are our own brilliant gifts of thought and perception to let us enjoy it and celebrate it.

Thought and perception are gifts because they allow us to appreciate the giftedness of all creation.

For Ames, there is a connection between the work of the mind and the work of the soul. “For me writing has always felt like praying.” Memory becomes a religious faculty, too: “Sometimes the visionary aspect of any particular day comes to you in the memory of it, or it opens to you over time.” Nowadays we are often reminded that memory is a flawed instrument, prone to errors of omission and distortion. Gilead makes a subtler argument: yes, memory is imperfect, but it’s nevertheless the best instrument we have for exploring the richness of our experience. The mind is continually re-examining the past, looking for new aspects of old events, finding significance in neglected details. Robinson told me that “among the twentieth-century poets Wallace Stevens is the one I return to” most often. Gilead shows that, as Stevens puts it, “It can never be satisfied, the mind, never,” and this endless curiosity is, to use one of Ames’s favorite words, remarkable.

If writing/remembering is a kind of intellectual prayer, then gracefully moving through the world is a kind of bodily prayer. We see this everywhere in Gilead, from Robinson’s loving descriptions of a young boy’s game of catch to Ames’s delight in preparing grilled-cheese sandwiches. Because of his own weakening body, Ames is better able to appreciate the pleasures of effortless physical exertion, and better able to recognize in physical grace a suggestion of divine grace.

THIS ANALOGY BETWEEN physical and divine grace is even more important in Home, Robinson’s 2008 follow-up to Gilead. Home centers on the same town at the same time, but it takes as its main character Glory Boughton, the daughter of Ames’s best friend and fellow preacher, the Rev. Robert Boughton. Glory makes a brief, inconspicuous appearance in Gilead; in Home Robinson shifts her to the center, and this decision makes an aesthetic and theological point. Every character, Robinson suggests, is both a potential fictional protagonist and a being that has been created in the image of God. (This argument receives further support in Lila, which once again approaches the same story from a different angle—this time from the perspective of Ames’s young wife.)

Home is a sadder, more restrained book than Gilead. It’s less brilliant, but it’s after something other than brilliance. Glory hasn’t led a particularly happy life. After a failed relationship, she’s thirty-eight and living again in her childhood home. Though intelligent, she is not as brilliant or well read as Ames. Besides, she has other concerns: throughout the novel, she’s dealing both with her father’s failing health and with the many frustrations associated with her mischievous, occasionally mean brother Jack, who has just come back to Gilead after years spent elsewhere. The central question of Gilead is: How can we make our love felt when we are no longer around to express it? The central question of Home is: How can we make our love felt when we are there to express it, but those we love do their best to escape or frustrate us?

For Glory, the way to grace is through hospitality, through caring even for those who resist her care. Especially for those. Glory tends to her father’s dying body and to her brother’s broken spirit. The most seemingly banal activities—cooking dinner, bathing her father—become ways of acknowledging the sacredness of this world and of her difficult family.

In Gilead, the physical world is shown to be a sign of God’s grace in scenes that could come from a Terrence Malick movie: light shines through a window onto an old church floor; water falls from a tree after a brief rain shower. But in Home, Robinson sees the domestic sphere, the world of cooking and cleaning and eating and mending, as a way into the imaginative and religious sublime. In one remarkable scene, Glory cuts her father’s hair:

So she clipped and trimmed, making more work of it than it was in order to satisfy him that some change had been accomplished, combing it down a little with water so he would feel sleek and trim. The nape of his neck, the backs of his ears. The visible strain of holding the great human head upright for decades and decades…. At the end of so much effort, the neck seemed frail, but the head was still lifted up, and the ears stood there, still shaped for attention, soft as they were. She’d have left all the lovely hair, which looked like gentle bewilderment, just as the lifted head and the ears looked like waiting grown old, like trust grown old.

In Gilead, Ames writes that grace is “a sort of ecstatic fire that takes things down to essentials.” Home shows that grace works not just in the ecstatic but in the ordinary—in the daily tasks of living for and loving one another. Or, as Robinson wrote to me, “If hospitality is an essential Christian value, then the smaller hospitalities we give to our families are only more essential. I do think that the means we are given to please and nourish and comfort bear a more than accidental resemblance to the means of grace.”

Robinson’s novels seldom end where we think they will, or even where we hope they might. In Housekeeping, Ruth burns down her house and her old life with it, leaving whatever minimal comforts of domestic life she may have experienced and joining her aunt Sylvie in a tramp’s life. On the final, stunning page of Gilead, Ames writes, “I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep,” followed by silence. We don’t know if he has died or just become too weak to write, and we don’t know what will happen to his young wife and son. In Home, Jack leaves Gilead, just missing his father’s death and a longed-for reunion with his beloved, and Glory is left alone.

ROBINSON TOLD ME THAT “it seems excessively fictional to really ‘end’ a story,” adding that she feels that her “novels end themselves—that after a certain point they begin to close themselves against me, so that any invention that might prolong them would be an imposition.” And yet the story Robinson first told in Gilead has reopened itself twice, first in Home and now in Lila. The new novel is, once again, piercing and beautiful, but in a very different way. Lila’s life before Ames was rough from the very beginning, as we learn in the book’s first sentences: “The child was just there on the stoop in the dark, hugging herself against the cold, all cried out and nearly sleeping. She couldn’t holler anymore and they didn’t hear her anyway, or they might and that would make things worse.” Soon Lila will be rescued—kidnapped, technically—by a loving drifter named Doll.

Over the years, Doll and Lila move throughout the country, hunting after day labor and moving on when money and work dry up. They find solace in physical work and in the makeshift community that arises among the downtrodden: “She liked to hear people tell stories. The saddest ones were best.” It’s almost as if Robinson has shown us what the future of Ruth and Sylvie from Housekeeping might actually look like.

Lila’s settings are harsh (a St. Louis brothel, an abandoned house on the outside of town), as are the narrated events (abandonment, murder). The novel is written in the third person, but it’s an extremely close third person, with Lila’s mode of speaking and thinking continually inflecting the narrative voice. Unlike Glory and certainly unlike Ames, Lila is uneducated, and she alternatively laments and celebrates the fact that she doesn’t have the words to describe the world as it appears to her. Here is an example of the kind of simple language that Lila presents:

It was still early enough that Lila had to pound on the shop door. She was so desperate to get out of the dress she was wearing, it didn’t matter what she found there if she just had the money to pay for it. And then the woman said to her, when she had taken a look at her, tried to get a look at her face, So what happened? You had a baby? Lila said, No, I didn’t, and the woman studied her sidelong, the blood on her skirt where it showed below the hem of her coat, on her shoes, thinking she knew better, and said, Never mind. None of my business.

Gone are Ruthie’s ecstatic visions, Ames’s gentle melodies, Glory’s biblical cadences. Instead, we have Lila’s wounded and enduring voice.

If Gilead was about sacrament and Home about hospitality, then Lila is about the meaning of affliction. It harrows rather than enraptures, and because of this Lila makes for less pleasurable reading than either Gilead or Home. Reading Lila’s account of her courtship with Ames—how she deliberately met his kindness with Jack-like meanness, how she considered running away even when pregnant—makes you realize how much Ames edited out of his own account. This forced recalibration can be disturbing, like the moment when you realize that your parents are imperfect, that they have baggage and weaknesses all their own.

Yet even amid the pain, Lila provides scenes in which grace shines through. The final pages, where Lila gives birth during an Iowa snowstorm, are as strange and powerful as anything Robinson has ever written. That scene and the novel as a whole recall a passage from Gilead:

Augustine says the Lord loves each of us as an only child, and that has to be true: “He will wipe the tears from all faces.” It takes nothing from the loveliness of the verse to say that is exactly what will be required.

The Lord’s comfort, Ames suggests, doesn’t erase the sorrow we’ve felt. Rather, it acknowledges it and makes it bearable. At some mysterious level, it even makes it beautiful. Lila dramatizes this truth.

For some time now, Robinson has been our most singular writer, defying contemporary trends and carving out her own distinctive place within American literature. Reading Lila alongside Housekeeping shows just how varied Robinson’s achievement has been: she’s written about the plainness of Iowa and the wildness of Idaho, created one voice that echoes Herbert in its plain grandeur and another that rivals Dickinson in its imaginative extravagance. But there is a unity to all of Robinson’s work, and this is part of what makes her so great. Her writing expresses a consistent and compelling vision of the world—a vision that sees the real as revelatory, the everyday as wondrous, Spokane as leading to Galilee.

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Leadership Education at Duke Divinity, News & Ideas, November 04, 2014

‘We can hold that diversity’

Posted on: November 24th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

 

By Leigh Anne Williams

 

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he was encouraged by the commitment expressed by the bishops at their recent meeting. “We are not going to agree on everything but we can do that in a way that doesn’t fracture the body.”                                                           

Photo: Leigh Anne Williams

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When the House of Bishops met at the Mount Carmel retreat centre in Niagara Falls, Ont., from Nov. 17 to 21, the agenda included discussion of some big issues—the controversial proposed amendment to the marriage canon to allow for same-sex marriage, end-of-life issues and the role of the house itself in the church. They also discussed a call from the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) for the church to allow room for new governance structures that would align better with aboriginal approaches to decision-making.

In an interview with the Anglican Journal after the meeting, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, acknowledged that “within this meeting and this house and this church, there’s a huge amount of anxiety” about the proposed amendment to the marriage canon. But at the end of their meeting, Hiltz said that he felt encouraged by the tenor of the bishops’ discussions.

Bishops Stephen Andrews (Algoma), William Anderson (Caledonia), Michael Hawkins (Saskatchewan), Michael Oulton (Ontario) and Melissa Skelton (New Westminster) were nominated to form a committee to guide their peers through new discussions of the marriage canon issue, which will culminate at General Synod 2016 when a resolution on the amendment will be considered.

While discussing what the role of the House of Bishops should be in the church, Hiltz said that the bishops used an aboriginal-style circle to share what each was feeling and their hopes for the house. He said that he was encouraged that so many spoke of their commitment to be a part of that body. There was “a recognition pretty much around the circle that, of course, we are diverse. We are not going to agree on everything, but we can do that in a way that doesn’t fracture the body and allow partisan strife to go too far,” he said. “We can hold that diversity and hold it well.”

Hiltz said he thought bishops ended that discussion with “a sense of deeper peace, some renewed clarity of purpose and some renewed vigour for exercising that leadership role for which we know we are ordained.” He explained that it feels to many of the bishops that they have spent quite a long time attending to their relationships within the house and they now feel urged by the spirit to focus their attention outward and to lead the church in the myriad of issues confronting it—“everything from evangelism to congregational development to medically assisted dying to poverty in Canada, the crisis in indigenous communities.”

The bishops discussed end-of-life issues and medically assisted dying, and Hiltz said he aims to work with other bishops and a task force to produce a statement on the issue before the Supreme Court of Canada releases a ruling on the issue, which is expected sometime this spring.

National Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald and Bishop Lydia Mamakwa of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh made a presentation to the bishops on behalf of ACIP, which pointed out that the top-down style of church governance does not fit well with aboriginal ways of decision-making. The document called on the church to allow room for new structures that would be a part of a self-determining indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada.

Hiltz said responses from the bishops were similar to those from members of the Council of General Synod who heard the presentation at their meeting on Nov. 16, with “everything from goodwill to fear about what are the implications long-term.” But he noted that there was little time for discussion and bishops felt they needed time to digest the document. MacDonald invited the bishops to respond directly to ACIP leaders, and Hiltz suggested that discussion at provincial synods might also provide useful feedback for what ACIP members said is still a work in progress that will be shaped by their consultations with various groups in the church.

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Anglican Journal News, November 24, 2014

Primate’s commission sees long road ahead

Posted on: November 22nd, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

 

By Leigh Anne Williams

 

The Rev. Andrew Wesley offered CoGS members some insights into aboriginal spirituality. He and Archbishop Terence Finlay (right) gave a briefing about the work of the Primate’s Commission on the Doctrine of Discovery, Reconciliation and Healing.  Photo: Leigh Anne Williams


Mississauga, Ont.
On Nov. 15, Archbishop Terence Finlay and the Rev. Andrew Wesley updated the Council of General Synod (CoGS) on the work of the Primate’s Commission on the Doctrine of Discovery, Reconciliation and Healing.

The commission, created on the recommendation of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), is looking for ways to put General Synod’s 2010 repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery into meaningful action, to move forward with the work of reconciliation and to address ongoing injustices faced by indigenous communities in Canada.

The 17-member commission held its second meeting at St. Peter’s Church on the Six Nations Reserve in southwestern Ontario from Nov. 6 to 8, welcoming Janaki Bandara from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada to the commission.

Finlay and Wesley reported that the commission began to develop a theological reflection on the Doctrine of Discovery, its continuing impact and ways that it might be dismantled. Secondly, members discussed “what reconciliation looks like in parishes and communities, particularly around the understanding of healing and wholeness and the Circle of Life,” which Wesley explained is a part of the teachings of the medicine wheel. Thirdly, they explored how the quality of life in indigenous communities could be improved by understanding the nature of treaties and the Indian Act, an act that he said “crippled the aboriginal people” after it was passed in 1951 and became law.

The commission discussed the importance of grassroots contributions. Responding to questions and comments from CoGS members, Finlay said he is “continually amazed” by how much the Doctrine of Discovery is a part of the non-indigenous way of life. “If you can identify ways in which you see that, please write them down and let us have them because those are signposts for us,” he told them.

Finlay said that the group recognizes that they will be able to offer only an interim report to General Synod 2016 because of “the immense breadth” of the three subjects they are studying.

At the end of the presentation, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said he rejoiced that ACIP gave the church this direction, since the term of Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC) will end in June 2015.   “I think that we can say, not in a boastful kind of way…but in a good way, that our church has a plan in terms of its commitment beyond supporting the mandate of the TRC.”

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Anglican Journal News, November 21, 2014

ACIP calls for change in church structure

Posted on: November 20th, 2014 by CEP Administrator No Comments
General, Reviews

 

The Ven. Sidney Black, the Rev. Canon Ginny Doctor, Bishop Lydia Mamakwa, National Indigenous Bishop Mark MacDonald, and Judith Moses from the Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice Coordinating Committee at Council of General Synod. Photo: André Forget.


Mississauga, Ont.

On Nov. 17, representatives of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP) presented a statement to the Council of General Synod (CoGS) calling for the church to allow space for structures of governance that are more in line with indigenous ways of thinking about leadership and power, and to support the movement of indigenous Anglicans toward self-determination.

The statement suggests beginning a process of consultation to develop a plan for indigenous ministry in the whole church, not just in particular regions like Mishamikoweesh, and to develop “an effective, just, and sustainable” plan to share resources, stating that “it is now time for Indigenous People to be given the primary leadership over the planning, use, and accounting of their own resources.”

The statement, titled “Where We Are Today: Twenty Years after the Covenant, an Indigenous Call to Church Leadership,” expresses gratitude for the “great progress towards Indigenous self-determination in the past few years” while noting the extent to which indigenous people are “still hindered by the effects and structures of colonialism.” The statement outlines some of the principles undergirding indigenous self-determination and the steps that should be taken toward implementing them.

It was presented jointly by ACIP co-chair Archdeacon Sidney Black, Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh Bishop Lydia Mamakwa, indigenous ministries co-ordinator, the Rev. Canon Ginny Doctor, and National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald.

In the 20 years since indigenous Anglicans extended “a hand of partnership” to the non-indigenous members of the church through the Covenant of 1994, some progress has been made, said the statement. The creation of ACIP, the creation of the position of National Indigenous Bishop and most recently the creation of the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh have all been steps toward building, as the Covenant says, “a truly Anglican Indigenous Church in Canada.”

But while steps have been taken, the journey is incomplete, said ACIP. The statement identified leadership structure as one of the key issues that need to be addressed. “Our natural cultural structures spread authority out among the people and generations, on a level ground,” the statement said. “This is in contrast to Western models—familiar to us in our relationships with both the government and the church—which are vertical and top-down.” It goes on to point out that such structures have been deeply problematic for indigenous people throughout history and to the present day. “[These structures] are disruptive, in many ways, to our natural way of doing things. The structure of the Church often is in conflict with the way our societies are structured.”

Another concern expressed was the way in which funds allocated for indigenous ministries have been used. The Anglican Church of Canada, the statement said, “must make a careful evaluation of the ways that money has been spent in the name of Indigenous ministry, historically and in the present,” going on to point out that a great deal of money has been raised “in the name of serving Indigenous Peoples,” and consequently indigenous Anglicans “desire to see these resources used in the very best, just, and appropriate way.”

The statement also expressed concern about how the Council of the North (CoN), which is composed of nine financially assisted dioceses in the North, and similar institutions were serving indigenous peoples. The statement described such institutions as “divided in their vision by their various diocesan concerns” and “[led,] for the most part, by non-Indigenous leaders and Western governance models.” Because of this, “those structures that have been developed to express Indigenous points of view…are almost all subject to the patterns and oversight of a very different and often problematic pattern of leadership,” it added.

The bishop of the diocese of Saskatchewan and chair of the CoN, Michael Hawkins, was not present at CoGS. When the Journal contacted him, he had not yet had a chance to read the statement.

Throughout the statement, ACIP put great emphasis on “placing the Gospel in the centre of the Sacred Circle” and of walking in fellowship alongside non-Indigenous Anglicans through this process.

Following the presentation, the primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, asked MacDonald to clarify the nature of the statement as a document in process, at which point MacDonald stressed that it was a “working document” open to input from many partners, including the Sacred Circle, the House of Bishops, CoGS and the Primate’s Commission on Discovery, Reconciliation and Justice.

Bishop Larry Robertson, of the diocese of Yukon, was the first to share his thoughts during the question period, saying that the document offered him both “great joy” at the step forward it represents, and also a feeling that it will not be easy to let go of a ministry he has committed his life to. “I have no idea what’s going to happen,” he said, “but I see this as the future.”

The Rev. Lynne McNaughton, clergy delegate from the diocese of New Westminster, followed Robertson by asking if more time could be allocated to a discussion of the statement in the afternoon, suggesting that members might need some time to process what they had heard and read.

When the session reconvened later, there were many questions, most of them reflecting both a significant amount of goodwill and a certain anxiety about the specifics of what moving forward would look like.

Jane Alexander, bishop of the diocese of Edmonton, expressed concern about the indigenous ministry in which she is involved in her own diocese and the appropriateness of diocesan leadership there in light of the statement’s comments about non-indigenous leadership structures. She suggested that at the next CoGS or the next General Synod a restructuring circle be put together, involving people from ACIP and General Synod, to look at how entities like the CoN could be refashioned to meet present needs and realities.

Deputy Prolocutor Cynthia Haines-Turner, of the diocese of Western Newfoundland, noted that one of the problems for many non-indigenous Anglicans is simply a dearth of knowledge about how indigenous leadership structures work, and a need for non-indigenous Anglicans to learn more about indigenous ways of thinking.

For others, such as Bishop John Chapman of the diocese of Ottawa, a major question was how issues of doctrine would be dealt with, given that, as it stands, there is a hierarchical structure that oversees such matters. He also suggested that one of the biggest challenges non-indigenous Anglicans will face throughout this process will simply be “getting out of the way.”

MacDonald responded to these questions and concerns by telling CoGS that indigenous Anglicans are speaking from a position of vulnerability, and are aware that what they are saying may make people uncomfortable, but that “when we say we are brothers and sisters, we mean it—it isn’t just rhetoric.”

He also noted that when indigenous Anglicans speak of working horizontally and toward the circle, they want to work horizontally with everyone. “We’re already acting more like a circle than we were—in diocese after diocese, they’re relating to us as a circle. We don’t wish to vertically take over that process.”

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Anglican Journal News, November 18, 2014