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Regional human trafficking consultations begin with Pickering event

April 19, 2018 - 7:32pm

Extreme poverty drives many Filipino workers to work in Canada under the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program in an effort to support their families. Upon arrival, these migrant labourers can often find themselves trapped by employers who subject them to severe exploitation.

Under the TFW program, migrant labourers are not able to work for other employers or search for other jobs without being deported. Although not the experience of all migrant workers, some in fields such as agriculture may work from dawn to dusk and as much as 12-16 hours per day. Knowing few people in their new country, they are often isolated, confined to living quarters with no privacy.

Speaking to Canadian Anglicans at a recent panel discussion, Mario (not his real name) discussed losing his initial job after immigrating to Canada from the Philippines, which drove him to an illegal recruitment agency. The agency employed Mario at a mushroom farm, where he experienced harsh conditions and abuse from his employer.  When Mario was diagnosed with cancer, he initially had no access to health care coverage.

The panel discussion was one of many presentations at a consultation, Engage Freedom! Anglicans Against Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery, which took place from April 10-13 at the Manresa Jesuit Retreat Centre in Pickering, Ont. The first of four such consultations organized by the Anglican Church of Canada—one for each ecclesiastical province—the Pickering consultation marked the beginning of a new phase in church efforts to develop a more comprehensive policy towards the elimination of human trafficking.

Over the course of the meeting, those in attendance heard presentations from a succession of speakers, including government representatives, Indigenous leaders, Anglican Communion partners, and professionals engaged in efforts to end trafficking and modern slavery.

‘Engaging a wider part of the church’

Ryan Weston, co-chair of the Human Trafficking Reference Group, said the Pickering consultation was “part of an evolving process and an evolving engagement”—following discussion about human trafficking at the Council of General Synod, video production, and the gathering of preliminary information—with the aim of “engaging a wider part of the church as much as possible.”

“We’ve got folks from across the ecclesiastical province of Ontario that we hope will learn some things together and build some networks, and then go home and help lead some initiatives and engagement in their local areas,” Weston said.

“We intend to do them in each ecclesiastical province of the church, and then to have a focus on the issue at General Synod as well. So this will I hope lead to concrete action steps for all of us—for the diocese, for the parishes, and for the national church as well.”

The first full day of the meeting included a presentation from Barbara Gosse, director of the Canadian Centre to End Human Trafficking, that offered an overview on the scope of human trafficking in Canada today.

The Rev. Rachel Carnegie, co-executive director of the Anglican Alliance, provided details on the global context of trafficking and ecumenical efforts on a global scale to eradicate modern slavery.

“The role of the Anglican Alliance is to help share understanding, expertise, and models of effective work across the [Anglican] Communion,” Carnegie said. “We’ve already formed and held consultations with groups of practitioners in Africa, in Latin America, and in Asia, along with other denominations.

“Coming here to Canada for me is really exciting, because it’s about learning from the vision and the context here—bringing a few structures, things we’ve learned from other parts of the communion, but principally to provide a listening ear to see how the church in Canada is perceiving the problem; to hear from external experts about the response [that] is already there, and what could be the distinctive role of the church in that; and then to work with the group on shaping their response.”

Experiences of trafficking

Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation closed out the first day with a presentation on the relation between human trafficking and missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, as well as Indigenous boys and men.

The second day included the panel discussion detailing the experience of Filipino migrant workers, facilitated by Connie Sorio, migrant justice and Asia partnerships coordinator for KAIROS Canada.

Sorio described reconciliation with migrants as one of the main priorities of KAIROS, which engages in outreach efforts in underserved communities to locate migrant workers and the industries that employ them. In the last two years, for example, Sorio has travelled across the Maritimes and discovered a large number of migrant workers living in fish plants.

Throughout the consultation, participants learned about the experience of trafficking and its scope across Ontario and Canada. Leora Rich, manager of clinical services for East Metro Youth Services (EMYS)—which provides trauma therapy and peer mentorship for young people—reported an increase in the last four years in young people coming into the Scarborough EMYS office and detailing their experiences in the sex trade.

Rich detailed the stages of commercial exploitation, which typically play out as follows:

  • Luring. Young people who feel vulnerable or want to escape stressful situations can feel special if a trafficker begins showing them attention. Rich reported that an estimated 85 per cent of clients become involved in human trafficking through a boyfriend.
  • Grooming and Gaming. The trafficker will make the person feel as if they have a special bond. Reflecting a common pattern in abusive relationships, that bond is built up so that the victim later wants to return to this stage.
  • Coercion and Manipulation. The client is conditioned to link having sex with getting back into the good graces of the trafficker. Usually by this point they are completely isolated from social supports such as friends and family.
  • Exploitation. The trafficker holds the client in their grasp through a variety of methods, such as threatening family members or pointing to all the things the trafficker has bought for the victim and that they “owe” them.

Underscoring the prevalence of human trafficking in Ontario, Jessica Franklin, team lead for the Provincial Anti-Human Trafficking Coordination Office, presented a range of statistics and the strategy of the Ontario government to confront human trafficking. These efforts include awareness campaigns, improving access to services for survivors, and better coordinating police responses.

An epicentre for human trafficking in Canada, Ontario accounts for more than two-thirds of trafficking cases across the country. Sex traffickers most often target women and girls, homeless and marginalized youth, and young people who struggle with low-self esteem, bullying, addiction, or mental health issues. The age of recruitment can be as low as 12 or 13. Indigenous women and girls are particularly likely to be trafficked.

Next steps

Interspersed throughout the consultation were theological reflections as well as local case studies from Anglicans who detailed the church’s involvement in efforts to confront human trafficking. One example was participation in the Windsor-based organization WEFiGHT, which provides direct services to human trafficking survivors such as income support, shelter, clothing, food, trauma counselling, and legal information.

The final day of the consultation saw participants reflecting on how to increase awareness in their areas towards the elimination of human trafficking, as well as efforts to build networks, and advance the issue in the runup to General Synod 2019.

Similar consultations have followed or will take place for the ecclesiastical provinces of Canada, Rupert’s Land, and B.C. and Yukon. The Province of Canada event took place from April 16-18 at Memorial University in St. John’s, Nfld., while dates have not yet been set for the remaining two consultations.

“If we’re going to be effective in [working to eliminate human trafficking], it needs to be engaged in at every level of the church,” Weston said. “So we want the grassroots parish folks to be aware and engaged and praying and taking action as much as folks that are closely affiliated with national initiatives.”

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Earth Day 2018 message from Anglican, Lutheran leaders

April 17, 2018 - 4:40pm

Download this statement as a PDF file.

In recognition of Earth Day on April 22, 2018, we invite you to join us in praying for the humility and discipline to use Earth’s resources wisely and responsibly.

We begin by praying the Rule of Life, from Gospel-based Discipleship of Indigenous Ministries of the Anglican Church of Canada:

Creator God, we acknowledge and give thanks that:
In Jesus we know we belong to a Sacred Circle with the Gospel and Baptismal Covenant in the centre.

In this Sacred Circle:
We are all related;
We live a compassionate and generous life;
We respect all life, traditions, and resources.
We commit ourselves to spiritual growth, discipleship, and consensus.1
Amen.

As we read this prayer today, we are reminded of the importance of relationships, including our relationship with Mother Earth. We are also reminded that through prayer God calls us to action.

Consider what you might do to use Earth’s resources more responsibly. Some possibilities are:

Consider what your faith community might do to nurture responsible and sustainable relationships to water, land, home, and each other. Some possibilities are:

  • Finding ways for your community to reduce its environmental footprint. Greening Sacred Spaces offers a variety of resources: http://www.faithcommongood.org/greening_sacred_spaces.
  • Listening to children, youth, adults and elders to discover innovative approaches to the challenges that we share.
  • Joining with partners in your community and neighbourhood who are inspiring and implementing new ways to care for the earth.
  • Making safeguarding the integrity of creation a regular part of your worship life by using worship resources that celebrate God’s creation.

Consider what we all might do to advocate for a more equitable world that recognizes the need for communities to define their own development goals and objectives. Some possibilities are:

Recent important legislative initiatives are a reminder for all of us to continue to work for human rights and to care for creation every day. As the recent collaborative report from Auditors General across Canada highlights, there is need for much stronger federal and provincial relations to meet important emissions reductions targets in order to begin addressing the very real impacts of climate change already being felt in Canada and around the world.2

On this Earth Day, let us pray together:

Creator, we stand in awe and wonder at God’s great creation, at the diversity of beings, and at the intricate balance of relationships that sustains life. We recognize the need and basic human right for each person to have a place to which to belong.

Inspire in us the will to live in responsible and sustainable relationships to water, land, home, and each other are part of realizing our full humanity.

Gather us together for the love of the world, and send us out, with patience and persistence, to act as your disciples. Amen.

We are confident that through your prayers and discernment you will discover a multitude of ways to learn, raise awareness and make difference for the Earth.


The Rev. Mark MacDonald
National Anglican Indigenous Bishop, Anglican Church of Canada

The Rev. Susan C. Johnson
National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada


The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz
Primate, Anglican Church of Canada

1 https://www.anglican.ca/im/introgbd/
2 http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/parl_otp_201803_e_42883.html

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Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples looks ahead to 2018 Sacred Circle

April 12, 2018 - 4:27pm

Plans for this year’s Sacred Circle were the major focus at the most recent meeting of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP), which took place from Feb. 21-25 in Toronto.

Caroline Chum, co-chair of ACIP along with Bishop Sidney Black, said that the main issues discussed included arrangements for Sacred Circle and the way towards a self-determining national indigenous ministry.

“At our last meeting, we managed to get a lot of work done, and we still have so much more to do before Sacred Circle and then General Synod 2019,” Chum said.

The next Sacred Circle will take place from August 6-11, 2018 at the University of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, B.C. The theme of the gathering is Making and Strengthening Disciples: Reborn in Water and Spirit.

One of the topics under discussion at the ACIP meeting was a proposal, currently in development from the Governance Working Group, that would allow Sacred Circle to change its structure, rules, and Canon XXII without going through General Synod.

National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald said that the proposal “would basically give autonomy to the Sacred Circle, in a way similar to a provincial synod having autonomy from General Synod.

“One of the themes that we’re dealing with very much is the idea of self-determination,” he added. “We talked about it a lot in the ACIP meeting, and we will focus on that at Sacred Circle as well.”

Self-determination was the main focus of The Road to Warm Springs, the historic national consultation that took place last year in Pinawa, Manitoba.

Experiences of the Pinawa gathering were woven throughout discussion at the ACIP meeting, with members taking time to respond to a report from the co-chairs of the consultation.

“ACIP appeared grateful for the kind of broad support that was witnessed at Pinawa from the larger church for the Indigenous project of self-determination,” Bishop MacDonald said. “And I think that the attitude was really, ‘Let’s get down to work.’”

Non-stipendiary clergy

While long-term plans towards self-determination remain a major focus, members also discussed ongoing issues related to Indigenous ministry—chief among them the need to support non-stipendiary clergy and to address intergenerational trauma in Indigenous communities.

The National Indigenous Anglican Bishop said that non-stipendiary clergy would be a major topic of conversation in the lead-up to Sacred Circle and at the August gathering itself.

He described a “dual focus” in discussions around non-stipendiary clergy as part of a broader strategy for Indigenous ministry across the Anglican Church of Canada, characterized by two main ideas: providing more direct and concrete support to unpaid clergy, and providing support through development of ministry in local communities.

“There certainly needs to be more money and resources available to support our Indigenous clergy in their communities,” Bishop MacDonald said. “But also, we need to develop a broad range of ministries, volunteer and paid, to respond to the great needs that we have in our communities.”

“I think we’re very much of the opinion that to make someone serve on their own, without pay, is a very cruel situation, and we really need to make a dedicated effort to change the situation as it exists today,” he added. “Ministry in our communities is very challenging, and it needs to be attended to.”

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With hearts for Humboldt

April 10, 2018 - 12:40pm

View a PDF version of this joint statement.

With thousands of other Canadians, we watched CBC’s coverage of the Vigil for all those impacted by the horrible Friday night crash that killed fifteen of the Humboldt Broncos Junior A Hockey Team and left the rest of the team with very serious injuries. As families grieve, a community grieves with them. As a community grieves, a nation grieves with them.

In the face of such tragedy as this people come together. In tears they embrace one another. They listen to messages of condolence and feel the sympathy offered. They join in prayer. Some bow their heads. Some lift their heads. Some close their eyes. Some look out as if to a distant horizon looking for the tender mercies of God. When invited to hold hands they do. They know their need for each other and for God. They share their pain and seek comfort through one another and in the balm of God’s kindness.

That vigil in the arena that is home to the Humboldt Broncos was preparation for what will be a very hard week…a hard week for that community and several others where funerals will be held, a very hard week for the world of hockey. Let us then remember in our prayers all those who will conduct these services and all those to whom they are ministering.

As we pray for those who have died and for their families in anguish and sorrow at this time let us also pray for those who survived the crash and for their families who keep vigil at their bedsides. Let us remember the medical teams who are tending to their sons and brothers and all who support them through their presence and professional care. Pray too for the young men whose beds are positioned in a way that enables them to hold hands so bravely in their fight for life.

And finally let us remember before God those called to Emergency Health Services and to Policing Services. Collectively known as The First Responders in the wake of tragedies, they face carnage and chaos with great courage. They do all they can to save lives and they indeed do save many. They go about their work with an efficiency of skill that is remarkable. But they also go about it with a huge heart for serving those in crisis. They know trauma and its immediate and lingering impact. They know it for individuals, families, and communities. They know it for themselves too. They work and they weep…they weep and they work time and again.

As we turn our hearts to the very wide community of the Humboldt Broncos, we turn them to God in prayer for mercy and comfort in the midst of their deep sorrow.

In all we see and hear and think and feel in a time like this we are reminded of the simplicity yet full measure of our faith in God and our care for one another. We have come to know that faith and care as The Summary of The Law. In response to a question concerning the greatest of all the commandments Jesus said, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one; and you shall love the Lord you God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this ,“you shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”
(Mark 12:29-31)

In these and all our days we pray,
“Lord, have mercy upon us and write both these your laws in our hearts.”

The Most Rev. Fred Hiltz
Primate, Anglican Church of Canada

The Rev. Susan C. Johnson
National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

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‘Not one, but 50!’

March 29, 2018 - 5:11pm

While society makes much of Easter Day and largely from the perspective of bunnies and chocolate and springtime, it is for Christians the first day of 50 in which we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Easter is the Feast of the Victory of our God, the Festival of Gladness, the Spring of Souls, “our joy that hath no end” (205, Common Praise). As often as we gather, we greet one another saying, “Alleluia! Christ is Risen! The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!”

Our joy in the Resurrection is rooted in the message of an angel to some women who come to anoint the body of the crucified Lord. Seeing that the stone is rolled away, the tomb is empty and the grave clothes are lying there in a heap, they hear that angel say, “He is not here, he has risen”. (Luke 24:5) The angel goes on to say, “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over…and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” (Luke 24:6)

Our joy in the Resurrection is also grounded in numerous accounts of the Lord’s appearing to his followers. Each one is marked by a greeting, a deep communion of hearts, and then a commission.

Mary Magdalene hears him call her by name. As her mourning is turned into joy, the Lord commissions her as Apostle to the Apostles.

Jesus shows the disciples his hands and side, and they are glad. As he speaks a word of peace, he also says, “As the Father sent me, so I send you.” (John 20:21)

Thomas is invited to touch the wounds of Jesus and to believe and doubt no more. In an instant, he leaves the gloomy haunts of sadness and knows himself to be among the others who would bear witness to the Resurrection.

Peter is given opportunity to undo his denial of Jesus in a three-fold confession of love and with that confession, he is commissioned by the Risen Lord to shepherd the Church.

A couple of disciples heading for Emmaus are unknowingly accompanied by Jesus. He opens the Scriptures and teaches them all the things concerning the Messiah. Then he breaks bread at the inn, and their hearts burn within them as they go back to Jerusalem to tell the others.

These are the stories we hear throughout these 50 days of Easter. And then of course, there are the stories of countless others of whom the Risen Lord says, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe”. (John 20:29) I am glad to be numbered in that company, as indeed I am sure you are. I am deeply conscious too of the truth that we have been drawn into this company by a host of others who have touched our lives through the example of their own faith and devotion to the Lord. Many of them walk with us and yet many more have gone before us. Let us not forget that these are their festal days too!

Our joy in the Risen Lord is sustained by his very presence in every Eucharist. We taste the Living Bread and know his promise that “whoever eats this bread will live forever”. (John 6: 51) We drink the Wine of Resurrection and our thirst is quenched. Like those first disciples who rejoiced in their moment of a joyous communion with Him, so do we. We know too that as he sent them into the world to bear witness to his resurrection so he send us. This commission to be ambassadors of his liberating word, his reconciling love, his gospel of life immerses us in the joys and struggles of the world. It calls us to the task of ushering in a new order marked by compassion, justice, and peace for all people, a new era marked by a deeper reverence for our common home the Earth itself.

The Resurrection is such a Holy Mystery, as is our life within it, that I am ever grateful that Easter is indeed for us not one, but 50 days!

Let us then rejoice and be glad for “Christ the Lord is risen, our joy that hath no end.” (205, Common Praise)

Archbishop Fred Hiltz
Primate
The Anglican Church of Canada

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Study guide augments resource on medical assistance in dying

March 29, 2018 - 1:41pm

A new study guide has been released to accompany In Sure and Certain Hope, the Anglican resource on pastoral and theological approaches to medical assistance in dying that was first released in 2016.

Produced by a task force under the auspices of Faith, Worship, and Ministry, both In Sure and Certain Hope and its study guide reflect the new legal landscape that followed the Supreme Court of Canada ruling in February 2015 that physician assisted dying is permissible in specific cases.

The resource and study guide were “always intended to be a package, and it just took us longer than we’d anticipated to get the study guide part of it done,” task force member Eileen Scully said.

Fellow task force member Douglas Graydon said the study guide incorporates feedback from In Sure and Certain Hope to frame the topic of medical assistance in dying in a way that facilitates conversation and reflection.

“When I went out and talked about the document itself, it generated a lot of conversation and discussion around, ‘Well, now what do we do with this?’” Graydon recalled. “Because the document itself was really not definitive in saying, ‘This is the Anglican position.’ It said, ‘Here are the concerns, [and] here are some of the dynamics of pastoral care when a cleric or a congregation encounters medical assistance in dying.’

“But it didn’t prescribe anything, and it didn’t recommend anything [specific],” he added. “What it recommended was discernment. And so there was a request for some kind of structure—‘How are we going to explore and use this document?’—which is where the need for a study guide came from, because within medical assistance in dying, there’s a lot of nuance and subtlety in the pastoral care response to such a circumstance.”

Though the study guide can be used by any individual who wishes to study, reflect, and pray upon the issue of physician assisted dying, it may prove most useful for those leading discussions around In Sure and Certain Hope, and for congregations who feel they may experience the issue of physician assisted dying within the lives of their own communities.

Among the key sections of the study guide are suggested processes for discussion groups, outlining the necessary elements to gather a group and balance prayer, story, and reflection; and suggested norms for how to have “holy conversations” about what are typically very private, intimate, and difficult matters for affected individuals and families.

“This is about … life and death realities that come from deep wells of very emotional stuff—both joy, and trauma and grief,” Scully said. “So we need to be extra careful and caring in these conversations. The conversations themselves need to be framed in a way that has healthy boundaries and healthy norms for how we take care of each other within the conversation.”

The In Sure and Certain Hope study guide is available online in both colour and black-and-white PDF formats for easy download and printing.

While the combined resources represent the latest Anglican perspectives on pastoral and theological responses to physician assisted dying, Graydon noted that the topic represents an ongoing conversation in Canadian society.

“There is already pressure on the courts to push the legal definitions and parameters around MAID [medical assistance in dying], and to change what the law allows, so that for example, young adults and children can access MAID—those who are experiencing long-term psychological or mental illnesses who find their life unbearable,” Graydon said.

“And then especially around issues of infants who are terminally ill, there’s a lot of pressure to push the parameters to include those populations, which I think would create opportunities in the future for the church to comment on and be involved with. […] There’ll be lots of opportunities for the church to engage in this subject matter at a future date.”

Download In Sure and Certain Hope and its accompanying study guide.

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Anglican-Lutheran leaders plan consultation on Christian leadership in 2019

March 27, 2018 - 6:05pm

The changing nature of ministry in the 21st century, and consequent need for new kinds of Christian leadership, was a major focus of the recent joint meeting between leaders of the Anglican and Lutheran churches in Canada and the United States.

Archbishop and Primate Fred Hiltz of the Anglican Church of Canada, National Bishop Susan Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry of The Episcopal Church, and Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) gathered together at the ELCIC National Office in Winnipeg from March 13-15 to discuss issues of common concern to all four churches. Accompanying each of the four Primatial bishops were key staff members with knowledge related to various items on the agenda.

Much of the conversation centred on what the Rev. Dr. Scott Sharman, animator for ecumenical and interfaith relations for the Anglican Church of Canada, described as “being in a time of transition, but wanting to think through questions of formation and education … There was a lot of focus around how that happens in each church, and some of the challenges facing current models of education in a seminary context and what kinds of steps are being taken to do that maybe a little bit differently.”

In response to those challenges, the four church leaders expressed a desire to host a consultation on education and formation for Christian leadership. That consultation is expected to take place in conjunction with the next four-way meeting between the churches, which will take place in Toronto in May 2019.

“One of the biggest outcomes of this particular meeting is that there was a consensus expressed by the four bishops that they would like to be intentional about tackling some of those questions together, so that the kinds of leaders and clergy that are being formed in each tradition are prepared for some of the common challenges,” Sharman said.

Another outcome of this year’s meeting was a plan to issue a common statement on the importance of communal discernment and decision-making, reflecting the fact that all four churches will hold meetings of their primary decision-making bodies within a relatively short time in 2018 and 2019.

“Each of the four churches, the Anglican and Lutheran churches, have a special connection with one another and concern for the decisions that they’re making together, and see themselves as in some way impacted by the decisions that these different synods and conventions make,” Sharman said.

Deepening the relationship between the churches in Canada and the United States was a further topic of discussion at the four-way meeting.

L-R: Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, National Bishop Susan Johnson, Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Photo courtesy of the ELCIC

Currently, separate full communion relationships exist between Anglicans and Lutherans in Canada and the United States. The Anglican Church of Canada is in full communion with both The Episcopal Church and the ELCIC. The ELCIC is in full communion with the ELCA, which in turn is in full communion with The Epicopal Church, creating a resulting overlap in traditions that has not yet been formalized.

With the full communion relationships between Anglican and Lutheran churches in the United States and Canada approaching their 20-year anniversaries in 2019 and 2021, respectively, the four churches are pondering a new agreement in advance of the anniversaries to clarify the constitutional and canonical implications of their relationships together.

A first step in that direction might be an agreement to facilitate the transferability of clergy across the Canada-U.S. border between the four churches, as well as a recognition of the transferability of their orders and ministries.

Reflecting on the March gathering, Primate Hiltz highlighted these efforts to “make portable” full communion arrangements to help clergy move freely between the four churches—as well as plans for the Toronto consultation to help discern and equip candidates for Christian leadership—as examples of the effectiveness of the annual four-way meeting, which first took place in 2010.

“I think that the value of the four-way meeting proves itself every time we meet—that there’s value in us meeting in terms of information sharing, mutual support and encouragement, and discernment of areas in which we could be working together more closely,” the Primate said.

He added, “It’s just proven to be a really good thing in terms of building relationships among the four churches.”

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The Canadian Council of Churches and the future of ecumenism

March 23, 2018 - 6:47pm

The following is the conclusion of a two-part story on the Canadian Council of Churches from an Anglican perspective. Read part one.

Much of the work of the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC) today is reflected in its two commissions: the Commission on Faith and Witness, and the Commission on Justice and Peace. Where the former promotes theological reflection to improve mutual understanding between denominations, the latter focuses on efforts to foster peace and social justice in Canada and around the world.

Certain issues, such as the ordination of women or same-sex marriage, may be of both theological and social importance, and can find very different views reflected within the council.

In such cases, CCC President Alyson Barnett-Cowan said, “We try two things. One is we will have exploratory sessions where we try to get the sense of where different people are coming on different issues, and that would be one of them … But then on other matters, where we think there might be a consensus, we work hard to articulate what that consensus might be. So for example, protection of refugees, that’s kind of a no-brainer for the members of the council.”

Refugee protection is a major focus of the CCC at the moment, having joined with the Canadian Council for Refugees and Amnesty International to mount a legal challenge to the designation of the United States as a “safe third country”. Other priorities include challenge the reduction of anti-poverty initiatives, engaging in interfaith conversations and showing solidarity with those under threat from anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and promoting peace and nuclear disarmament through Project Ploughshares. The council is currently preparing a document, Principles of Peace, to serve as a policy statement for peace and the reduction of global tensions.

The future of Canadian ecumenism

The two appointed Anglican representatives to the CCC governing board, Bishop Michael Oulton and Canon Mary Conliffe, are currently nearing the end of their three-year terms. Due to personal issues, Oulton will not be returning to the Canadian Council of Churches following the end of his term, while Conliffe is uncertain whether her term will be renewed after May.

Whatever the future may bring, their time on the council has provided insights into the evolution of Canadian ecumenism and where it may be headed next. Looking back over recent decades, Oulton perceived a gradual movement away from “organic institutional unity” as the central focus of ecumenical work.

“That certainly was a huge topic of conversation in the ’60s and the ’70s, and probably even into the ’80s,” Oulton said. “Now it’s, how do we rejoice in the differences that we have and the different expressions of who we are as Christian churches, and find the common ground to address issues of common concern?”

Particularly when it comes to justice issues such as confronting human trafficking, Oulton believed ecumenism would find renewed strength as churches work together to speak prophetically to challenge power structures.

“The first thing we should ask is, ‘What are our ecumenical partners doing about this? What do we want to say together?’ Because when we bring more partners around the table, there’s a better chance of having our voice heard in terms of how to approach these situations.”

Conliffe pointed to the growth of shared ministries as a likely ecumenical trend in the coming years.

“In rural places or under-resourced areas of the country, it doesn’t make sense to have a small Anglican church and a small Methodist church and a small United church and a small Presbyterian church,” she said.

“It might make better sense to have a church where there’s shared ministry between all those denominations, and learning how to create that environment and allow it to flourish will be one of the hallmarks of the future for the Christian church, I think.”

Summing up the ongoing work of the CCC, Oulton referred to a quote by Christian writer and activist Jim Wallis: “We can find common ground only by moving to higher ground.”

“Twenty-five member churches—our polities, our theologies, how we order ourselves—are all so dramatically different, one from another,” Oulton said. “But it’s a place where we can all stand together on higher ground for a time, and look at our vocations as disciples of Jesus Christ together. And that’s a huge gift to be able to do that.”

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‘Standing under in order to understand’

March 22, 2018 - 5:19pm

Here is wisdom for devotions in the coming week. It is a gift from Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford. In his chapter “A Good Holy Week” in a book entitled A Good Year, he reminds us that day-by-day the liturgies take us ultimately to Calvary and to the foot of the Cross.  He writes:

“On that first Good Friday, only a few people could do it. Those who promised most were first to flee. But let us be those who stand there today, not understanding but standing under in order to understand. Standing with empty hands and hopeful hearts. For it is only under the cross that we will begin to comprehend its meaning, receive its complicated joys and then help bear it to the world, not carrying it under our arm but shouldering it with Christ for the sake of the world. All this is the uncomfortable and beautiful gift of a good Holy Week.”

I take Cottrell’s wisdom as invitation in considering how those who actually stood at the foot of the Cross were beginning to comprehend the mystery of such wondrous and sacrificial love—love so amazing, so divine. I think of those who may have pondered Jesus’ prayer from the Cross, “Father, forgive them” (Luke 23:34). I think of the penitent thief who turned his face so as to see Jesus and make his plea, “Lord, remember when you come into your kingdom”. (Luke 23:42) I think of the centurion who heard Jesus breathe his last, and then said in a whisper or a shout—we will never know—“Truly this was the Son of God.”  (Mark 15:39) Peter stood some distance from the Cross. Through his tears for having denied he even knew Jesus the night before, he was perhaps beginning to comprehend the true nature of his very own confession at Caesarea Phillipi that Jesus was the Christ, and all the truth that Jesus had spoken with respect to the suffering that would come upon him as The Anointed of God. After the Resurrection, Peter would indeed come to see the Cross as “in accord with the plan and foreknowledge of God”. (Acts 2:23)

Then there is Paul. Once an enemy of the Cross, he would in time speak of it in a deeply personal manner. “May I never boast of anything except the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by which the world has been crucified to me and I to the world”. (Ephesians 6:14) He would preach the Cross as “the power of God in Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:18), “to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Colossians 1:19). Paul would write to the Corinthians saying that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself” and “entrusting the message of reconciliation to us” (2 Corinthians 5:19).

This reconciliation accomplished in Christ is the essence of the Eucharist. When we have celebrated it within the liturgy then we must embody it in our work in the world.

Sadly, our world is marred by deep divides, rendering it in so many ways to be so remote from the will and word and ways of God. It is afflicted with the evil of racism, the horrors of gender-based violence, and the crime of trafficking men and women and children for multiple forms of labour that exploit their dignity. Our world is angered by deception in the realms of social media. It is torn apart by the frightening rise of extreme nationalism and the tactic of bullying that drive it. Our world is shadowed by lusts for power that trample others, and unbridled greed that leaves so very few so very wealthy, and so very many so very poor. Our world is outraged by the blasphemy of religiously motivated persecution. It is stained with the blood of so many innocent victims of violence. Our world is characterized by a flagrant disregard on the part of so many for any reverence for the earth itself.

As I “stand under in order to understand” the Cross, I cannot help but think about these things, nor can I help but think of those whose life’s work is reconciliation. I think of those who work for the United Nations Security Council, and those who work for reconciliation with Indigenous peoples within many countries including our own. I think of those who labour for gender equality and opportunity. I think of those who labour for a global politic and an economic order that is good and just for all. I think of those who press world leaders to hold to their accords with respect to addressing climate change.

With gratitude I am carrying into this Holy Week Cottrell’s image of “standing under in order to understand” the Cross. The experience is drawing out of me every usual expression of a piety that is deeply personal, one that is indeed reflected in the hymns of Holy Week. It is also summoning out of me a piety that is much more worldly, one that is indeed mindful of the harsh realities of our time in history and in the prayers of Holy Week, not the least of which is the Solemn Intercession for Good Friday.

In praying for the Church through Holy Week, I am praying for renewal in its call as Cottrell says, “to shoulder the Cross of Christ, for the sake of the world”.

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Innovative Kootenay School of Ministry takes a sabbatical year to discern mission

March 21, 2018 - 7:33pm

Archbishop John Privett has declared Pentecost of 2018 the season of Vocation for the Dioceses of The Territory of the People. He defines vocation as “What are the gifts, talents and qualities God has blessed me with in my life?” He follows this with a second question: “How am I offering those for the mission of God in the world?” The Territory of the People is often rural, within the interior of British Columbia, including the Syilx people. This call to vocation rests both on the individual and the intuitional.

One of these institutions is the Kootenay School of Ministry, which after guiding 67 students over the last five years is taking next year as a sabbatical. They hope to spend that year considering how the school has succeeded and what needs to shift or change. This searching will hopefully lead to them answering concerns about the talents and gifts for future ministries and the people who perform them can grow fruitfully.

The school is an innovative attempt to bolster pastoral education, preparing future leaders for ordained and lay ministry. It is a profoundly multicultural, and cross regional school as well. Two of its full-time staff (Bishop Patrick Yu and the Rev. William Harrison) both have written about diverse ministries, and how best to pastor them.

This diversity is not just about class or cultural differences. Part of the challenge is one of geography, especially for this diocese, with it’s wide ranging territory and large rural population. The school is the latest attempt to solve geographic gaps, treating the decentralized geography of the region as a positive feature and not an insurmountable challenge. This includes widening the circle of possible instructors, including those trained in Saskatchewan and Toronto, respectively. This brings the national and global church influence into these often rural dioceses.

Bringing people together, and working against rural isolation, was accomplished by teaching classes in individual parishes, or through distance education. The local would become the center of learning (often literally, some students would billet in the homes of parishioners outside their own church community). The school’s chief goal was making student’s active participants in their own education.

The sabbatical year continues the goals of community and active learning, as the instructors intend to move slightly to a distance learning model. This has been a common secular model in the interior of British Columbia for decades. Places like Frontier College, though headquartered in Toronto, sent instructors to mining camps, railroad yards, and highway crews from the 1920s onward. Thompson River University in Kamloops has had a distance education since the 1960s. The ability to do work, combining the rigour of traditional academic rigour and British Columbia’s long belief in learning technology, suggests that the sabbatical year will be fruitful.

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‘Part of who we are’: Anglicans, ecumenism, and the Canadian Council of Churches

March 20, 2018 - 7:54pm

As one of the founding members of the Canadian Council of Churches (CCC), the Anglican Church of Canada has long played a major role in the country’s leading ecumenical council.

Ecumenism “is in the Anglican DNA”, according to Bishop Michael Oulton—one of the two current appointed Anglican representatives on the CCC governing board, along with Canon Mary Conliffe.

“I think that’s the heart of who we are as a church … I’m a huge believer in the importance of partnerships and building expanded partnerships wherever possible, and the Canadian Council of Churches is, I think, a critical part of that for us,” Oulton said.

“It’s always been part of who we are as Anglicans to try to find a common table around which to sit.”

Bishop Oulton and Canon Conliffe are currently nearing the end of their three-year terms as representatives to the CCC, which will conclude at the council’s next meeting in May. Although she does not represent the Anglican Church of Canada in her role, current CCC president, the Rev. Canon Dr. Alyson Barnett-Cowan, is also an Anglican.

Through their strong presence on the council from its inception, Anglicans have worked with other Christian denominations to promote mutual understanding and stand at the forefront of activism in the cause of justice and peace.

History of Anglican involvement in the CCC

The Canadian Council of Churches was founded in 1944 by 10 Christian churches, including the Anglican Church of Canada. At that time, professed members of the founding churches represented more than 45 per cent of Canada’s population.

Since that time, the council has continued to expand its roster of denominations, growing ever more diverse. As of May 2018, the CCC will have 26 member churches, up from its current 25. That figure includes a sizable number of evangelical churches, as well as churches with historical origins outside of Europe such as the Mar Thoma Syrian Church, the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Canada, and the Armenian Holy Apostolic Church, Canadian Diocese.

Anglicans have played a prominent role in the CCC throughout its history. The first two presidents of the CCC, L.W.B. Broughall and Derwyn Owen, were Anglicans. Multiple former Primates have filled that position, including Owen, Walter Barfoot, and Edward Scott.

Many of the council’s general secretaries have also been Anglicans, with individuals such as Donald Anderson, Stuart Brown, and David Oliver having served in the role—often for lengthy tenures.

“I think we recognize—maybe coming from a history of being the state church—that there’s a real role for the Christian religion to play in speaking to society, and presenting a vision of God’s reign into the Canadian context,” Conliffe said. “And I think Anglicans, because we are ourselves a very broad church with a wide range of expression, can really witness to the rest of Christendom what it means to be inclusive, what it means to hold all brothers and sisters in a unity together.

“I think Anglicans recognize the value in working together, because historically we’ve been the via media [a Latin term meaning “the middle road”]. We have accessibility to other denominations who find in us something recognizable of themselves. So we have a broad appeal, if you want to put it that way, from Catholics to Orthodox to Protestants, because we encompass some of those traditions ourselves.”

Canon Mary Conliffe

Embodying that inclusive spirit, both of the present Anglican representatives to the CCC had ample ecumenical experience before being approached by then-coordinator of ecumenical and interfaith relations Bruce Myers to serve on the council.

Mary Conliffe

Currently diocesan executive assistant to Archbishop Colin Johnson, Conliffe has worked for the Diocese of Toronto since 1999, having attained her master of divinity degree from Trinity College the previous year. Her longstanding interest in ecumenism was reflected in her M. Div thesis, a comparative study of Eucharistic prayers in various denominations that used the Lima Liturgy as a template.

Conliffe subsequently served a three-year term on the Joint Anglican-Lutheran Commission, which brought her to the attention of Myers as a candidate for the CCC Governing Board. As an Anglican representative on the board, she has continued to work with fellow board members to promote understanding of different traditions.

“When you look at our governing board meetings, usually at least a quarter of the time is spent learning from each other, and that’s really valuable time,” Conliffe said.

“I actually think that might be my favourite part of the governing board meetings—learning from each tradition and why they emphasize what they do. I think all of us emphasize different parts of expressing the faith, and I find not only what [different denominations] do, but why they do it, really interesting.”

Bishop Michael Oulton

For his part, Oulton in his time as bishop of the Diocese of Ontario had served on the United Church-Anglican Dialogue and as a representative to the Canadian Council of Catholic Bishops. Yet his own personal experience of ecumenism stretches back much further.

Michael Oulton

During his time with the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, Oulton was reading a list of Roman Catholic representatives when he saw the name of one Archbishop Daniel Bohan. Inquiring whether the archbishop had ever ministered in New Brunswick, Oulton learned that Bohan in the mid-1970s had served as a parish priest in his hometown of Port Elgin, New Brunswick. The two soon reintroduced themselves to each other.

“He was a luminous figure in my hometown, and we’d always stop at the parish house and the door was always open to us,” Oulton recalled.

“It didn’t matter who we were, what denomination we were, it was always open to us and he was involved in a lot of things in our community … Part of the reason why I grappled with a sense of call to ministry was the presence of him in the life of my community and in my life … It was so neat to reconnect decades later.”

Sadly, Archbishop Bohan was later diagnosed with cancer and died in early 2016. But his early work as a parish priest left a lasting impression on Bishop Oulton.

Later on, during his own ministry as an incumbent in Alberton, P.E.I., Oulton took part in ecumenical projects such as the construction of the W.J. Phillips Residence, a seniors’ residential care facility whose development was a collaborative effort between five different churches.

“It was the churches that drove that [project], and again from that ecumenical basis,” Oulton said. “It’s always been a part of my life, as a young child, all through my ministry, and it was just such a privilege to be able to serve a term on the Canadian Council of Churches and see that work up close.”

Read the conclusion of this story.

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Thrive! family program offers new approach to youth ministry

March 16, 2018 - 8:18pm

An Anglican parish in the Diocese of Huron is partnering with a local United Church of Canada congregation to develop an intergenerational ministry program for parents and youth.

Originating in the community of Essex, Ont., Thrive! A living manual for families is a joint ministry project between St. Paul’s Anglican Church and Essex United Church that aims to provide community support for families facing new challenges in an ever-changing world, through food, fellowship, and education.

The program, which is currently in development, will centre on Thrive! Dinners, at which families come together to prepare and share a meal together, followed by programming geared towards the concerns of their particular demographic. Additional resources will likely include a website, Pinterest and Facebook groups, and regular blogs for sharing stories and resources.

The Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle, rector at St. Paul’s and at  Trinity Church in Cottam, is spearheading Thrive! in partnership  with the Rev. Jim Hatt, pastor of Essex United Church.

A parent and self-identified “Gen X-er”, Brouillard-Coyle at the time of the program’s inception had been ruminating on the complexities of modern parenthood in response to new developments affecting youth, from the rise of social media to the growing prominence of LGBTQ issues.

“My teenager and I have had several conversations joking about how there should be a manual for all of this, because there’s a lot that’s happening in this generation that didn’t happen when we were that age,” she said. “And yet as parents we’re trying to figure things out.”

Meanwhile, St. Paul’s and Essex United Church had been working on building a relationship in recent years, with Brouillard-Coyle and Hatt getting to know each other through the Essex Ministerial group.

Comparing their two congregations, it become apparent that although St. Paul’s was “financially struggling” and lacking monetary resources, the congregation had had great success working with its youth, whom Brouillard-Coyle described as “great, dynamic participants in worship”.

By contrast, she said, Essex United had more resources, but “have struggled with results.”

“We got talking and said, what would it look like if we worked together on a youth ministry project?” Brouillard-Coyle recalled. “And [Hatt] really liked that idea.”

Essex United Church subsequently applied for a grant to hire a youth minister (the position has yet to be filled), while St. Paul’s applied and received a grant from the Huron Development Fund to support its participation in the project.

The location of the Thrive! Dinners is expected to be Essex United Church, which has three kitchens in close proximity. Multiple kitchens would allow organizers to accommodate participants who, for example, wish to join meal preparation while working in a gluten-free environment.

Following their meal together, Thrive! participants would then break into groups by age.

“If there are younger children, we would have a program for them,” Brouillard-Coyle said. “There would be a program for youth to address dating and social media, and how to design a life you love. Even though the school system’s telling you, ‘You’ve got to figure out now exactly what you want to do and then just go that route’, the reality is [that is] not the case anymore. You can move around jobs and careers, and how do they navigate that?

“Then the parents would also have a program where they would be able to explore things like, how do you navigate the mental health system? How do you talk to your kids about drugs? Or how do you address when your kid comes home and says, ‘I don’t want to be called ‘she’ anymore, I want to be called ‘they’? And how do we walk through all these things with our kids?”

While practical advice is a major part of Thrive!, the program is not without its spiritual component. Organizers will invite families to share grace before the meal, and then hold a prayer service at the end of the evening incorporating themes from the group discussions.

“We expect worship to grow organically, because we are doing this interdenominationally, and recognize that there’s a lot of these families who aren’t necessarily connected to church, but could really use a safe space in which to connect,” Brouillard-Coyle said.

She added, “In the end, I hope that families will feel a connection to each other and to God, however they might understand God, in a new way that helps to support and enable families to thrive in our area.”

Brouillard-Coyle is currently laying the groundwork for Thrive! by connecting with families and preparing social media and web components. She has also consulted Anglican youth leaders across the country to learn from their use of social media.

Among those leaders in Sheilagh McGlynn, national youth animator for the Anglican Church of Canada. Though the first “brick and mortar” Thrive! event will likely not be held until late April, McGlynn expressed enthusiasm at the program.

“The fact that they’re not just looking at youth is really interesting to me,” McGlynn said. “It’s not just about, ‘Let’s put our youth in a basement room where they watch movies and eat popcorn and talk about faith things’. That’s, I think, a very standard model of youth ministry at this point. It’s an old model. It’s not that it doesn’t work, but it’s not connecting the young people to the community.

“There are lots of things I love about [the Thrive!] plan,” she added. But in terms of just how they go about doing youth ministry, it’s that it’s not going to be [just] taking the young people out and doing their own thing with them; it’s going to be doing it intergenerationally.”

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Primate’s Sermon from the 109th Synod of the Episcopal Church of Cuba

March 12, 2018 - 5:59pm

The following sermon was delivered by Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, at the closing Eucharist of the 109th Session of Synod for the Episcopal Church of Cuba/Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba on Feb. 25, 2018.

“Grace and peace to you from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

It has been a great joy to be with you once again in Synod. I bring you warm greetings from The Anglican Church of Canada and most especially from your dear friend and ours, Archbishop Michael Peers. Every Friday, he prays Morning Prayer in Spanish and asks God’s blessings as he puts it “on a wonderful people, country, and church”.

In anticipation of Synod, I re-read a reflection Michael wrote some years ago on the experience of engagement with the Church in Cuba over the span of eighteen years. He styled his role as chair of the Metropolitan Council in the manner of being a Volunteer-in-Mission. He spoke of his role in Synod in offering counsel or advice as appropriate or requested. He also reminisced about the numerous visits he made to parishes across the diocese – preaching and presiding, baptizing an infant, officiating at the marriage of a clergy couple, sharing in Bible study, visiting the sick, attending a youth festival, and meetings with the Department of Religious Affairs.

With vivid memory, he describes a visit to Santiago de Cuba. The first service was at dusk on a Sunday evening in a church on a street corner. “They had two young people choirs”, he wrote, “and in the darkness outside the window grating I could see people crowding around to watch and listen”. He called those moments “Evangelism 101 – Come and See”.

“Come and See”. We first hear these words from the lips of Jesus at the very outset of his ministry. A couple of his first followers ask him “Rabbi, Where are you staying?” and he says, “Come and See.” They go with him, they see the place, and they stay with him. (John 1:38-39) This is as basic a story of evangelism, as one can find in the Gospel.

“Come and See”. Numerous are the stories in which the characters are in every sense saying this very thing, “Come and See.”

Think of the woman of Samaria who encounters Jesus at Jacob’s well and receives from him the water of new life, and how she goes and says to the people in the city, “Come and see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” (John 4:29)

Think of the Greeks who say, “We wish to see Jesus”, (John 12:20) and of how Andrew speaks to Philip and together they say, “Come and See”.

Think of that Roman centurion who having overseen the Crucifixion to its end, is moved to say as Jesus breathed his last, “Truly this was the Son of God”. (Matthew 27:54) His word has all the power of inviting us to “Come and See” the Saviour of the World by whose cross and precious blood we have been redeemed.

Think of the women at the tomb on that first day of the week and how an angel says to them “Do not be afraid! I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here he has risen. Come and see the place where he lay.” (Matthew 28: 5-6) That angel’s “Come and See” is an invitation for all of us to come to know the joy and glory of Christ’s Resurrection.

To “Mary Magdalene in the garden a risen Lord says, “Come and See. I am risen. Go and tell the other disciples.” (John 20: 11-18)

To the disciples in an Upper Room he says, “Come and See” as he shows them his hands and his side. (John 20: 19-20)

To Thomas who doubted the report of the disciples, he says, “Come and See”. “Put your finger here, reach out our hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt, but believe.” (John 20: 27)

To Peter, as they stroll along the lakeshore, “Come and See”, Come and see the plan I have for you to shepherd my flock. (John 21: 15-17)

To Saul of Tarsus, to whom he appears on the road to Damascus, “Come and See”, “Come and see the plans I have for you to be the apostle to the Gentiles.” (Acts 9: 1-15)

Countless are the lives of men and women in every age who have had a “Come and See” moment with Christ. For some it has been the farthest thing from their mind yet in an instant it seems, incredibly life transforming. For many more, it is the very thing they desire and for which they pray, but it is a gradual growing in awareness of his call and claim on our lives. “Come and see” the plans I have for you, and the work I am entrusting to you for the sake of the world.

In the vast volumes of these “Come and See” stories is your story and mine.

“Come and See”. It is the story of the Church’s worship through time. The ringing of the church bell is a call to “Come and See”, to come and ponder the loving purposes of God in sending Christ into the world.  It is a call to story and song and sacrament, and then to service in the community in which we live in the name of Christ. I have often thought that while we ring the church bell to gather the faithful, we ought also to ring it as the faithful disperse as the Body of Christ into the community – his ears and eyes, his heart and voice, his feet and hands.

“Come and See”. It is the story of the Church’s work in the world. And it is especially the story of the Church in Cuba. For as long as I have been coming to Cuba, I have been humbled and inspired by your joy in the Gospel of Christ and your unwavering commitment to the works that accompany it.

“Come and See”, I would say to others. Come and see a Church in which the Holy Spirit is moving the hearts of men and women everywhere and calling them to a variety of ministries each one a reflection of a yet deeper commitment to one vow of baptism or another.

“Come and See” a Church working with great intent to equip lay people for strong and spirited leadership in their communities.

“Come and See” a Church where the Spirit continues to call men and women to ministry as deacons and priest. Today we give thanks for the Spirit’s call in the lives of Roberto, Hil, and Juan Carlos, and pray that as the Spirit has hovered over them through their journeys of discernment, study, and formation, so now she may come in all the fullness of her grace and rest upon them, that they be able ministers of Word and Sacrament, Pastoral Care and Counsel.

Yours is a story of missionary enthusiasm and the building of many temples. Yours is a story of deprivation in which you continued to serve the poor. It is a story of resilience and reorganization. Yours is a story of unwavering commitment to the mission of God in which the good news of Jesus is proclaimed,
the people are nurtured for life long discipleship;
the poor are heard and their needs tended;
the foundations for a society that is just for all are laid, and
the earth itself is reverenced as our common home, preserved with the utmost of respect for those who come after us.

“Come and See”. It is the invitation that has shaped so much of your bishop’s international ministry. On your behalf, Griselda travels extensively and speaks at numerous conventions, Synods, and forums. She tells your story, she seeks partnerships in ministry, she asks for financial support. In a word, she says, “Come and See” – Come and see a Church that strives, even with limited resources, to incarnate the Gospel in every community it serves. Come and see a Church that is eager to restore its temples, to build new ones. Come and see a Church that is making a real difference in the lives of Cubans of all ages. Come and see a Church that is ecumenical in its reach and impact.

“Come and See” – It is the essence of your diocesan initiative known as “ICTHUS”. Inspired by the hope of enhancing the profile of Iglesia Episcopal de Cuba within the Anglican Communion, it invites people around the world to take note of this Church and its response to the Gospel.

“Come and See” – It is the essence of an invitation of your bishop, through the Metropolitan Council of Cuba for a visit from someone representing the Anglican Communion. It is a delight to know that The Rev. Canon John Kafwanka, Director of Mission for the Anglican Communion has accepted the invitation and will be in Cuba for a weeklong visit in September this year.

He will “come and see” your parishes, your Diocesan Center and Hostel, and the Development Office.  We hope he will also visit the Blankingship Property and the Ecumenical Seminary in Matanzas. We hope he will meet with the Cuban Council of Churches and the Department of Religious Affairs of the Government of Cuba. He will “come and see” a Church that knows its vocation to be “in and for the world” after the example of Christ himself. He will meet, to quote our dear friend Michael Peers, “a wonderful people, country and church”.

“Come and See”
+ The word of Jesus to a couple of his very first disciples.
+ The counsel of holy men and women through the ages.
+ The wisdom of our dear friend, Michael Peers.
+ The passion of your bishop, Griselda.
+ The essence of your life together in Christ.

May the simplicity and grace of this invitation inspire all your work as you leave Synod and return to all those places where you have been called to serve the people of God in the name of his dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

To Him be glory, now and forever. Amen.

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Anglicans across the Communion united for women’s rights and gender equality

March 7, 2018 - 9:19pm

Thursday, March 8 marks International Women’s Day. In countries around the world, rallies, celebrations and demonstrations will be held to acknowledge the achievements and the struggle that women experience for equal rights.

For Anglicans, the global nature of the struggle for women’s rights and gender equality is reflected through networks in our worldwide Anglican Communion. Chief among these is the International Anglican Women’s Network (IAWN), an association of Anglican women with the stated aims of “working to uphold the God-given dignity of all women and girls and to eradicate all forms of gender-based inequality”.

All Anglican women are considered members of the IAWN. The IAWN focuses on promoting gender equality throughout the Anglican Communion; eliminating all forms of violence against women and children including human trafficking; ensuring equal access  to education, safe water, health care, and economic power; empowering rural women who are often isolated to help eradicate poverty and hunger and to mitigate the effects of climate change; and promoting gender budgeting.

The Rev. Margaret Dempster, a retired Canadian priest currently serving in her second term on the IAWN Steering Committee, underscored the common interest for all in promoting the cause of gender equity around the world.

“It’s about solidarity and solidarity with women, but also that men partner with women [as allies],” Dempster said.

“We need everybody involved … Every man has had a mother, a grandmother, possibly a sister, daughter, nieces, and I’m sure everybody wants to make sure that everyone has a fair chance at living a full and complete and satisfying life.”

Connecting Anglican women internationally through its website, social media, and e-newsletters, the IAWN maintains a portfolio of provincial links throughout the Anglican Communion, organizing special events and providing education opportunities.

One of its current priorities is planning a face-to-face meeting of theologians and academics to develop a theological curriculum from women’s perspectives. In Canada, the IAWN organized a one-day seminar on human trafficking in 2014 at the Sorrento Retreat Centre.

Dempster noted that while women in the Global South often have different concerns than those living in wealthier northern countries, there are common struggles that affect women in all provinces of the communion.

“We’re not immune anywhere to things such as human trafficking,” Dempster said. “That occurs here [in Canada] as well. Sometimes we don’t see it, and we have to become aware of looking out for the signs that that’s occurring.”

The obstinate nature of gender inequality is still visible within church structures, she added.

“If you look at the hierarchy in the church … we do have women bishops and more women priests, but sometimes in the decision-making bodies, in the governance entities, it’s still not really balanced. So I think it’s really important for women to have a seat at the table.”

Supporting women and communities

At the United Nations, Anglican women make their presence felt and work known through membership in the Ecumenical Women coalition and their annual attendance at the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

When it comes to supporting women and communities in practical ways to advance development, the Anglican Church of Canada provides assistance through the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF). Acknowledging that women in developing nations often face unique challenges, PWRDF strives to address inequality in its work by taking account of gender roles.

Women in rural areas, development program coordinator Jeanine Cudmore said, are typically “responsible for childcare, collecting water, cooking, everything … They’re also engaged in agricultural work, especially planting and weeding and all of that kind of grunt work, for lack of a better word.”

She added, “Men are more involved in the harvest and selling, so they have access to the funds … A lot of the education awareness sessions that we have are very much focusing on the role of women in the household and also in the community, and trying to improve decision-making within families, especially within couples.”

Illustrating the myriad impacts of gender inequality, Andrea Casey, program officer for the Development Partnership Program, offered the example of a PWRDF health and food security project to improve access to water.

“Women or girls are responsible for collecting water, and if the water point is quite far from the household, they spend hours collecting water that prevents them from participating in the community—or for girls, prevents them from going to school and leaves them a little more vulnerable as well,” Casey said.

“As part of health, clean water promotes a healthy community. But it’s also understanding that the distance to clean water impacts the gendered participation of women and girls as well.”

Learn more about how you can get involved to advocate locally and make an impact globally.

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Primate’s letter calls for support to Palestinian refugees

February 27, 2018 - 7:54pm

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, is calling on the Canadian government to increase support for Palestinian refugees through the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) following a sharp reduction in contributions from the United States.

In an open letter to MP Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister for International Development and La Francophonie, Archbishop Hiltz implored the Government of Canada to increase funding to UNRWA to sustain education and health care services for Palestinian refugees across the Diocese of Jerusalem. This area includes Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza. The Primate also asks that the federal government joins UNRWA in creating new funding initiatives and partnerships.

UNRWA currently oversees 700 schools and 137 medical clinics, which provide education and health care to Palestinian refugees throughout the diocese. The U.S. government recently announced that its 2018 contribution to UNRWA would amount to $60 million—an 84 per cent reduction from its $350 million pledge the previous year.

“As Chair of the G7, Canada has an opportunity to raise greater awareness that health and education are the building-blocks for sound development and eventual peace and stability,” the Primate wrote in his letter.

For the Diocese of Jerusalem, the funding shortfall as a result of the decreased U.S. contribution would principally impact the Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza City. A key diocesan ministry, Al Ahli is one of several hospitals in Gaza that serve poor and marginalized people who cannot afford basic health care or serious medical treatments.

Should funding for UNRWA continue to decrease, Global Relations Director Andrea Mann said, “the current situation of reduced amounts of pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, electricity, fuel for generators, all of that will continue to be more and more compromised, so in the end, fewer services are provided”.

“We may see a time where those that work for the hospital don’t receive full wages or wages in a timely manner,” she added. “That has happened in the past and you can imagine how difficult that is for individuals and for their families in what is already a very, very difficult place to live in the world.”

Mann encouraged Anglicans to pray for all those affected by the cuts, and to learn more about Canada’s existing support for UNRWA and how the program has supported Palestinian refugees.

Read the Primate’s letter.

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‘Demanding more’

February 23, 2018 - 5:00pm

The heart of America is aching in the aftermath of yet another tragic school shooting, this time at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Fourteen young people, a geography teacher, an athletic director and a football coach were murdered. As this community buries its children, thousands and thousands of people across the United States and around the world gather in candlelight vigils to remember them and to pray for their families whose lives are changed forever. My own heart – and I know the heart of this Church – goes out to all of them in their grief.

This is the seventeenth time in 2018 that a gun has been discharged on a US school property, and the eighth incident that has resulted in injury and death. This is all barely within the first two months of this new year. Since 2013, there have been nearly 300 school shootings in America — an average of about one a week.

What is remarkably notable in the aftermath of this recent shooting in Florida is the tremendous resilience of the young people in standing up and speaking out with grave concern for the gun violence that is tearing apart families and communities. While some people note that many of the shooters have serious mental health issues or have links with terrorist groups, and that needs to be acknowledged, many others are asking deeper questions about “the gun culture” across the United States. Some question an all-or-nothing approach to the Second Amendment in an age of automatic weapons. Some question why many Americans so vehemently defend that right. Some question the measures around gun control and the extent to which they can be enforced. Some question access to semi-automatic weapons that can fire dozens of rounds within seconds.

One young man reminded a rally in Florida, that addressing these issues was not about being Republican or Democrat, but about being human. These students are speaking out with a courage and conviction that cannot go unnoticed. Their cry for reform will not pass soon as some might expect and others might hope. Many Americans are joining them and crowding the roads to places where legislation is considered, including those to Capitol Hill in Washington.

In The Episcopal Church, a coalition of Bishops United Against Gun Violence have called their members into liturgies of lamentation for the victims of the Parkland shooting; into a time of engagement with their elected representatives to support legislation banning assault weapons such as the AR-15 which is frequently used in such shootings, and into a time of discernment to make clear to their elected representation “that they must vote in the interest of all Americans, including law-abiding gun owners, and in passing life-saving common-sense gun policies”.

I ask you to uphold these bishops in advancing their cause and in standing in solidarity with the young people who are speaking out in your prayers. For in truth, these young people are already working very hard as “the restorer of the streets” (Isaiah 58:12) in which all can live safely and peaceably.

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‘An appeal for a good conscience’ (1 Peter 3:21)

February 21, 2018 - 10:06pm

View a PDF version of this document.

Last Sunday, we heard in a reading from the First Letter of Peter that baptism is “not a removal of dirt from the body but an appeal to God for a good conscience through Jesus Christ” (3:21-22). This view of baptism calls us to mind the teaching of the prophet Micah, that we “do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God” (6:8). It points to a way of life in keeping with the Beatitudes which are in truth, calls to attitude and outlook toward others as befits life in the kingdom of God. It is entirely consistent too with the Seven Traditional Grandfather Teachings of the Cree Nations: love, respect, humility, truth, honesty, wisdom and courage.

It is from this perspective that we address the tragic shooting death of Colten Boushie on August 9, 2016 on the farm of Gerald Stanley in Biggar, Saskatchewan; the subsequent trial of Stanley; his acquittal on February 9, 2018; and the protest on the part of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people all across the country.

There is outrage over many issues concerning this case, including the following:

  • the manner in which Colten’s body, while covered, lay face down in the gravel of the farmyard for twenty-four hours;
  • the insensitive manner in which the RCMP notified the family of Colten’s death;
  • the chaos around informing the Boushie family of Gerald Stanley’s first court appearance on August 11, 2016;
  • a jury distinguished by the fact that there were no visible Indigenous people selected;
  • the “excessive” security measures taken through the early days of the trial as if “to protect” those gathered from the Boushie family and the large numbers of Indigenous Peoples assembled to follow the proceedings;
  • the complicated grief the Boushie family is experiencing; upon hearing the verdict they said, “We feel like Colten died again”;
  • the growing anger that Canada’s justice system fails Indigenous people with an alarming consistency; and the frustration that many Canadians feel in the lack of real progress in the reform of the system; and
  • the ugly reality that racism is so systemic and embedded in this country that it seems invisible until in some particular tragedy or travesty of justice it is exposed in such a way as to render it undeniable in the public realm.

Racism is the belief, reinforced by the abuse of power and privilege, that one race is invariably superior to others. Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) has exposed the historic racism toward the First Peoples of this land.  Other Commissions have also exposed the shameful history of our treatment of Black, Asian, and Jewish immigrants and our internment of Japanese Canadians through WWII.

As people of faith:

  • We declare that racism is evil. It is in fundamental conflict with the truth that God created all peoples with an equal love and endowed each with an equal dignity.
  • We acknowledge that in so far as we are complicit in this sin, we confess our failures. We repent and long to live in more respectful ways in accord with the Word of God.
  • We make a vow in baptism to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being. Accordingly, we must make a commitment to learn about racism. We must be more aware of the behaviours that force others to feel “racialized” and correct those behaviours.
  • “We join all those who are longing to escape from the slavery of prejudice, racism, anger, frustration, violence and bitterness. We wish to join all those who are re-dedicating themselves to work for reconciliation among all people in our communities and in our nation.” (Statement of February 15th by the Anglican Lutheran and Roman Catholic Bishops of Saskatchewan)

As members of The Anglican Church of Canada:

  • We are bound by a Charter of Racial Justice endorsed by the General Synod in 2004. This Charter calls us to the struggle for racial justice based on “new attitudes, new understandings and new relationships” as reflected in the continuing reform of the structures, policies, and practices of our Church.
  • We call every diocese in our Church to endorse and embrace the Charter of Racial Justice and encourage our bishops to commend it for endorsing and embracing by every parish within their dioceses.
  • We are also bound by a commitment to Anti-Racism Training for all who serve in the councils and committees of the General Synod, and we commend this training throughout our entire Church.
  • We note that a number of dioceses are requiring Anti-Racism Training for candidates for ordination and orienting people who serve on diocesan committees and councils. We call on every diocese to consider acting accordingly.

As citizens of Canada:

Specifically we must track action on Calls 28 and 57.

#28 calls upon “law schools in Canada to require all law students to take a course in Aboriginal People and the law, which includes the history and legacy of Residential Schools, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Treaties and Aboriginal Rights, Indigenous law and Indigenous Crown Relations.”

#57 calls upon “federal, provincial, and municipal governments to provide education to public servants” on the same topics.

Both of these calls reference required “skill-based training in inter-cultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights and anti-racism”.

We must also track Calls 39 and 40.

#39 calls for a national plan to collect and publish data on the criminal victimization of Aboriginal People.

#40 calls for adequately funded Aboriginal specific victim programs.

  • We recognize that there is no real hope of reconciliation without confronting the racism so deeply embedded in our structures and social systems. We encourage a renewed commitment to the values in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982).
  • We encourage a full implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (2007). We call on the Prime Minister to act expeditiously on Bill 262 to bring Canadian Law in line with the UN Declaration and we request that, in that work, Indigenous Peoples be full partners.
  • We support Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Rabould’s intention to rid the justice system in Canada of racism, especially her call for the review of peremptory challenge in jury selection. Currently, lawyers do not have to give reasons for excluding candidates for jury duty. This practise, says Steven Penney, a University of Alberta law professor and an author of Criminal Procedure in Canada, “invites bias on the basis of race…It’s not a value we should allow in our system.”  He says the Colten Boushie case is “highlighting those flaws.”
  • We do well to remember the 2013 finding of former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci in his Report, “First Nations Representation in Ontario Juries” that underrepresentation of First Nations People living on reserves was a symptom of a much larger crisis in the relationship between Ontario’s Justice System and Indigenous Peoples in that province and that this finding is not unique to Ontario.
  • We commit ourselves to advocacy for a change in policy and practise.

As people of faith:

  • We ask for your prayers for all whose lives continue to be impacted by this tragedy and this trial, and for the needs for reform in the justice system. With great empathy, we especially remember the Boushie family and Red Pheasant First Nation.
  • We encourage you to attend or organize public events in your community. They could be opportunities for listening, learning, advocacy, and action concerning human rights, racism, and justice.

It is important that we stand together in this time. There is an urgency about our common witness, and that urgency is informed by the Word of God.

“…I despise your festivals and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.

Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them, and the peace offerings of your fatted beasts, I will not look upon.

Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen.

But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”

                                                                                                (Amos 5: 22-24)

God help us.

Archbishop Fred Hiltz
Primate
The Anglican Church of Canada

The text of this statement was prepared in consultation with the following persons:

The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Anglican Bishop

The Rev. Canon Virginia Doctor, Indigenous Ministries Coordinator

Ms. Esther Wesley, Coordinator, Anglican Fund for Healing and Reconciliation

Ms. Melanie Delva, Reconciliation Animator

The Ven. Dr. Michael Thompson, General Secretary

Archdeacon Paul Feheley, Principal Secretary to the Primate

Ms. Meghan Kilty, Director of Communications


What can we do to address racism in our communities? Listen. Read. Learn. Act.

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#MeToo and the Church—Part Four: The Safe Church Commission and ecumenical initiatives

February 20, 2018 - 6:19pm

Read Parts One, Two, and Three.

Even before the #MeToo movement brought the issue of sexual misconduct to the forefront of public conversation, confronting gender-based violence and abuse had emerged as a priority across many provinces of the Anglican Communion.

At a communion-wide level in 2016, the Anglican Consultative Council passed resolutions aimed at transforming church structures through a commitment to gender equality and justice, and by ensuring the safety of all persons in the communion through safe church policies. To this end, the establishment of the Safe Church Commission represented the most high-profile effort by the Anglican Communion to enshrine the concept of safe church on a global scale.

The Safe Church Commission has a three-year mandate (2017-2020) to produce a charter of safety for churches that would follow guidelines originally set to be determined over the course of three face-to-face meetings. Members of the commission held their first meeting last October at the Anglican Communion Office in London, England, bringing together representatives from Anglican provinces in North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Oceania.

Mary Wells, the Anglican Church of Canada’s representative to the Safe Church Commission, said that Anglicans in some parts of the world face different challenges from others in establishing safe churches for all.

“There are some countries where, for instance, homosexuality is still illegal,” Wells said. “And that challenges us around things that are normal in Canada and the States and England, [such as] mandatory reporting … If they tell people they have to mandatorily report child sexual abuse no matter where they are in the world, we will end up with some executions. And that doesn’t make sense.”

From her own vantage point, Wells is reaching out to Indigenous communities to lift up Indigenous perspectives, contexts, philosophies and approaches to ensure the work of the Safe Church Commission hears the voices of Indigenous peoples. In this way, members hope to create inclusive safe church procedures.

“I had one [Indigenous] woman read about the commission, and her reaction was, ‘Well, this sounds like a blue-eyed solution,’” Wells recalled. “And that got me going … [I think] what she meant was, it won’t work, it’s just talk and nothing will happen. But we’re working to ensure that something will really happen.”

Following their first meeting in London, members of the commission split into working groups that would each focus on different areas. One subgroup is focused on policies and another on procedures, while Wells is chairing a third focused on theological reflections.

Members made such progress in London that their next meeting has been moved up to May, with Wells noting, “We felt that we had so much momentum happening at that meeting that we decided to meet in six months instead of a year.” They plan to rework a draft safe church document at the May meeting in order to present it at the 2019 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, followed by a presentation at the 2020 Lambeth Conference.

Ecumenical Women

While Anglicans work with each other internationally to establish safe church policies, they are also reaching across denominational lines to work with other Christian churches through membership in ecumenical organizations.

The Rev. Laura Marie Piotrowicz, Canadian representative to the Ecumenical Women coalition at the United Nations, said that sexual violence is a frequent topic of discussion at gatherings such as the annual UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW).

“It is so pervasive in society, and it is not limited by age or sector,” Piotrowicz said. “It is a foundational reality in everything that we’re doing towards equality.”

Though members of Ecumenical Women have not attended UNSCW since the onset of #MeToo, they have discussed the movement via teleconference—acknowledging that sexual misconduct is “pervasive in the church and something the church needs to address.”

They plan to discuss the #MeToo phenomenon when they attend at the 62nd session of the UNSCW, which will place from March 12-23.

“Within the Anglican delegation, we’re constantly talking about how Anglican Women can build one another up and support one another, and a lot of that comes with education and with sharing the stories,” Piotrowicz said.

“The primary focus for this year’s UNCSW is on rural women, and especially in rural communities, we can find sexual misconduct that has gone on for however many years that is just presumed to be normal. Oftentimes, there are less resources available for rural communities. So it’s definitely something that will be part of our conversations.”

Self-reflection and the importance of faith

As Anglicans join the ongoing debates sparked by #MeToo, the movement provides an opportunity for the church to look inward and acknowledge past failures, while also considering how it can support survivors and embody the ethos of safe church.

“The church has an opportunity to become a moral voice and to take some leadership,” said retired priest Mary Louise Meadow, who served as canon pastor for the sexual misconduct policy in the Diocese of British Columbia from 2003 to 2006. “But in order to do that, it has to look carefully at … its own reluctance to, in the past, fully address its own culpability.”

Besides the apology for its role in facilitating abuse through the Indian residential school system, Meadow said that the Anglican Church of Canada “needs to come forward with ways to state to its own complicity as being a social structure with power and that held the trust of many vulnerable people in its ministry relationships, and allowed that trust to be abused by the conduct of some of its clergy or ministers.”

“I think the church needs to be very candid about its own self-learning, and then it can become a credible spokesperson for creating trust for people who want to move forward to address the healing of sexual harm,” she added. “But we need to see how that gets done pastorally.”

Even as the work of the Safe Church Commission moves forward, Wells said bishops must take leadership and speak out in support of people who bring forward complaints—while also reminding their congregations of existing policies and procedures that the church has in place to deal with sexual misconduct.

“For me, what the #MeToo movement is doing is it’s highlighting how courageous the church was in stepping forward early on to deal with these kinds of things and how we’ve done them very carefully and sustained it and reviewed it and stayed on top of it for so many years,” Wells said.

She stressed the importance of faith in providing Christians with the strength and foundational beliefs to better address sexual misconduct, which she believed encouraged that early response.

“Churches are accustomed to dealing with the notion of sin, of hurting other people and … dealing with people who get into bad behaviour,” Wells said.

“The church has had more or less luck in dealing with it, and sometimes it’s absolutely colluded with it. But I really felt that it had to be the faith foundation that gave the churches the courage to deal with this. And I think that the public sector should be turning to the churches to ask for what they can learn from their experience, because they have a lot to learn.”

For Piotrowicz, that faith foundation that can guide the church’s response to #MeToo finds expression throughout the Bible, going back to the story of Creation.

“God did not make women less than men,” Piotrowicz said. “God made us in God’s image, and we’re equal in God’s eyes right from the beginning.

“All throughout the Scriptures, when we hear about stories of inequality, we hear about the need for justice, the need for people to be respected, the need for people’s dignity to be lifted up. And that’s not men first and women second … It is the call for all of us to be living into the fullness of Christ.”

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Prayer and Fasting for Peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan

February 16, 2018 - 2:30pm

I whole-heartedly join a growing number of Church Leaders responding to the call of Pope Francis for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in South Sudan on February 23rd.  That is the Friday of the first full week of Lent.  Moved by the Holy Father’s invitation, I looked ahead to the texts appointed for reading at the eucharist that day.

The prophet Ezekiel speaks of God’s desire that we turn from the wickedness of the ways in which humans commit such abominable crimes against one another.  He calls us to re-set our hearts toward doing what is right and just in the sight of God. (Ezekiel 34:21-28)

The psalmist sings of his trust in the Lord’s plenteous redemption, and kindness. (Psalm 130)

In the gospel of the day, we hear Jesus teaching on reconciliation and how we go about that work, however hard it may be however long it may take. (Matthew 5:20-26)

The peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan have suffered through the horrors of war for so many years.  They know so much death and are acquainted with so much grief.  Communities have been destroyed and family life shattered.  So many of their children know nothing but war.  So many in fact are orphaned by its carnage.

On this Friday, February 23rd, let us fast as an act of solidarity with those who suffer so much deprivation through war and those whose poverty is incomprehensible.  And let us pray for those who work for reconciliation and peace – that their ranks be swelled and their strategies embraced.  May the peoples for whom they labour finally know a peace that is just and lasting, a peace in which they and their children can live in hope of better times, in full accord with the will of God.

Fred J. Hiltz
Archbishop and Primate

View a PDF version of this statement.

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#MeToo and the Church—Part Three: Perspectives on Indigeneity, colonialism and the legacy of the residential schools

February 12, 2018 - 2:30pm

Read Parts One and Two.

For many Indigenous peoples in Canada, the increased public attention to sexual violence in the wake of the #MeToo movement can carry a very different meaning than it might for non-Indigenous peoples.

The historical experience of colonization, widespread abuse of children in the Indian residential school system, the resulting intergenerational trauma, and the ongoing struggle against racism and sexism create unique challenges for Indigenous people, the effects of which can be felt in attitudes to the current public conversation sparked by #MeToo.

Indigenous Ministries Coordinator Ginny Doctor said that she knew “more than several” Indigenous women who had experienced sexual violence in the past, but who were reluctant to publicly share their stories.

“From my point of view, I don’t think a lot of Indigenous women have responded by saying ‘me too,’” Doctor said. “I think that’s the case for a lot of Indigenous women … They’ve been silenced or not encouraged to speak about it, and if they do speak about it, what alternative do they have? Are there safe places for them to talk about what happened to them?”

Experiences of sexual abuse in Indigenous communities are often related to issues such as alcoholism and drug use, caused or exacerbated by the intergenerational trauma that resulted from colonization and the residential school experience.

“I’ve been working in Indigenous communities for most of my life, and I’ve heard the stories of Indigenous women being raped or sexually molested by either family members or people who have been drinking,” Doctor said. “It all seems to stem from people abusing alcohol, and it’s a dysfunction that we really haven’t dealt with, and I’m not quite sure how we do deal with it.

“We can say ‘me too’, but what happens after that, I guess, is my concern.”

Unique challenges for Indigenous women

Determining the cause of harassment directed against Indigenous people can be doubly vexing, since discrimination may also be based on race or gender.

“For Indigenous people, it’s kind of a double whammy, because the harassment could be because they’re Indigenous more than because of their gender,” Doctor said. “So it’s really hard to differentiate or to tell where that harassment is coming from and what’s at play.”

Reflecting on current policies towards sexual misconduct both inside and outside the Anglican Church of Canada, Doctor suggested that harassment needs to be defined to reflect and include  linguistic and cultural differences.

“The whole issue I have with a lot of policies that come out not only through the church, but even through the government as well, is that they’re written in a language that is okay for Western thought and comprehension—but when you take it to Indigenous communities, it’s like a foreign language,” Doctor said.

Words such as “harassment” may not be understood by those whose mother tongue is not English, she noted, and must also be translated accordingly.

“How do you translate ‘harassment’ into Cree or Oji-Cree or Plains Cree to have it make sense to the people, and so they know what you’re talking about?”

Abuse in residential schools

While #MeToo has shined a light on the problem of sexual violence in present-day culture, the Anglican Church of Canada is no stranger to witnessing the bravery and importance of truth-telling by survivors. In grappling with its own role in the residential school system, the church heard many survivors describe their experiences of sexual, physical, verbal, and emotional abuse in the schools.

Reconciliation animator Melanie Delva was and continues to be struck by the courage of residential school survivors who came forward and shared their stories in a pre-#MeToo era, at a time when public reactions were more likely to range from skepticism to outright hostility.

“There was no social media hashtag to connect [survivors] to one another, and there was certainly no groundswell of public support for them at any level—most often the exact opposite,” Delva said.

“Above all, to me that speaks to the incredible strength and bravery of these Indigenous women and men. It’s one thing to come forward with a hashtag which almost guarantees you the support of hundreds of thousands of people. It is a whole different story to come forward when—quite frankly—people don’t want to hear what you have to say.”

Yet Delva was unsure whether “the dominant church and society” would have listened to survivors of sexual violence in the absence of social media and the related hashtags such as #MeToo.

She noted that it was a woman of colour, Tarana Burke, who began the #MeToo movement in 2006. However, it was not until a famous white woman, actor Alyssa Milano, began using the hashtag in 2017 that #MeToo truly captured the public’s attention—a fact that Delva called “hugely problematic.”

“I believe that Indigenous survivors of sexual abuse were the #MeToo movement calling to the Church decades ago—but instead of a groundswell of support, they were often not believed or had to fight to have their claims taken seriously and treated fairly,” Delva said.

“Some are still in that fight,” she added, noting ongoing attempts by survivors of St. Anne’s Indian Residential School to settle claims with the federal government.

Taking action

Delva said the controversy faced by the St. Anne’s survivors indicates the need for everyone to be more vigilant in listening to the voices of marginalized and vulnerable people in society and within the church, and in ensuring safe environments for all.

“We can’t wait until the dominant culture decides to ‘accept’ it as a valid issue,” Delva said. “And after listening, we have to act. Policy is good, but there also needs to be training on the policy, so that the people who need to do the hard work of responding to allegations know how to do so in a way that is fair and respectful and not re-traumatizing.

“We need to listen to the racialized in communities in terms of what they need as culturally respectful approaches to policy and procedure.”

Doctor said that the discussion on sexual violence sparked by the #MeToo movement was a significant enough issue that it may well become a topic of discussion at this year’s Sacred Circle.

“If we can create that sacred space for women to feel safe and be comfortable, perhaps we can begin a discussion and begin to talk about how we can move forward from there.”

In the final instalment of this series, we will further explore the work of the Safe Church Commission of the Anglican Communion and the worldwide push for safe church policies.

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