"As I mused, the fire burned"

Reflection on life as a person of faith.

The Future of the Professions

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This book was recommended at a conference on engineering accreditation as support for why the engineering education system needs to be overhauled.  (Oxford University Press, Daniel and Richard Susskind, 2015).  They outline why professions need to be developed or be rendered obsolete by tech like AI and the internet.  I’m a skeptic of such claims.

Since they consider one profession I’m a member of (clergy) and a second that is related to another of my professions (architecture, a close relative of engineering) I thought I should take at least a quick look.  (They don’t deal with my third profession, the profession of arms, although there is a better argument for cyberwarfare being able to replace segments of conventional warfare).

As I was trying to formulate a critique of their hypothesis I noted that I had been cut off at the knees while still in the introductory material.  Pg 43…”Some professionals are likely to reject our thinking…Often this response will be rooted in important anxieties and concerns…But much of this resistance will flow from common biases that inhibit professionals from thinking freely about their future.”

As the Susskinds are what you might call professional predictors of the future, my logic tells me that the same assertion likely applies to the authors as well.  Such saws always cut both ways, and if my critque is invalidated by my intrinsic anxieties and biases I have to wonder the same thing about them.  Merely asserting that their view of the future is free of such biases, while my criticism of them is flawed, is no argument at all.

Richard Susskind is an IT professor by trade, who has focused on technology and the legal profession.  His books on the future of the legal profession are interesting,  but I am not sure that his theories there scale nicely to all professions.  The only science he includes in his analysis are health care professions.  There is some interesting work being done by expert diagnostic systems which have already started to transform the medical profession, and this will continue, but AI and the internet will not replace the role of healers.

The same words apply to their predictions about clergy, and I’m not sure reading the prediction if they really understand what clergy do.  Online presence is one thing, amazing access to all sorts of scholarship for all people of faith are transformative to be sure…but sitting with a family who have a loved one on brink of death is not an action that broadband access will change much.  There will be no technological replacement of healers or prayers.

I think the lack of science professions is telling because the sciences are always in the midst of transformation by technology as a foundational value.  The scientific method (although my chemist daughter tells me it is no longer used) presupposes that the state of the art is always developing which in turn transforms the profession.  Scientists are used to having foundational belief overturned every few decades…perhaps with the exception of classic biology.

Susskind’s comments about architecture I think border on the irrational.  The use of automated design software and robotics is used to demonstrate how the stranglehold on building design is borken.  It is one thing to talk about a family dwelling built with 3D printing, bur quite another to talk about serious load bearing structures like bridges, tunnels or high rises.

The reason engineers are so rigourously trained in classic design is because of the failures we have already seen in over reliance on design software.  You need to be smart enough to know when your expert program is going to kill you.  That has also been learned in spades through some of the disasters in cockpit automation.

A simple example from a few months back.  I generated a finite element model of a metal structure to study thermal response for a forensic case.  I was using a good purchased FEM package that included automatic meshing.  Because I am trained in numerical analysis, I know enough to recognize that automatic meshing systems need to be closely supervised, because if the mesh is off the solution can be outright whacky.  In a few days of work I spent most of my time correcting errors introduced by the automatic mesh generator.  Over 3/4 of my runs resulted in incorrect results…some were clearly wrong, but others were close enough to look correct while still not being an accurate representation of reality.

All this to say, I don’t think there is any danger that bridge design will be automated and done by anyone with access to a good FEM package…unless we are willing to have lots more bridges falling down.

So, an interesting read, but a book that would be good to take out of the library.  It is ultimately unconvincing.

As a footnote, I suspect the legal profession is already in the midst of massive transition.  That has to do more with them pricing themselves out of the market domestically, while there are lots of other common law jurisdictions around the world.  $600-$1,200 an hour down the street, or a flat rate of a few hundred dollars from overseas?  Seems an easy choice.

While engineering is also being offshored, we haven’t priced ourselves out of the market because engineering is a commodity.  While engineering can be done overseas, there are a host of standards and regulations here which must be complied with, which ultimately requires that licensed domestic engineers be involved.  The same can’t be said for at least a portion of legal work, which is only ultimately tested if challenged in a court.  That’s a different situation than a bridge or a refinery, tested everytime a truck drives over, or a barrel is processed.

But I’m probably reacting out of my professional anxiety…




Written by sameo416

October 15, 2016 at 4:26 pm

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“The labourer deserves his wages.”

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Pentecost 20, October 2, 2016 SJE ©2016  1 Timothy 5 (preaching series on Timothy)

Continuing in our study through 1st Timothy, we’re in chapter 5 today, which we might describe as instructions for relationship within the community, and particularly how to deal with widows and ‘elders’, where ‘elders’ is the translation of the Greek word presbyteroi, variously translated as elders or priests.  Paul is continuing offering detailed instruction to his student, Timothy, on how it is that a Christian community is to conduct itself.  I’m going to start by talking a bit about ecclesiology, that is, what it is that we understand the church to be in the world.

As I mentioned a few weeks back, one of the things that this community is to help us do in our lives is to move from the cultural obsession with the individual to learned selflessness.  How does that happen?  First by coming here to engage in an act of worship of the Living God.  Worship that which is not you is an act which places you in proper relation with the creation.  Second is by merely being here in community, as this emphasizes for us that we are more human, more real, when we are a part of the Body of Christ.  I stay in this sometimes challenging and frustrating community, because it is only coming forward on my knees that I gain a real understanding of who I am, because the community lifts me from myself and reminds me where I stand in relation to our Lord.

There is a wonderful song by a woman named Jenny Moore that came out of her living in the community of St Benedict’s Table in Winnipeg, titled “I am Coming for You”.  The song is a direct comment on the role of the community for a Christian, and the line that always catches me is this one:

And the meal will fill you
And the wine will calm you
And the company will remind you
That I see you.

And the meal will fill you
And the wine will calm your nerves
And the company will remind you
You are alive and well.

The body of faithful, which is the blessed company of all believers, exists as a reminder to us that God sees us each, and that we are alive and well.  In spite of what might be going on in our individual lives, and in our greater social circle and families, this is a place of anchoring and grounding.  We come here because the company reminds us that we are well, because we are in Christ by being with each other, and there all things will be well, and all manner of things will be well.

The reason Paul focuses on the seemingly mundane aspects of community life for the believers in Ephesus is because he understands the importance of that community as the physical manifestation of Christ in the world.  Part of our witness to that world is the way we live differently than the balance of our culture, and part of that difference is the emphasis on community.

The Body of Christ counters the forces in the culture that seek that we comply with what the culture has deemed to be important and necessary.  While this involves an unhealthy fixation on the individual, it also carries with it a dysfunctional imperative to comply with the thoughts of the collective.  In many ways this trend has become the political correctness movement on steroids, and scarcely a day goes by when some public figure is not being castigated or called on to apologize for some perceived slight that they may have made against some issue that the collective has defined as worthy of protection.

The Body of Christ brings resolution to those cultural pressures through making us truly human when we are within the community, but also by bringing us great individual value, beyond anything that earthly laurels might provide.  And why is that?  The Body of Christ does not form us into a collective of like-minded and like-living individuals who are marked by the lack of difference between us.  Rather, in the Body, we are each celebrated because we are given particular gifts that are necessary for the building up of the Body.  Our individuality is redeemed in Christ, not because being an individual is holy in itself, but rather because our calling makes each of us a particular organ within the Body of Christ.  By contrast to society’s understanding of membership, organs within the Body of Christ have an inter-dependency and complementarity that binds us together in a way which the world can not, and will not, understand.

This counters another dysfunction of the post-modern era, the presumption of equality of all.  Within the Body of Christ, all are infinitely worthy, but each person has his or her own calling to live out which assists the Body to greater or lessor degree depending on the person’s calling.  This is the reason why there is no such thing as ‘private religion’, because the faith life can only, is only, and has always been lived out in the context of a faith community.  “I don’t need to go to church because I worship God in my private way.” Is no real faith of worship at all.  Likewise, the Body of Christ puts to death the lie that there is a such a thing as private sin, “What I do in my own life does not matter, because I am not hurting anyone.”  Aside from the usual lies about this – that the consumption of something sinful invariably involves the exploitation of someone somewhere, in the Body of Christ there is no such thing as private sin.  If you think of all of us as particular organs in the Body of Christ, this makes perfect sense…for a broken bone impacts all of your body’s systems to some degree, so it is with sin within the Body of Christ.  This in itself is a powerful teaching, and should cause you to pause before following any path of obvious sin…you are not just impacting yourself, but indeed everyone within the community of faith.

This is why the Body of Christ reflects far more the reality of an extended family, then membership in a community organization.  Each member of your family has a particular identify, and a particular role, and carries particular worth within the family.  There is a fundamental inequality within families, as the elders carry wisdom, the middle-aged provide financial support, and the young energize the family with exuberance and new directions.  You could not remove a member of your family and say afterward, we’ve just lost one member, but we’ll find another, precisely because of this uniqueness that each organ brings into the Body of Christ.  This is why there is a particular pain in the community of faith, when a long-standing family moves away…Gillian and Grant from the 0915 community, or Ian and Margaret from the 1100 community.  There is a palpable emptiness left behind, because one of the organs on which we are interdependent has been pulled from this local context, even while they still remain a part of the larger Body of Christ globally.

Within this Body we are constantly in the process of ministering to each other in the form that each organ is called to.  We are constantly teaching and learning, forgiving and being forgiven, interceding before Christ for others, while they in turn intercede for us.  In the Body, we bring Christ to others by seeing them as He sees them, and they in turn bring Christ to us, by seeing us as Christ sees us.  Our true value as individuals comes not from within us, from our individual accomplishments, but because God’s calling to each of us to live into our role in community, into being fully the organ that God calls us to be, results in us finding our infinite worth reflected from the mirror that is Christ. Our value as individuals comes entirely from Christ, which is why Paul says elsewhere that he counts all in his life as rubbish but for his being in Christ.

This was a bit of a lengthy excursion to set some groundwork for the reading today, because under Paul’s seemingly direct and simple instructions is a deep understanding of the reality of the Body of Christ.  Starting with the treatment of widows, Paul outlines some interesting guidelines for who should receive the community’s support.  He sets out two tests for widows, that determine what the community’s role is to be: one material and one spiritual.  From the material perspective, Paul draws a line between those widows who are self-sufficient because they have families, and places the onus for their care back with their families.  Paul identifies that we have an obligation to care for those in our families, and particularly those who have been left with few added supports of their own.

In the age that Paul was writing this was particularly important, because a widow would typically have to rely on her children, or her husband’s brothers if she had no children, to provide her support.  We saw this reality as Christ hung on the cross where he assigned responsibility for his mother to another disciple, because he knew with no son and no husband she would otherwise be left destitute.  So the material test is to ensure that the community of the Church provides support only to those widows who have no other recourse.  Even more interesting is the description in verses 9-15 (not included in the reading today) of which widows should be enrolled in the church.  If you read these additional verses you may hear in the entry criteria some echo of the test for who will make a good elder or bishop for the community – indeed these widows in particular which are to be enrolled are those who have been called into a particular role of ministry within the community.

I find this particularly interesting because we often think about the day when we will arrive at some mythical destination when we can sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labours, surrounded by grandchildren and the bounty we have earned.  That is not the image that Paul portrays when he describes the role of widows within the community.  Indeed, their widowhood, combined with a life of service to others, appears to have been in preparation for a future role ministering to others within the Body of Christ.  The entry into widowhood, carrying with it the grief of loss that we know so well, is in fact the starting point of a whole new holy calling for some.

This reflects a fundamental truth of our lives as followers of Christ.  My experience certainly has been that there are many ‘arrivings’ at expected or unexpected destinations, but none of those have been the end of the journey, for each arriving inevitably sets off the start of a new journey, a journey for which you have only been prepared because of the last arriving.  Our lives as followers of Christ is therefore a continuous series of callings, and resolutions of calling, followed by an entirely new calling.

That sounds like a really glorious example of God’s grace manifest in the Body, and it is, but it means that we don’t always end up where we think we should end up.  An older man lying in a hospital bed says to me, “what did I do wrong that made God so angry with me that he has put me here?” is asking the wrong question.  The right question is one that you learn from being within the community of faith for decades, because you learn it from that inter-dependency with the other organs that make up that body.  What is the right question to ask, from that hospital bed or from whatever destination (happy or grief-stricken) which God calls you to?  “How am I to use the blessing of this present reality to worship Almighty God?”  We learn this in community by watching our brothers and sisters weather both joy and despair in community.  The birth of a child, the marriage of lovers, the death of a spouse, the slow decline of faculties with age, the switching of roles: from child to adult to caregiver for failing parents.  With each transition within the Body of Christ we learn to ask anew, “How would you have me use the blessing of this moment to do your will?”

I saw this clearly in the life of a friend with pancreatic cancer.  He was going through many surgeries and hospital visits, came to near death many times, and ultimately succumbed to the illness.  He to me one day that he looked forward to his hospital stays because he knew each time that God would make use of him in some new way, be it a roommate that he could minister to, or the nursing staff that he could bring joy to in some way.  This happened in the community of faith.  What did I learn from him?  On the days when I wrestle with my chronic pain, the witness of him and others in this mystical Body of Christ turn my suffering into something like, “Lord, thank you that you have blessed me with this pain.  How do you wish me to use this gift to your greater glory?”

So the community becomes the place of ultimate transformation, where others prop us up when we can no longer stand on our own, and our sufferings in turn teach others about what it is to suffer as a child of God.  This is a truly amazing gift given to us through this Body of Christ, for it converts even our dying moments in a hospital bed into a chance to serve God, even if it is only in silent prayer in intercession for God’s people.

Paul moves on to speak about the high calling of the elders, especially those who labour in preaching and teaching. The word elders is, again, the Greek presbyteros, which is sometimes translated as priest or elder, but describes various leadership roles within the community which are manifested in different ways depending on the particular era.  He sets out the high calling of those who preach and teach, and adds some protections for them.  Calvin commented about those who presume to minister and noted that even when they are successful they will never avoid “a thousand criticisms.”  I know in my ministry it seems that I make a business of failing to meet other’s expectations…usually because I am striving first to meet God’s expectations, but that is interpreted by others as a lack of caring.  A recent example for me is shifting my ministry work to St John’s from a variety of places I would fill in…it was clear to me that my primary calling in this community is the support of those in full-time ministry, and that I was not honouring that call by filling in in other places.  But, in spite of having clearly told some places that I am no longer doing supply ministry, I continue to get regular calls asking me if I’m available.

It’s a cautionary tale about the expectations we place upon those in leadership roles within the community.  One of the things I realized early in ministry is that I would always be letting someone down…and I suspect one of the reasons that we have so many clergy totally stressed out is because that’s not taught in seminary.  What I’ve realized with prayer (and a dose of courage from God) is that my role as a minister is serving Christ, which sometimes means I rather dramatically fail to align with the expectations of others.  Those expectations are emphasized by Paul with his caution about not being hasty in the laying on of hands…that is, before you commission someone or ordain them to ministry, make good and sure that they’re actually really called to that ministry!  Not because they’re good in school, or really nice people, or really sincere in their belief that they should be ordained, but because God is truly calling them.  When I was at the national selection process for ordination, called ACPO (Anglican candidates for postulancy for ordination) one of the first questions the interview panel asked me was ‘why do you want to be a priest?’  I was really disappointed in the shock on their faces when I said, “I don’t.”  Disappointed because it meant to me that they were expecting earnest eagerness from me…maybe as a late-life vocation that eagerness had already been replaced by a bit of wisdom, but I knew a bit of what such a call entailed, and I wasn’t eager to go down that road…but as I said to them next, I’m not sure I have any choice because this is God’s call to me.

Paul calls the elders into discernment before undertaking such steps, and emphasizes that while some sin is apparent to all, there are those who are seemingly of good character but full of hidden sin which will eventually become manifest.  That discernment is supposed to be tied with pure impartiality, so that you show no favour except the favour which God calls you to display.

All of this instruction by Paul is intended to establish the community in right relationship, with competent leadership, fair impartial and discerning commissioning of those into leadership roles, and to build a place where people can grow into God’s particular calling at various stages in their lives.  It is within the community that we find our true individuality and our true worth in Christ, not because of who we are, but because of who we become in our role within the Body of Christ.  That role within this part of the Body of Christ calls us into mutual ministry, where our living in community serves to manifest Christ to others, who in turn manifest Christ to us.  While that is sometimes (or always) a challenge, it is the greatest place of blessing within the creation.  Amen.

1 Timothy 5: Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.

Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day,but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband,[a] 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. 11 But refuse to enroll younger widows, for when their passions draw them away from Christ, they desire to marry 12 and so incur condemnation for having abandoned their former faith. 13 Besides that, they learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not. 14 So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. 15 For some have already strayed after Satan. 16 If any believing woman has relatives who are widows, let her care for them. Let the church not be burdened, so that it may care for those who are truly widows.

17 Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. 18 For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and,“ The laborer deserves his wages.” 19 Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 20 As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. 21 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality. 22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure. 23 (No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.) 24 The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later. 25 So also good works are conspicuous, and even those that are not cannot remain hidden.

I Am Coming For You by Jenny Moore.  One of my favorite songs from St. Benedict’s Table in Winnipeg.

O woman, you are not forgotten
Take up your harp, play your song often

O man, you have forgotten
Your love is strong, forget this wasteland

For I am coming for you, I am coming for you
You will see me in this town some day
I am coming for you, I am coming for you
You will see me in this town some day

 And the meal will fill you
And the wine will calm you
And the company will remind you
That I see you.

And the meal will fill you
And the wine will calm your nerves
And the company will remind you
You are alive and well.

A Washington Post story on the mining of cobalt in the Congo.


A life-cycle environmental assessment for photovoltaic systems.


Pope Benedict on the need for a return to reason: http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2016/09/17747/

Material on page 2 and 3, particularly around the ecclesiology of the whole and the individual is heavily draw from CS Lewis’ essay, “Membership” found in the collection “The Weight of Glory”.  If you dig around on Amazon you can find Kindle collections of Lewis’ work really inexpensively. https://www.amazon.ca/Complete-Works-Lewis-Autobiography-Christianity-ebook/dp/B01FDK7KNG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475356684&sr=8-1&keywords=complete+cs+lewis   (for $0.99 although it does not include more obscure works such as “Why I am not a Pacifist”)

The later thought on pages 3 through 5 is largely drawn from John Stott’s excellent book, “Guard the Truth: The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus.”  If I have achieved anything it is because I have been able to stand on the shoulders of giants.

Written by sameo416

October 1, 2016 at 4:18 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Anglican Indigenous Bishops’ Response to Marriage Issues

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I’ve mentioned before that the corporate Anglican Church’s treatment of indigenous voices in the marriage debate has a strong overtone of colonialism about it.  It was clear to me that no one was really interested in listening to what they had to say, in the past or in more recent days or in engaging in a discussion that honoured the indigenous method of achieving understanding.  Reconciliation requires a mutual commitment to walk together, which means not deliberately invoking injury to your brother or sister.

Three of our indigenous bishops were asked to write a response by an Indigenous circle that meet to discuss the decision of Synod.  In obedience to the discussion in that circle, they produced this letter which sets out the problem facing them.  This is a classic collision of disparate world views, and the world view with the power (in the legal process) is once again having the final word.

If that’s not colonial, I don’t understand the meaning of the word.

A Statement by the Bishops Mark MacDonald, Lydia Mamakwa, and Adam Halkett

We are writing to the Church and our communities in light of the General Synod’s decision to take the first steps towards the changing of the marriage canon. As we wrote to the commission and stated at the Synod, we do not agree with the decision and believe that it puts our communities in a difficult place in regards to our relation and community with the Anglican Church of Canada. This statement was requested by an Indigenous circle that gathered after the final vote on the marriage canon was revealed.

We write this, of ourselves, acknowledging that we do not speak for all Indigenous Peoples, though we have consulted broadly and deeply with many. Although we note some difference between urban and reserve contexts and, less so, by regions, we believe we speak to and from what we have witnessed as a broad consensus of Indigenous Peoples. It is our hope that what we say will ultimately serve all, even those who may disagree.

Our land has a Charter of Rights and our laws support these rights. These rights are recognized and endorsed by the Church in its teaching and practice. These rights that First Nations enjoy and use to reaffirm traditional and inherent rights are the same rights that same sex couples use to be granted marriage rights and privileges. In the case of the Church, these rights grant the freedom to complete its pastoral work in marriages. In regard to Indigenous Peoples, they specially guarantee that they are self determining with regard to basic cultural and social matters. This is fundamental to the Nation-to-Nation relationship which is at the base of Indigenous Rights, reconciliation and a promising future for all of Canada.

Indigenous churches have these basic freedoms, under Law and under God. Supported by the courts and affirmed by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, our freedoms set the course for our churches and their pastoral leadership in our communities and, specifically, in regard to our pastoral and social ministry for marriage. We are deeply disturbed and disappointed that so little attention was paid to our pastoral and social self-determination and the right to free, prior, and informed consent.

Our elders need to be actively involved with the conversation regarding these changes. Earlier discussions of these matters have never been translated into Indigenous languages, neither has This Holy Estate. That out elders have not been a part of this conversation, it seems to us, is a flaw in the process.

We voted “no” to changes in the Marriage Canon. We do not take this stand as a statement against any person or persons. In this, we simply affirm our right to express our cultural and spiritual understanding of marriage in the context of our own community life and according to God’s holy Word. Though some may see the “opt in” option in the proposed changes to the marriage canon as allowing all to have freedom in this matter, the change in language in the first part of the canon is a deeper problem for many of our communities.

It is our understanding that, while homosexual persons have always had a place in our societies, same-sex marriage, itself, has not. We find in both our reading of Creation and Scripture the unique relationship of Man and Woman. The difference between the two, coming together in the miracle of a unique spiritual communion, is essential to the way we understand marriage – but not only marriage, it is the way we understand the Land, the way we understand Creation.

Without commenting on Canadian Civil Marriage, we assert the unique right that Indigenous communities have to set their own way of life and their own way of speaking of marriage. Although the canon does not force anyone to do anything, the language of the revised canon changes the fundamental meaning of marriage to make it gender neutral. This is both a significant and unacceptable change to our communities, who still find male and female as essential to their understanding of the marriage ceremony.

We will discern what will be our way forward in the days ahead. We do know that we commit to the following:

We will continue in our conversation with the Anglican Church of Canada in regards to self-determination and mutual cooperation in our Anglican Christian ministry.

We will proceed towards self-determination with urgency.

We will seek ways to continue our conversation with the LGBTQ communities and individuals, affirming our earlier statements of love and welcome. ·

We call for the Church to seek ways in which to 1) further our self-determination and 2) to specifically address our self-determination in matters of cultural and social matters related to our communities. In this regard, we will seek ways for our communities to pursue and enact their own cultural understandings of when different from the rest of the Anglican Church of Canada. ·

We call for the Church to establish an inquiry into the process this decision was made. This was not the best for Indigenous Peoples, we can only believe it is not the best for others.

We believe that this entire incident calls for a review and rethinking of the ways that the Church conducts its business. We have resolved to work with you to see that we never have to be in this kind of situation again. For many of us, the silencing of our elder at the end of the Synod conversation – though understandable in Western process – was the most painful moment of all. We strongly feel that an apology to our Elder is in order.

We are deeply sad that, at a time in which the Indigenous and non-Indigenous Peoples of the Anglican Church of Canada warmly embraced each other and a new future, that we came to such divisiveness. We are deeply sorry for any ways that our actions – words and acts of sin by doing and/or not-doing – contributed to this outcome and will seek to do our very best in the future to embody the reconciliation that we see in Jesus. We believe that Christ is present among us, by His own power and promise, and we will look for Him to guide us into a better future. We, finally, pledge our very best attempts to remain brothers and sisters to all Anglicans, living out our baptismal covenant in the bonds of affection and mutual faithfulness.

Written by sameo416

September 26, 2016 at 5:04 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

“…to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost…”

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Pentecost 17C 11 September 2016 1 Timothy 1:1-17  SJE Edmonton ©2016 (updated for delivery)

Pray.  We’re starting a sermon series today concerning what it means to be part of “the Body of Christ” based on Paul’s writing in 1st Timothy.  It’s always appropriate to reflect on the question of what it means to be a part of this mystical body, and particularly so when we’re in the midst of search for a new associate priest, and just finished welcoming a new youth pastor.  In engineering when you’re faced with a problem no one has previously solved, our usual option is to return to “first principles”, foundational concepts that are the base of all derived work.  Reflecting on our membership in the Body of Christ requires us to engage theological first principles.  In doing so we ask the question which Christians throughout history have asked: what does it mean to us locally, when we assert that we are members of His mystical church, which is the blessed company of all believers (prayer of thanksgiving from the BCP Eucharist)?

In this regard we have this letter to Timothy in Ephesus.  That distant place and time was not so different from today – an ethnically diverse and belief-diverse community.  In some ways, more spiritually diverse than what we experience today – with temples to many gods available everywhere.  Paul begins this letter with a caution against false teachers and returns to a first principle, Paul’s salvation through Christ Jesus.  That principle, the person of Christ and His work on earth, is Paul’s consistent focus in all writing and teaching.  Not surprising considering that was the turning point in Paul’s life, the literal and total remaking of the person he had been…and it’s difficult to find a parallel to that conversion as an example today.  It would be something like a religious leader of the Taliban or ISIS, set on the murder of those who do not believe properly, suddenly showing up on our doorstep today and asking to preach about God’s love.

OK, into the text.  My first comment has to do with 1st Timothy overall.  As we heard today, there are portions of the text which you may fine directly challenging of your convictions.  Much ink was spilled in explaining why Paul didn`t really mean what he wrote.  Even more ink was spent on arguments that this text was not really written by Paul, but by an author who was seeking to use Paul`s authority to make his own point.  This movement to identify the `true` author of a given text has been very popular for the last few decades, most famously by the Jesus Seminar.  I was listening to a New Testament professor speaking on 1 Timothy this week, and part way through her presentation she asserted that most of the Bible had been written by other people than those credited.

I find these discussions highly problematic and I won’t spend any time on this aspect of Timothy.  There are two primary objections that keep me in a place where I`m willing to accept the canonically-assigned authorship.  1) The arguments about authorship are all based around what you might call `derived` sources…that is, using historical criticism or form criticism, by saying things like, ‘This is not the way that Paul would have written.’  This approach leaves much opportunity for personal biases to enter into the analysis, and at least a part of that movement exists for the intent purpose of removing or blunting difficult readings.  Secondly, those who formed the canon of Scripture in antiquity saw fit to include these letters ascribed in authorship to particular individuals.  There is good evidence that 1st Timothy was used by the group known as the apostolic fathers, early theologians of the 1st and 2nd century.  I`m not sure how I or any other reader 2,000 years downstream can presume that we can do a better job than those early Christians.  I would call that the height of cultural arrogance.

I am immediately suspicious of any work with Scripture that makes me more comfortable with what is written.  My desire is always to seek that which makes me feel righteous and if it can permit me to do those things which I ought not to do, all the better.  I recall a conversation I had with a seminary classmate about the story of the adulterous woman in John`s gospel (John 8).  Recall the story, the woman is about to be stoned for being an adulterer.  The Pharisees bring the woman to Jesus and ask about the Law of Moses.  Jesus replies, ‘Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.’  As he writes in the dirt, all the accusers drift away.  Now comes the punch line.  Jesus asks, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.”  My classmate quoted this and then said, wasn`t it wonderful how Jesus accepted the woman in her sin, saved her from the religious apparatus of the day, and allowed her to go about her life?  Jesus didn’t judge her like the Pharisees did.  Did you catch the bit of the punch line that was missing?  I said to my classmate, but you’ve left off the end of the passage…and she said what?  When I told her that Jesus’ parting word to the woman was ‘Go forth and sin no more.’ She grabbed a bible to look up the passage, and then said, “I’ve never read that part before.”

That is such a good example of what I’m illustrating, that it is so easy for us to snip out the bits of a given text that hit us right where we need to be hit.  As a more humorous example there’s a scene in the Monty Python film the Life of Brian where the crowd is listening to the Sermon on the Mount.  The characters on camera are way back in the crowd, and so they mishear Jesus’ words about peacemakers, and instead hear, “Blessed are the cheesemakers.”  One asks the other – what’s so special about the cheesemakers, and his friend replies, “It’s obviously not meant to be taken literally, it means any manufacturer of dairy products.”  //  The ancient theologican Tertullian highlighted this when he describes how believers, then as now, seek an easier path, “A better god has been discovered, one who is neither offended nor angry nor inflicts punishment, who has no fire warming up in hell, and no outer darkness wherein there is shuddering and gnashing of teeth: he is merely kind. Of course he forbids you to sin – but only in writing”.  And we know all about restrictions in writing, like how easy it is to take subtle (or not-so-subtle) liberties on your taxes each year.  So there are lots of things written in Scripture, but what do we do with them when they counter something we hold very dear?  This is a critical question for each of us when we’re confronted by something in Scripture that we’ve never heard that way before, or when our first urge is to find some way to blunt the sharpness of what we’ve just heard or read…give up all that I have to follow Christ?  That’s fine as an abstract concept, but I live in the real world, meaning the world where I do as I wish. Our call is to stay in that challenging place.

We continuously seek to mold Scripture to our desires and wants, and we often do the same with our theology which is one of the real dangers of being a human within the Body of Christ.  There are two roads which can be followed from within this Body, one that leads to the fulfillment of our human desires, and one that leads to the fulfillment of God’s desires.  Ideally those two roads are the same path, for a Christian who is following God will ultimately end up right where they are supposed to be.  But, I know the truth for me is I continuously trip over my own feet as I’m following that road, and sometimes I take side trips off into the underbrush because something shiny caught my eye.

What we do understand is that Scripture, read and discerned within community and anchored in the great tradition of 2,000 years of interpretation, brings us closer to God.  This is true whether those texts fuel our hopes or bring us to our knees.  We live in this tension, summed up beautifully by the mystic saint, Julian of Norwich, who wrote, “Some of us believe that God is almighty and may do everything; and [some believe] that he is all wise, and can do everything; but that he is all love, and will do everything – there we draw back.”  While God’s touch is blessing, it is never less than burning, and not a smidgen under our control (Reynolds Price, Letters to a Man in the Fire).  While we like the intellectual appeal of a God of love and compassion, a God who might, at this very moment, be intimately involved in all aspects of our lives.  That is entirely different!

Paul’s words to us come home in a context that is not at all unlike when it was written: competing beliefs in the culture that lead to different doctrines which cause damage to the Body of Christ.  This comes through clearly in the opening caution about false teachers.  Note that Paul does not identify a particular doctrine, but rather speaks in general terms about what marks improper doctrine: it arises from speculation rather than faith; it is marked by a devotion to myths and endless genealogies; by teachers swerving into vain discussion who want more to be seen as teachers of the law rather than those who follow the law.  And this gives us a good test of anyone who presumes to be a teacher in the Body of Christ: do they submit themselves to the same challenging teachings and expectations? (this is the risk inherent in preaching)

The first warning sign for me of those who promote false doctrines or teachings is to look at the possible outcomes of the teaching.  There are a number of things that mark the discernment of God’s Word and will for the Body of Christ, all marked by the reality that these are all independent of how we might feel about the teaching.  Catholic author Peter Kreeft sets out that we should be soft hearted and hard headed, wise as serpents and harmless as doves, identifying that there are errors in either being too soft-hearted or too doctrinal.  He sums this up by saying, In our hearts we should be “bleeding-heart liberals” and in our heads “stuck-in-the-mud conservatives.””

Equally important in our discernment of God’s will for the Body of Christ are actions that force us to look external to our personal will, or even to the will of a particular community in a particular time.  We are all prey to the dominant thoughts in our culture, as much as we try to remain apart, and we must be aware that decisions made in the lifetime of one person may not consider God’s actions being worked out generation to generation.  Think about the people of Israel, moving from slavery to wandering in the desert to the Promised Land over several generations…the cultural winds would shift depending on what part of that narrative you happened to live through.  This is why discernment is a task of the community over generations.

True discernment requires we look at a number of different sources, all held in tension, but which should have some degree of agreement: the witness of Scripture; the teaching of the church, not in what is being taught right now, but what has been taught right back to the first witnesses?  the thoughts of great thinkers and teachers throughout history; what human reason tells us; what prayer reveals; what the discernment of a faithful community reveals.  If there is objection from one of those sources, it is a time for caution.

As a final test of God’s will, look for the presence and growth of the fruits of the Spirit as the outcome.  If the teaching results in the growth of love, joy and peace in the community this is a sign that it might be the action of the Spirit.  If it results in division, pain and grief, it is time to be very cautious.  This highlights another aspect of being in a faith community, that even if we believe God is calling us in a particular direction, if that movement begins to cause pain and suffering for some of our brothers and sisters, the call to the Body of Christ is to withhold from change lest we cause the faith of some to falter.  The strong believer is called to restraint lest their actions cause a weaker believer to falter in the faith which is to sin against those weaker believers.  (1 Corinthians 8)  This is a key aspect of discernment within community-that it is discernment in community…whatever you might individually feel as a result of a particular teaching is not the discernment of the community, which is the company of all faithful believers.  This counters the constant pull of our culture to individualism and the supremacy of the person…here, it is all about ‘us’, not ‘me’.

What Paul identifies as at the heart of all wrong teaching is a misapprehension as to the nature of God, which is why after the opening verses about false teachers, he immediately turns to talk about his call.  Remember that Paul was previously first among those who persecuted Christ and His followers, we hear Paul say in Philippians 3, “…circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee;as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.”  This is a direct illustration about what Paul has just written about false teachers – by restating that he was a false teacher, a blasphemer, persecutor and insolent opponent before he was saved through Christ.  This is the key message of this first part of 1st Timothy, for it is the witness of Paul’s life, and particular his willingness to admit his failure to be who God called him to be, that adds credence to his witness.

This is a radical departure from the values Paul’s place and time, and from ours as well.  What would you think if you went to visit a physician, or an investment advisor, and the first thing they did was describe to you all their failures?  Yes I’m willing to be your physician, but you should know that some of my patients didn’t get better…or I will invest your retirement savings, but you should know that I filed for bankruptcy last year after I made a series of poor investment decisions.  How long would you stick around in that office?  In the case of the Body of Christ  this is a key test and the reason why Paul is so forthright stating how he was saved from himself, from the magnificent person he had created through his own efforts, and how that all became for nought when he encountered the living God that day on the road.  While you may not want to be treated by a physician who says, “I’m the most diseased person in this city” when you are looking for leaders in a faith community, always start with the one who sincerely states, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost.”

As a final illustration of this, there was an article about Omar Khadr and King’s University making the Facebook rounds this week. It highlights the journey of the King’s community in accepting the call to minister to the prisoner, even to the point it places them at risk.  When this story was posted on Facebook by a classmate of mine, he added a comment, “It may seem strange for an atheist like me to share this article; some of my friends might also remember that I am not a fan of religious universities of any stripe. However, there’s good happening here…”.  One true test of belief is what it does to those around us – does it result in the growth of fruits of the Spirt and the building up of the community?

So, as Christ held himself up on the Cross as an example for his followers to embrace, so too Paul holds himself up as a sign of what it means to be a teacher of the Law by the way he has lived his life.  This is the way we are all called to live together in sometimes difficult community, in this place and abroad, as it is the measure of how we live our lives in Christ that illuminate Christ for those around us.  May be ever be mindful of this holy calling, as we join together as brothers and sisters in the faith.  Amen.



Omar Khadr story: http://www.universityaffairs.ca/features/feature-article/welcoming-omar-khadr-kings-university/

Monty Python cheesemakers clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-xLUEMj6cwA

“For 1 Timothy reminds us what Scripture is and what Scripture isn’t. Scripture is not just a list of easily apprehended propositions with which we can agree at all times. Scripture is not just a collection of sayings that might guide our daily walk. Scripture is not just a perfect text free of discomfiting content. Scripture is as human as we are. But we also trust that God speaks through these texts, whether these texts resonate with our hopes or create a dissonant sound in our midst.”  http://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=3034

Reynolds Price, Letter to a Man in the Fire: Does God Exist and Does He Care? “We can ask for relief, for healing and respite; we can beg for our loved ones.  But the hands we’re in, at all times, are neither predictable nor intimately knowable.  They may cushion us, even deck us out with unasked-for gifts; but they’re never less than burning to the touch; and they acknowledge no guidance, no compass but their own.”

Peter Kreeft, on discernment: http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/discernment.htm

  1. Have a soft heart but a hard head. We should be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves,” sharp as a fox in thought but loyal as a dog in will and deed. Soft-heartedness does not excuse soft-headedness, and hard-headedness does not excuse hard-heartedness. In our hearts we should be “bleeding-heart liberals” and in our heads “stuck-in-the-mud conservatives.”
  2. All God’s signs should line up, by a kind of trigonometry. There are at least seven such signs: (1) Scripture, (2) church teaching, (3) human reason (which God created), (4) the appropriate situation, or circumstances (which he controls by his providence), (5) conscience, our innate sense of right and wrong, (6) our individual personal bent or desire or instincts, and (7) prayer. Test your choice by holding it up before God’s face. If one of these seven voices says no, don’t do it. If none say no, do it.
  3. Look for the fruits of the spirit, especially the first three: love, joy, and peace. If we are angry and anxious and worried, loveless and joyless and peaceless, we have no right to say we are sure of being securely in God’s will. Discernment itself should not be a stiff, brittle, anxious thing, but—since it too is part of God’s will for our lives—loving and joyful and peace-filled, more like a game than a war, more like writing love letters than taking final exams.

I wrote about holy discernment in a blog two years back that presented thought similar to Kreeft:


“I have known cases where what the patient called his “God” was actually located – up and to the left at the corner of the bedroom ceiling, or inside his own head, or in a crucifix on the wall. But whatever the nature of the composite object, you must keep him praying to it – to the thing that he has made, not to the Person who has made him. You may even encourage him to attach great importance to the correction and improvement of his composite object, and to keeping it steadily before his imagination during the whole prayer. For if he ever comes to make the distinction, if ever he consciously directs his prayers “Not to what I think thou art but to what thou knowest thyself to be”, our situation is, for the moment, desperate. Once all his thoughts and images have been flung aside or, if retained, retained with a full recognition of their merely subjective nature, and the man trusts himself to the completely real, external, invisible Presence, there with him in the room and never knowable by him as he is known by it – why, then it is that the incalculable may occur. In avoiding this situation – this real nakedness of the soul in prayer – you will be helped by the fact that the humans themselves do not desire it as much as they suppose.”  -Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis

Also influenced by Arthur Manuel’s book, “Unsettling Canada: A National Wake-up Call” which I’m reading this week.

Written by sameo416

September 9, 2016 at 7:56 pm

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Because, dear Christ, your tender, wounded arm
Bends back the brier that edges life’s long way,
That no hurt comes to heart, to soul no harm,
I do not feel the thorns so much to-day.

Because I never knew your care to tire,
Your hand to weary guiding me aright,
Because you walk before and crush the brier,
It does not pierce my feet so much to-night.

Because so often you have hearkened to
My selfish prayers, I ask but one thing now,
That these harsh hands of mine add not unto
The crown of thorns upon your bleeding brow.

Emily Pauline Johnson

Written by sameo416

August 27, 2016 at 9:13 pm

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Cosmology and Family Heritage

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A friend recently mentioned a line from a Lee Maracle novel, “How do you begin to tell someone their world is not the only one?”   In the after-effects of Synod and some transient despair around the question of reconciliation, I’m clearly seeing that the real root issue is an inability, or an unwillingness to understand that other cosmologies or world views perceive the world in radically different ways.

This is not a question of degree, as in I think that is light blue while you call it teal.  Rather it would be like you saying that’s a chair and me saying no, its a grandfather…or you saying the Grand Canyon is the result of geology and erosion, and me saying no, Creator made it as the place from which all life came.  Do you see?  We’re not even talking about category errors, but rather a completely different way of perceiving what is around us.  It is not an academic question, but a question of being.

In spiritual matters, this has been plain to me for most of my life.  I have tangible perception of spiritual realities that most people aren’t even aware of, and I’ve encountered and seen things that can physically act in our reality but are invisible to most people.  This used to weird me out, but I’ve come to accept it as a particular part of God’s gifts for me to use in ministering to His people.  I’ve met others with similar experiences, just as I’ve met others who have physically perceived the Holy Spirit as a forceful wind that pushes on them.

When I describe those things to someone who has never had that encounter, they usually look at me like I’m unhinged or conclude that I’ve misinterpreted things (“there’s more gravy about you than the grave” as Scrooge said to his dead friend).  This is what I mean about fundamentally different world views…it is nearly impossible to even cross the divide to understand what is being spoken of.

But that is true in many aspects of reality.  I could write out the wave equations for an electromagnetic wave propagating in a waveguide from first principles, and solve them to demonstrate that there are discrete modes of propagation which can be defined by the electrical and magnetic wave maxima and minima.  Unless you have an advanced degree in electrical engineering, or had carefully studied the field, you would probably look at me in disbelief.  It’s a reflection of an old adage, any technology sufficiently advanced will appear as if it is magic.

So why is it so difficult to transition between cosmologies, to actually walk in another person’s shoes literally?  I think because it involves the need to completely remake ourselves into the being who can see differently, which is something only done with much pain and willingness to accept risk to the existence of the self.  This is not an easy journey, and you can’t make it happen just by reading a few books or a few blogs.

My experience of a couple decades of embracing my family’s suppressed indigenous history has been exactly that sort of journey.

More later…

Written by sameo416

July 14, 2016 at 11:14 pm

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Statement of the Anglican Indigenous Bishops to the Commission on the Marriage Canon

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This is good enough material to repeat in full (as opposed to just a web link in the article previously posted).  Our indigenous bishops have voiced my pain and sense of unbalance very well in this, their submission to the marriage commission.  That this voice was submerged into a sea of other voices, and given the same degree of disregard, is a shameful act of the corporate colonial church.

Unfortunately, white society is often comfortable appropriating enough “indianess” to appear welcoming, while disregarding almost entirely the different cosmology that goes with indigenous understanding of the creation.  It is an engagement of convenience.  It ignores that our communities have an entirely different way of thinking about such questions, and an entirely different way of finding consensus that does not involve adversarial European constructs.  


To our Relatives in Christ,

It is not easy for us to approach you on the issue of marriage in contemporary society, for us, a dangerously complex cross-cultural discussion. Though we have strong feelings and commitments on these matters, we are reluctant to speak. The intense and divisive nature of this discussion in the larger Canadian society is made much more threatening in our communities by our extended experience of misunderstanding and harmful judgment by Western institutions, especially the Church. The way the language and politics around the issues of marriage and sexuality divide people makes it seem all but impossible for our true thoughts and feelings to be heard. We have come to believe, however, that we must take the risk of expressing what we understand to be the opinions of our elders. For years now, we have been in prayer—we have meditated on Scripture, listened to what our elders have to say, and thought about the traditional ways of our peoples. With these we come to you, praying for the Spirit of Truth to lead us to the right.

Despite our mixed feelings, we are grateful that you give us an opportunity to speak. We speak to you as Indigenous Bishops and we will try to speak in an advisory manner, expressing, not only our opinion, but an account of some of the breadth of opinion among Indigenous people. We understand ourselves to be bishops for all our peoples, regardless of their opinion, sexuality, or faith. Though we take responsibility for what we say here, we have discussed these ideas with many and, more particularly, sought the counsel of one of our elders in the preparation of this statement. The most important parts of our report communicate what we understand our elders to be saying about marriage. It must be understood that this is spoken in the very real and hazardous context of our community life and the crisis in our family life today. This context is directly connected to the very painful history of colonization and its ongoing stress, poverty, and dispossession.

It is not forgotten by our elders and peoples that a great deal of this history was activated by attempts to destroy our families by the government and church. This leads to our primary position in this discussion. It is no longer acceptable to impose Western cultural questions and approaches on our societies, as if they were another segment or faction of a Euro-North American whole, either needing to be updated, tolerated, or assimilated in to the larger body. We absolutely reserve the right to make these choices and decisions, now and forever, on our own terms and in our own way.

At present, we do not hear our concerns and approach in either side of this very strained discussion. Our approach is not understood by either, and so we must, as far apart from that conflict as is possible, express our position with as much clarity as we are able. Our second primary position is, therefore, that our understanding of marriage appears to be quite different from the dominating society and both sides of this discussion within it.

For the rest of Canadian society, marriage appears to be a social contract between two people, who have the right, under law and as a human right, to form their family life in any way they see fit. (We can understand this point of view, since we are—sometimes by choice and 2 happily, sometimes with no choice and unhappily—compelled to be a part of the larger whole. We understand the Canadian society and its norms much better than it understands us.) In the understanding of the larger society, the focus of marriage is the individual choice, well-being, and happiness of the couple.

Although the well-being and happiness of couples is essential, for our elders marriage is a ceremony of the community and the primary place where we enact our understanding of Creation and the relationship of God to the universe. It is a ceremonial act that portrays our world view; it is our cosmology. What the ceremony says to the community is every bit as important as what is says to the couple. Many of our communities connect this ceremony to our experience of acceptance, salvation, and freedom in Christ. Marriage has become, for them, a picture of this mutual acceptance. Today, this is, in many communities, an affirmation of our Indigenous life and, though it may seem to be strange to many, an affirmation of our life before the arrival of Westerners and their missionaries.

Marriage is, in Indigenous understanding, an act in the spiritual realm, activated by ceremony and the commitment and love of the couples and their families. Encouraged by Christian theology and the reading of Scripture, many Indigenous Peoples enthusiastically held on to a view of marriage that saw the ceremony as activating a number of hidden but healing present rivers of spirit within the larger community. It is not that this is the only place in Creation where this happens. It is, however, the place where our elders see it in a clear and complete way. In this, the differences of sexuality, family, and clan, expressed in the marriage ceremony and family life protocols, were a necessary and essential part of this flow. Older members of the commission may remember a time when the Western view of marriage was also more sympathetic to the spiritual nature of Indigenous marriage. In this view, the spiritual character of the act was the most important part and the elements that predominate today were secondary and were derived from the first.

Though we are painfully aware that many people can no longer even imagine our cosmology or our understanding of marriage, the inspiration we receive from the world view of our elders is our only motivation; it is the encouragement that brings us to speak in the face of almost certain misunderstandings and opposition. Other questions raised about sexuality may receive various levels of reception within our communities, like anywhere else. For the most part, Indigenous counter-statements to modern trends in the understanding of sexuality were not directed at gays and lesbians, who have been and remain—in those of our communities that remain healthy, balanced, and inspired by Indigenous values—an accepted part of our communities. With this statement, we affirm that we understand gay and lesbian Indigenous people to be members of our communities and family. Not only worthy of our pastoral care and welcome, they are our brothers, sisters, children, and elders. There is no place for hatred and separation in Indigenous communities and, especially, in Indigenous Christian communities.

It is difficult to know, in the widespread and deep destruction of our history and traditions by colonial occupation, what our views were in the past, in times prior to the advent of European occupation and domination. Though many, if not most, of our societies appear to have had protocols of welcome and acceptance for homosexual members, we see little evidence that these practices were thought to be similar to marriage. Though these things were treated in various ways across our many and varied communities, we understand that there are many similarities 3 between the way marriage is viewed in the past and the way it is understood by many of our elders today.

We know that, for many, our insistence that 1) Indigenous communities must decide and rule on these matters on their own, and that 2) marriage is understood differently in our communities, will be seen as opinions that are tied to colonization and designed to express hurtful and hateful attitudes towards the gay and lesbian community. We disagree. We also hope to show that this is not true by our actions, through our fellowship, compassion, and love toward all people. We must always, at the same time, simply and resolutely declare what we believe to be true and what we believe is for the best.

Among our own people we acknowledge that there is no clear consensus about many aspects of these things. This is why we have taken the approach of this statement, speaking to our understanding of what our elders are saying, but also acknowledging that there are those who disagree—to them we extend our hand in the hope of mutual compassion and love. We know that there is also disagreement among our elders about what our own response should be, if the Anglican Church of Canada changes its teachings and laws about marriage. Some view this as intolerable, a few find this acceptable, and many would be willing to accept that we disagree with the larger church on these matters, as long as our societies, communities, and nations have the acknowledged and welcome freedom to act on their own. This last view is certainly the most widely held across the whole of our discussions on the issue. As we report these views, we cannot predict how this discussion will go forward among us. We can assure everyone that, if changes are made in church teachings and practice, there will be an extended conversation among our communities regarding an acceptable way forward.

We, as the Indigenous bishops of Indigenous communities, declare our commitment to what we understand to be the traditional, spiritual, and Indigenous understanding of marriage. We, therefore, cannot accept any changes that might be made without consultation with our communities. We pledge our love and pastoral care to all, within and without our communities, whatever their position may be. We uphold the inherent right and ability of our communities to make these decisions on their own. Finally, we promise to continue in a spirit of reconciliation and conversation with any who are willing to join us in the fellowship of Christ’s disciples. With this statement, we believe that we must also commit ourselves to the renewal of family life in our communities, through our love and respect for every one of our members. At the same time, this discussion and the crisis of our communities, call us to begin a new era of the honoring of the ceremony and discipline of marriage.

The Rt. Rev. Adam Halkett

The Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald

The Rt. Rev. Lydia Mamakwa

Written by sameo416

July 13, 2016 at 12:06 pm

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