Friday, May 31, 2013

Canadians Turning Away from Organized Religion

A new national study shows that while Canada remains overwhelmingly Christian, Canadians are turning their backs on organized religion in ever greater numbers. Results from the 2011 National Household Survey show that more than two-thirds of Canadians, or some 22 million people, said they were affiliated with a Christian denomination.

At 12.7 million, Roman Catholics were the largest single Christian group, representing 38 percent of Canadians; the second largest was the United Church, representing about 6 percent; while Anglicans were third, representing about 5 percent of the population.

Observers noted that among the survey’s most striking findings is that one in four Canadians, or 7.8 million people, reported they had no religious affiliation at all. That was up sharply from 16.5 percent from the 2001 census, and 12 percent in 1991.

The Canadian trend seems to mirror but even exceed levels of non-affiliation in the United States. A 2012 survey from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life pegged the ratio of religiously unaffiliated Americans at just under 20 percent.

But Pew also has found that more than one-quarter of American adults (28 percent) have left the faith in which they were raised in favor of another religion — or no religion at all.

The Canadian study showed that just more than 7 percent of the country was Muslim, Hindu, Sikh or Buddhist, an increase from 5 percent a decade earlier.

The Muslim population exceeded the 1 million mark, according to the survey, almost doubling in size for the third consecutive decade, and recording the biggest increase in growth of any religion, at 60 percent since 2001.

Muslims now represent 3.2 percent of Canada’s population, nudging up from the 2 percent recorded in 2001. Immigration has largely fueled the increase, with the largest share of Muslims coming from Pakistan over the past five years, according to Statistics Canada.

Hindus made up 1.5 percent of the population (up 51 percent); and Sikhs 1.4 percent (a rise of 54 percent).
Both Christians and Jews declined as a share of the population.

Officials in Ottawa stressed that the NHS results, which also examined trends in immigration and ethnic diversity, could be unreliable. Because it was a voluntary survey, it is “subject to potentially higher non-response error than those derived from the census long form,” Statistics Canada cautioned.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government abolished the long-form census in 2010 as too intrusive.

Reginald Bibby, a sociologist at the University of Lethbridge and one of Canada’s foremost trackers and interpreters of religious trends, said the NHS findings “do not point to the demise of religion in Canada. But the findings document the tendency of Canadians to reflect the pattern of people across the planet in variously embracing or rejecting religion.”

Source: Religion News Service

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Fair Trade Summer Boutique by Christ Church Cathedral

Christ Church Cathedral is holding a Fair Trade Summer Boutique to benefit the workers of Bangladesh. This sale is a great opportunity to show your support for humane, ethical and fair trade working conditions in Bangladesh. At this event you can learn about fair trade and act to help prevent further tragedies.

This boutique is being held in response to the tragic news of the collapse of the garment factory in Bangladesh which caused the death of more than 1120 workers. The event will include an advocacy area where you can:
  • Learn more about fair trade working practices and standards
  • Find out how your actions can help to try and prevent further human tragedies
  • Petition the Canadian and Bangladesh Government to care about workers as they negotiate trade deals
  • Write letters to retailers and companies which operate dangerous conditions for workers
At the Boutique you can find beautiful handmade artisan items for the garden, balcony, picnics, holidays and summer. It will also include a special section of ethically made in Bangladesh products. The Boutique will feature many handmade items from all over the world.

All profits from the Boutique will go to Save the Children and PLAN Bangladesh to help the children affected by the tragedy.

The boutique will be open from Thursday June 6th to Sunday June 9th, between 12 and 5pm. The fair will be held at The Atrium, 1444 Union Avenue (behind Christ Church Cathedral, 635 St Catherine, corner of Union).

The Fair Trade Working Group, and the Social Justice Action Group.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Catechist Training Empowers Local Indigenous Leaders

Twelve Indigenous leaders from across Canada attended a catechist (faith teacher) training event at General Synod offices in Toronto May 17 to 19. In seven modules, the training equipped leaders with the basics about the Christian faith so they could teach others and strengthen faith locally.

"It's about helping people meet Jesus on their homelands," said the Rev. Canon Ginny Doctor, Indigenous Ministries coordinator.

Each module was led by National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald and connected to a traditional Indigenous teaching. The session on "Holy Scriptures," connected with traditional teaching on truth, and "Sin and redemption," linked to traditional teaching on humility.

When Ruby Sandy Robinson of Kawawachikamach, Que. was invited to the training, she said "yes," right away. Her father, the Rev. Joseph Sandy, was a classic example of an influential catechist.

As a young boy Joseph Sandy chopped firewood to heat the tent where the Anglican community worshipped. He grew up to become a server, a worship leader, and then was trained as a catechist. In 1976 was ordained a deacon.

"Dad was a spiritual leader," said Ms. Robinson. "People looked up to him for everything. He and my mom would help people out, whether it was for food or whatever they needed."

Bishop MacDonald credits lay leader catechists like Joseph Sandy for the spread of Christianity in North American Indigenous communities, beginning in the late 1800s.

Often the institutional church missed this growth. In Alaska, most of the Gwich'in people became committed Christians, he said, but European missionaries missed it because the Gwich'in didn't become civilized in ways that church leaders expected.

"The [church's] goal was to get everyone to wear cotton and to be agricultural which of course doesn't work out very well in the Arctic," laughed Bishop MacDonald.

As he and Ginny Doctor have visited Indigenous Anglican communities across Canada they have seen the fruits of the work done by these local lay leaders.

In the entrance to a new Anglican church in Split Lake, Man., for example, hangs a prominent portrait of an influential catechist-a beloved face that would only be recognized by locals.

Sheba Mackay of Kingfisher Lake was one of six young people at the training event. Currently she leads English services at her church on Sunday afternoons but she feels God leading her deeper.

"Sometimes I feel in my heart that I need to get back into my involvement with the church and to have that connection with God," she said. "It completes me."

Ruby Sandy Robinson, a member of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, also said she wondered how God would lead her after the training. She said she plans to take the training home to share with five young lay readers who have recently stepped up to lead at her home church.

"I love coming here because it renews my strength," she said. "I keep thinking, oh my goodness this is what my dad learned! I'm learning it now."

The catechist training was taped and will be expanded for future offerings. For more information, contact the Rev. Canon Ginny Doctor by email ( or phone: (416) 924-9199 ext. 626.

Source: Anglican Church of Canada

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Water: The Creator's Sacred Gift

The United Nations has proclaimed May 22 The International Day for Biological Diversity (IDB) to increase understanding and awareness of biodiversity issues. The theme for 2013 is Water and Biodiversity. This article on water and indigenous people originally appeared in the Ministry Report, an Anglican Journal supplement produced by the Resources for Mission department.

For most of us, a safe water supply is as Canadian as medicare and the cultural mosaic. But for many indigenous people, clean water is a far cry from reality.

Across Canada, however, Anglicans are beginning to address this issue through an initiative loosely formed by Bishop Mark MacDonald, national indigenous bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada. MacDonald became aware of an uptick in church interest in 2011 when he raised the water question as keynote speaker at the diocese of Toronto's annual social justice conference.

"There seemed to be little or no church concern about the water issue, and then all of a sudden, dozens of churches across Canada were interested in advocacy work in clean water for First Nations communities," says MacDonald, who refers to his role as that of a facilitator.

"Some people just wanted to write a cheque, while others wanted to meet and talk and pray about it," he recalls.

Now the "water group" meets every couple of months at Trinity Church in Aurora, north of Toronto, in sessions that typically attract about 20 people.

"Right now it's mainly a spiritual movement, but in a couple of years it may become more of an institution," he says. "We're picking up people quickly, and a group is forming in Toronto to help the remote northern Ontario community of Pikangikum with water and other issues."

The advocates' ultimate aim is to get the federal government to live up to its legal obligations and spend the estimated $12 billion needed for the infrastructure improvements that will guarantee clean water to indigenous communities. "They refuse to do it," MacDonald says. "It's a political hot potato; they don't want to pick it up and get stuck with it. But it's not going to go away."

The Mennonite Church Canada has been organizing to put pressure on the government, and the water network is now in conversation with the Assembly of First Nations about the best approach to take with the government.

In the meantime, the group is working on bridge solutions to improve access to clean water or replace broken delivery systems.

The Primate's World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF) and other organizations such as trade unions have become involved in this galvanizing issue. PWRDF, for example, is reviewing a plan to raise $100,000 for the Pikangikum Working Group over the spring and summer months. If the proposal is approved, PWRDF will be able to accept designated donations for it.

Sometimes the health problem in First Nations communities lies in a polluted water source; sometimes the water pipes are contaminated. A pilot project involving a couple of churches in the network has raised more than $10,000 so far for interim measures to improve water quality. These might include hiring trucks to deliver clean water, digging wells, and providing clean containers for carrying water, filtering devices for tap water or portable purification kits. "It's going better than we ever anticipated, and there has been an amazing amount of interest in Vancouver and Victoria as part of the network," MacDonald says.

Gaining momentum, the group may soon officially assume the name Pimatisiwin Nipi (Oji-Cree for "living water"), and it will likely hold a national meeting at some point. "But for now, it's a community of spiritual concern that stays together in conversation," says MacDonald.

To learn how your gifts support mission, click here to read the full report.

Source: Anglican Church of Canada

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Joint Pentecost letter from Anglican, Lutheran leaders

Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, has issued this joint pastoral letter for Pentecost with Bishop Susan C. Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. The two churches share a full communion agreement that includes joint mission work and a joint national meeting in July 2013. This letter is designed to be read in parishes on Pentecost Sunday, May 19.

Beloved in Christ,

Almost two-thousand years ago an anxious group of disciples gathered in a room in Jerusalem. Although they had had a series of extraordinary encounters with their risen Lord, they were hesitant to share those experiences with others.

Then came a moment of liberation. On the day of Pentecost the Spirit that Jesus promised swept through the house where they were staying and the power of the Most High came upon them. Their fears were banished and their hopes renewed. Despite the ridicule and the opposition of others, the disciples began to share the good news of God in Christ.

Moving outwards from Jerusalem, the early Christian disciples quickly incorporated many others into this new movement. The Spirit began to speak through them in the many languages of the ancient world and, through the witness of Christians throughout the centuries, continues to speak in the many languages and diverse cultures of our world.

You call from tomorrow, you break ancient schemes,
from the bondage of sorrow the captives dream dreams;
our women see visions, our men clear their eyes,
with bold new decisions, your people arise.
("Spirit, Spirit of Gentleness" by James Manley)

As we prepare for the fi rst Joint Assembly of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, we know that there are some who, like our ancestors in the faith, may be just a little dispirited as we face the challenges of our times. But just as surely as God's Spirit inspired the fi rst generation of believers, that same Spirit

is working in us to give us the words to speak to one another and to those who are seeking something-dare we say, "Someone"-to believe in.

Our coming "Together for the Love of the World" will be a visible sign of the Spirit working in and among us. It will be time to take counsel together for the common good of both our churches and for the common good of our world. It will be a time to set our fears aside and arise with "bold new decisions."

As we wish you blessings for Pentecost we ask your prayers for the Joint Assembly. May the Spirit preside in our midst and lead us in a yet deeper and broader common witness to the gospel of Christ.

The Most Rev. Fred J. Hiltz
Anglican Church of Canada

Bishop Susan C. Johnson
National Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

Click here to download this letter as a PDF.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Global Survey Aims to Equip Anglicans to Engage in Truth and Reconciliation Commissions

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Commission of Canada held two days of hearings in the Diocese of Quebec, in La Tuque, in March.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu commends the "exciting and promising initiative".

The Anglican Communion's Anglican Peace and Justice Network (APJN) has launched a worldwide survey to gather the experience of Anglicans and Episcopalians who have taken part in national or local truth and reconciliation commissions.

The aim is to learn from Anglican contributions to past and present truth and reconciliation processes. The information received will be used to create resources and mechanisms to support Communion churches who may become involved in such reconciliation work locally. It will also identify Anglicans and Episcopalians who can offer insight and advice.

APJN convenor South African Ms Delene Mark anticipates a wealth of information from the APJN survey which has been addressed initially to the Primates* and Provincial Secretaries of the 38 Provinces of the Anglican Communion, as well as the Bishops of extra-provincial dioceses. "We have already received details of Anglican engagement with truth and reconciliation processes associated with ethnic conflict, slavery and racism, the exclusion of people experiencing the sharp end of poverty from decisions made about them, and two national initiatives concerned with the legacies of the separation of Aboriginal children from their parents", she said.

"APJN member Bishop Terry Brown, who has himself been deeply involved with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Solomon Islands, has pointed out that since 1970 there have been nearly 90 Truth Commission-related activities around the world following historic or recent periods of armed conflict and major human rights abuses. Now is a good time to look at what we have learned and discern mechanisms and resources to build up and support the participation of our churches in their own contexts."

The move has been welcomed by Archbishop Emeritus of Cape Town, Dr Desmond Tutu, who himself chaired South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission at the end of apartheid in his country.

"This is an exciting and promising initiative", he said. "Truth and Reconciliation processes are complex but they are a vital means of bringing wholeness, healing and peace to a world where many of the deep wounds of the past prevent our whole human family from enjoying abundant life.

"We have a huge amount to learn from one another. Drawing together what we have already discovered will encourage us and equip us to do more of this liberative and life-bringing work."

The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Most Revd Fred Hiltz, also endorsed APJN's initiative. "As people of God who vow at their baptism to respect the dignity of every human being and strive for justice and peace among all people, we have a solemn obligation to support the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions.

"Their work of addressing historic injustices and their horrific legacies requires a deep commitment over time, sometimes a very long time. It requires courage to hear the truth and its teller with reverence. It summons us to the hard work of apology with integrity. It calls us to be patient in the time it takes for acceptance of apology. Beyond these moments is the task of restoring right and just relations and in some cases forgiving them for the first time ever.

"The Anglican Church of Canada is committed to supporting the work of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission addressing the legacy of colonialism and a historic federal government policy of assimilation of Indigenous Peoples through the Indian Residential Schools."

Archbishop Hiltz referred to the prayer that accompanied ‘Remembering the Children',† an Aboriginal and Church Leaders' Tour of Canadian cities undertaken in 2008 to prepare for Truth and Reconciliation. "There is much to learn", he reflected, "as we dare to dream of a path of reconciliation where apology from the heart leads to healing of the Heart.

"For people of faith a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is about the work of the gospel. It's about an honest coming to terms with the ways in which one people or in some cases a number of peoples have been wronged through the political systems of others. It gets at the evil of racism and the way in which it rears its ugly head and hand as one people looks down upon another people and intentionally seeks to dismiss their history, suppress their language culture and traditions, and crush their very spirit and dignity. The work of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission is about truth-telling, repentance and renewal. It is hard work borne of a strong hope and sustained by an enduring commitment to walk together in new and different ways grounded in respect and justice for all."

Archbishop Hiltz called APJN's survey "a powerful sign" of the Anglican Communion's commitment to its Marks of Mission, particularly the fourth Mark: To transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind, and to pursue peace and reconciliation.


Friday, May 10, 2013

International Day of Prayer and Fasting for Syria

As Christians in Syria continue to suffer persecution in the midst of an ongoing civil war, Open Doors USA is encouraging Christians worldwide to pray for the war-torn country on May 11.

"As Christians in Syria continue to suffer from the devastating effects of the two-year-old civil war including killings, kidnappings, homelessness, lack of food and shelter and closing of schools; they are also seeing that God's hand is at work as all denominations are joining in passionate prayer," Open Doors USA interim President/CEO Steve Ridgway said in a recent statement.

Open Doors USA, a human rights watchdog, reportedly received a letter from Christian officials in Syria encouraging Christians around the world to join in an international day of prayer and fasting this Saturday.

"In the face of violence and persecution, our brothers and sisters are striving to keep their eyes on the Lord and seeking His face in their country. Even in pain, suffering and death, God is using the church to accomplish His plan," the letter reads, according to the Open Doors USA website.

"On Saturday, May 11, Christians from different denominations such as Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant/Evangelical are joining together in prayer and fasting to plead before the Lord for His mercy on Syria and an end to the violence."

Jerry Dykstra, spokesman for Open Doors USA, said that not only should Christians offer their prayers to Syria on Saturday, but they can pray in their churches on Sunday for Syria and spread the word of Christian persecution to their fellow congregants.

"Pour out your heart with pleas for the suffering Christians there. They are in need and asking for our prayers!" Dykstra added in the recent statement emailed to The Christian Post.

The California-based nonprofit is encouraging all Christians to pray for an end to the bloodshed in Syria, unity among Christian churches in the area, healing the injured, the future of Christianity in the country, and the innocent children affected by the ongoing warfare.

Since March 2011, Syria's Ba'ath Party government, led by President Bashar al-Assad, has been involved in a brutal civil war against rebels trying to overthrow the government, resulting in the death of nearly 70,000.

As the World Evangelical Alliance pointed out, Christians living in Syria have also been extremely affected by the civil war.

Dr. Thomas Schirrmacher, executive chair of the alliance's theological commission, previously noted that Christians are persecuted in the country because rebel fighters see them as loyalists to the country's president, while Assad supporters do not trust Christians in the predominately Sunni Muslim country.

Since the civil war began in 2011, the Christian population in Homs, a hotspot for wartime activity, has reportedly declined from 60,000 to 1,000.

Christian leaders in the country affirm that although vital supplies such as medicine and food are needed, prayer is equally important for the Christians who continue to suffer daily in the Middle Eastern country.

"It is so powerful to pray like one family. It's not that just our prayers aren't enough for God, but if all the Christians in the world unite with one heart, we believe it will be a blessing for Syria and the whole earth. Words can't describe how thankful we are that you will pray with us. We pray that God will bless everyone who is praying with us," one Christian leader told Open Doors USA.

Along with Christians being killed, raped, and tortured in Syria, they are also being kidnapped, as seen in the disappearance of Greek Orthodox Archbishop Boulos Yazigi and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim last month.

The two bishops were kidnapped last month from Aleppo, located in northwestern Syria, when they were taken by an unidentified gunman.

The orthodox communities in Syria and neighboring Lebanon canceled their Easter celebrations last week to pray for the bishops, and although differing reports indicate that rebel forces have taken responsibility for the kidnapping, many contend that Syrian opposition and Assad loyals continue to trade blame for the abduction.

In spite of these recent events, many Christians in the country maintain hope that one day peace will be restored to their homeland and the Christian religion will once again thrive.

Source: Christian Post

Related Posts
Kidnapping of Aleppo Church Leaders in Syria
Anglican and Catholic Leaders in the UK Pray for Syria

Anglican and Catholic Leaders in the UK Pray for Syria

The Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster have issued a call to prayer for peace in Syria.
On 25 April 2013, the leader of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Justin Welby of Canterbury and Vincent Nichols Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, issued the following joint statement in response to the  kidnapping of the two Archbishops of Aleppo and the ongoing suffering caused by the civil war in Syria. 

Since the very first days of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, we have prayed as we watched in horror and sorrow the escalating violence that has rent this country apart. We have grieved with all Syrians – with the families of each and every human life lost and with all communities whose neighbourhoods and livelihoods have suffered from escalating and pervasive violence.

And today, our prayers also go with the ancient communities of our Christian brothers and sisters in Syria. The kidnapping this week of two Metropolitan bishops of Aleppo, Mar Gregorios Ibrahim of the Syriac Orthodox Church and Paul Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch, and the killing of their driver while they were carrying out a humanitarian mission, is another telling sign of the terrible circumstances that continue to engulf all Syrians..

We unreservedly support these Christian communities, rooted in and attached to the biblical lands, despite the many hardships. We respond to the call from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, and the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, urging churches worldwide to remain steadfast in the face of challenging realities and to bear witness to their faith in the power of love in this world.

We both continue to pray for a political solution to this tragic conflict that would stem the terrible violence and also empower all Syrians with their fundamental and inalienable freedoms. We also call for urgent humanitarian aid to reach all who are suffering. We pray that Syria can recapture its tradition of tolerance, rooted in faith and respect for faiths living side by side.

Related Posts
Kidnapping of Aleppo Church Leaders in Syria
International Day of Prayer and Fasting for Syria

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Kidnapping of Aleppo Church Leaders in Syria

As the uncertainty of the whereabouts of two Syrian church leaders kidnapped in Syria on Monday [April 22] continued Wednesday, the patriarchs of the Greek Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox churches have issued a joint communique calling on churches around the world to “stand fast in the face of what is going on and witness to their faith in the power of love in this world.”

On Monday, 22 April, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Paul Yazigi of Aleppo and Alexandretta and Syriac Orthodox Archbishop Yohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo were kidnapped en route to Aleppo by unknown assailants after returning from a humanitarian mission near the Turkish border region. Their driver, Fatha’ Allah Kabboud, a deacon in the Syriac Orthodox Church, was killed in the incident.

The communique from Patriarch Jhon X Yazigi of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East and Patriarch Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas, of the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East, expressed surprise and deep regret over the situation. Both churches are members of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

The patriarchs called on the kidnappers to “respect the life of the two kidnapped brothers as well as everyone to put an end to all the acts that create confessional and sectarian schisms among the sons of the one country.”

To the churches around the world, the communiqué said, “It is necessary to take steps that reflect their refusal to all kinds of violence hitting the human beings living in the East.”

Source: World Council of Churches

Related Posts
Anglican and Catholic Leaders in the UK Pray for Syria
International Day of Prayer and Fasting for Syria

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Tower Phase II is Underway Thanks to Some Help from Our Friends

Church towers and spires have always been landmarks and beacons. They draw attention to the church building and point upwards to heaven. St. Philip’s tower is a commanding presence, and the focus of most pictures of the church (and it is even featured in 2 of our stained glass windows and our icon of St Philip).

Unfortunately, our tower has been plagued by water infiltration problems ever since is was built, and it has required frequent repairs. This time, rather than simply repairing the water damage, we have worked with an architect to attempt to find a lasting solution to the problem. Last October, we began a restoration of the tower, which we hope will be symbolic of the spiritual restoration of St Philip’s and of our renewed mission in the community.

Phase I of the project, last fall, was to alter the roof of the tower so that water would no longer run down the exterior walls. Now rainwater and snowmelt from the roof drain down interior an interior pipe to the sewer.

Phase II consists of repointing and repair of the exterior stonework. Loose stones are being re-anchored, cracked stones are being sealed with epoxy, and loose and deteriorating mortar is being replaced. This work commenced on April 28, and is expected to take about 4 weeks.

Thanks to generous donations from members and friends, and the Spring Tea, we have raised over $75,000 to date for this project. Vestry also voted last September to take $50,000 from the Memorial Fund, which consists of monies given over the years in memory of deceased parishioners. We have received a grant and loan from the Anglican Foundation of Canada and a loan from the Diocese of Montreal.

We are still actively soliciting donations to help repay the loans and to fund the restoration of (and perhaps some reconfiguration of) the interior of the tower, work which will take place after we have verified that the water infiltration has stopped. Donations may be placed in the collection plate (marked “Tower Fund”), mailed to the church office, or made online (use the “Donate Now” button at the right).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Sermon on the Value of Silence in the Wake of the Boston Marathon Bombings


In this video Rev. James Pratt delivers a sermon on the value of silence in the wake of the tragic bombings at the Boston Marathon in April, 2013.