Thursday, August 29, 2013

Everyone’s a Biblical Literalist Until You Bring Up....

Everyone’s a biblical literalist until you bring up gluttony or divorce, or gossip, or slavery, or head coverings, or Jesus’ teachings on nonviolence, or the “abomination” of eating shellfish and the hell-worthy sin of calling other people idiots.

Then we need a little context.
Then we need a little grace.
Then we need a little room to disagree.

I got to thinking about this after I was criticized last week for my post about loving gay kids unconditionally. Some folks were very upset that I had the audacity write an entire blog post about putting a stop to LGBT bullying without including a Bible-based condemnation of LGBT people, or at least a theological discussion around the issue of homosexuality and Scripture. 

Bible verses were quoted.  Open letters were written. End Times predictions were made.  Pillows in my home were thrown record distances.

It’s funny. Yesterday, in Sunday Superlatives, I included a quote from Mark Twain in which he referred to a snake oil salesman as an “idiot,” but no one left an angry comment warning me of hell based on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:22 that “if you call someone an idiot, you are in danger of being brought before the court; and if you curse someone, you are in danger of the fires of hell.”

Nor did anyone raise any biblical objections regarding gluttony a few weeks ago when I casually mentioned overdosing on Sweet Frog frozen yogurt (strawberry, with a pile of chocolate chips, Oreo crumbs, and chocolate animal crackers on top, if you must know), or about materialism when I shared pictures of our new car. (Hey, for some people, a brand new Honda Civic is pretty flashy.)

And in spite of the flood of emails I get each week condemning my support of women in ministry, I’ve never received so much as an open letter criticizing my refusal to wear a head covering, even though my Web site is full of photographic evidence of what the apostle Paul calls a “disgrace” in 1 Corinthians 11:6.

We may laugh at these examples or dismiss them silly, but the biblical language employed in these contexts is actually pretty strong: eating shellfish is an abomination, a bare head is a disgrace, gossips will not inherit the kingdom of God, careless words are punishable by hell, guys who leer at women should gouge out their eyes.

Heck, you could make a pretty good biblical case for gluttony being a “lifestyle sin” that has been normalized by our culture of "Supersized" portions and overflowing buffet lines, starting with passages like Philippians 3:19 (“their god is their belly”), Psalm 78: 18 (“they tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved”), Proverbs 23:20 (“be not among drunkards or among gluttonous eaters of meat”), Proverbs 23:2 (“put a knife to your throat if you are given to appetite”), or better yet, Ezekiel 16:49 ("Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.")

Yet you don’t see weigh-ins preceding baptisms or people holding “God Hates Gluttons” signs outside the den of iniquity that is Ryan’s Steakhouse.

And we haven’t even touched on materialism, or the fact that on the day I stuffed my face with froyo, 30,000 kids died from preventable diseases and many more went hungry. 

It seems the more ubiquitous the biblical violation, the more invisible it becomes.

So why do so many Christians focus on the so-called “clobber verses” related to homosexuality while ignoring “clobber verses” related to gluttony or greed, head coverings or divorce?  Why is homosexuality the great biblical debate of this decade and not slavery, (as it once was) or the increasing problem of materialism and inequity? Why do so many advocate making gay marriage illegal but not divorce, when Jesus never referenced the former but spoke quite negatively about the latter?

While there are certainly important hermeneutical and cultural issues at play, I can’t help but wonder if something more nefarious is also at work.  I can’t help but wonder if biblical condemnation is often a numbers game.

Though it affects more of us than we tend to realize, statistically, homosexuality affects far fewer of us than gluttony, materialism, or divorce. And as Jesus pointed out so often in his ministry, we like to focus on the biblical violations (real or perceived) of the minority rather than our own.  

In short, we like to gang up.  We like to fashion weapons out of the verses that affect us the least and then “clobber” the minority with them. Or better yet, conjure up some saccharine language about speaking the truth in love before breaking out our spec-removing tweezers to help get our minds off of these uncomfortable logs in our own eyes.

We see this in the story of the religious leaders who ganged up on the woman caught in adultery. She was such an easy target: a woman, probably poor, disempowered, and charged with the go-to favorite of the self-righteous—sexual sin.   When they brought her to Jesus, they were using her as an example to test him, to see how “biblical” his response to her would be. (See Deuteronomy 22:23-14.)  Jesus knelt down and scribbled in the sand before saying, “He who is without sin can cast the first stone.” They dropped their stones.

While self-righteousness avoidance certainly affects our selective literalism , we also have good reasons for not condemning one another for the more ubiquitous biblical violations (again, real or perceived) in our culture.

It’s hard for me to flatly condemn divorce, for example, when I know of several women whose lives, and the lives of their children, may have been saved by it, or when I hear from people who tell me they would have rather come from a broken home than grown up in one. We have a natural revulsion to the idea of checking people’s BMI before accepting them into the Church, especially when obesity is not necessarily reflective of gluttony (often, in this country, it is a result of poverty), and when we know from our own experiences or the experiences of those we love that an unhealthy weight can result from a variety of factors—from genetics to psychological components—and when some of our favorite people in the world (or when we ourselves) wrestle with a complicated relationship with food, whether it’s through overeating or under-eating.  

Again, it’s a numbers game. It’s hard to “other” the people we know and love the most. It’s become a cliché, but everything changes when it’s your brother or sister who gets divorced, when it’s your son or daughter who is gay, when it’s your best friend who struggles with addiction, when it’s your husband or wife asking some good questions about Christianity you never thought about before.  

Our relationships have a tendency to destroy our categories, to melt black and white into gray, and I don’t think God is disappointed or threatened by this. I think God expects it. It happened to Peter when he encountered Corneilus and Philip when he encountered the Ehtiopian eunuch. Suddenly it became a lot harder to label your friends "unclean" or "unworthy." 

After all, when God became flesh and lived among us, the religious accused him of hanging out with “sinners" (even gluttons!) never realizing that this was the whole point, that there were only “sinners” to hang out with.

Of course, all of this raises questions about when it’s right or wrong to “call out” sin, and I confess I’m no good at sorting that out. I’m as hypocritical as the next person, judgmental of those I deem judgmental, self-righteous, indulgent, a gossip, too careless with my words, too quick to get angry at certain people with certain theological views, too easily seduced by money and notoriety and…my favorite things in the whole entire world…AWARDSI LISTS! ACCOLADES!

I too need reminding that, for all my big talk about a “Christocentric hermeneutic,” more often than not, I’m following a “Rachelcentric hermeneutic” when I read the Bible, complete with my own biases, preferences, insecurities, and opinions guiding how I “pick and choose.” (Oh I can wield every Bible verse that challenges Calvinism like a knife, but I’d rather not talk about how I’m actually applying the Sermon on the Mount to my life or what I really think about enemy-love.) 

Should we stop discussing which biblical instructions apply today and how we ought to apply them? Certainly not. Should we remain silent when the vulnerable are oppressed and exploited or when injustice and immorality pervades our culture? No. Do we abandon our convictions about what the Bible says is sin? No, not even when we disagree on that. Are rhetorical questions overused in blog posts? Yes.

But it’s good to remind ourselves now and then that just as Southern slaveholders had a vested interest in interpreting Colossians 3:22 literally, so we tend to “pick and choose” to our own advantage. 

And when we make separate categories for the “real sinners,” when we reduce our fellow human beings to theological issues up for constant debate who cannot even be told they are loved without qualifiers, when our hermeneutic conveniently renders others the problem and us the heroes, maybe it’s time to sit across a table and get to know one another a little better, to break up some categories and make some new friends. Maybe it’s time to drop our stones for a while and pass the bread.

…healthy, whole grain, organic bread, of course.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Anglican Church is Close to Plunging into a “Ravine of Intolerance” over the Issue of Homosexuality

The Archbishop of Canterbury has warned that the Anglican church is tottering on the brink of disintegration amid disputes between liberals and traditionalists.

In his most stark comments yet about divisions over issues such as homosexuality, the Most Rev Justin Welby said the Church was coming perilously close to plunging into a “ravine of intolerance”.

He even drew parallels between the crisis afflicting the 77-million-strong worldwide network of Anglican churches and the atmosphere during the Civil War. And he likened the collective behaviour of the Church to a “drunk man” staggering ever closer to the edge of a cliff.

Yet he added that many of the issues over which different factions in the Church were fighting were “incomprehensible” to people outside it.

He spoke out during a sermon in Monterrey, Mexico, which he was visiting as part of a plan to travel to every province of the Anglican Communion at the start of his ministry.

The Archbishop, who took office in February, inherited a Church deeply divided at home and abroad.

At home, he has been attempting to resolve the seemingly intractable disagreements within the Church of England over women bishops. But the worldwide Anglican Church has also been split between liberal provinces, particularly in North America, and more conservative regions for several years after the US Church consecrated its first openly homosexual bishop.

Archbishop Welby said the Church had to steer a course between, on one hand, compromising so much that it abandoned its “core beliefs” and, on the other, becoming so intolerant that it fractured completely.

Addressing a service in Monterrey, he spoke about the life of Jeremy Taylor, a cleric imprisoned after the Civil War.

“I sometimes worry that as Anglicans we are drifting back in that direction,” he said. “Not consciously, of course, but in an unconscious way that is more dangerous. Like a drunk man walking near the edge of a cliff, we trip and totter and slip and wander, ever nearer to the edge of the precipice.

“It is a dangerous place, a narrow path we walk as Anglicans at present.

“On one side is the steep fall into an absence of any core beliefs, a chasm where we lose touch with God, and thus we rely only on ourselves and our own message. On the other side there is a vast fall into a ravine of intolerance and cruel exclusion. It is for those who claim all truth, and exclude any who question.”

He went on: “When we fall into this place, we lose touch with human beings and create a small church, or rather many small churches – divided, ineffective in serving the poor, the hungry and the suffering, incapable of living with each other, and incomprehensible to those outside the church.

“We struggle with each other at a time when the Anglican Communion’s great vocation as bridge builder is more needed than ever.”

Source: National Post

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Anglican Appeal Celebrates 21 Years of Making an Impact

Some support for the Anglican Appeal comes from parishes and dioceses, but most comes from individual donors.

"There is a need to carry on God's work, says one donor. "I like to support all the programs that the Anglican Appeal is supporting . . . Every program in some way or another helps many people to change their lives for the better."

The Anglican Appeal—established in 1992 to carry on the work of Anglicans in Mission, the national church's capital campaign from the 1980s—celebrates its 21st anniversary on October 1. For 21 years they have helped the ministries of General Synod do their vital work across Canada and around the world.

Healing and hope

Funds raised by the Anglican Appeal help support people like Cynthia Patterson, Indigenous Ministries' suicide prevention coordinator for eastern Canada. "We understand that suicide is an illness of the soul," Patterson said last year in remarks at Sacred Circle, the triennial Anglican Indigenous gathering. "It's a state at which people arrive after being through enormous, enormous pain."

Suicide is a particularly serious problem for Canada's Indigenous communities. For First Nations people of all ages, the suicide rate is two to three times the national average.

For First Nations youth it is 5 to 6 times the national average, according to Health Canada and the Canadian Institute for Child Health.

What can the church offer in such circumstances? "We bring faith," says Patterson. "We bring faith, and in that we bring the gift of hope, we bring the miracle of forgiveness, and we bring the sureness of healing."

"It's hard to imagine anything more urgent than the suicide prevention program," says National Indigenous Anglican Bishop Mark MacDonald. "What we see as essential to the work of suicide prevention is the rebuilding of community, the rebuilding of the sacred circles that nourish life and keep us all together."

Helping Global Relations deliver medical aid in Jerusalem

Money donated to the Anglican Appeal also goes to help work overseas in places like the Diocese of Jerusalem (a part of the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East). The diocese is comprised of more than 7000 parishioners spread across 30 parishes in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria.

Funding from the Appeal supports the Diocese of Jerusalem's Penman Clinic in St. Matthew parish, Zababdeh, West Bank. According to the World Health Organization, there are only 1.8 primary health care units/centres for every 10,000 people in East Jerusalem. The Penman Clinic serves a vital role, providing accessible and professional healthcare for thousands of people who would not otherwise get it.

Being a good neighbour

"Supporting the Appeal is a great way to fulfill Jesus' injunction to love our neighbours as ourselves," says Jacqueline Beckford, General Synod's interim manager of annual giving. "The Anglican Appeal lets us reach out to our neighbours, both within Canada and internationally, and support them in times of trouble and need."

Source: Anglican Church of Canada

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Young Exodus: Six Reasons Young People Leave the Church

Here are six reasons why young people leave the church adapted from a list by David Kinnaman in "You Lost Me: Why Young Christians are Leaving Church. . . And Rethinking Faith"

1. Isolationism. One-fourth of 18-to 29-year-olds say church demonizes everything outside church including the music, movies, culture, and technology that defines their generation.

2. Shallowness. One-third call church boring, about one-fourth say faith is irrelevant and Bible teaching is unclear. One-fifth say God is absent from their church experience.

3. Anti-science. Up to one-third say the church is out of step on scientific developments and debate.

4. Sex. The church is perceived as simplistic and judgmental. For a fifth or more, a “just say no” philosophy is insufficient in a techno-porno world. Young Christian singles are as sexually active as their non-churched friends, and many say they feel judged.

5. Exclusivity. Three in 10 young people feel the church is too exclusive in this pluralistic and multi-cultural age. And the same number feel forced to choose between their faith and their friends.

6. Doubters. The church is not a safe place to express doubts say over one-third of young people, and one-fourth have serious doubts they’d like to discuss.

Young Exodus

Six in 10 young people will leave the church permanently or for an extended period starting at age 15, according to new research by the Barna Group. And for the generation now coming of age, it’s more than the usual “driver’s license to marriage license” joy ride, according to the pollsters. For church leaders, the question is, what will we do about it?

Today’s young adults are marrying later, if at all, are technologically savvy, and hold worldviews alien to their upbringing. Barna Research president David Kinnaman, after a five-year-study, declared that church leaders are unequipped to deal with this “new normal”.

Their response is mostly at the extremes, both dangerous. Many ignore the situation, hoping young adults’ views will be righted when they are older and have their own children. These leaders miss the significance of the shifts of the past 25 years, Kinnaman contends, and the needs for ministry young people have in their present phase – if it is a phase.

But the opposite reaction is just as problematic: “using all means possible to make their congregation appeal to teens and young adults.” This excludes older members and “builds the church on the preference of young people and not on the pursuit of God,” Kinnaman said.

Kinnaman prescribes intergenerational ministry. “In many churches, it means changing the metaphor from simply passing the baton to the next generation to a more functional, biblical picture of a body – that is, the entire community of faith, across the entire lifespan, working together to fulfill God’s purposes.

Source: Fusion

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Why Millennials Are Coming To Church

This is an article by Andrew Stephens-Rennie, he loves pioneering responsive, contextual solutions to the challenge of being a church in the 21st Century. In a previous article Andrew discussed why Millenials are leaving the church, in this article he explores what makes Millennials want to come to church. 

Earlier this week, in response to Rachel Held Evans’ post and my post from a Canadian point-of-view, the Rev. Mark Whittall of St. Albans Ottawa posted a blog of his own that asked Millennials at St. Al’s to respond to a number of questions.

I wonder if their responses resonate with you? Do they shock you? And what, if anything, can we take from the experience of one congregation that just happens to be connecting with this group of people? Here are some excerpts and follow-up questions:

We talk about stuff that matters 
“I decided to attend St. Albans not because of the modern music or digital bulletins but because members seemed incredibly genuine in their mutual attempts to understand God and what Jesus’s message means for their everyday realities.” 
Do our churches talk about things that matter? Do sermons engage the issues the community is facing? Do conversations in coffee hour go beyond the surface to what is really going on in peoples’ lives? Do small groups and other community activities create space for deep intimacy between us, Christ, and each other?

We can ask questions and explore answers together
“I guess what I was looking for was a feeling of shared curiosity and inquiry.  In university we are encouraged to rigorously question the evidence and biases behind claims, to have arguments on fundamental issues.  Through book studies, service discussion periods and one-on-one conversations with other members at St. Albans, I feel like I can exercise this curiosity without stepping on toes or being told just to have faith and be silent.”
We all have questions. So many Anglicans I know are proud of their intellectualism and curiosity. Do we explore these things together as a community? Do we learn from one another, lean on one another when we have deep questions, or moments of profound doubt? What does it mean to be Christian community in the midst of these things? How does your church fare in this area?

We get to participate and contribute.  
“Why do I come to church?  Because of the sense that everyone is welcome to share their opinions and ideas.  People are encouraged to participate in everything that goes on at the church.”
Is the life of the church merely a matter of consuming religious goods and services, or is it a deeply participatory endeavour? From worship, to evangelism, outreach, and works of justice, how is the whole community engaged? Do members of the congregation feel as though they are able to contribute to the life of the community? Are they stretched when asked to steward those gifts? Is it a safe place to contribute, to experiment, to fail, and to succeed?

This is a Christ-Centred church.  
“Ultimately though, the best and most important thing about Saint Albans for me is that it is a Christ-centered church.  It is a church that remembers what the point of everything is.  I saw this reflected in every aspect of church life.”
Does the life of the church hinge on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? Can we answer the question of why we gather, and why the Christian gospel is good news even beyond the walls of our church? If the Christian church’s final answer to the ‘why’ question isn’t ‘for the sake of Jesus,’ have we not missed the point?

Rev. Mark’s blog goes into a lot more detail. The responses he presents beg the question: why on earth aren’t more of our churches engaged in these things? These don’t sound like particularly “millennial” things. They sound like human things. They sound like Christian things. And at the end of the day, they sound like the things that the church should be on about, whether it consists primarily of 80-year-olds, 30-year-olds, or people of any age.

Source: The Community

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

New Jersey church offers ‘flash mob’-style Worship Without Walls

This article is about taking worship to the streets. St. Philip's own Father Jim wants to give this a try next summer and we would like to know who is interested in participating. Please read the article and let us know what you think. 

Wearing a traditional black clerical shirt and collar, and less- traditional black shorts and sandals, the Rev. John Mennell sits near a portable altar, waiting for stragglers. About a dozen people — one with a leashed dog named Gideon at her feet — sit facing him in two rows of folding chairs. Backed by the sounds of diners chatting outside a nearby eatery and passing vehicular traffic, Mennell rises and greets worshipers at the corner of Church Street and South Fullerton in Montclair, New Jersey, to the July 28 Worship Without Walls.

From the weekends of Memorial Day through Labor Day, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Montclair is holding 5:00 p.m. Sunday Eucharists in public, outdoor spaces.  Similar to “flash mobs,” participants are alerted to the location each week via text message. Passersby are encouraged to join.
“It’s fun to see different people’s reactions,” said Mennell, the church’s rector. “Last week, we ended up in the park in a walkway. … This one woman walked through with her dog, and her dog desperately wanted to join in the service.”

When the woman walked through a second time, Mennell invited her to join them. “She politely informed me how the dog leads her to the temple each Saturday.”

Such invitations, accepted or not, are among the points of Worship Without Walls, Mennell said. “Part of it is getting people used to inviting people in in ways that are uncomfortable.”

“In our beautiful Episcopal reticence,” he said, churchgoers don’t stand on street corners talking about Jesus. “This is about as close as people comfortably get.”

“If I told my congregation, ‘Go out on a street corner and witness,’ they’d run me out on a rail,” he said. But worshiping together publicly, “it’s really doing the same thing.”

On this particular Sunday, nearly 20 people ultimately joined the service, with a few passersby stopping briefly to check things out.

“As people come by and look curious, invite them into what we’re doing,” Mennell instructed the congregation. “We will sort of go with the flow.”

Mitch Goodrich was running an errand in town when he stopped and joined the service with his sons Henry, 8, and Calvin, 19 months. Turns out, he knew Mennell years ago at Church of the Redeemer in Cincinnati, before the Montclair priest attended seminary.

“This is fantastic. It’s so good to get out and let people see what’s going on and see who you are,” Goodrich said. “We need to do more of this in the Episcopal Church.”

One man in a baseball cap interjected comments several times during the service. Listening to the Old Testament reading on Abraham bargaining with God about the fate of Sodom, he announced: “We’re doomed.”

“No we’re not,” Mennell reassured him. “We’re saved.”

Later, during the sermon, the priest asked the congregation what stopped them from praying.
One woman replied that her concerns are “too small and insignificant.”

“Alcohol and chicks,” said the man in the cap.

“Different addictions often stand in our way,” Mennell replied.

“Guilt,” said another congregant.

“Satan,” added the man in the cap.

“Jesus has power over Satan,” said Mennell, spurring a brief dialogue over this theological point.
Such engagement, if sometimes challenging, is not unwelcomed.

“Part of breaking down walls [is] we can’t use the walls of the church as a barrier to keep people out and keep ideas out,” Mennell said later.

For the first time that summer, weather interrupted the service. With the onset of a rainstorm, the worshipers brought the prayers of the people to a speedy conclusion. Then about half of them headed to a nearby diner to conclude the service and eat together. They ordered food, then completed the Eucharist.

Source: Episcopal News Service

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Fred Hiltz on Residential Schools 20 Years Later

August 06, 2013 - The following is a statement from Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of Archbishop Michael Peers' apology to the survivors of residential schools.

On Friday, August 6, 1993 at the National Native Convocation in Minaki, Ontario, Archbishop Michael Peers offered an apology to all the survivors of the Indian residential schools. Shaped by his listening to their stories, and his devotion to healing and reconciliation, he said, "I want to take one step along that path here and now." And with that he said,

"I accept and I confess before God and you, our failures in the residential schools. We failed you. We failed ourselves. We failed God.

"I am sorry, more than I can say, that we were part of a system which took you and your children from home and family.

"I am sorry, more than I can say, that we tried to remake you in our image, taking from you your language and the signs of your identity.

"I am sorry, more than I can say, that in our schools so many were abused physically, sexually, culturally and emotionally.

"On behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada, I present our apology."

Not only did Michael say, "I am sorry," he also said,

"I know how often you have heard words which have been empty because they have not been accompanied by actions. I pledge to you my best efforts, and the efforts of our church at the national level, to walk with you along the path of God's healing."

That was twenty years ago-to this very day.

Then and there the apology was offered-quietly and prayerfully. The next day Vi Smith, speaking on behalf of the elders and participants, said, "It was offered from the heart with sincerity, sensitivity, compassion and humility... We offer praise and thanks to our Creator for his courage."

Here and now we give thanks to God for Michael's leadership.

Far-sighted and firm, it set our Church on a new trajectory of healing, reconciliation and new life from which we can never turn back. While Michael described the apology as "a step along the path," it was, in fact, a huge step.

It underscored the task of the Residential Schools Working Group and the mandate of the Anglican Healing Fund established in 1991 to provide funding for community-based healing projects. It was a great source of encouragement for the 1994 Covenant-A Journey of Spiritual Renewal for Indigenous Peoples and partnership into which they have invited us all in building "a truly Anglican Indigenous Church in Canada." In time the apology would influence a commitment on the part of the General Synod in 2001 to adopt "A New Agape"-a commitment to a new relationship with the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, principled by healing the wounds of the past, eradicating lingering social injustices, honouring desires for self-determination and working together in new ways.

The apology has been a constant point of reference for a number of significant developments in our Church, including the 2007 appointment of a National Indigenous Bishop and the 2010 enshrining of that office in the constitution of the General Synod. Building on that development, the General Synod adopted a canon on the National Indigenous Ministry that honours the work of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples and the triennial gathering of the Sacred Circle, which brings together people from all the known First Nations, Métis, Inuit and urban Indigenous ministries across our Church.

The apology informs our commitment to anti-racism and our upholding of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. It inspired our devotion to the work of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission and our full participation in its national, regional and community events.

As you can see, the apology-which has been translated into a number of Indigenous languages-has had far-reaching effects. Its twentieth anniversary is very significant. In marking the occasion I sought the counsel of the National Indigenous Bishop and the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples (ACIP). They offered two pieces of advice. First, that the Church take the opportunity to pay tribute to Archbishop Peers for his remarkable leadership. I am very pleased to announce that this recognition will take place at the November meeting of the Council of General Synod in Mississauga, Ontario. The second piece of advice was that I establish a commission enabling our Church to follow through on actions associated with the 2010 General Synod Resolution repudiating the doctrine of discovery. To that charge I have added two other-one to fully address the question posed by Mr. Justice Sinclair, chair of the TRC: "What is reconciliation?" and second, to renew our Church's commitment to addressing long-standing injustices borne by Indigenous Peoples in Canada. In consultation with ACIP, the commission will be named by me and Bishop Mark MacDonald. They will be installed at the November council meeting. Anglican Video, who has kept the ongoing story of healing, reconciliation and new life with so much devotion through the years, will be on hand to record the proceedings.

In the meantime we give thanks to God for this historic and sacred moment of apology. Apart from the actual video footage (a portion of which you can see here, there is no more moving account than this:

The great hall in this pine-beamed lodge is so quiet you can hear your heart hammering in your chest. More than 100 Indigenous Anglicans from across the country, men and women ranging in age from 18 to 80, are seated in a semi-circle around a white-haired man dressed in purple robes. His eyes are fixed firmly upon the floor; his attitude is almost prayerful; the weight of history is visibly pressing him down. Slowly, in carefully measured phrases, the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Michael Peers, begins to speak-words he has laboured over, and painstakingly committed to memory. It is his apology, on behalf of himself and of the Church he represents, for the devastation wrought by the Anglican Church of Canada on the First Peoples through the residential schools.

When he has finished he is greeted with a profound silence from the assembly, broken here and there by muffled sobs. Some are staring at the floor with the same intensity as the Primate himself; others can't take their eyes off the man. All the people there, almost without exception, have been hurt and torn by those schools, have had their families and communities devastated by them. They know in their hearts, and understand in their souls, that this is an historic moment in the journey of healing, for themselves and for their Church.

Source: Anglican Church of Canada

Monday, August 5, 2013

Why Are Millennials Leaving the Church?

This is an article written by Andrew Stephens-Rennie, he loves pioneering responsive, contextual solutions to the challenge of being a church in the 21st Century. Appealing to young people is a common challenge faced by most churches. This article asks the question why is the millennial generation absent from church life and how do we encourage them to get involved.  

On Saturday, post-evangelical blogger Rachel Held Evans explored “Why millennials are leaving the church” on the CNN Religion Blog. The majority of Held Evans’ writings address issues within the American Evangelical church.

In a follow-up post, she also acknowledges that “it’s not just evangelical churches losing young adults, but also Catholic churches, Orthodox churches, and Mainline Protestant churches…sometimes at even higher rates.”

Throughout my ministry, I’ve had opportunities to speak in a variety of churches, to run workshops, and host forums that focus on the role of young people in the church. At the end of these presentations, I’ve been confronted with all manner of disappointing responses:
  • “So what you’re saying is that we should start a contemporary service…”
  • “I expect young people to leave the church after confirmation, and not to return again until they’re married and have kids.”
  • “Okay I hear you, but what program should we run to get them back?”
I’m sure these folks are well-meaning, but I wish they would hear what I’m saying. Here are the blunt answers to all three questions:
  • No. That’s the last thing I’d tell you to do.
  • Sounds like a losing proposition to me.
  • There isn’t one.
Like Rachel Held Evans, my chosen response is to slowly bang my head on the podium. Here’s why: 
  • We don’t need another mediocre rock band playing “Shine Jesus Shine.” That song wore out its welcome in the mid-90′s evangelical church. What makes 21st Century Canadian Anglicans think that a song about moths swarming the light will draw people to church?
  • We need to do better for our young people than graduating them from church at confirmation, ignoring them for 20 years, and then hoping they’ll return. Oh sure, we’ll develop a “young families” ministry for them if they show up again at that point. And that’s a good start. But imagine what Christian discipleship might look like if we hadn’t ignored them for the past 20-years of their lives.
  • There is no program that will save your church. None. No Alpha, no Messy Church, no Fresh Expression will suddenly fill your pews, fill the plate, and pay for that roof you’ve needed to repair for the past six years. It’s just not going to happen. And, to be blunt, it’s the wrong approach. The job of the church is to go out and make disciples, not increase the number of Individual Giving Units.
What would happen if we treated young people as if they mattered? What if we unleashed young people to passionately live their faith in daily life? What if we listened to their deepest passions, and found ways to encourage them in Christ’s name?

When I posted Rachel’s article on my Facebook wall, I immediately heard this comment from a Millennial I know:
I love this. The assumption that we 20-somethings don’t like church because it’s not “cool” enough is actually kinda ageist and offensive. We are grownups and we see the meaning of things beyond the surface.
And later during the discussion, they shared:
My experience of church is people not even bothering to ask the question, because we just assume that millennials aren’t interested. I was thinking about it this morning as I sat in a back pew, among 70-80 people where I was one of two millennials from what I could tell. My church wants to reach out to young families, to young children. There is an assumption that we should be doing what we can to make them feel welcome. But I’ve never heard anyone ask, what should we do to make the 20-somethings feel welcome?
So. What should we do to make Millennials feel welcome? And what should we do to get out of the way so that they can take ownership of what is their church, too?

I’d love to hear from Millennials, as well as from those who are actively engaging the Millennial generation.
Source: The Community