The “Generous Listening” process has begun, studying the unresolved issue of same-sex marriage in the Diocese of Calgary. Pressed to explain the purpose of the process, our archbishop, Greg Kerr-Wilson, told our churchwardens: “The process of discernment is intended to be a time of listening and learning, both to the resource people who will be presenting and to one another.”
Our first resource people, who presented last weekend, were the Right Reverend Stephen Andrews, former bishop of Algoma and Principle of Wycliffe College, U of T, and Sylvia Keesmaat, adjunct professor at Trinity College, U of T. Together, in respectful debate, they tackled the most problematic scriptural references to homosexuality.
Bishop Andrews interprets scripture as describing an ordered universe, discounting same-sex relationships as inherently inconsistent with that order. Professor Keesmaat takes the view that scripture remains ambiguous about consensual adult relationships, noting that the early church admitted Gentiles, for which there was no biblical precedent, thereby opening the way for a modern-day consideration of same-sex marriage. She added that, like the early church, we would do well to hear the actual stories of the people we are “studying”.
How this conversation will move us forward toward decision-making in this diocese is unclear. But the archbishop reminded the assembly of clergy and lay people that the Anglican Church of Canada is a “diocesan church”, meaning that a decision of this sort, regardless of decisions made at the national level, falls to each diocese and, ultimately, to the bishop of each diocese.
Some Christians are fond of saying that children and youth are the church of tomorrow. The corollary is that, if we want the church to survive, we must inculcate our beliefs and values in the lives of the young. Respectfully, we disagree. Children and youth may or may not be the church of tomorrow; but they most surely are the church of today. Treating them as present-day members, with their own gifts to share and their own challenges to bear, is the only way they will ever become the church of tomorrow.
We are pleased to announce that, beginning January 29, we will be sharing our faith with our younger members in a monthly Sunday morning youth class. On the last Sunday of each month, from now through April, our Rector will meet with our young people to explore the basics of the Christian tradition, from how the Bible was written to what Christians have believed, then and now, to what modern faith looks like—for them! Information will be imparted but, more important, the actual lived experience of our young people will be honoured.
Some may choose to go on to be confirmed, but this is not a Confirmation class per se. It gathers young people who are ready to think for themselves while exploring their faith. For those who do seek to be confirmed a separate class will be offered in May. For now, though, we get to learn from them, just as they will learn from us.
As many of you know, several years ago our church raised funds for the Nav Paryas Children’s Home in Panchkula, Haryana, India. Permod and Pearl Kaushal, good friends of Dave and Barb Driftmier, established and ran the orphanage with the help of many Indian and Canadian volunteers. Dave and Barb had the opportunity to spend a month at Nav Paryas in 2011 and, upon their return, drew our attention to the good work being done there through a dinner and a slide presentation as well as through their heart-felt enthusiasm for the project.
Sadly, Permod passed away in August and his family members have recently decided that they cannot continue to operate the orphanage without him. The Home will remain open until the end of this school year, at which time it is hoped the children will move as a group together to a new home. They are grateful for the support we were able to give them.
The girls at Nav Paryas have had a happy life with good education, wholesome food, health care, a comfortable place to live and, most importantly, a warm, loving home. Nav Paryas has saved lives and given its children a brighter future. The funds we donated made a real difference to these children, including the completion of a new playground. The children, who are mostly Hindu, learned that Christians half a world away could be known by their love and generosity. It has been a beautiful partnership, helping to build a better world.
Canada: Worthy of our Prayers
This year Canada celebrates its 150th Birthday! Some of us remember the national celebration that accompanied our centenary in 1967—a golden moment in our history! Those memories live on through song (Bobby Gimby’s “Ca-na-da” has become an earworm that some of us will never shake) and through countless cherished photo albums (with real fading photographs!) of cross-country trips and, of course, Expo ’67.
The world seems a darker, less hopeful, place these days. Terrorism knows no borders, warfare abounds, and the instability of once-friendly nations erodes our confidence of our place in the world. An international exposition like the one we hosted on the Island of Montreal would now seem more like an invitation for trouble than a welcome mat rolled out for the world.
So it may be especially important that we keep Canada in our thoughts and prayers throughout the coming year. St. Paul encouraged this in the churches he founded. To Timothy, his apprentice in ministry, he wrote, “I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be offered on behalf of all people—for kings and all those in authority, so that we may lead tranquil and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. This is good and pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour …”
Despite all that frustrates us, and perhaps even angers us, about our nation, its leaders, and its competing territorial and ideological interests, let us pray for Canada this year—and pray with thanksgiving. Would you rather be anywhere else?