O Canada: Getting on with the work at hand.

Last week an event took place in Canada that went mostly unnoticed here in the middle latitudes. A young woman with a clear fine voice sang the Canadian national anthem in Cree at a Hocky Game. Akina Shirt, who lives in Edmonton but is originally from the Saddle Lake First Nation sang on Saturday. Here is a link to not too good MP3 copy of the song recorded by CBC.

I lived for two years in Edmonton back when O Canada got parallel billing at the end of the movies along with God Save the Queen. It was wonderful to hear Ms. Shirt sing the anthem, and a delight to remember the game of mad dash to leave the theater after "the End" flashed across the screen and O Canada began. It is wonderful too to be reminded in Ms. Shirt's singing that Canada has faced into its own record of treatment of first nation peoples and has begun to come out the other side into a place of greater reconciliation. We have a lot to learn from Canada.

In all the verbal madness leading up to the Primates Meeting in Dar Es Salaam it is interesting to note the relative quiet about things Canadian. The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada and various bishops on the loose were taken to task by the Windsor Report. That was then, this is now.

The focus now is on the Episcopal Church. It is the Episcopal Church Primate whose presence at the upcoming Meeting is being questioned, the Episcopal Church that is being asked to account for its actions, and only Episcopal Church "Windsor Bishops" who are being asked to make special reports. The arrows are all directed at what Bishop Tom Wright calls, "The American Church. (read the Episcopal Church)"

It would seem for the moment that the Anglican Church of Canada gets some relief. That is just fine. I believe the Anglican Church of Canada is a wonderful, struggling, batch of sinners and saints subject to all the foibles of church life, and that they are getting on with the work at hand. They don't need this sort of bashing and we as friends would not wish it on them. More, I think there may be some hints for us to be found about a way forward from the experiences of the Anglican Church of Canada as it works with its own issues.

The bishops on the loose are another matter. Will no one in the Anglican Communion office, say, the Archbishop of Canterbury, do anything at all to call these bishops to account? I speak of course of such folks as Archbishop Akinola, Archbishop Venables, Bishop Lyons, Archbishop Kolini, etc.

In the run up to the meeting of the Primates it becomes increasingly clear that the line in the sand drawn by an amalgam of those persons (mostly from the Global South) who see the Episcopal Church in its several national manifestations as a mirror of the arrogance of the Empire and conservatives who see the Episcopal Church leadership as left leaning north east and west coast liberals on the one hand and progressives on the other. Over against this crowd there is the Episcopal Church as constituted, with its leadership and decision making processes.

No matter what happens in Dar Es Salaam, the amalgam of forces involved in realignment will not hold. In the first place not every province or diocese in the "Global South" is determined to see the Episcopal Church as part of the arrogance of Empire. In the second place many conservative voices in the Episcopal Church, working for realignment, have no intention of letting a critique of the American Empire itself just stand.

Not addressed in all this is of course the matter of unresolved racism in the United States. If the Episcopal Church in its official life is still struggling with racism, so too must the Anglican Communion Network and other Common Cause partners. The charge of arrogance levied against the Episcopal Church can be levied also against every other sector of US church life. As that arrogance crosses over into matters of race and class and gender, it will put the whole alliance of Global South partners and American realignment folk in jeopardy. The purity of relations hoped for in a better, more orthodox, manifestation of Anglicanism in the US will be discovered to be an ill conceived hope. It will be seen to be a myth.

The end of arrogance will come to the US and even to the Churches of this country, but no one will be untouched. And it will not come from mythological orthodox unions between conservative evangelicals here and Global South Primates there. At the most that will only produce orthodoxy in words. Orthopraxis, right actions, will require something more. That will require something we have little of yet, namely genuinely regenerative reconciliation. Others of our friends are better at this than we are.

That is why O Canada sung by a young Cree woman is important. No one was untouched. It was a sign that some folk are getting on with the work.


  1. Fr. Mark,

    I wish our Canadian friends who are indeed great folks, well. I visit Canadian clients from time to time and the experience is always wonderful.

    That said, the Canadian church has three great assetts.

    2) It is relativly poor.

    3) It has no interest in American politics so IRD ignores it.

    But(!) number one, it is not the victim of the anti-Americanism of the likes of Bp. Wright and ABp Williams. These bigots do not have a problem with gay Americans, they do not have a problem with lesbian Americans: they have a problem with Americans period. Once they get done using our lesbian/gay friends as a club, that reality may come as a shock to such as the (im)moderator.


  2. From what I have read from sources in this country (Canada), the speculation is that the "spark" for this round of things has been dissatifaction by some of General Convention's response to the Windsor Report.

    That same speculation wonders how our treatment may or may not change after this summer's General Synod here.

  3. You are correct about racism in the Network. I attended the Network Convention held in Pittsburgh and I made a point of counting the African/African-Americans I saw there. I got a total of around 14 - 18. It was almost about 75% white males.

    Bovinesue (Pgh)

  4. I agree with Scott. All eyes are on this summer's Synod. Canada operates in a different context though. We don't have a large group of southern parishes that are influenced by American fundamentalism; we tend to be more urban as a nation and a church; gay marriage has been a legal fact of life for a couple years (recently reaffirmed by Parliament); we aren't a cash cow (nearly driven bankrupt by the Residential School settlement, which is a legacy of our racism) and Canada being a middle power isn't burdened by the same viceral hate that the US is.

    It will be interesting to see how things play out. I live in a diocese (Ottawa) which is one of three that was about to impliment gay blessings but stopped and is waiting for the all clear from Synod.

    If the Synod says OK and Toronto, Niagara and Ottawa join New Westminster, we will probably be going through the same pain and turmoil the TEC in the US is experiencing.


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