Church Should Remain Safe but Not Boring

By Harris, David | Anglican Journal, March 1999 | Go to article overview

Church Should Remain Safe but Not Boring


Harris, David, Anglican Journal


INTERNATIONALLY, Canada is largely viewed as a boring country - safe but boring. Such a view is also held about the church here by others in the Anglican Communion.

Last year gave observers a chance to take a wide view of the Anglican Church. General Synod in Montreal, the Lambeth Conference and the World Council of Churches in Harare revealed much about church life in Canada and where it stands in relation to other parts of the Anglican Communion and to other denominations around the world.

And while we have no room to be complacent, the church in Canada is not doing too badly from that perspective. But is it boring?

Within the communion, both the Church of England and the Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. are still torn by divisions over traditional and modern liturgies and the ordination of women.

In England, a question of whether one group of parishioners could have votive (prayer) candles in their church ended up in a church court where the judge said no, on the grounds it didn't fit the mould of the parish, which wasn't that high church.

Worse was the story out of the U.S., where the suffragan bishop of Washington, Jane Dixon, made a parish visit to find the organ silenced, the choir excused and almost no congregation. The parish opposes the ordination of women and what they call a "forced visitation" by a woman bishop. Following the service, the rector and a server went about the church sprinkling holy water around in a cleansing ceremony.

In the Diocese of Sydney, Australia, the whole notion of what it means to be Anglican might be thought an open question. They seem to doubt the concept of the Real Presence of Christ in the sacrament of the eucharist (as the Prayer Book affirms Anglicans believe); ordination may be a call to a job, but nothing special happens to the people ordained; and their problem with the ordination of women turns on whether and how much leadership women can have in the church.

None of these stories has a home in Canada. That doesn't mean there aren't battles royal over liturgy or that everyone agrees with the ordination of women. But as Canadian bishops discovered at Lambeth, people here seem more willing to hear what the other side is saying. Typical Canadian tolerance, perhaps. …

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