Magazine article Anglican Journal

Time to Face Facts (for Anglican Church)

Magazine article Anglican Journal

Time to Face Facts (for Anglican Church)

Article excerpt

IT'S NOW ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that the church's national corporate structure, the General Synod, is going to radically change over the next year or two. The general secretary and the treasurer have shown the church's books to Ottawa in the hope that politicians will be persuaded to come up with a solution, such as capping the church's liability, by summer or early fall. Failing that, the most likely scenario it seems is that the church will seek protection in the courts from creditors. Far from shunning its responsibility, such a move by the church would (at least theoretically) let it continue fulfilling its mission at the national level, while also trying to settle suits with plaintiffs.

And there's the rub. The church sees its primary mission as "healing and reconciliation." But if it appears that those abstract concepts are just a way to avoid the concrete reality of bankruptcy, it won't fly with the public or government.

As much as anything, the church faces an immense public relations campaign, both outside and inside the church.

Along with the Roman Catholics and Presbyterians, the church commissioned the Angus Reid group to poll Canadians on the residential schools issue. The results indicate people expect the church to shoulder the burden of paying victims but don't necessarily want to see the churches go bankrupt.

Callers to a Toronto radio talk-show were even clearer. They vented their spleen at the suggestion the federal government "bail out" the churches. If church workers committed abuse, the church should pay, is how they saw it.

Outside the church then, the problem is twofold. First, the church wants to emphasize the work it has done and is continuing to do on healing and reconciliation. But what exactly does healing and reconciliation mean and why does it appear to be a concern only recently? It wasn't even clear to Natives attending the Council of General Synod, what that really means.

In part, the church points to the work done through its healing fund. The fund supports projects chosen by native communities that they have identified as helpful to healing. The work is excellent, but what about the wider goal of eliminating racism and building understanding between Native and non-Native culture? How is that to be accomplished?

Secondly, church leaders have been complaining publicly and privately that the media are focusing on bankruptcy, rather than healing and reconciliation. That is partly true but also understandable.

Journalists, like everyone else, understand that a bankrupt church can't do good works. What most people don't understand is why an institution that appears to be rich needs extra help all of sudden from taxpayers. …

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