On Tuesday the news reported yet one more “absurd” (as Pope Francis might describe it) act of extremist violence, the murder at the altar of a French priest in his 80s: one more senseless horrific killing in our seemingly ever-increasingly violent world. We print below by courtesy of Guardian News and Media Ltd extracts from a column in Thursday’s edition written by Fr Giles Fraser, an Anglican priest in London, UK:

“When I was first ordained a priest, I would say my prayers every morning in front of three undistinguished stained-glass windows. And every morning, I would argue in my head with the theology those windows were promoting. On the left, Abraham held up a curly knife, preparing to cut the throat of his son who is strapped to an altar. In the middle, Christ hanging on the cross, dripping blood. On the right, a priest, in full liturgical kit, stood behind an altar, hands outstretched over bread and wine. The coloured glass was insisting that these three scenes were intimately connected, that the mass/holy communion/eucharist, whatever you call it, is essentially a sacrifice – and not just some stylised community get-together.”

“Father Jacques Hamel’s throat was slit as he said morning mass, murdered by a teenager claiming allegiance to Islamic State. The sacrificial imagery is unavoidable.”

“Rouen itself is a town soaked in the blood of martyrdom. It was here that another 19-year-old, believing herself to have received visions from God, and believing God to have called her to war, was burned at the stake by the English as a heretic. To some, Joan of Arc was a witness to the one true faith. To others she was a deluded fantasist, using God to inspire acts of violence.”

“Obviously, it’s not just Islam that has a problem with violence. Indeed, arguably, the Bible has more violence in it that the Qur’an. And the difference between good religion and bad religion – like the difference between good and bad people – has little to do with who is right and who is wrong about God and absolutely everything to do with how each religious tradition manages its own propensity for violence.”

“And it is here that the language of sacrifice is especially tricky. I have no time for the idea that Jesus is sacrificed on the cross to appease an angry God. If that’s true, then God becomes the enemy of humankind and I am against him. No, Jesus absorbs the violence that comes from us not from God. He receives our blows, our punishments, our disdain. And, despite his innocence – or, rather, precisely because of it – he refuses to answer back in kind. No more an eye for an eye.”

“In other words, the sacrifice of the cross is the non-violent absorption of human violence. The offer of love in return for hate, even to the point of death. This is the horrendous price that peace is sometimes asked to pay. This is what makes the eucharistic sacrifice life-giving and not some historical death cult. And this is the sacrifice that Father Jacques was celebrating as he died. He died as a priest, doing what priests do. May he rest in peace and rise in glory.”

Here is the hope and the challenge of our Christian faith as we gather together for Mass Sunday by Sunday “to proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

Father Kevin Hunt

Greetings to you all:

By now many of you have heard the news that the resolution to change the marriage canon to allow same-sex couples to marry in the Anglican Church of Canada did, indeed, pass in all three houses of the General Synod (bishops, clergy and laity). As you can imagine, this reversal has left many in our diocese and in the broader church feeling relieved and elated. Others feel stunned and sad.

In that that the resolution is a canonical change, it must be passed again by the General Synod in 2019, and, should it pass, would only come into effect on January 1, 2020.

The question many have asked is what we as a diocese will do in the three-plus-year period prior to the potential enactment of the resolution. Here is what I and others have thought through so far:

In a word, my approach is going to be collaborative in discerning what we as a diocese will do in this interim time. This comes from my strong belief that we are gifts one to another and that, while certain decisions have been given to me as your bishop, I do my best work when I hear others’ perspectives before making decisions. This is nothing new. I’ve made it clear to all the Archdeacons that their roles (and the perspectives they bring) share in the Episcopal ministry of oversight. Likewise, I’ve made it clear to the Regional Deans that their roles (and the perspectives they bring) share in the Episcopal ministry of pastoral care. I’m also reminded of the words I say to each new incumbent at that incumbent’s induction: that the incumbent’s ministry is one that I as bishop share in. We collaborate in that parish ministry.

What this means, then, is that I will engage in an expeditious process of consultation within the diocese and with selected others outside the diocese to explore what we might do to move toward greater equity among all couples who wish to make baptismally-grounded, community-supported, lifelong, monogamous commitments to each other within the Anglican Church of Canada here in this diocese. At the same time I will be having conversations with those clergy in our diocese who might be feeling uncertain or find themselves in disagreement with the outcome of General Synod. I want to hear and address not only their concerns about their options in officiating at marriages but also about their relationships with others in the diocese.

Some (only some) of those I will be consulting are: Archbishop John Privett and the Provincial Chancellor, our own Chancellor, the lay and clergy delegates to General Synod 2016 to include Peter Elliott (the Dean of the Diocese), the Archdeacons, the Regional Deans and the clergy of the Diocese. This process of consultation will then be followed by sessions open to anyone in the Diocese to share where we are in the process, hear questions and comments, and talk about what to expect going forward. Information about these open sessions will come your way as soon as we finalize our plans.

I want to thank all of you who sent the other delegates and me messages of your support for us in this process. May the Holy Spirit continue to guide us in these conversations and may the Holy Spirit continue to inspire and strengthen us for the mission entrusted to us here in this part of the Anglican Church of Canada.

In Christ,

Bishop Melissa Skelton