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July 04, 2008


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Mrs. Spit

That's such a hard thing. Because force is such a hard thing. What is force? And who can apply it, and when

Mr. Spit and I thought about you and Sarah-Joy a lot while we were having our baby. We thought about the decisions we were making, the odds we were given, the information we asked for, and we realized, that all the information in the world, no matter who we talked too, we had to make the decision that God was leading us to. And I have to say, we weren’t forced into anything. Our experience was quite the reverse.

And I have heard both sides of the "force" issue, especially about reproductive rights. I have to say, neither side has been kind. Indeed, many of the Christians have been the most merciless and graceless. As a believer, I want to limit their contact with others, I cannot fathom the level of cruelty they inflicted on us in the name of discerning "God's will for our lives". I can’t stand that they would make another suffer.

Perhaps, as Christians, if we strove to be more Christ like, if we strove to show empathy and compassion and mercy in equal parts to judgment and a quest for truth, and if we left damnation out of the equation, if we balanced speaking truth with care and concern, perhaps then, people would be willing to listen us.

Sitting on the other side of the fence, thinking about the things I have said, thinking about the times that I have offered a 2 cent answer to a $5 question, I wonder, how well have I served my Lord, and is it any wonder that others may not always want to listen to me. I haven’t done much to warrant listening.


Thanks for your input Mrs Spit. When I said I'll gladly give him the force thing, I mean that I grant it to him as a valid point in the discussion - we should not use force (see some of my posts on Bernal Diaz and "missional Christendom"). I've never marched, or held up a picket sign, or even put my name on a petition. But his idea that I should not be "allowed" to influence people's decisions "by whatever other means" - well that includes trying to influence people by love, by compassion, even by prayer. That's where I think Dr Morgentaler's worldview is calcified, and quite frankly, an absolutist position on the other sid of the fence.

One of the areas in which disability advocacy groups have laboured for years is about the information presented to prospective parents facing decisions around abortion for genetic conditions. Dr. Morgentaler's position for me, logically, is that no such information should be presented. The CDSS in its release states that it acknowledges the legal right of abortion of Canada; it simply requests that accurate information be given to prospective parents. By Dr Morgentaler's views, such a thing could "influence", and therefore should "not be allowed".


JW: "we should not use force"

That was definitely one Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrestled with.


Mercy and grace. Yes. Thank you, Mrs. Spit.

And I want to say that the statement regarding the Order of Canada from the RC Archbishop of Toronto (latterly of Edmonton), Thomas Collins, made my heart sing. I never, sadly, get to hear or read such or even close firm stuff from my own Bishop or Primate:
Canada's highest honour has been debased. Henry Morgentaler has been awarded the Order of Canada. We are all diminished.
A community's worth is measured by the way it treats the most vulnerable, and no one is more vulnerable than in the first nine months of life's journey. No person may presume to judge the soul of Henry Morgentaler, but it cannot be denied that the effect of his life's work has been a deadly assault upon the most helpless amongst us.Canada glories in the names of Banting and Best, and the other medical heroes who selflessly brought healing where there was disease and suffering. Now it honours with the Order of Canada a medical man who has brought not healing, but the destruction of the defenseless and immeasurable grief. This award must not stand.

The Sheepcat

Yes, Susan, we love our Archbishop Collins. If only his statement had not been necessary!


Leslie - it's a perpetual problem. We think we can correct by law what is fundamentally a problem for grace to solve.

Susan & Sheepcat et al: for what it's worth, the ACoC's official stuff on the abortion was last updated in 1989, and includes the following:

- The Anglican Church is pleased the Bill is not based on a gestational approach, which devalues the unborn in the early stages of development. A non-gestational approach accords with the Church's opposition to any arbitrary division which would make early abortion available on demand. The Church's fundamental position is that "abortion is always the taking of a human life and, in our view, should never be done except for serious therapeutic reasons".

- We think it right to try to establish a balance between the legitimate rights of women and the state's interest in the foetus.

- we regret there appears to be no provision for recording the reasons for which abortion is undertaken. How will legislators learn what needs to be done to remedy the conditions leading to abortion ?
- we regret there is no conscience clause protecting health care workers who do not wish to participate in abortion procedures

- The Anglican Church wants to see the social context and the need for support for women to be taken seriously. This legislation puts all the responsibility on the woman herself, and on her physician. It does nothing to address the responsibility of the wider community towards children.

On a side note, I do find it interesting that Archbishop Collins has been quoted in the national press, while to my knowledge no leading Anglican figure has been quoted either for or against this appointment.


>>We think we can correct by law what is fundamentally a problem for grace to solve.

Forgive me, Joe. The Original Law was intended to reflect our need for God, no? A mirror of sorts, yes? Regardless of the issue at hand, how can any of us recognize our need for grace without seeing ourselves in the reflection of The Law. And then how do you frame that Ancient Mirror in the context of something people see as relevant today? Why does secular society spend its time totally preoccupied with laws anyway? What are they looking for? WHO are they looking for?

And if "national debates" on any issue are, as I suspect, a demonstration of humanity seeking in whatever way it can the Perfection we are all restless to find, then why ever does the church so desperately want to pull out of this democratic practice? For better or worse it is the process of shaping people's perception of Perfection and when they view themselves in a mirror created from human imaginings then what role is left for grace?


The notion of law raises a whole host of questions, all of which need working out. From the Christian perspective, we have St Paul's reminder that the law was our guradian/tutor until we matured. And the whole idea that the law shows us our trespasses. All of this is then tied to the idea of natural theology (and hence natural law) in Romans. A fascinating side note is that it was the Roman ideal to rule the world by law, an ideal which was tarnished by the rule of Emperors and the end of an effectual Senate. But law had its revivals from time to time in the later Empire. So Paul writes to Romans about their foundational principle - law. Sorry, I'm getting sidetracked into a whole other post.

A curious thing (or predictable, depending on one's point of view) is that at least in the Anglican world, we have not had nearly the public resonses which typify the RC (and Sheepcat - no gloating over Abp Collins!!). I think the church should be speaking something into this, one of the most important and provocative public issues for some time. As the our church seems easily to speak about issues of foreign policy, domestic economics, etc.

So the question needs to be prodded further: can a law achieve what people think it will achieve? It certainly would achive some measure of quantifiable success in a purely material sense - there may be less abortions with stricter law. And yet... Since people make the comparison (eg those who say abortion is murder) all the time - let's say that the law against murder reduces the nuimber of killings. Yet even the law against murder is not the same as a law against simply killing. There is self defense, there are "degrees"; there is "killing" and then there is "murder". It is a thought to ponder: are there "degrees" and "self defense" in the case of abortion (eg risk of fatality to the mother)?

Materially, the "end result" of a killing is the same: the law comes across a scene where there are two persons - one dead and one living - and the latter has in some direct way caused the death of the former. But as the law looks at the person and determine A] it was premeditated murder; B] it was an act of self defense; C] it was an act done to prevent injury to a third party.

The offical stance of the Anglican Church of Canada (the episcopal church is another matter altogether) is that abortion is always "the taking of a human life". But my sense is that this requires more careful thought than many of us are used to in order to hold a belief or position which is not contradictory, or has left some area of the debate unexplored.

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blank stare...

  • Copyright Rev. Joseph Walker, St Timothy's Anglican Church

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