“A treasured and crucial resource”

January 19, 2010 – 12:39 pm

The Anglican Episcopate in Canada
Volume IV, 1976–2008
Michael G. Peers
360 pages, soft cover, $29.95
ISBN 978-1-55126-497-4

Reviewed by Daniel F. Graves

The long-anticipated fourth volume of The Anglican Episcopate in Canada is finally available. This fourth volume, written and compiled by the eleventh primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Michael G. Peers, covers the period from 1976–2008. The volume contains a numerical listing of Canadian bishops in order of succession to the Canadian episcopate and each listing contains several headings including Personal Information, Education, Service, and Ordinations, Elections and Appointments. Also included, are photographs of each bishop. In addition to Archbishop Peers’ introductory essay, which he characterizes rather as his “observations” on the period in question, the volume also features several appendices, including a complete list of Primates, Metropolitans, and the Episcopal succession within each diocese. There are two useful indices as well as material supplementary to the second and third editions, which include corrections and additions.

It is certainly a joy to see this volume finally in print. It goes without saying that it will be an indispensable resource in the years to come. Professional and amateur Church historians, archivists and librarians, ecclesiastical bureaucrats (I was once one of their number) and members of the religious press will all be breathing a collective sigh of relieve that this disparate material is now readily accessible. In addition, we are grateful to Archbishop Peers for the extra labour required in correcting material from the previous volumes. Users of those volumes will find their frustrations suitably assuaged.

As indispensable as the material itself are the observations offered on this period by Peers himself, who exercised episcopal (and later primatial) ministry during most of this period. It is one thing for a historian to offer an historical essay of the period in question, it is quite another for the reader to be privileged with the observations of someone who indeed lived the ministry and now reflects on its significance. Archbishop Peers’ observations cover a variety of topics, including changes in the episcopal ministry, such as how episcopal elections are held, the role of bishops in traditional episcopal rites such as confirmation, and the increasing litigiousness of the age and the role bishops are called to play in lawsuits associated with the church. He also discusses developments such as the full inclusion of women in episcopal orders, the ongoing discussions on church governance and its relationship to episcopal ministry, and the impact of full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Especially helpful are his definitions of various terms as they are currently employed in the life of the Church, such as Primate, Metropolitan, Suffragan, Assistant Bishop, Co-adjutor, and Bishop Ordinary, I can say that in my previous life as manager of the Anglican Book Centre I spent considerable time defining these and many other ecclesiastical terms for seekers and life-long Anglicans alike. Church librarians will be delighted to have such terms so carefully and succinctly defined.

Archbishop Peers has also reflected on the challenges of compiling such a resource and the developments in the church that have required changes in how the information is presented. Amongst these is the declining use of the traditional episcopal signature. In the first volume, each entry concluded with a note on how each bishop signed his name (initial of Christian name followed by diocese), fewer bishops use this convention today or vary it considerably. Peers explains the various conventions and has included them in individual entries in cases where the bishop has a consistent signature. He also reflects on the declining use of conventional forms of address, such as “my lord,” or “your grace.”

Those who have a personal experience of the eleventh primate, or at least have read his collection of Anglican Journal columns, Grace Notes, will know of his love of numbers and keeping statistics. Thus, such a project is well suited for such a man not only because he knows whereof he speaks through personal experience, but he has a passion for getting the details right. Indeed, in as he begins his observations he notes, “of the 296 bishops whose biographies appear in the four volumes, I have known personally 187 and have worked with 142” (p. 9). This is precisely the sort of delightful statistical anecdote for which Archbishop Peers is well known. It surely speaks not only to his attention to detail, but his passion for precision. Undoubtedly, some errors will have crept in, but they will be few.

One criticism has emerged in the blogosphere about the book with respect to the three Canadian bishops who have relinquished the exercise of their episcopal ministry in the Canadian Church under General Synod Canon XIX. The criticism is that Peers should have included their current ministry as bishops (in Canada) under the jurisdiction of the Primate of the Southern Cone. Other bishops who have been translated to a diocese outside of the Canadian church have been included but these have not. And rightly so, those who have been translated have been translated canonically, whereas the three in question relinquished the exercise of ministry under canonical process and are now part of what Peers himself calls, “the intervention of another province of the Anglican Communion into Canada with the clear intention of promoting a schismatic church within our territory (and outside its constitutionally and legally established territory)” (p. 12).

The book, itself, is a handsome paperback edition designed by the talented Jane Thornton of ABC Publishing. If I have any criticism it is only that it would have been nice to see a hardcover edition available. In a similar vein, I do miss the full-sized facing plates featuring episcopal portraits on glossy paper. While the smaller photos are generally fine, I suppose the Victorian in me continues to appreciate the concept of an “official portrait” in all its splendour. Alas, the constraints placed on our Church publishing programme surely prohibited such Victorians extravagancies. I will lament in silence on this point. Nonetheless, it remains a lovely presentation.

Archbishop Peers (and those who assisted him in the collection and sorting of the data) are to be commended for the care and precision given to this fourth volume dedicated to Canadian episcopal ministry. And the Anglican Book Centre is to be thanked for taking on this important project in times of fiscal restraint. This book will be a treasured and crucial resource in the years to come.


A concise but comprehensive guide to planning the Eucharist according to the Book of Alternative Services

September 11, 2009 – 10:35 am

Make Preparation: Liturgy Planning Notes
By Paul Gibson

Online Publication, 70 pages

Reviewed by Daniel F. Graves


Making-Preparation-1I was delighted to hear the news that Paul Gibson’s Make Preparation: Liturgy Planning Notes (Toronto: ABC Publishing, Anglican Book Centre, 2009) is now available online. The church has, for some years, desperately needed a concise but comprehensive guide to planning the Eucharist according to the Book of Alternative Services. To be sure, Michael Ingham’s Rites for a New Age did much in the early days to introduce the BAS – both its rationale and its possibilities – to reluctant Canadian Anglicans; and Holeton, Hall, and Kerr-Wilson’s Let Us Give Thanks: A Presider’s Manual for the BAS Eucharist has served well in its purpose, although its ideological dogmatism now seems dated. Thankfully, Gibson’s manual builds on the former with mature and wise reflection on the use of the Eucharistic rite (nearly twenty-five years after the publication of the BAS), and carefully avoids the dogmatism that plagued the latter Hoskin Group manual.

Paul Gibson is a gifted liturgical scholar and practitioner. He served for many years as the liturgical officer of the Anglican Church of Canada and was a vital force in the development of both the Book of Alternative Services (1985) and the 1998 hymn book, Common Praise. It was my privilege to work at Church House during Mr. Gibson’s time there and also to have been the beneficiary of his tutelage during my days as a student at Trinity College. While confessing my own admiration for Mr. Gibson and his work, I should make it clear that over the years I have not always agreed with him on every point of his liturgical theology or practice. Thus, I came to Make Preparation with some thought that there would be several points with which I might take issue. I stand, however, humbled before this text and the graciousness of the man who placed the words on paper (or on the screen, as it were … as this is an electronic publication). As stated above, Mr. Gibson’s reflections on planning the Eucharist are thoughtful and expansive. There are few a “shoulds,” and perhaps a few more well-argued “should-nots,” but mostly there is guidance about decisions and how to make sound ones, in terms of the liturgy.

Mr. Gibson begins the text with his “principles of planning,” and reminds us of what we sometimes would not like to admit, that “all liturgy is planned, either well or poorly” (page 8). He then proceeds to illustrate an entrance rite that, while plagued with confusion, would clearly resemble the entrance rite in many of our churches. He then asks a series of questions, mainly “whats” and “whys.” Just what are we doing? Why do we do what we do? What makes sense in terms of the purpose of the liturgy? What makes sense historically (and does it continue to make sense today)? Why do we abandon certain things and why do we hold fast to others? Why is any particular piece of the liturgy important and how does it make sense of the whole, and how does it lift up the theme of the day and the liturgy’s ultimate meaning?

This is the pattern of the book. As he walks through the steps and major sections of the liturgy, Mr. Gibson asks these questions. More importantly, he encourages us to ask them. The book is less about giving us the answer as to what a good liturgy will be, than about teaching us how to find that answer ourselves. What is more, it is a collaborative approach. This has always been the hallmark of his instruction on the liturgy in the classroom and he brings that pedagogical insight into the pages of this manual. He becomes, for us, the discussion partner liturgy planners so desperately need. Yet, he is not content to leave things there. The encouragement that flows from the pages is an encouragement to set his words aside and begin a dialogue with our parish partners in liturgy planning. The liturgy team is, for Gibson, at the heart of a well-planned liturgy. The Eucharist is the community at work in prayer, and the team is the place where the community engages in shaping its worship. It is a place of creativity and wonder, in which divine possibilities are wed to our human offering of praise and thanksgiving.

In addition to its overarching philosophy of liturgy, the book contains particular gems of wisdom – the sort for which Mr. Gibson is known: “Don’t forget the psalm prayers!” His former students will recall his repeated admonition that these prayers that, like the psalms to which they are linked, cover the gamut of human experience. Unfortunately, they feel hidden and underused. His reminder of the ICEL collects and other international resources related to the RCL is also important. He points out as well the oft-neglected moments of silence in the liturgy and encourages the nurturing of such moments. Such is the stuff of this deeply reflective and practical guide.

One quibble I have is with the chapter on the homily. While the author offers several important thoughts on hermeneutics, and on the homilist as an artist, I certainly wish he would have spoken more about the importance of preaching in the Anglican tradition. In my experience, it seems as if the sermon is becoming more and more marginal to the Anglican liturgy and less and less carefully planned, written and performed by Anglican clergy. He might have offered some more precise insight into the practicalities of the art. I certainly would have appreciated a stronger reminder of its role, given the passion I know Mr. Gibson has for a good homily. This is a minor quibble, though, and might be argued that a fuller treatment of the role and planning of the homily is beyond the scope of this guide and better left to a preaching manual.

Finally, I am curious about the decision to release the book solely in electronic format. I suppose that this makes it more accessible to liturgy planning teams who might not have the financial resources to provide copies to all members of a group. Yet, I am still of the old school that places the value of a book in its acquisition and handling as well as in its reading. I live in fear that this important work (and others like it that forgo the printing process) will become lost amongst the endless sea of cyber-dross, and ultimately lose the audience that the internet so triumphantly promises. As a former bookseller, I speak not only out of self-preservation of the trade, but out of the reality that a good book, and this certainly is a good book, will be continuously placed in the hands of the seeker by the good bookseller. There are a few books that a bookseller will consistently recommend again and again, and this is one of them. If I were still in the trade and a customer sought out a liturgical guide, I would readily and repeatedly place this one in hand. Let us hope that the manner of its publication contributes to its distribution and not hinder it, and that this manual may have a long and happy life in the hands (or at the fingertips) of liturgy planners everywhere.

To read Make Preparation: Liturgy Planning Notes by Paul Gibson, click here.

c. 2009 by the Rev. Daniel F. Graves. This review may not be reproduced or redistributed, either in whole or part, by any means, without the express, written permission of the reviewer.


Prayer Among Friends

May 4, 2009 – 5:37 pm

Herbert O’Driscoll
ISBN 978-1-55126-501-8
soft cover, 94 pages, $16.95

Reviewed by Paul Dumbrille
Anglican Fellowship of Prayer

“Refreshing and very helpful for today’s Christian”

prayer-among-friends-small-copy1As the title suggests this is a book about prayer. The author sets about to “show that prayer is far more than what we usually assume,” and he succeeds marvellously.

Published by Path Books and available from the Anglican Book Centre, the book is made up of 21 short (3 to 4 pages) chapters, each of which is a personal reflection by Herbert O’Driscoll on the role of prayer in everyday life.

As we read this book we appreciate that everything exists within God. When we grasp this reality, prayer ceases to be something formal and institutional, and becomes something everyday and wondrously ordinary. There is no part of life that cannot be offered to God.

Herbert O’Driscoll’s gentle and illuminating insights, and personal memories and reflections, together with suggestions by Patricia Bays for personal exploration, make this a special book for reading, reflection, or group study any time. His reflections demonstrate a simplicity and honesty about himself and about his relationship with God that is refreshing and very helpful for today’s Christian living in our hurried world….

I highly recommend this book for all to read.


Seeds Scattered and Sown: Studies in the History of Canadian Anglicanism

May 4, 2009 – 5:32 pm

Edited by Norman KnowlesISBN 978-1-55126-499-8
soft cover, approx. 400 pages, $34.95


Reviewed by Linden Rogers
Montreal Anglican

Church history “from the bottom up” is anything but dull

seeds-cover-smallIs it possible for a book of essays on our church’s history to be so riveting that it is difficult to put down? This has certainly been my experience with Seeds Scattered and Sown: Studies in the History of Canadian Anglicanism. These studies provide a perspective which shows the church’s past to be a rich, vibrant tapestry, one people by faithful, hard-working, and often imaginative Anglicans and one which many of us have seen in our own lives but have encountered in our history books only in short glimpses.

Past historical writers, both professional and amateur, were really confined by the conventions of writing church history to two general areas; either they were to write an institutional history or a biography of a person in a leadership role. Because of this “top-down” approach, a great deal of church history was not known or heard.

But the contributors to Seeds Scattered and Sown have taken a different approach. As the editor of the volume, Dr. Norman Knowles, points out, changes in the writing of Canadian history in the 1960s brought social and cultural history to the fore. These changes have made writing history from the “bottom up” possible and the result has been the discovery of many new histories and new voices. The historians in this collection of essays are able to bring into our view the experience of ordinary Canadian Anglicans and the issues that deeply moved them over a period of a century and a half. They are also able to bring forward several perspectives largely overlooked in past general histories: those of aboriginals, women, and other minorities.

To be witness to these new perspectives is one part of the excitement that these essays generate, but there is another aspect as well. The contributors describe both the church’s successes and its failures. As Dr. Knowles explains, it is only through such a “willingness to be honest, sometimes brutally honest, and transparent,” that we can really move forward in our church life. “I would see that almost as prophetic function … that the church needs to face its past with eyes wide open. There’s a convenient amnesia from time to time, and sometimes we need to be reminded of what we’ve forgotten, certainly if we hope to learn from the part, we need to know it in its totality.” Archbishop Peers, in his Foreword, reminds us how important this unflinching look at the past was for the beginning of healing in the residential school issue.

This is the work of eight very capable contributors. The editor, Norman Knowles, is an Associate Professor at St. Mary’s University College in Calgary. Past participants in the Education for Ministry program will remember him as the author of Stepping Stones: Church History and Theological Development in Canada. The other contributors are William Crockett, Wendy Fletcher, Paul Friesen, Terry Reilly, M.E. Reisner, Myra Rutherdale, and Christopher G. Trott. The organization of the book is both chronological and thematic. Chronologically it is divided by Canadian political eras: pre-Confederation, post-Confederation to the end of World War II, and after World War II to the present.

Each of these sections begins with a short but broad overview of the major historical developments of the period, followed by three chapters, each dealing with a unique area of church life.

The first two chapters in the book cover the beginnings of the colonial church in Eastern Canada, and the third with the growth of the church in the West and North. The focus of Chapters 4 to 6 is the building of the national church: Anglican identity in the post-Confederation period, mission and social service, and the history of synodical government in Canada. The final three chapters deal with some thorny issues which have engaged the church since 1945, problems familiar to many of us: the “uncomfortable pews”-that is, life in the church since 1945, women in the church, and the role of aboriginals in the church. These essays are packed with insight into the church’s past life, and any one of them is a good entry point into the rest of the book.

Seeds Scattered and Sown is for anyone who has imagined that the history of the Anglican church in Canada is dull and irrelevant. Those who have a long experience in the church, those who have experience in the church, those who have experience in reading Canadian Anglican history, and those new to the study and to the church-all will surely be excited by the passion and sheer grit of the men and women who have preceded us. Understanding their successes and failures can be invaluable in forming our present-day policies.

These essays give rise to more intriguing questions. One of these questions for me is the impact of the post-Confederation missionary movement on Anglicans, for we were thinking in terms of the “global village” long before Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase. As well, I would hope that people from other countries who have come here and made the church their home would be willing to share the history of their encounter with Canadian Anglicanism.

Michael Peers ends his Foreword with this statement: “May we always have historians such as these who can maintain that reputation for transparency by the same scholarship and integrity as is manifest in this history.”


These stories…portray people at their best and at their worst

March 8, 2009 – 5:35 pm

strugglingStruggling with Forgiveness
Stories from People and Communities
David Self
ISBN 978-1-55126-395-3
soft cover, 183 pages, $19.95

Review by Marilyn-Ann Elphick, University of St. Michael’s College, Toronto School of Theology

David Self, an Anglican priest born and raised in Toronto, tackles the complexities of forgiveness as seen through the lens of ordinary people. These stories are difficult to read because they reflect conflict, suffering, and struggle in situations that portray people at their best and at their worst.

Some of the indignities addressed in these narratives are sexual abuse, racial injustice, brutal murder, personal and social sin. The author explains, “The stories are powerful. I have chosen them not because they define the only circumstances in which forgiveness can operate but because they illustrate the processes we all go through even when events in our own lives seem less significant than those in the stories” (p. 9.).

The book is the result of the author’s quest to understand the operative function of forgiveness in the light of thirty plus years in ministry. His self-reflection on this topic led to the perceptive and sometimes disturbing insight that while “forgiveness” is a word often used and preached, at the same time, a real depth of understanding is elusive. Self discovered that, when he asked others to define “forgiveness,” their response was to share a story that captured the struggles associated with forgiving others, being forgiven, or forgiving oneself.

The two main sections are entitled “Personal Forgiveness” and “Community Forgiveness.” Under the subheading of “Hurt and Healing,” the reader enters into the poignant stories of people who are willing to reopen their wounds in order to allow compassion to take hold so they can heal. A woman whose sister was terrorized and murdered at the age of sixteen bravely writes, “I feel that I’m most true to myself when I’m vulnerable and open to pain. Creativity comes when you have accepted, faced, and experienced the pain. Only then are you free to forgive” (p. 21). After presenting several groupings of narratives-each of which encompasses a wide range of human emotions-the author reflects upon the behaviour, thoughts, and feelings of the storytellers and offers his own experiences as a way of teaching and learning about forgiveness.

Although forgiveness is a private matter, the author challenges the reader to consider the necessity of confronting the messiness of communal sin; communal sin as exhibited in the religious conflict in communities like Northern Ireland, the upheaval and poverty of Canada’s First Nations, and the blatant disregard for human rights enshrined in the harsh discrimination laws in South Africa. The term ubuntu, a word from the Nguni language in South Africa, aptly describes the process of communal reconciliation. Self quotes this description of the term: “Ubuntu is very difficult to render into a Western language. It speaks of the very essence of being human: generous, pitiable, friendly, caring and compassionate. It also means my humanity is caught up, is inextricably bound up in theirs. We belong in the bundle of life” (p. 113). In many ways, the spirit of ubuntu is the process of vivification that allows the wounded to confront pain and suffering in order to move toward reconciliation and, ultimately, to heal from the injustice inflicted.

The strength of this work lies in its ability to challenge the reader to examine forgiveness as a progression from woundedness to conversion. While the narratives are not pretty stories with easy solutions, they offer a type of authentic hopefulness that evolves out of the deep pain and dignity of human suffering. It is also most refreshing that the author offers insights from his own life discovered through the stories of those to whom he has ministered. Self’s diverse ministerial activities provide a rich backdrop for his theological self-reflection and honest assessment of a difficult, complex process-forgiveness. The book does not invite a quick reading from cover to cover; rather the message and power of each story needs to be digested on a stand-alone basis. This work will enhance the praxis and knowledge of the professional minister. Self also includes a good selection of reference books for further reading.