Bishop's University, Lennoxville Quebec: A Manifestation of Anglican Christian Humanism

Fides Quaerens Intellectum
Faith Seeking Understanding

– St Anselm of Canterbury (c.1033-1109)
Today I hope to enlighten you, if you are not already aware, of many of the names and origins of things that surround your everyday life at Bishop’s University: The University’s name; Doolittle’s; The Mitre; St Mark’s Chapel; McGreer Hall; Bishop Williams Hall; the Nicholls Building; the portraits in the Senate House; The Gait; the University's Badge; the name of the football team; and The Gaiters. Actually some of these are self-explanatory and the last four I can deal with right off the bat. The ridiculous garb you now see me in is the distinctive dress of Anglican Bishops and Archdeacons which we wore regularly up until the 1960s and even now, in theory, on very formal occasions. One of my predecessors as Archdeacon of St Andrews in the Diocese of Montreal, John Paterson Smyth, penned the following limerick just after the First World War
            There was an Archdeacon who said,
May I take off my gaiters in bed?
But the Bishop said, No,
Wherever you go
You must wear them until you are dead!

The apron I am wearing over my britches is a shortened form of a cassock cut so as to allow easy access to a horse’s back. The strange ribbons on my hat are the remnants of when a string would have been attached to my hat to the collar of my frock coat so that I would not lose it when my horse was scared into a mad gallop by a bear or a Presbyterian.  But the real sartorial coup de grace are the fetching calf protectors I am wearing – gaiters. Originally meant to keep the Bishop or Archdeacon’s calf’s scar- less as he rode through the underbrush during his visitations around the countryside, they have since become ornate. They even have whalebone sown into them along the calf to make even the scrawniest archideconal calf look muscular and manly. Or at least that is the idea. They have way too many buttons to my mind so I must say that ‘macho’ is not really the first word that comes to mind when I look at myself in the mirror. I feel sure I can guarantee you that this is the only time when you will see a pair of gaiters in the gait.

At one time or another, most of us in our lives (usually whilst undergoing the psychological process of differentiation during adolescence) have experienced the acute embarrassment over the existence of our parents. We see no connection with their strange out-dated values, shoddy dress sense, abominable taste in music, hackneyed humour, and obscure pop cultural references. Who has even heard of ‘the Love Boat’?  Sean Connery was 007? Planet of the Apes starred Charles Heston? There were Doctor Who’s before Christopher Eccleston? Who knew? It is hard to remember that they were once young and were raised in a different world. The people they have become seem so different from anyone who could possibly be associated with our way of life. Their very existence often made us cringe.

In the strong, and increasingly so, secular context of Canadian and especially Quebec culture the church finds herself in the parental position in regards to many of the institutions and cultural realities to which she gave birth. The church as we know it today, a private members group defined by particular theological beliefs and worship practices is a very modern phenomenon. In the age when institutions such as Bishop’s were founded the church community was not just restricted to what they did on Sundays, if anything this was the least of it,  but rather by their wider communal mission. Hospitals, orphanages, senior residences, schools, universities, and the social welfare of the community was founded and run by the church. The fact is that the importance of caring for the poor, looking after the weak and infirm, and the education of children and youth was so successfully integrated into society as core values that the government took over all of these responsibilities. Excellent. However, with the lion’s share of its work taken over by other institutions, it means that the church increasingly became identified (and self-identified) almost solely with religion and worship, a state of affairs that has led to a narrowing of its life and vision. I mention this to remind us that the church of today is not the same type of institution that formed the modern landscape of current society or founded Bishop’s University.

It is easy to understand why people and institutions, if they make this historical mistake, have a sense of disassociation with their religious origins and even their unease or embarrassment about them. Yet as we become comfortable in our own adult identities, and recognise that the genes of our parents and their history is part of our own makeup, then we can take pride in them, or at least honour them, even if we have developed away from them and taken a very different road in our own lives.

The stream of culture and history cannot be easily parsed into before and after periods. The Hegelian Dialectic shows that history is a continual pendulum swing from thesis to antithesis to synthesis before the whole things starts over again. Our culture and history is a continuation of a narrative that is weakened if we pretend that only the current manifestation is of value. It is like the tip of an iceberg pretending that what lies beneath the water is not part of its makeup. By doing so we undercut something essential about our communal identity. One tends to be suspicious of those who claim no connection to their childhood and cultural formation. I will not go on about the Russian Revolution or Mao.

Let me be perfectly clear here. I do not argue that denominational religion should have a part to play in modern secular universities. Not at all. What I do argue is that to minimise the fact that its origins and intellectual culture are a product of a religious tradition is to not only be dishonest about the past, but to actually misunderstand the continuity of history and culture itself. When it comes to the historical treatment of religion in our culture, the tendency is to try and isolate the religious tradition from the culture of its day and pretend it can be separated out and judged accordingly. I think it will become clear that the religious tradition that undergirds the foundation of the university cannot be so easily separated and dismissed. 

An anthropological argument can be made that the real beginnings of humanity’s pursuit of knowledge began when the first human, who presumably showed a special attention to detail, was given permission to sit out the hunt and figure out why the caribou disappeared at different times of the year or why the days grew shorter before becoming longer again. As a reward he or she would have been given a share of meat. The earliest shamans (the original pseudo-priests, professors, alchemists and/or scientists) first began our never ending quest to figure out what the hell is going on. Early magic is just the first stab at the scientific process. It is conceivable that if a particularly knarrled knot on some stick you just found is the spitting image of your sister in law then perhaps the two things are related. So you draw a connection, come up with a hypothesis and then test it by shoving the said stick into hot tar. Even if it turns out magic was a dead end, it was a ‘scientific’ pursuit. So these early pseudo-priests/ professors were the earliest profession. Or at least so we think. Rudyard Kipling claimed that prostitution was the world’s oldest profession. Priests and prostitutes have been arguing over the right to the title ever since. Not that they have actually been having formal debates with one another, although I would pay good money to watch my colleagues participate in one. Very good money indeed.  

Now to jump ahead – way ahead. The real foundation of Bishop’s university is owed to a former Archbishop of Canterbury, St Anselm, the father of Scholasticism. You may think this a bit of a stretch considering he died in 1109 – but stay with me.

Early European centres of learning were centered in monasteries and cathedrals and were primarily for the education of monastic novices. In the 12th century Aristotle was reintroduced into Europe through Arabic translations in Islamic Spain. Through scholars such as the great Jewish Rabbi Maimonides, Aristotelian thought led to a flowering of dialectic methodology in Europe and thus led to the birth of Scholasticism: a logical methodological reasoning that relied on inference for the extension of knowledge of the world. With this resurgence of Aristotelian and Neo-Platonic (A synthesis of Plato and Aristotle) thought and the attempt to reconcile Christian theology with classical philosophy came the birth of the great medieval universities. And all of this from just 300 pages of Aristotle!

These institutions kept much of their original monastic and clerical characteristics. Some lasting even until modern times. For example all Fellows of Cambridge and Oxford were ordained Anglican clerics and took a vow of celibacy until as late as 1882, the same year that non-Anglican undergraduates could read for a degree. They lived in their individual colleges as bachelor scholars – not that far of a stretch from a monastery although much more comfortable.

The medieval universities concentrated on: grammar; rhetoric; logic; mathematics; geometry; music; and astronomy. The idea was to form minds that could think logically and rationally, attend to the details of the world around them, and then infer from the created order aspects of the one universal truth they believed lay both behind it and permeated it.  This emphasis on natural science in scholasticism fostered the birth of modern science: Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler and Newton were all trained in the Scholastic system. Fides quaerens intellectum.

For Bishop’s, the particular manifestations of Scholasticism that are important, are the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford. Even after the Church of England’s break with Rome in the 16th century these institutions retained their essential pre-reformation characteristics. The clergy were now just Anglican priests instead of Roman priests. Still today, almost all Oxbridge colleges are Anglican institutions with both a Dean, who teaches theology, and a Chaplain, who looks after the welfare of the students and leads the daily services in the chapel.

Bishop’s University was founded in the Christian Humanist ideal of Oxbridge with the first seven Principals, and Bishop Mountain, as ordained Oxford or Cambridge men. Of the first 12 Principals (up until 1970 – or the first 125 years) only one was not educated at Oxbridge. In Master’s history of the early days of the University he says that almost all of the early professors were also English educated with almost no American scholars.

John Henry Newman was one of the great Anglican theologians of the 19th century and one of the fathers of the Oxford Movement in the Church of England. His subsequent conversion to the Church of Rome is still somewhat of a sensitive issue for some Anglicans so we often just slide over this awkwardness. Of course this is made much more difficult to do when the Roman Church first made him a Cardinal, then beatified him, and then made him a saint. But I digress.   

His book The Idea of a University lays out a modern philosophy of the purpose of a university education that draws its inspiration from Scholasticism and Aristotle. He posits the idea of a mind exposed to a wide breadth of knowledge with the purpose of not producing a particularly knowledgeable mind but rather a balanced mind. The balance of mind produced by exposure to vast sweeps of knowledge leads to freedom of thought, awareness of philosophical and cultural presuppositions, is thus trained for making good judgements in all aspects of life. He decried specialisation of undergraduates and vocational studies and being the antithesis of the goal of a university. Interestingly Newman did not see theology as having a place of pre-eminence in a modern university but rather as playing 5th Business, as Robertson Davies would put it, to the other faculties. His idea was that the all-encompassing meta-narrative and theological world view of Divinity would act as an observer to the rest of the Universities academic pursuits and by engaging with them all would allow for cross fertilisation and constant dialogue amongst the various disciplines. In some ways his idea was similar to the role of an Anglican Chaplain in the British Navy whose rank was always just one step above whoever he was addressing even if he was the Admiral. In this way he could quickly disseminate information needed all over a ship without being hampered by formal rank and the differences between the commissioned and non-commissioned ranks. Regardless of what you think about his conclusions his was one of the most powerful voices in educational philosophy of the Victorian era.

Bishop’s first Principal, The Rev’d Jasper Hume Nicolls, (1845-1877), was a graduate of Oriel College Oxford when John Henry Newman was its tutor and treasurer. The influence of Newman of Fr Nicolls can easily been seen in his Convocation Address of 1860:
“For it is the business of a University to gather into itself all the branches of learning, to adopt and interweave with the old and well-tried, what is new and modern; to assist in its measure, and according to its capability in the work of scientific discovery, but far more to sanctify scientific discovery. When man searches and investigates, argues and proves, pronounces at his study-table, that this or that field or rock, produces or does not produce a certain precious metal, or indicates by calculations the existence of some hitherto undiscovered heavenly body, and points out the very spot it occupies at the moment; when the human mind thus strides onward, let it be the University’s privilege to demonstrate that the excellency of all this, is not of man, but of God; that while man discovers, he discovers what God has made, what God gives him to understand.”

Regardless of its size, Anglicanism is still a mystery to many people so it is probably necessary to give a quick overview of what it is. To begin with it is not a protestant church but rather a reformed catholic church.  It is the third largest Christian denomination in the world after Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy and, with the Roman church, one of only two worldwide churches that exist in almost every country and culture on earth.

Although it is a western church it is structured like that of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Each of the separate Provinces of the Anglican Communion (large geographical areas sometimes coterminous with a country but often a region of the world), of which there are 44 are autocephalous, which means they are independent, but are all held together by their common communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. This is identical to the Orthodox churches that are so called only if they are in communion with the Oecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.

The liturgical and sacramental rites of the Anglican Church, its hierarchy, titles, and customs are very similar to those of the Roman Catholic Church, sometimes to the point that you could not tell an Anglican Mass from a Roman Catholic Mass unless you were paying very close attention to which bishops were being prayed for during the intercessions. Like Roman Catholicism, however, there is a wide range of cultural and linguistic variations in the rites from country to country. Often you will find that Anglicanism has kept medieval offices, usages, and vocabulary that the Roman church abandoned long ago.

The Reformation in England was very different to the Reformation on the continent in that there was both a political Reformation and a theological one. The main changes in the Church of England were political and are tied up with England’s struggle to keep from becoming part of France or falling under the Sway of Spain or the Holy Roman Empire. The Pope as a political player in these European dynastic struggles led to the split with Rome. During this first Reformation England did not change its services or its theology. The latter reformation was theological. 

Anglicanism’s theology is based on the Scriptures, the Seven Oecumenical Councils of the undivided church, the Apostle’s and Nicene Creed, and the teaching of the Apostolic Age and the Church Fathers (the theologian and philosophers of the first four centuries). The Reformation challenged many presuppositions of the Catholic faith in Great Britain that led, in England, to a long wrestle over the nature of the Church of England – whether it would be catholic or protestant. The Elizabethan settlement of 1559 under Elisabeth I chartered a middle way which has often led to Anglicanism’s description as ‘reformed catholic’ or the via media or middle way between the two.

The most influential theologian in the Anglican tradition is Richard Hooker. In his eight volume Magnus opus Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie (1590s) he, amongst other things, laid out the role of reason in man’s search for truth. His emphasis on the balancing of revealed truth, tradition, and reason has shaped Anglicanism’s academic approach for which it is known.

The emphasis put on the role of reason within Anglicanism has made it easier for the Church to adapt to new scientific views of the world as well as the findings of historical criticism in Biblical hermeneutics and ecclesiastical history. Thus the Anglican Church has become known in many parts of the world as a theologically progressive church. In many Provinces of the Communion women are ordained to the deaconate and priesthood and as Bishops. In many Western Provinces, because of scientific findings on human sexual orientation, there are not only openly gay clergy but partnered and/or married same sex clergy.

However, one of the strongest characteristics of Anglicanism is difficult to pin down. It is a combination of artistic and musical sensibility, a traditional British flavour to our culture, and openness to long discussions with people, and a distinctive pastoral style. A Roman Catholic and an Anglican Priest may have exactly the same duties in the same town, do the same job, and use almost identical services but you can easily tell the difference between them based on how they do them. This is not saying one is better or worse but that they are culturally different and recognisable even if difficult to put into words.  

Many people assume that Anglicanism is synonymous with the Church of England and that the Queen is its head. These assumptions are not true.  To dispel the last misconception first, the Monarch in the Church of England alone holds the title of Supreme Defender of the Faith – a title granted to Henry VIII by the Pope. She is not the head of the church but its defender. In the other 43 provinces of the Anglican Communion the Monarch holds no special place.

Anglicanism is also not solely English. Some churches within the Anglican Communion are called Episcopalian. These churches (such as the USA) derive from the Scottish Episcopal Church. The Scottish Church is as old as the English Church but has a very different history.

After the Reformation, the Episcopal Church was the established Church of Scotland. The Church remained Catholic in its theology and form and refused to subscribe to the Protestant influenced Revised Prayer Book of 1552 and did not have the Reforming 39 Articles. The overwhelming majority of Protestant sympathisers led to its disestablished and replacement by the Presbyterian Church in 1689. The English brought harsh Penal statutes to bear from 1746 to 1792. These were meant to further weaken the Church as punishment for the support for the Risings of 1715 and 1745 to restore the Royal House of Stuart to the Throne. Yet in spite of the persecution and small numbers the Bishops maintained continuity.

In 1794 in Aberdeen, the Scottish Church consecrated the first Bishop of the American Church, Samuel Seabury, whom the English Bishops had refused to consecrate after the Revolutionary War. Thus the Scottish Church gave birth to what would become the Anglican Communion. It also added a stream of Anglicanism that did not subscribe to the 39 Articles, the reforms of the Second Prayer Book, was High Church from the beginning, and independent and non-establishment in character.

The first Anglican clergy arrived in Canada as chaplains on John Cabot's expedition in 1497. The first Anglican Eucharist on Canadian territory was celebrated in 1578 by Robert Wolfall, who was chaplain to Martin Frobisher's expedition to the Arctic. The Parish of St. John the Baptist in St. John's, Newfoundland is the oldest Anglican parish in Canada, founded in 1699 in response to a petition drafted by the Anglican townsfolk of St. John's and sent to the Bishop of London, the Rt. Rev. Henry Compton.

Members of the Church of England established the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in 1701 which provided missionaries to Canada until 1940.

The Anglican Church was a dominant feature of the compact governments that dominated the colonies in British North America. Adherents to the Church of England were also numerous amongst the United Empire Loyalists who fled to Canada after the American Revolution.

After the inclusion of Quebec and the American Revolution, many leading Anglicans argued for the Church of England to become the established church in the Canadian colonies. The Church of England was established by law in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. In Lower Canada (now Quebec), the presence of a Roman Catholic majority made establishment in that province politically unwise. In Upper Canada (now Ontario), leading dissenters such as Methodist minister Egerton Ryerson argued against establishment. Following the Upper Canada Rebellion and the Durham Report and establishment of responsible government in the 1840s, the unpopularity of the Anglican-dominated Family Compact made establishment a moot point. The Church was disestablished in Nova Scotia in 1850 and Upper Canada in 1854. By the time of Canadian confederation in 1867, the Church of England was disestablished throughout British North America.

The Clergy reserves, land that had been reserved for use by the clergy, became a major issue in the mid-19th century. Anglicans argued that the land was meant for their exclusive use, while Protestant denominations demanded that it be divided among them.

Until the 1830s, the Anglican Church in Canada was treated as the property of the Church of England: bishops were appointed by the church in England, and funding for the church came from the British Parliament. The first Canadian synods were established in the 1850s, giving the Canadian church a degree of self-government. As a result of a Judicial Committee of the Privy Council decision in 1861 (Long v. Gray), all Anglican churches in colonies of the British Empire became self-governing. Even so, the first General Synod for all of Canada was not held until 1893. In that meeting, Robert Machray was chosen as the Canadian church's first Primate.

The Anglican Diocese of Quebec was founded by Letters Patent in 1793 and is a part of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada of the Anglican Church of Canada. It is the second oldest Diocese outside of Great Britain and has the oldest non British Cathedral which is located in Quebec City.

The diocese comprises the 720,000 square kilometers and took it present shape in 1850 with the carving off of what is now the Diocese of Montreal and includes a territory of west to east from Magog to the Gaspe and the Magdalen Islands, south to north from the United States border to Kawawachikamach and the communities of the Lower North Shore.

The particular example of university life we are concentrating on today is your own. Bishop’s owes its direct foundation to Oxbridge and Newman as well as one other indirect source – The Rev’d Lucius Doolittle.

The University is named after George Jehoshaphat Mountain (1789-1863) the third Lord Bishop of Quebec. Born in England he moved to Quebec after his father, Jacob Mountain, was appointed the first Lord Bishop of Quebec by his friend William Pitt the Younger. He returned to England at the age of sixteen to study at Trinity College Cambridge before returning to Canada as a priest. In 1821 he became the Archdeacon of Lower Canada and held the post until becoming Bishop. From 1824-1835 he served as the first principal of McGill University and Professor of Divinity.

Although known as a learned theologian and administrator, he is equally well known for his devotion to his vast diocese which entailed long and arduous journeys. When visiting the Magdalene Islands or the shores of Labrador he was known to regularly travel almost 3600 miles in a canoe.   He is also famed as the co-founder of this University.

The other co-founder of this University was my predecessor The Rev’d Lucius Doolittle, the First Rector of Lennoxville. Fr Doolittle is also the founder of Bishop’s College School which began life in his Rectory. Bishop Mountain had already established a group of divinity students at Three Rivers and wished to found an institution there. It was the tireless work of Fr Doolittle that persuaded him to found it here. Actually is was quite canny of him, as he secured the grounds on which the University stands today and gave the Bishop a promissory note of contributions amounting to £1000, or $160,000 Canadian, in today’s currency, which he had subscribed to by leading Anglicans of the Eastern Townships.

In 1948, on the occasion of the centenary of the building of the second church, the present St George’s on Queen Street, the Principal of this university and Dean of Divinity, G. Basil Jones, said:
“On the occasion of the centenary of the consecration of St George’s church Lennoxville, may I, in the name of the university, send cordial greetings to the Rector, Churchwardens and Congregation and an expression of appreciation of all that St George’s Church means, and has meant, to the community in general and especially to this university. For one hundred years and more the Church and the University have lived and grown side by side, helping one another as need and opportunity arose, and with their fortunes always closely intertwined.  This is due in no small measure to the fact that they were both started on their respective careers of usefulness by one and the same man. The Rev. Lucius Doolittle, the first Rector of Lennoxville (1833-1862), who supervised the building of St George’s Church, was also one of the co-founders of Bishop’s University. It was largely owing to his energy and enthusiasm that Bishop’s College was set up in Lennoxville, despite the apparent disadvantage (in those days) of so remote a position, and for the first eleven or twelve years of its existence, not content with the general oversight of its fortunes, he carried out the exacting duties of College Bursar.

When it is also born in mind that Lucius Doolittle founded and taught in the Lennoxville Grammer School, which later became closely associated with the College, as Bishop’s College School, it is clear that we owe our respective beginnings to a man of great vision and power, whose ideals even after a hundred years still continue to guide our destinies.”

The first principal of the University and Dean of Divinity, The Rev’d Jasper Hume Nicolls, (1845-1877), was a graduate of Oriel College Oxford when John Henry Newman was tutor and treasurer of the college, as I have already stated, and Fr Froude, the famous Tractarian historian, was a fellow. Not surprisingly, Fr Nicolls was a Tractarian High Churchman whose churchmanship was somewhat suspect, even by Bishop Mountain, although his abilities were never questioned. He was a member of St George’s Church and attended services there every Sunday from his arrival at Bishop’s in 1845 until his death, and during many periods looked after the parish when Fr Doolittle was ill or away from the parish. Until 1857, when St Mark’s Chapel was built, the entire College community worshipped at St George’s with him. The second Principal, The Rev’d J.A. Lobley, was also a regular member of the parish and took an active interest in all aspects of ministry in the community. He was a beloved by the congregation, who arranged for a memorial to him when they learned of his sudden death in England.

I could go on for hours about the intimate connections between the Anglican Church, the Parish of St George’s, Bishop’s College School, and Bishop’s University. In many ways they were all just different aspects of one cultural and educational reality that gave identity to this community. The first nine Principals of the University, whose incumbencies spanned over a hundred years, were all Anglican priests. The University began its life as a community of Anglican Divinity Students to train for the priesthood and so counted over 110 Anglican priests amongst its graduates during the same period. The Rectors and later Wardens and Headmasters of Bishops College School were also Anglican priests, There were Professors who were also Rectors of St George’s (or were they Rectors of St George’s who held professorships at the University – such as Canon Scarth the second Rector of Lennoxville), Wardens of the School who held professorships, as well as dignitaries such as the famous Archdeacon Roe (after whom the Hall is named) who were both Dean of Divinity and Archdeacon of St Francis. James William Williams, headmaster of Bishop’s College School from 1857-1863 succeeded Bishop Mountain as the fourth Lord Bishop of Quebec. The Rev’d Arthur Huffman McGreer, principal from 1922-1947 was an active member of the Anglican community and the Diocese of Quebec. With the hills of Lennoxville crawling with Anglican clergymen and seminarians it was more like something from the Barchester Chronicles of Trollope or the Salterton Trilogy of Robertson Davies than anything else. The ties are too intricate and numerous for me to unravel in detail.

Ever year at my Cambridge College we have a service of the Commemoration of Benefactors in which we give thanks for all those who, over the years, have made our existence possible. Unfortunately, as my college is almost 1000 years old, the list does go on a bit. Fortunately the College puts on an elaborate feast afterwards as a reward for sitting through a very long service which mostly consists of the reading of a list of names. I take comfort in the fact that we do not forget our friends even in death and despite the centuries rolling by. It makes me feel part of the past and gives me a sense of continuity despite the tides of historical upheavals, wars, changes in dynasties and cultures

Unlike the father founders of many institutions the father founders of Bishop’s are not laid to rest here on the grounds, such as McGill is in Montreal. Bishop Mountain is in Quebec City. However Fr Doolittle is laid to rest, with his wife, in an unobtrusive plot next to St George’s. As the current custodian of one of the Founders of Lennoxville and its institutions it pains me to know how little attention is given to him in this current age. The only visitors I know of in the last year were two crack users who have found a spot next to his grave to hide their drug paraphernalia.

This period of Anglican hegemony has ebbed away over the last few decades and really came to an end with the closure of the seminary in 1976 and the de-anglicanisation of the university in recent years culminating in the internal abolition of the Lord Bishop of Quebec and the Lord Bishop of Montreal as the University Visitors (A visitor is the legal representative of the original donors). The world which was ours is ours no longer, as the Prayer Book says.

I do not dispute this or wish to encourage a backwards looking nostalgia for another age and culture. However I do hope for honour to be given where honour is due. The existence of this University, in this place, its endowments and lands, buildings and history, has been bequeathed to it by a culture which has now had its day. Forty two years ago when I was born St George’s Parish had 740 members on its rolls. We now count about fifty regular attenders. The forty or so parishes of the Eastern Townships that existed just a few short years ago will most likely be reduced to seven or eight in the next decade. It is not the place, and I have not the time to go into the future of established liturgical and sacramental churches such as mine in a rapidly secularised society such as ours. What I hope is that what good we have done will be remembered with respect and perhaps genteel gratitude. Remember Bishop Mountain, Fr Nicolls, and the benefactors and alumni of this institution with kindness and, if you can spare a minute or two at least once during your years of study here, stop off at St George’s when you are walking down Queen Street, go halfway down the right side of the church and visit Lucius Doolittle. It seems like the right thing to do.

Oh, and if there is someone sitting on his grave smoking crack, you can tell them I said to bog off and go smoke in the parking lot instead.   

Anglican Oriental-Orthodox Dialogue - Healing the Ages: so that all may be one

Unlike many international ecumenical groups, the work of the Anglican Oriental Orthodox International Dialogue may well be interesting to those other than ecclesiastical nerds, of whom Miss Jean Brodie says “for those who like that sort of thing, that is the sort of thing they like”. Its work is set against a background of persecution, modern martyrdom, ancient division, Islam, and the exotic music, dress, languages, liturgies and cultures of the Middle East.
The Anglican Communion has international ecumenical commissions with six global church families: Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Lutheran, Reformed and Methodist. A small group of worldwide Anglicans are appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion to serve on these dialogues. I was honoured to be appointed to the Anglican Oriental Orthodox International Commission earlier this year and have just returned from our first meeting in Cairo, Egypt.
Most of the International dialogues are about building relationships and engaging in theological dialogue to find common ground and heal divisions. On the face of it the Anglican Oriental Orthodox dialogue is the same. However, unlike the other dialogues, there is a much deeper and more pressing rationale. The International Commission is really an act of solidarity with an increasingly persecuted Christian community.
For those who are not familiar with Oriental Orthodoxy, it is the communion of the ancient churches found primarily in the Middle East who refused to subscribe to the Council of Chalcedon. The Oriental Orthodox comprise: The Armenian Orthodox, the Coptic Orthodox, the Eritrean Orthodox, the Ethiopian Orthodox, the Malankara Orthodox, and the Syrian Orthodox. These churches represent the most ancient forms of Christianity found today with many still speaking West Syrian, East Syrian, and even Aramaic – the language of Christ Himself.
Their music, religious liturgies and customs, dress and culture seem to many western Christians alien and they are often confused with Islam. If you observed black clad Syrian orthodox clerics chanting and prostrating themselves during evening prayer you could be forgiven for first thinking they were a group of Imams. The similarities are striking. However the reason they are striking is not that the Christians are worshipping like the Muslims but rather the other way around. There are some who even believe that early Islam was strongly influenced by the Assyrian Orthodox communities in the Persian Empire (modern day Iraq) who, holding to the Nestorian Heresy, deemphasised the divinity of Christ and who tended to think of him as a Prophet like in the Koran.
These communities flourished after the Edict of Milan established tolerance of Christians in 313AD until the coming of Islam in 634AD when their traditional territories were overrun. For the last 1400 years they have lived in their homelands as a religious minority. Although there were periodic persecutions under the Byzantine, Persian, Muslim and Ottomans it is the 20th century that has seen one of the greatest threats to the survival of the Oriental Orthodox: the attempted genocide of the Armenian Orthodox (1 and a half million Armenian Orthodox were killed and 750,000 Assyrian Orthodox, and 750,000 Greek Orthodox) and a sustained persecution of the Syrian Orthodox the by the Turks, as well as violent persecution of the Coptic Orthodox by militant Islamists in Egypt (94 Copts have been killed in the last two years). Palestinian Oriental Orthodox have been denied traditional human rights in Israel and forced to flee the country (fifty years ago 15% of Palestinians in Israel were Christian while today that percentage has dropped to only 1.5 and most predict there will be no indigenous Christians in the Holy Land in twenty years) and the indigenous Church of the East (Assyrian Orthodox) in Iraq has been almost wiped out. The only traditionally stable country in the Middle East for Christians, Syria, has been a refuge for them from persecution. The current destabilisation of that country may well see another great exodus of these communities from their homelands to new homes in Canada, Australia, and the United States.
Although it is a difficult thing to face up to, the reason so little international attention has been paid to the plight of these Christian communities is the widespread ignorance of these churches by Western Christians and their instinctive Islamaphobia towards those from the Middle East. Part of the Anglican Communion’s attempt to educate the rest of the world about the urgent need of our sister churches has been to highlight, prioritise, and publicise our dialogue with them and encourage the churches of our communion to learn about their history, culture, predicament, and to foster local ecumenical relationships with them. Although Montreal has the most Oriental Orthodox communities in Quebec, there is a Coptic Orthodox community in Quebec City and a Syrian Orthodox community in Sherbrooke. There are even a couple of Coptic families in Magog.
As Anglicans, we look to the Scriptures, Tradition (the early church), and Reason (the three legged stool of Richard Hooker) for authority. As such, the Council of Nicaea (325AD), Constantinople (381AD), Ephesus (431AD), Chalcedon (451AD), and the Creeds that came from them (The Nicene and the Apostles Creed) hold doctrinal importance for us second only to Holy Scripture.  Anglicans have placed patristics (the writings and teachings of the fathers of the undivided church such as St Augustine, St Ambrose, St Jerome, and Pope St Gregory the Great) as part of Tradition. As Anglicans hold to the teaching of the early church, the Council of Chalcedon, which defined the human and divine nature of Christ, is central to our understanding of God and his work in the creation. It is this Council and the nature of Christ that the latest meeting addressed.
For decades international dialogues between the Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox, between the Anglicans and the Orthodox and the Oriental Orthodox, as well as the Church of Rome have led to a re-evaluation of the significance of the refusal of the Oriental Orthodox to subscribe to the Council of Chalcedon. This has primarily been attributed to the complexities of several Greek words and their Syrian translations. To make a complicated theological argument simplistic – we have agreed that the Oriental Orthodox in speaking of the one nature of Christ do not thereby deny full humanity and full divinity of Christ. Therefore, our historical condemnation of the Oriental Orthodox as being Monophysite (those that believe that Christ has only one nature which therefore must be either fully divine or fully human), was incorrect and a misunderstanding of their true position as Miaphysites (those that believe that Christ’s one nature is a unity of his humanity and divinity and are united without separation, without confusion, and without alteration). I assume the significance of the difference is self-apparent: if we believed Christ had only one nature then our central Trinitarian theology of incarnation and the atonement would be meaningless and we would not believe God is encountered by us through his creation, one another, and the Sacraments.

For almost thirty years the Anglican Communion and the Oriental Orthodox have been trying to reach an agreed Statement on Christology. The Orthodox had already come to the same agreement with the Oriental Orthodox which paved the way for our agreed statement. On October 15th we finally achieved our goal and the Joint Agreed Statement on Christology was signed. Thus an almost 1600 year division was swept away. The next day the entire delegation was received in St Mark’s Cathedral, the largest Cathedral on the African continent and filled with thousands of Copts, by the Patriarch of Alexandria (one of the four Ancient Patriarchs or Popes of the undivided church) where we presented His Holiness with the fruit of thirty years of theological dialogue, ecumenical friendship, mutual understanding, and a passion for unity in the spirit of Christ’s High Priestly Prayer “that all may be one”.