Anglican Samizdat

April 7, 2009

A brief guide to prophetic social justice making

Filed under: Diocese of Niagara — David Jenkins @ 5:32 pm

Whenever I am unfortunate to encounter a phrase like “prophetic social justice making” I know that I am about to witness an attempt at meaning antipode: everything is the opposite of what it appears to be.

The very title betrays itself since to prophesy in the Old Testament sense, means to foretell something that will happen in the future not, as is clearly intended here, to manipulate the present to conform it to the speaker’s culturally narrowed prejudice.

I do enjoy receiving the Niagara Anglican; not for its content which appeals mainly to the North American Maoist manqué, but because I know it has cost the Diocese of Niagara money to deliver it to my door.

“Prophetic social justice making” is just one of the gems that can be found in the latest issue.

This article presents a wealth of stultiloquence from which to draw but a few paragraphs stand out:

Bishop Michael has already spoken out for the need of a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy for Ontario, committed us to the Millennium Development Goals, and called upon all of us to be better custodians of creation. To add to this, he has also committed both himself and the Diocesan Resource Centre to speak out more often on these issues and to be an example for the rest of the diocese.

“Poverty reduction” is a perfect example of using words to mean the opposite of their plain meaning: what is really meant is “wealth reduction”. The Diocese of Niagara, having long ago abandoned any pretence of being a church, is an unashamed left-wing political old-boys club. Its left wing agenda is to relieve the wealthy of their money and give it to the less wealthy. Once we are all equally impoverished, there will be no more poverty. Although one imagines that Bishop Michael Bird will still receive his $105,000 yearly salary – the price of being prophetic.

The vision is already giving new life to other initiatives. The Greening Niagara committee is working on a Green Parish Accreditation program to animate and affirm parishes in their Greening work. A coordinating committee has been formed to organize a national Community Justice Camp, which will gather Canadian Anglicans of all ages together in 2010.

I find the Greening program particularly appealing since I see it at work every Sunday in the building where I used to worship: St. Hilda’s. Every Sunday, priest number one, Cheryl Fricker, drives to St. Hilda’s building to open up and turn on the heat; so does priest number 2, Sue-Ann Ward; then we have a piano player and a lay-reader each driving in separate cars. So we have 4 carbon dioxide spewing cars all speeding to St. Hilda’s every Sunday to minister to a congregation of 1. Naturally, the individual who attends drives his own car. We can only hope that, for their sins, they all end up spending time in Justice Camp eating uncooked broccoli by candlelight; I can supply the barbed wire.

But the vision of excellence in ministry calls for much more. It calls us to develop tools and training to integrate justice-making into the lives of our congregations and their members. It challenges every congregation to take on an additional initiative related to prophetic social justice making, be that an act of advocacy, an event or an educational project. The vision also calls for an animator to be recruited in the coming years to assist us as we live out the vision.

Here we see a clear Kafkaesque metamorphosis; instead of a human becoming a cockroach, craft-making – the familiar staple of the Anglican church of yore – has become justice-making. Just as bizarre as Kafka but more ugly.

By pursuing excellence in prophetic social justice making we have an opportunity to more fully live out God’s reign on earth. The result? People’s lives and God’s creation will be transformed and Niagara will be recognized as leader with regards to poverty reduction and environmental sustainability.

I don’t want to move out of the Niagara peninsular, I really don’t. I am optimistic that it won’t come to that, since the likelihood of the Diocese of Niagara achieving excellence in anything – no matter how hot the pursuit – is about as small as Michael Bird achieving physical or moral stature.



  1. Many years ago I took a nursing course. At the Master’s level. We had to read this ‘scholarly’ article, which was basically incomprehensible short of reading it several times equipped with a couple of dictionaries. And various colours of ball point pens. Ever since then I have believed that someone who REALLY knows their subject can say it in language so that ordinary people can understand it. Notwithstanding the numerous degrees after their name. It seems the editors of diocesan papers need to hear that little condemnation of using large, and usually incomprehensible, words and phrases to try and relay a message. I would imagine that the average reader of diocesan papers does not have theology and/or sociology degrees under their belts. I have a couple and I find I’m going “Huh?!”

    Comment by Margo — April 7, 2009 @ 6:49 pm

  2. I am all for expressing opinions, but perhaps in the spirit of Christian love and respect we can leave personal insults out of it.

    I refer to the writer’s final comment which says “since the likelihood of the Diocese of Niagara achieving excellence in anything – no matter how hot the pursuit – is about as small as Michael Bird achieving physical or moral stature.” This personal attack is unnecessary. Feel free to disagree or critique ideas, but to fling out a personal insult is childish, and not very Christian.

    Comment by Jennifer — October 7, 2009 @ 1:34 pm

  3. Jennifer,
    You have failed to distinguish between a simple observation and a personal attack. Had I wished to insult Michael Bird, I would have said “is about as small as the repulsive Michael Bird achieving physical or moral stature”

    Comment by David — October 15, 2009 @ 8:23 pm

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