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Religion and Unions - Not Connected

By Bob Orrick
Volume 7 Number 2

In this edition, comment will be made on two topics of which I have more than passing interest in and knowledge of: religion, specifically Anglicism, and unions.

For about a decade, a rift in theology has been simmering in the Anglican Church in Canada and the Episcopalian Church in the USA. Over the past few years, certain Anglican bishops and clergy have moved away from orthodox Biblical teaching and into a more secular, 'do-your-own-thing' approach. In the words of Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone, "It ends up you have two versions of Christianity. There are two positions that have moved apart over the last century: the Bible-based orthodox Christianity that goes back to the early years of the Church and a post-modern Christianity that believes everybody can find their own truth. And those two things cannot work together."

Strong words but true words.

These words, also spoken by Archbishop Venables, are equally strong and rather to the point: "But that [situation] inevitably brings us to a situation where there must be a divide where people are not in agreement and that is better, I think, than holding people together under a false sense of unity." That "divide" has arrived.

In Canada in the Diocese of Westminster, some clergy were and are performing marriage vows for homosexual couples. The blessing of homosexual marriage is not consistent with the Bible's teachings.

In the words of Archbishop Venables: "Scripture does not allow me to bless anything that God hasn't blessed. The relationship between male and female in marriage is something God blessed. He created the relationship between male and female. He put them together in the Garden of Eden. Jesus himself performed his first miracle [turning water into wine] at a marriage between a man and a woman in Cana. All the things we bless are all the things God has shown us to bless. There is no indication in the whole of the Bible that God would bless a relationship between two men, or two women." That's pretty clear and to the point, again.

This so-called blessing of same-sex couples has caused a split that has manifested itself in the congregation of St. John's Shaughnessy in Vancouver - incidentally, the largest Anglican church in Canada - opting to place itself under the leadership of Archbishop Venables. This move, contrary to what some media reports suggest, does not mean that St. John's Shaughnessy is 'splitting away from the Anglican Church of Canada, but rather, is confirming its commitment to the worldwide Anglican Communion. The clergy and congregation of St. John's Shaughnessy feel, rightly, that the bishop of the Diocese of Westminster has moved away from Anglican Christian orthodox theology and into that murky realm of post-modern Christianity.

Not only St. John's Shaughnessy has taken this bold and correct move, but also have other Canadian churches and in the USA, the Diocese of San Joaquin, in California, [47 churches and 8,300 people] voted to move away from the 'murky realm of post-modern Christianity' of the Episcopalian Church and put themselves under the authority of Archbishop Venables.

At an earlier time in my varied careers, I was a shop steward and later a representative [on more than one occasion] for that shop in collective agreement bargaining. While a firm free enterpriser, I did see that there might be a place in Canadian society for unions; however, not ones that bully its membership and who support political parties that hold contrary views to that union's individual members. Today, in a real sense, unions have moved away from their base of seeking better working conditions for members and into the political arena. This is wrong and corrupts the hard-fought battles that infant union membership stove so darn hard to achieve. Today, in Canada, some unions are politically based and not labour based.

Moreover, the requirement to hold a union card in order to be employed is also wrong. I know full well the arguments that union representatives put forth about solidarity and the need to have everyone on side, but that idea has long been the bane of honest workers who want no truck or trade with union membership. I know, also, the blathering that emanates from union bosses that the wages, benefits and other perks that employees receive were won by unions and, therefore, ought to be supported by union dues. Possibly, but rather than force workers to belong to a union and pay union dues [sometimes rather hefty ones] a better scheme might be to have those workers who wish not to pay union dues, contribute an equal amount to a charity of their choice. That way, society benefits and the workers are free to chose, not forced to put money into the coffers of unions that play politics to the extreme.

There is another way to address this situation; that is, to have each worker sign a personal contract with his/her employer that stipulates wage, benefits, etc. and that is for a set period. At the end of that time, the contract is up for renewal, but the employee must have proved him/herself satisfactory to the employer who is paying the bucks. At least such a system would move away from the idea that union membership means tenure while not producing yet receiving a handsome wage. Outrageous? No, probably an idea whose time has come.

Another idea whose time has come is to move away from government employees belonging to a union. Nobody who works for a civic, regional, provincial, territorial or federal government ought to belong to a union. There was a time in Canada, when those who were employed in government did not belong to unions, yet, they produced quality and did not go on strike at the slightest whim. Those younger than 55 or so years probably cannot relate to a time when government workers were non-unionised and received fewer wages than those in the private sector but were compensated by the knowledge that their job was reasonably secure compared to the private sector. My memory tells me that things were a heck of a lot better then, too.

Food for thought.

For edification, all quotes were taken from The National Post newspaper.

I imagine there will be some who will disagree with either or both of my points but that is one of the reasons Canada is still a reasonable country - freedom of speech, yours and mine.






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Bob Orrick is a retired private tutor of English grammar, literature, poetry and Canadian history to off-shore youngsters. His pupils hail from such places as Taiwan, China, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea and Venezuela. He was previously in international marketing, was a ministerial assistant to a provincial cabinet minister, spent a few years as a reporter then editor of a community newspaper and enjoyed a career in the Royal Canadian Navy.

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