With the Silent Night Project in full swing many are asking some excellent questions.  What follows are excerpts from responses given by Archdeacon Fletcher to some questions posed to him and to Bishop Coffin by a  reporter from the Halifax, “Chronicle Herald”, as well as the Bishop Ordinary’s video introduction to the project which can also be found on the Silent Night Project webpage. The Silent Night project is a demonstration of support by the people of the Anglican Church of Canada. These kinds of initiatives remind Sailors, Soldiers and Air Personnel that whether they are at home or abroad, the communities of Canada take an active interest in their well being. While this is an Anglican Church of Canada project, Chaplains serve in support of all Canadian Forces members and each other. Any initiative that assists one group of Chaplains in particular, helps everybody.

1. Why doesn’t the military fund the Anglican Bishop Ordinary?

Each of the major faith groups in Canada that provides chaplains for the CF, has a representative who serves on the Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy, (ICCMC). This Committee, which represents the various different faith groups of Canada , not only provides faith group oversight of the ministry of CF chaplains, but also serves as an advisory body to the Minister of National Defence concerning all matters relating to military chaplaincy.

The ICCMC is not only responsible, as sort of a credentialing body, for endorsing perspective applicants for military chaplaincy, but even more importantly, it is responsible for helping ensure, and maintain, the vital link between individual chaplains and the civilian faith groups to which they belong.

Although the CF does understandably compensate ICCMC members for travel and other expenses associated with the committee’s work, in direct support of Chaplaincy, the ICCMC members (as representatives of their respective civilian faith groups) do not receive any salary or stipend from the Canadian Forces. If they remunerated at all for their roles on behalf of their respective faith group, that remuneration would come for the faith group to which they belong. For some faith traditions, membership on the ICCMC is a voluntary and part-time endeavour.  The Anglican Church of Canada would like to see the Bishop ordinary’s position as a paid (by the church) position. The Silent Night Project is an effort to raise funds in the church to help make this possible.

2. Does “ordinary” mean “ordained”  or something else?

In order for any our military chaplains to be truly effective within the ecumenical and multi-faith ministry context of the CF Chaplaincy, it is absolutely essential, to both their personal and professional well-being, that they remain thoroughly grounded in, and well connected to, their own religious traditions and faith communities. Key to this for those who are Anglican Chaplains is, of course, the ministry of the Anglican Bishop Ordinary.

The term “Ordinary” is an ecclesiastical term, denoting a person exercising ordinary jurisdiction connected with the office they hold office.

3. What does a Bishop Ordinary do, and why is this Silent Night project important/helpful?

 

The Anglican Bishop Ordinary is the civilian church leader who serves as the Anglican Church of Canada’s representative on the ICCMC.  As Bishop Ordinary, he/she also has governance responsibilities within the Anglican Military Ordinariate of Canada, which is the non-territorial ecclesiastical jurisdiction that includes all of the Anglican Chaplains serving in the CF, as well as all of the Anglican military members and their families.

On behalf of the Anglican Church of Canada, the Bishop Ordinary functions as a chief pastor to all of the Anglican service men and women in the CF, and their families, and is also kind of like a ‘chaplain to our chaplains’. The Bishop prays for us, and visits us, and cares for us pastorally and spiritually, and keeps us well grounded within, and sustained by, our Anglican tradition. He or she represents the wider church to us, but of equal importance, also represents us and our stories, within the life and the witness of the wider church.

In addition to this, the Bishop Ordinary also represents the Anglican Church of Canada in the important ecumenical role it has to play on ICCMC, a committee, which endorses and oversees the ministry of all CF chaplains, and advises the Government of Canada on all matters pertaining to CF Chaplaincy. As military chaplaincy continues to become more diverse and more demanding, it’s clear that the role of the Bishop Ordinary will, similarly, become more demanding.

4. Is it as much about awareness as about raising the funds to support the Bishop Ordinariate?

Absolutely. The funds contributed to the Silent Night Project are not as important as is participating in the project, or as is learning more about this important ministry of our military chaplains and our Anglican Bishop Ordinary. Just as the Silent Night Project is a project of the whole Anglican church, so is the ministry of the Anglican Bishop Ordinary and the Anglican military chaplains he cares for.

It was the Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, who requested that the Silent Night Project donations be channelled to the Bishop Ordinary Trust, which is a trust that was established by the former Primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison (who was himself a former Bishop Ordinary). It is our hope that with time, and with the support of Anglicans right across the Church, that we will eventually be able to build an endowment sufficient enough to provide the Bishop Ordinary with a stipend commensurate with the important and demanding ministry that he/she exercises on behalf of the whole church as well as provide some funding for lay staff support and for required travel not immediately related to support for the whole CF Chaplaincy, and so not funded publicly.

5. The web info touched on how the role affects all military personnel, not just Anglicans, but perhaps you could explain a bit.

Except in very specific ecclesiastical matters, members of the ICCMC speak with one voice. The advice and participation of every member, therefore, affects the ministry of all Chaplains. Likewise, the manner in which the various Faith Groups of Canada work together on the ICCMC, serves as a model for ministry in a multicultural environment such as the CF. While an individual chaplain will be a member of a particular faith group and will bear particular relevance to members sharing that faith, Chaplain Services must be relevant to all. Canadian Forces Chaplains, Anglicans and all others, “minister to their own, facilitate the worship of others and care for all.”

6. Can you compare the role of the clergy in the military to civilian work?

Military service, both for those in uniform, and for their families, all too often forces the individual to explore the deep cost of sacrifice. Fear and loneliness, death of a loved one, and life-changing injury, are just a few of the experiences  that can threaten a person’s ability to function effectively, unless he or she is willing to explore the deeper spiritual questions that lie at the root of the understanding of self.  For this reason, the military community recognizes that chaplains — who are experienced in addressing spiritual issues — are a critical component in the care and support of our sailors, soldiers, airmen and women and their families.

Although not all our service men and women and their families attend churches, temples, mosques or synagogues, they all do know that they can turn to their ‘Padre’ as someone who cares, and can help. Through their ministry of presence within our units, and on our bases and wings,.. both at home and overseas,.. our chaplains are a powerful sign of meaning and encouragement, and an ever-present source of comfort and hope.

For our Anglican Chaplains: the role and support of the Anglican Bishop Ordinary is important to their effectiveness, and health. Accordingly, as the Silent Night Project website states, it is hoped that they and their ministry, will be greatly enhanced because, “funds from the Silent Night Project will bolster chaplains’ ministry by supporting the work of their pastoral head, the Bishop Ordinary.”