AMO Search Committee – Questions for Episcopal Candidates

Responses by Col the Venerable Nigel Shaw

1. What interests you about the ministry of the Bishop Ordinary?

The focus on pastoral ministry is the aspect of the ministry of the Bishop Ordinary that would represent the most significant shift in focus and is a strong point of interest. For the last 13 years the preponderance of my ministry has been in the areas of governance and administration.  It would be a real delight to return to a primarily pastoral role in a community that I know and love.  After completing thirty years of service within the Anglican Military Ordinariate (AMO), the opportunity to support and empower the next generation of Anglican military members and their families is something that I would relish.

Working as a member of the Interfaith Committee on Canadian Military Chaplaincy (ICCMC) is a critical ministry.  The potential for faith communities to be instruments of change in our world, for good or ill, is vast.  The ICCMC is a functioning interfaith group that is able to work constructively together to meet the faith needs of the Canadian military community.  It is an example of positive collegial engagement that transcends differences of belief and practice to promote the welfare of all.  A significant highlight of my military chaplaincy career has been my involvement for the last 6 years as an ex-officio member of this group (with voice but not vote).  Being able to continue to participate in this body as the Bishop Ordinary would be very meaningful for me.

The opportunity to communicate the story of the ministry of the AMO to the church at large would be a privilege.  Equally important would be the occasion to encourage and commend this ministry to others to retain a strong Anglican presence within the military community and most particularly within the chaplaincy.

The collaborative and collegial nature of the ministry of the Bishop Ordinary is very attractive.  By its nature it is a leadership position but it is not leadership in isolation.  The support of the members of the Bishop’s Council, and many other members of the AMO, in actively sharing in the responsibilities of leadership within the AMO allows for a truly collaborative model of leadership.

The position of Bishop Ordinary would provide an opportunity to continue to be engaged in ministry within the chaplaincy context. There is no other place where the knowledge and experience I have gained can be so advantageously utilized.

2.   Please describe why you discern you are suited to the ministry of the Bishop Ordinary emphasizing how your perceived gifts relate to those listed in the call for nominations letter.

Since the end of my initial placement after Ordination, ministry to the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces and their families has been my abiding passion and the central focus of my ministry. The members of the AMO in their service to Canada demonstrate and live out in a practical and meaningful way the fourth Mark of Mission, “To seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation”.  This is done in a diverse ecumenical and interfaith context. My desire to serve this community combined with the ministry skills I have developed and the experiences I have gained through the course of a 30 year chaplaincy career is why I discern that I am suited to the ministry of the Bishop Ordinary.

I have acquired knowledge of the roles and demands placed on chaplains and military members at the Base level and have had the opportunity to develop leadership skills at the tactical, operational, strategic and executive levels of the chaplain branch.  I have a comprehensive knowledge of the challenges faced by the chaplain branch and the multi faith context within which it functions acquired through 6 years work at the executive level of the Branch and six years membership on the ICCMC, including working groups.  In a similar fashion I am aware of the concerns of the AMO having served on the Bishop’s Executive council for 8 years, the last three as Archdeacon.

Having raised a family whilst serving in the military, frequently living on Bases, I have a direct and personal knowledge of both the joys and challenges inherent in the lives of military families of faith.   The challenge of maintaining Anglican identity while also participating in the life of military chapels is something I have experienced and has informed my approach to ministry.

Military chaplaincy has afforded me many opportunities to practice and refine leadership skills both in worship communities and within chaplain teams.  I have had the chance to teach and more importantly to be taught by many chaplains and laity. The heart of the leadership model that I have developed over the years is to encourage and empower the ministry of others.  It is my conviction that we are called to a collaborative, collegial ministry together and I believe that with the Grace of God and the support of members of the AMO I could provide the pastoral care and leadership of the office of Bishop Ordinary.

3.  Given your understanding of the work of the AMO:
a) Do you have a 5-10 year vision for the ministry of Chaplains and Lay Readers of the AMO;

The Anglican clericus historically has had a central role within the chaplaincy.  This began during the period of the Protestant chaplaincy and has continued through the period of amalgamation of the two chaplain branches and on into the current reality of a single multi-faith chaplaincy.  I believe that this role can be best described as providing cohesion to the chaplaincy because of our ability to understand and respect a wide diversity of perspectives.  This role will only grow in importance in the future as the chaplaincy is likely to become even more diverse than it is today.  There are a number of items that I believe will be important in enabling that role to continue to be exercised.

As a church we are well positioned to recruit women chaplains yet have not been able to do so in appropriate numbers.  Within the national church the number of men and women in ministry is close to even but far from this within the AMO.  Given the unwillingness of some other traditions to permit women in positions of leadership it is even more vital that we make every effort to raise the number of women serving as chaplains in the AMO.

Continuing education, both formal and informal, is required by most professions and should be part of the life of Anglican chaplains.  There are many required formal courses within the chaplaincy but there should also be a commitment to education beyond these.  This could take the form of participation in local Clergy days, formal academic studies, or programmes of individual reading, to name just a few possibilities.  It is not essential that each person has a formal military Individual Learning Plan but rather that there is a commitment to continuing education throughout a person’s career.

Maintaining the current strong collegial and respectful ministry with colleagues of other faith group will be a vital feature of the AMO in the future.  A closely related, and equally vital, feature is the respect for one another that has been a hallmark of the life of the AMO clericus.  The demonstrated ability of the AMO clericus to respectfully work together to provide pastoral and spiritual care to the military community despite a variety of positions on contentious issues makes the AMO a model of what is possible for the church.  As the ACC heads into a period of potentially great contention this example will be even more relevant.

I would envision an enhanced role for Lay readers within the life of Protestant chapels, particularly when there is no Anglican chaplain at the location or if the team at the location is small.  In collaboration with the Warden of Lay Readers and consultation with the Lay Readers I would like to explore the possibility of participation within the life of civilian dioceses by AMO Lay Readers.  Beyond the normal support that they could provide as a licensed Lay Reader there would be an opportunity to share the story of the AMO from the lay perspective.  This may already be occurring in some cases but should be something systematically explored in all locations.

b) How would you support Chaplains while stationed at bases across Canada and deployed with troops in areas of conflict;

The primary means of providing support would be through pastoral visitation.  I would endeavor to maintain a visitation schedule that would include all locations within a three year cycle.  As a means of enhancing contact with Reserve chaplains I would attend all formation conferences, preferably each year but no less that every second year.  Whenever possible visits would include engagement with the local Diocesan Bishop to solicit support for the ministry of both Regular and Reserve chaplains within the diocese.  Visits to the parishes of Reserve chaplains would be another priority.  Pastoral visits to chaplains on Operations would be arranged, when permitted, through consultation with the Director of Chaplain Operations, the CJOC Command chaplain and the ICCMC staff officer.  These would not be limited to visiting AMO chaplains, though that would be the primary focus.

Another key area of support and encouragement would be regular communication through a variety of media including pastoral letters, newsletter articles, web postings, etc.

c) In what way will you also minister to and support the lay members; and,

Responding to the pastoral needs of the AMO laity would be an important component of pastoral visiting and communication.  My standard practice for visits would include being present for the weekend to provide substantial opportunities to meet and engage with lay members of the AMO and to share in their worship life.  The upholding of all members of AMO, lay and clerical, will be a central part of my daily prayer life.

d) Given the mandated polices of the CAF around gender equality, sexual orientation, public prayer and liturgy, would you explain whether or not you would anticipate this plurality and inclusiveness to be a challenge?

Far from being a challenge, the plurality and inclusiveness that is supported by the CAF policies contributes significantly to the attractiveness of ministry in the military context.  These are policies that I wholeheartedly support, and in some cases helped to draft.

4.  Please describe your involvement in the larger Church (at the diocesan, provincial and national levels) and your ecumenical, interfaith and intercultural experiences.

Almost all my involvement in the larger church has been within the context of the AMO. The only exception to this is that during my curacy in the Diocese of Algoma I was a member of the planning committee for the Diocesan Youth Synod.  Serving for 30 years in the AMO has provided me with numerous opportunities for ecumenical and interfaith experiences.  The daily work environment was ecumenical from the beginning of my career and for more than a decade has been interfaith.  For a number of years I shared a single worship space with a Roman Catholic community and otherwise led worship in a multi denomination protestant chapel.  For the last sixteen years I have been providing leadership at various levels to ecumenical chaplain teams.  The most important interfaith experiences in my career have occurred during the last six years whilst working on the ICCMC.  In particular being on the ICCMC working group responsible for drafting the policies that would enable new faith groups to participate within the chaplaincy and the group that evaluated and revised the educational standards required of chaplains were important experiences. Within the AMO I held a number of minor appointments, such as being responsible for the Ivor Norris Bursary, but my involvement in depth began when I was appointed to the Bishop’s Executive Council in 2008 as Canon Treasurer and as AMO Archdeacon in 2013.  Participating in this council, and functioning as Archdeacon, has enabled me to become thoroughly aware of the challenges and opportunities facing the AMO and also afforded the occasion to become known to, and build relationships with, members of the National Church Office.

5.   How do you think “Scripture, Reason and Tradition” informs the life of the Church?

The interplay of Scripture, Reason and Tradition is at the very heart of Anglicanism. It has been a distinctive element of Anglican thought from the earliest of days and has been instrumental in safeguarding the church from theological extremes.  Given that the nuances of interplay amongst the elements and indeed the relative weighting of each element manner has not been authoritatively defined or imposed the conclusions reached across the communion have not always resulted in consensus.  At its best Anglicanism has maintained a creative tension between differing interpretations that have allowed the Church over time to address historical injustices and remain relevant gradually moving forward without leaving many behind.  At its worst the communion has separated into competing non-communicative hostile camps that are intolerant of differing viewpoints.  Fortunately, in my opinion, the AMO has embodied the best of this Anglican way.

I hold with what I believe is the traditional Anglican teaching that scripture is the touchstone, the norm by which all other norms are judged.  My belief is that inspired by the Holy Spirit, scripture is an authentic witness to people’s encounter with the Divine, and most importantly the encounter with God’s salvific love made known to us in Jesus Christ.  The scriptures though inspired are also clearly human products written by many people over a lengthy period of time in various cultural settings.

Putting to one side the devotional reading of scripture, the use of Reason is absolutely essential to read scripture in an accurate or meaningful way.  Further the application of reason not only protects the church from unthinking Biblicism but also from unthinking conformity to tradition.  Tradition for its part places boundaries and safeguards on the application of reason.  I believe that the traditional norms of the church are inspired by the Holy Spirit but are culturally conditioned and constrained.  The presumption is that they should be followed unless there is specific reason to propose and follow new viewpoints.  The sheer variety of traditions within the Christian faith makes it clear that our use of tradition must be informed by both scripture and reason.  It is also for me clear that the church has to continually engage in finding ways to intelligibly articulate the Christian faith.

When one considers the difficulties inherent in the interpretation of scripture and the articulating of the faith it should lead to deep humility concerning our conclusions.  Quite clearly people of profound faith and piety have frequently arrived at differing, sometime diametrically opposed, opinions.  The church historically has supported policies and beliefs that have had appalling results.  In most cases it has taken people of courage and conviction to chart new possibilities.  Discerning when we are hearing authentic new approaches to living the faith is the ongoing challenge for the church.  In my opinion it requires respectful and prayerful attention to all voices and a willingness to be led by the Holy Spirit, even if it is to a place that is neither familiar nor comfortable.