(Photo: Sue careless)
Debra Fieguth talks with Brett Cane who, after four decades of ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada as well as leadership in the Anglican Communion Alliance, is set to retire. Or is he?
TAP: Tell me something of your early life. Your accent tells me you’re a Brit.
BC: Yes. I came to Canada from England as a 10-year-old in 1957 and spent most of my life in the Montreal area until 2002 when I moved to Winnipeg. Never lost the accent.
TAP: How did you come to faith?
BC: I came to faith in Jesus at the age of 12 through a Bible study group at school. I was nurtured in the faith through Inter-School Christian Fellowship and Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship at McGill while studying architecture.
TAP: Did you pursue architecture?
BC: After graduation, instead of working in architecture, I felt called to full-time ministry and became an ISCF staff worker with high school students. At the same time I became a convinced member of the Anglican Church, serving two curacies. When it became evident I was being called to regular pastoral ministry I went to Wycliffe Hall, Oxford, for theological training.
TAP: You came back to Montreal?
BC: Yes, from 1985 to 2002 I was rector of St. George’s in downtown Montreal, a mix of rich and poor, from “high society” to street people, as well as a mix of ethnic origins, with a quarter of parishioners from West Indian background. I never lost my love for youth ministry, though, and remained active in camping and other children and youth ministries. During that time I also completed a Doctor of Ministry degree through Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California, focusing on church growth and congregational development. Then in 2002 I headed west and spent almost ten years as rector of St. Aidan’s in Winnipeg.
TAP: Are there differences between the church in Montreal and Winnipeg?
BC: Absolutely. The church in the west on the whole is more conservative, at least in the Province of Ruperts Land. It’s also less formal, more egalitarian. For example, being an archdeacon doesn’t have a lot of status. I’m a canon. That still holds great weight. I was a canon in Montreal, and after five years in the diocese became a canon here.
TAP: You have been a leader in Essentials and other expressions of Anglican renewal. Which branch were you most involved in?
BC: In 1994 I became an active member of the Anglican Essentials movement, and when Essentials divided into the Network and the Federation, I aligned with the Federation, which later changed its name to the Anglican Communion Alliance. I have chaired the ACA until this year.
TAP: How did you feel about the Essentials movement being divided into two groups?
BC: [By 2005] there was no longer an Essentials movement. Some people felt called to be outside the Anglican Church of Canada and others to take their stand inside the Anglican Church of Canada. The actual movement...part of the group is out in the Network and part of it is in the Anglican Church of Canada. There’s still a coalition, so that is a very encouraging situation. We have informal ties because we don’t want what happened in the Reformation to happen again. We want to avoid that.
TAP: Were you surprised? Do you wish it had happened differently?
BC: I wasn’t happy but it had to happen because of the situation, actions taken within the church to depart from biblical teaching and the stand of the worldwide church.
TAP: Is it harder being orthodox within the Anglican Church of Canada now that the orthodox ranks have thinned with so many joining the Anglican Network in Canada?
BC: There are new challenges. I don’t think it’s any different to carry on ministry. In some dioceses that have split with people called to leave, it has been tumultuous, both for people staying and for people who have left. They’ve had to leave their building, they’ve been ostracised. It’s not a good situation but a necessary one.
TAP: What do you feel the prospects are for the Anglican Church of Canada and its growth and future?
BC: Humanly speaking, not good. Spiritually speaking, we have a great God who can take all our foibles and failures and use them to His glory.
TAP: Is there hope for turnaround?
BC: By God’s grace. By God’s grace. There are a number of bright spots: for example, church-planting initiatives, especially under Duke Vipperman in Toronto, and Fresh Expressions.
TAP: What do you think of the recent decision of the Diocese of Toronto – and its impact on the rest of the Anglican Church of Canada – to send a memorial to General Synod to change the marriage canon, which was made against the wish of Archbishop Colin Johnson? What does this mean for the bishop’s authority?
BC: Memorials are expressed wishes of the diocese. In [General] Synod 2007 the Faith and Worship Committee made it clear that the report they had received on that particular issue, was clear that that [changing the canon] was not the right thing to do. We’ve already gone there.
TAP: I want to ask you a more personal question, about being single. Has this been an advantage and/or disadvantage in any way?
BC: It’s had its pluses and its negatives. On the plus side, it’s given me the opportunity to travel, to be a mentor, to have time free to do things married people couldn’t do. On the negative side there are difficulties of loneliness, lack of companionship. The Lord has made up for that with wonderful couples and families that take me in and shower me with love.
TAP: Was it a choice not to get married?
BC: I think it’s a choice to get married. The choice to get married is a big decision. But people think marriage is the default position.
TAP: What are your plans following your retirement?
BC: I’m going to Trinity College Bristol, which is now the largest Anglican theological college in the world, with 160 theological students. I’ll be serving in a chaplaincy role but I’m also going to be filling in as a mentor for nine ordinands in a specific placement, organized around context-based ministry. They have two instructions: to love one another and to love their clergy person. They are to make a difference in the church and in their community. They’re sent to discouraging situations where clergy are under great pressure or depression or the area is crime-ridden. [Since the program started] teen pregnancy and crime is down – petty thievery, truancy; this has made such a difference in the city of Bristol. Some ordinands are in the country in a group of parishes and so on, and some in suburbs. I’ll be spending three hours with them every Wednesday and will worship with them on Thursday and meet with some individually. I’ll get a little bit of pocket money and free room and board at Henry Martyn House, Trinity’s World Centre for Christianity. I’m called a Trinity World Fellow.
TAP: Will you keep ties with the Canadian Church?
BC: Absolutely! I’m now a “travelling encourager” to the Anglican Communion Alliance. I’ll be back in the summer, from June to August. I do hope to cement ties between conservatives around the world, whom I will be meeting at the Henry Martyn house. One of my other jobs is going to be hosting the visiting scholars and clergy from around the world. I hope to cement ties between them and the conservatives [still] in the Anglican Church of Canada. I hope to be able to restore that connection. I will also lecture a couple of times.
TAP: What encouraging words do you have to leave with the Anglican Church of Canada?
BC: There are two important things: what we believe and how we relate to one another. We must hold truth and love together. Where there is love without truth it degenerates into sentimentality. Where there is truth without love it degenerates into legalism. Even though there are disagreements among people it is very, very important to show Christian love one to another. We are harmed when attitudes lack love. That’s even within the conservative camp.
Within the Anglican Church of Canada we need to maintain our stand in love and not give in. We need to take our stand clearly and compassionately and decisively, to hold the line and maintain international agreements. TAP