INGERSOLL, ON, Oct. 31, 2012 /CNW/ - Supporting the rights and ministries of Canada's faithworkers providing chaplaincy services to inmates of federal prisons, Clergy United is calling upon Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews to reverse his decision to cancel the contracts of part-time chaplains.
"As clergy serving the United Church of Canada, we see firsthand how people's troubled lives can be turned around when they connect with trained, experienced chaplains. We want every person in prison to have opportunity to embark on a transformative path through the discovery or renewal of their faith, whether it is Christian, Jewish, Muslim or another belief system," says Rev. Jim Evans, a minister of St. Thomas, Ontario congregations and a volunteer organizer of a union for clergy, forming within the CAW.
"In calling upon Mr. Toews to protect the vital positions of part-time chaplains of various faiths, we are also asking him to uphold the freedom of religion granted to all Canadians, including those in prison," Rev. Evans says. "Through my own ministry, I promote understanding and acceptance of different faith traditions. A Muslim sister and I created a worship service that honours the compatible wisdom of Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad; this service is shared with Christian congregations across Canada. Yet I would never be able to teach a Muslim inmate about his or her own faith. It wouldn't be authentic, respectful or in accordance with that person's right of religious freedom."
Clergy United adds its collective voice to that of the Right Rev. Gary Paterson, Moderator of the United Church of Canada. In a public letter to Mr. Toews on Oct. 15, the Rt. Rev. Paterson wrote: "Given the mix of faiths in the prison population, there will always be a need for part-time chaplaincies. True, there is always the question of a wise use of financial resources, but money invested in chaplaincy services is money well-spent. People need spiritual care, and in the case of people whose troubled lives and relationships have been a factor in the commission of serious crimes, it can help put them on the path to a better future."
Like the Moderator, Clergy United is also disturbed that the Interfaith Committee on Chaplaincy - the official advisor to the Correctional Service of Canada - and the United Church were not consulted during a recent review of prison chaplaincy. "When people's employment and ministries are on the chopping block, it is reasonable to expect that the United Church and other contract holders would be part of the discussion," Rev. Evans observes. "Where are the faithworkers' rights in this situation?"
Clergy United stands in solidarity with the Moderator's message to Mr. Toews "to rescind the decision to not renew contracts for the provision of part-time chaplaincy services and to recommit the funding necessary to allow for the provision of these part-time contracts…."
The full transcript of the Moderator's letter can be viewed at http://www.united-church.ca/files/communications/news/releases/121015_letter.pdf.
Below is the Clergy United letter to Vic Toews:
The United Church of Canada Ministers' Solidarity Movement
354476 Mill Line
Ingersoll, ON N5C 3J5
clergy-united.ca * 519-425-4546
October 30, 2012
The Hon. Vic Toews
Minister of Public Safety
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Dear Mr. Toews:
Clergy United stands in solidarity with the United Church of Canada Moderator's message to you "to rescind the decision to not renew contracts for the provision of part-time chaplaincy services and to recommit the funding necessary to allow for the provision of these part-time contracts…."
As United Church ministers organizing our own union under the auspices of the CAW, we support the rights and ministries of Canada's faithworkers providing chaplaincy services to inmates of federal prisons.
While we appreciate that economics contributed to your decision, we have several concerns regarding your cancellation of the part-time chaplaincy contracts.
Our concerns are of equal significance:
- Part-time chaplains are about to lose their positions with the Correctional Service of Canada.
- Your decision to eliminate those positions was done without prior consultation with the Interfaith Committee on Chaplaincy, the official advisor to the Correctional Service of Canada; and without prior consultation with the United Church of Canada, a contract holder.
- The remaining chaplains are expected by you to provide authentic faith-based teaching, guidance and support to inmates of various religious beliefs, even though the predominantly Christian chaplains are not formally trained or experienced in faith traditions outside of their own. We are concerned that you are creating conditions that will cause chaplains to fail in meeting the spiritual and religious needs of all inmates.
- The inmates will not be able to receive religious teaching, guidance and support in their own faith traditions; therefore, the inmates' legal right to religious freedom will be compromised and their personal faith journeys could be derailed.
- Your decision devalues the importance of spirituality and faith as they pertain to a person's rehabilitation and reintroduction into society.
- Your decision could adversely impact people incarcerated in federal prisons, many of whom have been misdirected by difficult life situations arising from extreme hardship, abusive family members, addiction and other social ills. For the at risk and susceptible person, the right chaplain can help him or her overcome challenges beyond prison walls.
Mr. Toews, as ministers serving Canadians in every stage and situation, Clergy United knows that people can be transformed when they are able to discover or renew their faith, whatever that belief system may be. We urge you to protect people's freedom of religion by ensuring that people in federal prisons are able to be served by professional chaplains of various faith traditions, contracted by the Correctional Service of Canada.
Rev. Jim Evans
Clergy United Advocate for Clergy Rights
Chaplains serving within Correctional Service of Canada
The Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister
Don Head, Commissioner, Correctional Service of Canada
Ms. Monique Marchand, President, Interfaith Committee on Chaplaincy - IFCExec.Sec@bell.net
The Right Rev. Gary Paterson, Moderator of The United Church of Canada
Ken Lewenza, National President, CAW
The Hon. Thomas Mulcair, Leader of the Opposition
The Hon. Bob Rae, Interim Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada
The Hon. Randall Garrison, Opposition Shadow Cabinet, Public Safety
The Hon. Francis Scarpaleggia, Liberal Critic, Public Safety
Jim Flaherty, Federal Minister of Finance
Canadian Council of Churches
SOURCE: Clergy United
For further information:
Rev. Jim Evans