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Current Offerings

Journeying through Grief
The Global South and the Conflict over Homosexuality in the Anglican Communion
Redeemer Readers 2015-16

Journeying through Grief

Let's explore grief together.  What does grief look like?  Can we recognize when we're grieving?  How can we move through grief and what tools have worked for you in the past?

We will use a few chapters from The Unwanted Gift of Grief: A Ministry Approach by Tim P. VanDuivendyk (provided) to guide us in our discussions.

Join Jean Charles Denis, student intern on Wednesdays, April 20, 27 and May 4, from 6:30 to 8:30 PM.  Light snacks will be served.  Please register online or by calling the church office at 416-922-4948.

The Unwanted Gift of Grief book jacket

The Global South and the Conflict over Homosexuality in the Anglican Communion

Chris Brittain

In the current climate in the Anglican Communion, why are the Anglican bishops in Africa behaving as they do?  How should we understand the prominence of homosexuality as an issue in debates over the future of the Communion?  This presentation by the Rev'd Christopher Brittain on Wednesday, May 25 at 7 PM will address such questions, drawing on interviews conducted with over 100 Anglicans and Episcopalians from across the churches of the Communion.

To help us prepare to welcome you, please register online or by calling the church office at 416-922-4948.

The Rev'd Christopher Brittain is an Anglican priest and is Professor of Social and Political Theology at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, UK.  A graduate of Trinity College and the Toronto School of Theology, Chris served as a deacon in the Diocese of Toronto, including at the Church of the Redeemer in 2001-2.  He has been on sabbatical at Trinity & Regis Colleges for the 2015-16 academic year.

Chris is the author of numerous books and articles, including:  Plague on Both Their Houses: Liberals VS Conservatives and the Divorce of the Episcopal Church USA (T&T Clark, 2015); Religion at Ground Zero: Theological Responses to Times of Crisis (Continuum: 2011); ‘Homosexuality and the Construction of “Anglican Orthodoxy”: The Symbolic Politics of the Anglican Communion’, Sociology of Religion 72.3 (2011), 351-373 (with Andrew McKinnon).

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Redeemer Readers 2015-16

The books we will read this year focus on themes of violence and non-violence.  There is a pervasive sense at the moment that violence is on the increase, not just in various international and civil wars and crises, but also on the home front:  in our streets, sports arenas, sacred places, our aboriginal communities and in our justice system.  Religious commitments are often blamed for playing a large role in stirring up bigotries, hatreds and racist persecutions.

This year’s books will take us to various aspects of these conflicts, especially as they are connected with faiths in the Abrahamic tradition:  Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  They point to theological and practical responses to the punitive and violent practices of our time.

In the Christian arena, some theologians have argued that what is now the dominant theory of the meaning of Jesus’ death – the “Satisfaction” theory, first proposed by Anselm of Canterbury at the end of the 11th century, has contributed to a belief that certain kinds of violence are just and necessary because demanded by God.  One of the key books for this year (J. Denny Weaver’s The Non-Violent Atonement) proposes that there is a view of the meaning of Jesus’ death that does not require such violence.  What are the implications of this for our own lives and for our political views on waging war?  Are there views like this in Judaism and Islam, the other Abrahamic faiths?  We will read three books that tackle these questions:  Abraham’s Children (ed. Kelly Clark), David Harris-Gershon’s What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist who Tried to Kill your Wife, and I Shall Not Hate:  A Gaza Doctor’s Journey by Izzeldin Abuelaish, currently a faculty member at the University of Toronto.  And to start everything off, we will read the book of Genesis, paying particular attention to the story of Joseph, and Surah 12 of the Koran.  Joseph is the first person in recorded sacred history who repudiated violence, but whose actions, in spite of the 14 chapters allotted to his story in Genesis, seem to have left no legacy in any of the three religious traditions we are considering.

Redeemer Readers meets five times a year.  Anyone free at 12 noon on the dates below is welcome to join us in the Board Room on the lower level, for all five discussions or for any individual sessions that appeal to you.  Some suggestions for availability and pricing are included.  Prices indicated here are correct at time of writing.  Readers can, of course, pursue other options.  If new members are interested in attending any or all of the discussions, or want more information, please contact Pauline Thompson at pauline.thompson@utoronto.ca.


Genesis, and excerpts from the Koran

(any translation, NRSV, REB and the Penguin translation of the Koran are recommended)

First, we will read, as a foundational text, the book of Genesis – all 50 chapters, but paying particular attention to the stories of Abraham (chapters 12-25) and Joseph (chapters 37-50).  Alongside Genesis, we will read Surah 12 from the Koran (the only surah dedicated to one person, Joseph) and Surah 37.69-132, a telling of the story of Abraham and the almost-sacrifice of his son, Ishmael.  A synopsis of the main argument in the book The Iron in the Soul:  Joseph and the Undoing of Violence by Kenneth Cragg will be provided (this book is no longer readily available, but deals with Jewish, Muslim and Christian responses to the Joseph story).  One question we will ponder is why the Joseph story, with its forgiving, non-violent response to his dreadful treatment receives no further mention in the Bible.


October 22, 2015

Kelly James Clark, ed. Abraham’s Children:  Liberty and Tolerance in an Age of Religious Conflict

(Yale University Press, 2012), 312 pages.  Ca $20.  Electronic version available on Kobo from Indigo for $19.50; pb $26.30 new from Amazon.ca; used and new from other sellers through Amazon.ca, from $5.22.

Scarcely any country in today's world can claim to be free of intolerance.  There are many areas of intractable conflict, often inspired or exacerbated by religious differences.  Can devoted Jews, Christians, or Muslims remain true to their own fundamental beliefs and practices, yet also find paths toward liberty, tolerance, and respect for those of other faiths? 

In this vitally important book, fifteen influential practitioners of the Abrahamic religions address religious liberty and tolerance from the perspectives of their own faith traditions.  All the writers, which include former President Jimmy Carter, Rabbi Arik Ascherman, and Abdurrahman Wahid (Indonesia's first democratically elected president), along with twelve other men and women, draw on their personal experiences and on the sacred texts that are central to their own religious lives.  Rather than relying on reason alone, as secularists might prefer, the contributors celebrate religious traditions and find within them a way toward mutual peace, uncompromised liberty, and principled tolerance.  Offering a counterbalance to incendiary religious leaders who cite Holy Writ to justify intolerance and violence, the contributors reveal how tolerance and respect for believers in other faiths stands at the core of the Abrahamic traditions.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu says of this book:  “Over and over I had the experience of scales falling off my eyes.  It would be hard to exaggerate the importance and promise of these fascinating essays for advancing the cause of tolerance.”

Abraham's Children Book Cover

December 10, 2015

The Non-Violent Atonement Book Cover

February 11, 2016

J. Denny Weaver. The Non-Violent Atonement. 2nd ed.

(Eerdmans, 2011), 325 pp.  Ca $38; used and new from other sellers on the Amazon.ca site, from $14.75. .

This very important book, written by a Mennonite scholar, offers a nonviolent paradigm for understanding salvation.  His thesis cuts to the very heart of Christian thought, as it explores the nature and history - and the inherent shortcomings - of the classic Christian understanding of the doctrine of atonement.  Weaver exposes the essentially violent dimensions of the traditional Anselmian satisfaction atonement view and offers instead a nonviolent paradigm for understanding atonement.  “He challenges essentially violent assumptions that justice depends on retribution, and that passive, innocent submission to violence is essential for atonement."  While many scholars have engaged with the subject of violence in atonement theology, this book “is the only one that offers a radically new theory rather than simply refurbishing existing theories.”

David Harris-Gershon.  What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill your Wife:  A Memoir

(OneWorld Publications, 2013), 288 pp.  Ca. $19; : from others sellers on the Amazon.ca site, from $4.30; Kobo edition, $17 from Indigo.

A man seeks out the Hamas bomber who forever changed his family’s life, in this fearless memoir that confronts the costs of the Middle East conflict - and the prospects for peace. 

David Harris-Gershon and his wife, Jamie, moved to Jerusalem full of hope.  Then, in the midst of a historic cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians, a bomb shrieked through Hebrew University's cafeteria.  Jamie was hurled across the room, her body burned and sliced with shrapnel; the friends sitting next to her were instantly killed.  David was desperate for answers -- why now?  why here?  why my wife?  But when a doctor handed him some shrapnel removed from Jamie's body, he refused to accept that this bit of metal made him "one of us" -- another traumatized victim who would never be able to move on.  Instead, he dug into Israeli government records to uncover what triggered the attack, then returned to East Jerusalem to meet the terrorist and his family. 

Part memoir, part political thriller, part exposé of the conduct of the peace process, this fearless debut confronts the personal costs of the Middle East conflict - and reveals the human capacity for recovery and reconciliation, no matter the circumstance. [Publisher]

What Do You Buy the Children of the Terrorist Who Tried to Kill your Wife: A Memoir (Book Cover)

March 31, 2016

I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor's Journey (Book Cover)

May 19, 2016

Izzeldin Abuelaish.  I Shall Not Hate:  A Gaza Doctor’s Journey

(Vintage Canada, 2011), 224 pp.  Ca $16 from Indigo and Amazon.ca; used from other sellers on the Amazon.ca site, from $0.01; on Kobo from Indigo, $14.

A Palestinian doctor who was born and raised in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, Izzeldin Abuelaish is an infertility specialist who lived in Gaza but worked in Israel.  The Gaza doctor has been crossing the lines in the sand that divide Israelis and Palestinians for most of his life -- as a physician who treats patients on both sides of the line, as a humanitarian who sees the need for improved health and education for women as the way forward in the Middle East.  And, most recently, as the father whose daughters were killed by Israeli soldiers on January 16, 2009, during Israel's incursion into the Gaza Strip.  It was Izzeldin's response to this tragedy that made news and won him humanitarian awards around the world.  Instead of seeking revenge or sinking into hatred, he called for the people in the region to start talking to each other.  Izzeldin Abuelaish now works and lives in Toronto.

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