By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
A female Anglican priest in Canada has officially apologized for giving communion to a dog, an episode that has come to symbolize the ever-growing theological rift between traditional and liberal Anglicans.
Canada’s National Post is reporting that the incident took place in late June at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Toronto where Rev. Marguerite Rea was serving as an interim priest. A newcomer to the congregation, Duncan Keith, 56, came into the church with his four year-old German Shepherd, Trapper. The two were often seen sitting on the steps outside, but on this particular day, Keith decided to come inside.
When Rev. Rea saw them enter, she extended an invitation to the altar.
“The minister welcomed me and said come up and take communion,” Mr. Keith said. “And Trapper came up with me and the minister gave him communion as well.”
He added: “There was an old lady in the front just beaming when she saw this. Ninety nine-point-nine per cent of the people in the church love Trapper, and the kids play with him.”
However, other members of the congregation were scandalized by the event, one of whom filed a formal complaint with Anglican Bishop Patrick Yu.
News of the incident quickly spread throughout Canada and across the border, with both Catholics and Anglicans expressing their shock and outrage.
“The intention might be to make a visitor feel comfortable, but the real message being sent is that the members of the church don’t take communion seriously—so newcomers shouldn’t take it seriously either,” commentator Joe Carter wrote on First Things, a magazine dedicated to religious issues in the wider culture. “But if nothing is sacred, then you no longer have a church; you just have a religious club that is going to the dogs.”
“Communion is a symbol of the sacrifice of Jesus’s body; he died for all of us,” said Cheryl Chang, director of the Anglican Network in Canada. “But I don’t recall anything from the Scripture saying anything about Jesus dying for the salvation of our pets.’’
Pressured to respond, Rev. Rea finally finally issued an apology during her sermon last Sunday to anyone who may have been hurt or embarrassed by her actions. She went on to rationalize the gesture as nothing more than a way of welcoming a stranger.
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