By John-Henry Westen
OTTAWA, February 27, 2009 ( – In a brochure on ‘2009 Lenten Meditations’ put out by the Anglican Church of Canada (ACoC), Jesus is portrayed as a recovering racist. 

The brochure’s reading for March 27 is taken from Matthew 15, which relates the familiar story in which Jesus has a discussion with a Canaanite woman. According to the ACoC, “This is not a story for people who need to think that Jesus always had it together, because it looks like we’ve caught him being mean to a lady because of her ethnicity.”
The brochure quotes the Bible passage Matthew 15 22-27 (citing it incorrectly as Matthew 14), which reads: “a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, ‘Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.’ He answered, ‘I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.’ But she came and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, help me.’ He answered, ‘It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.’ She said, ‘Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.’ “
The brochure meditation on the passage says of Christ: “At first, he ignores her cries. Then he refuses to help her and compares her people to dogs.”
The meditation continues: “But she challenges his prejudice. And he listens to her challenge and grows in response to it. He ends up healing her daughter. What we may have here is an important moment of self discovery in Jesus’ life, an enlargement of what it will mean to be who he was. Maybe we are seeing Jesus understand his universality for the first time.”
More traditional Anglicans, however, did not take kindly to the suggestion that Christ was a cruel racist whose “prejudices” were “challenged” by the Canaanite woman.
Bishop Carl Reid of the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada, a traditional Anglican group which separated over 30 years ago from the ACoC, explained to that the translation of words and the context must be taken into account for a proper understanding of the passage. 
“The Greek word that is used for ‘dog’ in the passage, is actually a different from that of another word used as an insult for non-Jews in those times,” he said.  The word used in Matthew 15 refers to a “puppy or family pet” rather than the insulting term said Bishop Reid.  “The significance (of Christ’s selection of words) would not have been lost on the woman because it would not have been caught as a rebuff.” 
Rather than an indication of Christ’s racism, the passage has always been interpreted by Christians as a test of the Canannite woman’s faith and an example to the Pharisees who were present and unbelieving.  The text is often cited as an encouragement to perseverance in prayers of petition.
Notably, the ACoC brochure leaves out the most important line of the passage: “Then Jesus answering, said to her: O woman, great is thy faith: be it done to thee as thou wilt: and her daughter was cured from that hour.”

In recent years the ACoC has been rocked with splits, in large part due to the fact that the hierarchy has attempted to force priests to engage in official blessings of homosexual partnerships. As a consequence, some Anglican churches in the country have sought Episcopal oversight from more traditional wings of the Anglican Church.
To cxpress concerns contact:
Archbishop Fred Hiltz
Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada
[email protected]
See the brochure at the ACoC site here:
John-Henry Westen
Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief


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