An Anglican priest has apologized for offering communion to a dog, but the act has repercussions for a Church already divided by liberalization measures.
“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 (ANIC). “But I don’t recall anything from the Scripture saying anything about Jesus dying for the salvation of our pets.”
Marguerite Rea, the interim priest at St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Toronto, offered Trapper — a four-year-old German shepherd-Rhodesian Ridgeback cross –communion during a church service in late June. It quickly became symbolic of an ever-widening theological rift between the conservative brand of Anglicanism observed by ANIC congregations, which, for example, reject same-sex marriage, and a more liberal-leaning Anglican Church of Canada that condones the rite.
St. Peter’s has long stood out as a church with a reputation for being open. Once a year, a service is conducted to bless pets. Even so, Trapper had never set a paw inside the church before his appearance in the pews. And neither had his owner, Duncan Keith.
The pair frequently park themselves on St. Peter’s front steps to engage in some quiet reflection. After allegedly being harassed by police during the G20 summit, Mr. Keith and his best friend wandered inside. Rev. Rea invited them to stay.
“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,” Mr. Keith said.
“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.”
One parishioner, though, filed a formal complaint with Bishop Patrick Yu in early July. The man has since left the congregation.
Meanwhile, the dog-loving interim priest, buffeted by the fallout from Trapper’s tale ever since the story became public last week, delivered a mea culpa during her sermon on Sunday. Rev. Rea apologized to those who may have been hurt or embarrassed by her actions and rationalized the initial gesture as a way of welcoming a stranger — and nothing more.
In an interview yesterday, the strain remained evident in Rev. Rea’s voice. “Please,” she said. “It’s over. I said that the incident is over. Thank you very much. God bless.”
Catholics, international media outlets and religious pundits south of the border have all taken note of the goings-on at St. Peter’s, expressing an array of opinions ranging from the proverbial shrug of the shoulders to outright shock.
“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 website 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.”
– Prophecy News Watch