Letter to the Vancouver Courier by Keith Howard

September 24, 1997

Editor Vancouver Courier 1574 W. 6th Ave.
Vancouver, B.C. V6J 1R2
E-mail: editor@vancourier.com

Dear Editor:

Kevin Annett is a martyr only in his own mind.

Since his resignation from St. Andrew’s United Church in Port Alberni, Mr. Annett has woven a fiction of unsubstantiated and untrue allegations and interpretations. He has by misinformation, half-truths and outrageous conduct managed to gather about him a small group enthusiastically converted to his “truths.” These folk somehow overlook the very serious flaws which two Church panels, two previous employers and his former congregation have encountered in deciding that he was not fit to continue ministry within the United Church. While these stories and cast make good fodder for a TV movie, they are not the truth.

We regret that your article “Maverick Minister” so closely echoes Annett’s scenarios without further investigation into the details of the case. There are many inaccuracies contained in the article which a reading of the formal Decisions of the two formal panels which have dealt with the matter would be helpful to correct. The conclusions of the last panel are available from our office.

Since leaving Port Alberni, Annett has charged that his departure was motivated by Church indifference to the poor, a desire to cover-up murders he alleged occurred in the former Port Alberni Indian Residential School and a desire by the church for monetary gain from the sale of some land.

The United Church of Canada engaged in a long and costly process to assure that all details pertinent to Annett’s departure from his former congregation were properly explored. In the final stage, a panel met for 24 days to hear evidence. They followed all rules concerning evidence and procedure appropriate to civil trials in British Columbia. Though Mr. Annett had the opportunity to call witnesses on his behalf he did not. Immediately before he was to face cross-examination for his allegations he withdrew from the hearing.

The standard criteria for a minister to be removed from ordained ministry are three:

  1. ineffectiveness as a minister;
  2. failure to maintain the “peace and welfare” of the church; and
  3. failure to recognize the authority of the Church courts.

Any one of the three criteria provide sufficient grounds for removal from active service and the withdrawal of recognition of ordination. The panel found that Mr. Annett “failed conclusively in all three tests.”

In weaving his story Mr. Annett continually tries to deflect attention from his failure as a pastoral minister to some fabricated plot of church officials to conceal matters pertaining to Indian residential schools.

The public record shows that the United Church has encouraged and hosted forums for former students of Indian Residential Schools to tell their stories. Mr. Annett’s former congregation – which has a long and continuing history of social justice involvement – has issued an apology to First Nations’ people for the legacy of the residential school system. The British Columbia Conference petitioned the General Council to apologize. The General Council seeks ways to express its repentance related to residential schools. The church, at the urging of many First Nations people, continues to pressure the federal government to acknowledge and accept responsibility for its role in the system.

To be absolutely clear: At no time and in no way has the church ever sought to suppress the stories arising out of residential schools or to evade our responsibility.

There remains little doubt of the pain and abuse suffered by individuals and First Nations’ communities. The attempt by Mr. Annett to use this pain and suffering in his own personal vendetta is profoundly disrespectful to the courage of those seeking healing from their residential school experiences.

The public records shows that the church has encouraged and cooperated with the RCMP and other investigations into allegations of criminal activity in the schools. We will continue to do so and, in fact, have always urged Mr. Annett to take any evidence or accounts he had to the police.

With respect to the matter of the transfer of the land known as Lot 363: quite simply, this issue has nothing to do with Mr. Annett’s failure in the Port Alberni congregation and the church’s decision to accept his resignation. For a number of years the United Church has been in conversation with both the First Nations’ people of Ahousat and MacMillan-Bloedel (the owner of the land in question) to find a resolution acceptable to all.

Sincerely,

Keith Howard
Conference Minister
Communication and Social Justice