Monday, February 26, 2024

New documentary shows how a mistranslation by the RSV Bible committee shifted a culture and caused harm to LGBTQ+ people

No Bible translation is perfect, but the scholars who created the Revised Standard Version in 1946 got something terribly wrong when—for the first time ever in a Bible translation—they used the word “homosexual” in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, verses that identify those who “will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”

It was the wrong word. It would have gone unnoticed except for a 1959 letter from a young Canadian seminary student to the head of the translation committee, who acknowledged the error and promised to make a correction.

Due to an agreement with the publisher, a new version could not come out until 1971. By then, tens of millions of the uncorrected version of the RSV were published and sold and the damage to LGBTQ+ people was done—as 1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture, a new documentary film, shows.

Read about it in my Free Press column, including a link to watch the documentary.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Your invitation to fund Canada's only faith beat at the Winnipeg Free Press

Winnipeg is known for many great things: The Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the Folk Festival, Folklorama, the Leaf, the art gallery, the Blue Bombers — even for being the Slurpee capital of Canada. 

Add one more thing to that list: Winnipeg is the only city in the country that has a newspaper that covers religion on a regular basis. 

That’s right; no other daily media outlet in Canada dedicates resources to covering religion. CBC Radio used to do it through Tapestry, a program about religion and spirituality. But the broadcaster cancelled it in December when host Mary Hynes retired. 

So that leaves the Winnipeg Free Press, which has been covering faith since 2019 when the Religion in the News project was created. 

Since that time, over 1,100 stories and columns about faith in the province and beyond have been published — not only on the Saturday faith page, but every day through the whole newspaper and online. 

And it’s all thanks to the financial support from 25 faith groups and organizations, together with the hundreds of people like you who contribute annually to the Crowdfunder campaign. 

As we kick off the 2024 Crowdfunder campaign (see giving info below), here are some endorsements to remind you of how unique and special this is. 

“Sharing positive and engaging stories about how people of faith contribute to the larger Winnipeg story helps build community pride and encourages others to get involved,” said Jeff Lieberman, Chief Executive Officer, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg. 

“We appreciate the awareness that it raises about news, events, and initiatives taking place in our community, allowing us to reach Winnipeggers of all backgrounds and beliefs.” 

“Faith coverage in the Winnipeg Free Press offers us all an opportunity to counter prejudice and hate with factual reporting in a compassionate and empathetic format,” said Tasneem Vali of the Manitoba Islamic Association. 

“The stories shared are personal, real, and impressionable, encouraging all communities to collaborate to benefit our neighbourhoods and all Winnipeggers . . . Faith reporting is crucial for our communities to connect with each other creating a safe space for us to ask questions that may not be otherwise addressed.” 

“I strongly support the Winnipeg Free Press and its brilliant initiative to provide faith reporting since it provides a space where people of diverse faiths can share their histories, ideas, and initiatives to positively promote what we have in common,” said Payam Towfigh, President of Manitoba Multifaith Council and Public affairs representative of the Winnipeg Baha’i Community. “This discourse can unite us and create a sense of harmony within our communities.” 

Added Christine Baronins, of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: “Faith stories in the Free Press provide a counterbalance to the often negative portrayal of the world by the media. Hearing positive and inspiring stories of individuals from different backgrounds striving to make a difference gives me hope, even in these challenging times . . . I commend the Winnipeg Free Press for their innovative approach to faith reporting.” 

“At the Manitoba Buddhist Temple, we support and are grateful for the Free Press coverage of religious news,” said sensei Tanis Moore. 

“We feel it is most important for the general reader to understand the viewpoints of various spiritual and religious temples, churches, and mosques in our city. It reflects the diversity of our population and helps to foster understanding between these groups as well as those who do not follow any form of organized and traditional religions.” 

“Reporting on religion in an ongoing way allows people to come to know their fellow citizens better, to understand the deeper motivations of others’ public words and actions, to grasp the complexity of the interface of differing values, and to grow in a desire for a fruitful public discourse and dialogue,” said Albert LeGatt, archbishop of St. Boniface. 

“Hopefully then reconciliation is fostered, hate is countered, complex poverty is addressed, and civic engagement and peace is advanced. For these reasons, I have a deep appreciation for the robust faith reporting of the Winnipeg Free Press.”

Today we are launching our 2024 Crowdfunder to raise funds to keep the project going. Your contribution of $20, $25, $50 or more will help us keep producing stories about faith in Manitoba. With your support, we will be able to continue reporting about the important role religion plays in the province — in politics, culture, education, health and other ways, and also in the lives of people in Winnipeg and beyond. 

To make a contribution, go to or mail a cheque to Religion in the News project, c/o Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB R2X 3B6. And thanks!

Monday, February 5, 2024

At play(ground) in the buildings of the Lord

Last month, a mother in Chicago sparked a firestorm on X (formerly Twitter) when she asked city officials to create indoor playgrounds at public libraries. 

“My child needs somewhere to burn off energy without getting frostbite and all the private indoor trampoline parks and such are SO expensive,” she wrote. 

Parents from all over echoed her plea. But most people said having noisy kids in a library was the worst idea they had ever heard. 

As one person put it, “I can’t believe how noisy libraries are these days. Drives me nuts! Can’t even imagine how much worse it would be with a playground in it!” 

Reading the responses, I had to wonder: What about churches and other places of worship? Many have gyms or fellowship halls that sit mostly empty during the week. What if they offered them indoor play spaces, especially in winter? 

A bit of research showed there are churches in Canada doing just that. 

Read my column in the Free Press. 

Photo above: The playground at Creekside Church in Waterloo, Ont.

“It feels like 9/11 all over again.” Manitoba Muslims share how they are coping with the war in Gaza


“It feels like 9/11 all over again.” That’s what Natasha Ali, the Muslim spiritual care provider at the University of Manitoba, said about the effect of the war in Gaza on Muslims in the province. 

“Many Muslims feel the underlying message in the media is that we are all terrorists, a danger to society,” she said. 

I reached out to members of the Winnipeg Muslim community to ask how they and others are coping with the war in Gaza emotionally, psychologically and spiritually — and how the community is helping them deal with the situation. 

Read their responses in my Free Press article.

Photo by Mikaela MacKenzie, WFP.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Manitoba Muslim magazine marks 25 years; a forum for the community


In 1999, during a casual conversation after dinner, Ismael Mukhtar agreed to assist with the founding of a new publication for the Manitoba Muslim community.


“I was just going to help get it started, then leave,” he said of how the editor enlisted his support.


But in less than a year, the editor was unable to continue; Mukhtar took it over.


“The choice was to either assume the role of editor or let it end,” he said.


The publication, called Manitoba Muslim, celebrated its 25th year Jan. 20, and Mukhtar has been at the helm the whole time.


“I call myself an ‘accidental editor,’” he said, noting the magazine is “a forum for the community,” tackling issues such as raising children, mental health, Islamophobia, struggles with faith, the role of women in the community and dealing with conflict.


Read more about Manitoba Muslim magazine in the Winnipeg Free Press.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Roman Catholic Church Synod on Synodality “most ambitious expression to date of Francis’s pastoral outreach.”


“A radical departure from the traditional ecclesiology of the church.” That’s what Michael Higgins, an expert on the Roman Catholic Church and Pope Francis, called the Synod on Synodality, “a church-shaping event, the most ambitious expression to date of Francis’s pastoral outreach.”


What makes it different from past gatherings, he said, is how the pope has structured it: as an exercise in listening. This is a change from how the church has operated in the past, Higgins said, noting the Roman Catholic Church is not generally seen as a body that is open to dialogue.

Francis’s goal is to change the way information flows, Higgins said. “He sees it as an inverted pyramid, with the pope at the bottom, not the top, as a servant of the church.” (As in the photo above, with him sitting with the delegates.)


Read more about this gathering, which some say is as important as the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, in my most recent Free Press column.

Photo above from EWTN Norway. 



Listen in on a conversation between Margaret Atwood and Rudy Wiebe

The following doesn’t really fit on this blog, but I wanted to share it.

Wouldn’t it be great to listen in as Margaret Atwood and Rudy Wiebe—two icons of the Canadian literary world—had a conversation together? 

That’s what happened January 25 when CommonWord bookstore in Winnipeg hosted a launch of a new book about Wiebe titled Rudy Wiebe: Essays On His Works. (By Bianca Lakoseljac, who also facilitated the conversation.) 

For me, the highlight of the launch, which was live on YouTube, was the conversation between Atwood and Wiebe. 

It was as if they completely forgot hundreds of people were listening in as two old friends, who had not seen each other in many years, reminisced about the past. 

Atwood began the conversation by recalling the time in the 1970s when she and Wiebe participated in a fundraising event for the Writer’s Union, which was founded in 1973. 

Called The All-Star Eclectic Typewriter Revue,” it was an evening of satire and humour. Atwood remembered that Wiebe had brought a serious note to it by singing, in German, with Andreas Schroeder. 

“You sang beautiful Mennonite hymns,” she told Wiebe. 

“We sang Gott is de Liebe,” he said. 

“It was one of the hits of the show,” she replied. “Everyone loved hearing those hymns.” 

Atwood remembered when she came to Edmonton to live in 1968. “You told me to get a haircut,” she said, as they both laughed at the memory. 

“We had wonderful friendship all our lives,” she added. “I can’t believe how long our lives have gone on.” 

Atwood went on to recall a time when Wiebe and his wife, Tena, came to visit them on Pelee Island. Miriam Toews, another Canadian author, was there, too. 

Wiebe and Toews immediately “went into genealogy, “as Mennonites do,” she said, adding “the Mennonite gene pool in Canada is quite shallow.”\

They also recalled the start of the League of Canadian Poets, in the mid-1960s, and how they had got a head start on the authors. 

Atwood noted they were ahead of authors on things like how to know what should be in a book contract, and then joked that she didn’t understand why they needed to know that since poets “weren’t going to make any money, anyway.” 

Wiebe went on to say that they were “very fortunate” to be at the start of when people in Canada began to get “excited about Canadian writing.” 

Added Atwood: “When the 60s began, we were told you can’t be a writer in Canada, you have to go to the States, to England, to France.” But after the Centennial Year, 1967, it became possible to publish novels in Canada. 

Before that, she said, there was “no audience.” 

Wiebe added he was told he “had to go to Toronto to be a writer. I refused to go.” 

Said Atwood: “You were first off the mark when it came to exploring Indigenous history. You were an inspiration to the wave of indigenous writing in the late 1980s.” 

Indigenous people, and the experience of immigrants, were “two subjects I couldn’t ever write enough about,” Wiebe replied. 

They then talked about the impact of artificial intelligence on Canadian writing. 

“At this moment, we’re not in any danger,” Atwood said. “AI is a terrible writer.” 

She went on to say that she had given ChatGPT a prompt to write a story set in Winnipeg written in her voice. 

“It turned out this horrible thing about the weeping willows of Winnipeg,” she said, adding it “scraped my children’s books, put it in with other things.” 

The result was a “dystopia,” with “all these extremely sad people in Winnipeg.” 

She also asked it to write a poem in her voice. “That was even worse,” she said. 

“At my age, I’m not worried about that,” said Wiebe, who is 89. 

“C’mon Rudy, hang in there,” Atwood replied. 

She then asked him what he is writing now. 

“I’m staggered by Parkinson’s,” he replied. “I can’t write very well.” 

Atwood suggested he try a voice writing app. 

“I don’t like machinery,” Wiebe replied. 

“Get someone to dress it up like a tree, won’t even know it’s machinery,” she said with a smile. 

Atwood concluded by saying the chance to talk to Wiebe “was a pleasure for me. “You are actually looking very well.” 

“You are looking very well, too,” Wiebe said. “Blessings to you.” 

You can watch and hear the conversation, and other presentations at the launch, here. (The conversation between Wiebe and Atwood starts about about the 31-minute mark.) 

You can also purchase or borrow the book from CommonWord.