A Canadian woman died via assisted suicide during a church service earlier this year that her daughter called “touching and very intimate.”
Betty Sanguin elected to die in the sanctuary of Churchill Park United in Winnipeg, Canada, on March 9. Having been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) — a progressive disease that affects the nervous system — Sanguin sought access to medical assistance in dying (MAiD). Churchill Park United’s ministry team unanimously approved her request to hold the “Crossing Over Ceremony” at the church.
“The moment we rolled her in … and sat her up in her recliner, she lit up like a Christmas tree,” Lynda Sanguin-Colpitts, one of Betty Sanguin’s daughters, told Broadview, an outlet funded by the government of Canada. “I hadn’t seen that much life in her eyes, so much joy [in a long time]. And honestly I think part of it was just being in the church.”
On its website, Churchill Park United describes itself as an “affirming congregation” with “progressive, relevant, and inspiring” worship. It requires attendees to be double-vaccinated in order to attend services.
Sanguin — unable to speak — wrote on a whiteboard: “Welcome to my special day. I love you all so much.” Her children set up an area rug and recliner to make their mother feel more comfortable. The family also set up chairs surrounding Sanguin for her children, grandchildren, and friends.
“There was an opportunity for every single person who wanted to come and hold her hand and tell her they loved her and say goodbye,” Renée Sanguin, another of Betty Sanguin’s daughters, told Broadview. “It was very touching and very intimate.”
After Rev. Dawn Rolke of Churchill Park United offered a blessing, all of the attendees left the ceremony while a medical team completed the assisted suicide procedure. The family was invited back into the sanctuary while Sanguin died.
“That part was harder,” Sanguin-Colpitts told Broadview. “We just stood around her and we cried, we laughed, we did everything.”
Rolke was surprised that the ceremony induced widespread criticism.
“It’s good for any congregation to discern: What do we believe about our space? Is it more sacred than other spaces? What is the purpose of the sanctuary?” she said to Broadview. “Who is allowed in it, and what can happen in it? For other congregations asked to consider a service of crossing-over, knowing their congregation’s position on their space will be quite important.”
In response, Pastor Jacob Reaume of Trinity Bible Chapel in Waterloo, Ontario, explained to The Daily Wire that “suicide is condemned by Scripture and has been condemned by the church since the beginning.”
“Earlier generations correctly referred to suicide as ‘self-murder,’ and I think we should start using that terminology once again because it adequately describes the sin,” he said. “Several persons in Scripture murdered themselves, including King Saul and Judas Iscariot. The Scriptures always portray it as a shameful act, and the ones who commit the sin of self-murder die ignominiously.”
Reaume pointed out that suicide is a violation of the sixth commandment, given in Exodus 20:13 — “You shall not murder.” Medical practitioners who assist in suicide are therefore “complicit in first-degree murder, and they should be charged criminally,” he said.
“I attended a local townhall meeting when assisted suicide first became legal in Canada,” Reaume described. “An old doctor rose to speak on the issue. He passionately condemned the government and the doctors who will participate in the act. He reminded the room — which included politicians — that the Nazi doctors who lawfully murdered their patients were tried and hanged at Nuremberg.”
Likewise, Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary, Alberta, told The Daily Wire that assisted suicide is an artifact of the “culture of death.”
“All life is important, even the terminally ill, because we all are created in the image of God,” Stephens said, in reference to Genesis 1:26-27. “We have dignity, value and worth as human beings that are categorically different than animals or other forms of life. Our value is not imposed upon us by society or any human invention, it is intrinsic, coming from the fact that we are made by God Himself.”
Murder is wrong “for God made man in His own image,” Stephens added, citing Genesis 9:6. “This is the foundation for the doctrine of the sanctity, or sacredness, of every human life.”
“God is the author and sustainer of life, Stephens continued. “Life and death are in God’s hands, not ours. I can’t choose when and where I’m born, this is God’s prerogative. Likewise, I can’t choose when and where I die. That is God’s right, not mine or any other person’s.”
Stephens — who was jailed two years ago in a maximum-security facility for refusing to close his church in the face of COVID-19 lockdowns — said that Canadian lawmakers must make assisted suicide illegal.
“The legalization of doctor-assisted suicide will lead to impact the value of palliative care, it will lead to the elderly thinking their life is not worth living and that they are a burden upon their family and society, it will put doctors in a moral quandary to choose between conscience and employment, it will lead to abuse of the elderly as family members look for their inheritance, and it will be expanded to include so many others whose lives are deemed less valuable,” he asserted. “The civil government has the primary task under God to uphold justice. It’s hard to think of a more pressing issue than murder to make illegal and punish appropriately.”
Sanguin — who has six children, 12 grandchildren, and 11 great-grandchildren — was described as an active church member in her obituary, which was published in the Winnipeg Free Press.
“As the sun streamed through the stained glass windows in the music-filled sanctuary, surrounded by her children, grandchildren and close friends, Betty hosted a simple Crossing Over Ceremony and then let go of her hold on this life,” the obituary described. “She sang in many choirs, played the piano for her family and in the end found solace in listening to gospel music.”
The Daily Wire reached out to the office of Churchill Park United for comment; no response was received in time for publication.
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