received during the week of 28 September 2003
custom is just that
IN 1970 AND 1971, I SPENT A YEAR teaching in Offa, Nigeria, among the
Yoruba tribe. The Yoruba were so horrified by the idea of a barren marriage
that it was standard practice for couples to be certain the bride-to-be
was pregnant before the marriage took place. This arrangement was completely
accepted by the Anglican Church in Nigeria—indeed, our local vicar
himself married his fiancee only after she was 'with child,' even though
the official teaching of the Church was that sex outside of marriage
was a sin.
comfortable accommodation to local prejudice and custom, I find it rather
ironic that one of the voices currently denouncing the election of Gene
Robinson to the office of bishop is that of the Primate of Nigeria.
All Saints' Church
San Francisco, California, USA
29 September 2003
and hard work are not enough
IN RESPONSE TO ANTHONY GRAZIANO, who asks how it is possible for a man
who knows he is homosexual to marry and have children, let me say that it is fairly
easy. When you have heard nothing positive about being queer, it makes
you want not to be one, and do everything possible to make it not true.
When just being homosexual is enough to put you in jail [as it was in
my time] lose your job, or housing and possibly your family, you certainly
do not admit to anyone that you are. When you have been taught that
homosexuals hate women, and you do not, you hope it indicates that this
attraction is just a matter of a left over pubescent developmental task.
When you are told that prayer and fellowship will change you, or that
counselling will change you, or that aversion therapy will change you,
or that discipline will change you, you work hard at them all in the
desperate hope that you can make yourself into someone worth loving.
When you are told that the only thing 'those types' need is a good woman,
you hope it's true and try to find one.
one of the best and given her patience and tenderness and the hard work
we put into building a loving relationship, we raising two boys. The
problem is that no amount of love and hard work will overcome a lack
of intimacy and the atmosphere of anxiety created by a deep and unshared
secret. Thanks be to God that the damage was not too deep, and we were
able to separate in a loving and supportive way. It sounds like Gene
lucked out there too.
not demean Anthony's character without knowing from him his life journey
and faith experience, and ask only the same Christian courtesy from
Canon. R. L. Webster
St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church
1 October 2003
USUALLY WHEN I SIT DOWN TO WRITE for the monthly newsletter there is
something that I have been thinking about and the words flow quite easily. Most
often it is related to music, however, since church music enhances our
greater ministry, it sometimes seems appropriate to talk about some
aspect of our Christian witness. I have done a great deal of thinking
about the events in our church this past summer and thought I would
share some very personal reflections with you.
It is not
easy for gay people to feel welcome in church. Nearly all of the comments
we hear about our orientation from Christian sources is negative. Many
gays and lesbians leave the church rather than stay where they feel
unwelcome. Unfortunately, most of the really bad experiences I have
had as a gay man have been from people who ardently profess to be followers
of Jesus. I was 'discharged' from the practice of an area physician
when I revealed my orientation to him. In his explanation he said that
the physicians in that practice were 'sincere Christians.' While the
Episcopal Church is not generally as judgmental as other Christian denominations,
the resolution on sexuality issued at the last Lambeth conference made
me seriously question whether I should stay in the church I have served
my entire adult life.
think I am elated over the actions of this summerís General Convention
confirming Gene Robinson as the first openly gay bishop of the church
and allowing the blessing of same sex relationships. While I do not
want to sound disgruntled, there is a bittersweet aspect to it all.
Some parishes are withholding support of the church and others are threatening
schism. It is difficult to feel good when there is so much dissension.
I have worked to build up the church, not tear it apart. The focus of
my music ministry is enhancing worship, educating our parishioners,
making our liturgy accessible to new people who may visit us, and hopefully
want to return. Some people may question whether something so divisive
is what God intended.
this discussion, the Bible is liberally quoted. There is an interesting
book I read a couple of years ago called 'The Bible Tells Me So.' It
relates how the Bible has been used to justify slavery, promote racism,
execute women as witches, justify the physical punishment of children,
assign guilt for disease, prove that the earth is the center of the
universe and other things. Today most people would wonder how someone
could take these positions seriously, but there were times when they
were widely held views and the Bible was used as the rationale.
like this, I find it helpful to reflect on Jesusí ministry. He was frequently
at odds with the religious majority. Religious leaders of his day quoted
scripture fluently and tried to use it against him. Jesus confronted
them with the stark reality that, while they knew the letter of the
law, they entirely missed the point of it. Godís message is not always
well received. Sometimes it causes a parting of the ways. Not everyone
who encountered Jesus ended up following him. And even Jesusí disciples
had, and still have, differences of opinion. As the Anglican Communion
deals with this situation, it might be helpful for us to pray using
the words of Samuel Sebastian Wesleyís beloved anthem:
me, Lord, lead me in thy righteousness,
Make thy way plain before my face.
it is thou, Lord, only that makest me dwell in safety.
Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Hastings
Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
30 September 2003
are a multitude of windows at present
I WANT TO COMMENT TO THOSE WHO WROTE about their feelings of alienation and
disappointment at recent decisions relating to homosexuals.
these decisions have caused pain. But we must remember they it will
have brought many into the church who felt shut out before, and that
the opposite decision would have caused pain to many who would have
felt shut out or rejected, unrecognized and unheard.
around homosexuality are not simple. But much Biblical scholarship no
longer supports rejection of homosexuals or homosexual acts. It is no
longer a clear-cut issue, and it is just not possible to say 'the Bible
is against it.' I refer those interested to Bruce Bagemihl, 'Biological
Exuberance'; Howard H. Bess, 'Pastor, I am Gay'; John Boswell, 'Christianity,
Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality'; Daniel A. Helminiak, 'What the
Bible Really Says About Homosexuality'; or even Robb Formann Dew, 'The
Family Heart'. And we need to remember that same-sex marriage, indeed
homosexuality it self, is not a central creedal matter.
also recognize that there are homosexuals who are strong in faith and
commitment, and homosexual couples who are examples of fidelity and
mutual caring, and a blessing to the world around them. Such loving,
monogamous, and faithful couples — and I know several —
live and grow through their partnerships just as heterosexuals do, with
perhaps even greater understanding of the richness of marriage, having
had to fight against such odds for what they achieve. .
If we find
ourselves divided in opinion, we need to reflect upon our Anglican roots,
which grew out of the principle, in Queen Elizabeth the Firstís words,
of 'making no windows into menís souls.' Anglican roots were grounded
in common worship and grew by independence and remaining in communion.
This is a position that demands the strength of being able to tolerate
life and words give hope. We can learn to stop making windows into each
otherís souls and we can learn to come together to worship despite disagreements
and mutual incomprehension. At Christ's table, all are welcome.
Trinity Episcopal Church, Seattle
Edmonds, Washington, USA
4 October 2003
Roman Catholic in Argentina
I'M ARGENTINIAN AND [ROMAN] CATHOLIC. I'd only like to say that I'm really
happy that your Bishop (I don't know if this is the correct word) and our Pope
are going to have a meeting these days.
that it will help us to take a step towards the Unity that Our Lord
Himself asked His Father when He was in Gethsemani.
Madre de Misericordia
Avellaneda, Buenos Aires, ARGENTINA
3 October 2003
another in the USA
I AM A ROMAN CATHOLIC AND WATCHED WITH GREAT SADNESS as Gene Robinson
was elected to fill the seat of bishop in the Episcopal Church. This election goes further to break the unity that Jesus prayed for
at the Last Supper.
There are those in the Episcopal Church, as elsewhere, who feel that
this has been a great victory for mankind. But they are sadly mistaken.
This only shows the depth to which man has turned from the true worship
of the one true God to the false god of self. That is why God has permitted
this evil to come upon this election to show us how far we have drifted
from the true worship of the Creator. I pray that Gene Robinson, after
fervent prayer, will step down from the appointment to bishop and acknowledge
the error that lead him to undertake such an abominable act.
interprets the bible to fit one's beliefs, and not mold one's conscience
to fit the biblical teaching then one errors.
St Francis DeSales Roman Catholic Church
Beckley, West Virginia, USA
30 September 2003
We launched our 'Letters
to AO' section on 11 May 2003. All of our letters are in our