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This page last updated 11 October 2003
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Letters to AO

EVERY WEEK WE PUBLISH a selection of letters we receive in response to something you've read at Anglicans Online. Stop by and have a look at what other AO readers are thinking.

Alas, we cannot publish every letter we receive. And we won't publish letters that are anonymous, hateful, illiterate, or otherwise in our judgment do not benefit the readers of Anglicans Online. We usually do not publish letters written in response to other letters.

We edit letters to conform with standard AO house style for punctuation, but we do not change, for example, American spelling to conform to English orthography. On occasion we'll gently edit letters that are too verbose in their original form. Email addresses are included when the authors give permission to do so.

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Letters received during the week of 28 September 2003

Local 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.

Given this 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.

Larry Holben
All Saints' Church
San Francisco, California, USA
29 September 2003

When love 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.

I found 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.

I would not demean Anthony's character without knowing from him his life journey and faith experience, and ask only the same Christian courtesy from him.

The Reverend Canon. R. L. Webster
St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church
Winnipeg, CANADA
1 October 2003

A bittersweet reaction

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.

You probably 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.

Through 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.

At times 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:

Lead me, Lord, lead me in thy righteousness,
Make thy way plain before my face.
For it is thou, Lord, only that makest me dwell in safety.

F. William Voetberg
Emmanuel Episcopal Church, Hastings
Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
30 September 2003

There 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.

Clearly, 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.

Issues 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.

We must 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 differences.

Jesusí 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.

Nathaniel R. Brown
Trinity Episcopal Church, Seattle
Edmonds, Washington, USA
4 October 2003

From one 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.

I hope that it will help us to take a step towards the Unity that Our Lord Himself asked His Father when He was in Gethsemani.

God bless us all.

Madre de Misericordia
Avellaneda, Buenos Aires, ARGENTINA
3 October 2003

And from 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.

When one interprets the bible to fit one's beliefs, and not mold one's conscience to fit the biblical teaching then one errors.

With great sadness,

Albert F. Casne
St Francis DeSales Roman Catholic Church
Beckley, West Virginia, USA
30 September 2003

Earlier letters

We launched our 'Letters to AO' section on 11 May 2003. All of our letters are in our archives.



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