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This page last updated 17 October 2003
Anglicans Online last updated 20 August 2000

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 We usually do not publish letters written in response to other letters.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.

If you'd like to write a letter of your own, click here.

Letters received during the week of 7 October 2003

'Suborned by the culture'

THANK YOU FOR YOUR TIMELY THOUGHTS, once again. From my observation, the Church has not only passively bought into the current marketing model and applied it to congregations, but the Church has actively done so, employing marketing-oriented consultants to advise dioceses and congregations on 'growth techniques.' And of course, the emperor once again has no clothes. No one seems to be willing to speak up at these seminars and say 'Spiritual growth is what we're really after here, isn't it? Aren't numbers beside the point?'

A wise priest I know used to say fairly often that 'The end of the Anglican Communion is the end of Anglican Communion.' He was referring to the Church as a bridge between Catholics and Protestants, but isn't this actually true of Christianity in general? The end of Christianity (God willing) is the end of Christianity and the beginning of the eschaton. Yet how many of us really pray 'Come quickly, Lord Jesus?' We'd rather worry about 'getting it right' on our own, when righteousness has already been accomplished on our behalf.

When we start assessing the worth of our churches by the numbers instead by faithful lives, we have been suborned by the culture. And when we start judging others (beginning, as usual, with those closest to us!) as to the correctness or value of their spiritual lives, we have not yet seen Christ face to face. In the light of his countenance, we cannot possible judge anyone but ourselves.

The Reverend Peggy Blanchard
Kingston, Tennessee, USA
7 October 2003

'That a church grows (or doesn't) says nothing revelatory about its commitment to the gospel'

BRAVO, Cynthia and Brian. I fear we in the States have confused 'success' with 'discipleship'. That a church grows (or doesn't) says nothing revelatory about its commitment to the gospel. The essential criteria must, and has always been, faithfulness to the ministry of Jesus. Which, as you so aptly remark, can (and usually does) mean a community that will not attract large numbers of secular-minded, consumer-oriented, 'successful' persons who want to remain 'successful'.

Polk Culpepper
Louisville, Kentucky, USA
7 October 2003

Rigid is right?

REFERENCE TO YOUR COMMENT on Andrew Brown's observation that 'inclusive and tolerant churches are less successful than exclusive and rigid churches'. I believe these 'rigid' churches are successful because they have positioned themselves as bulwarks against the onslaught of secular humanism, and not because they've found someone to exclude or call sinful or rail against. They are successful simply because they have refused to 'be conformed to this world' (Rom 12:2).

Olumide Adeyemo
Church of Nigeria
6 October 2003

We rather believe that Our Lord embodied Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

IT WAS QUITE A SHOCK to read in the last AO home page editorial that 'Having more members makes a church more viable as a social institution, but cannot possibly make it nearer to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty or necessarily more capable of advancing the kingdom of heaven.'

I must have missed the lesson that Christianity is an adoration of Platonic ideals, rather than a relationship with the Human Son of God who died yet was raised beyond death in order to reconcile the world to God.

I must have misread the scriptures of the earliest followers of Christ that challenge all who already are part of the church to preach the good news of Christ and offer baptism to all nations. St. Paul must have been quite a fool, then, to go around actually trying to bring into communion with Christ people of questionable breeding.

Perhaps I simply misunderstand about the kingdom of heaven. Would you kindly let me know who is in charge and the address?

Henry Greville
Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, ENGLAND
6 October 2003

Ed: Sorry, we don't have a current postal address.

What makes us equal?

I HAVE BEEN A RELUCTANT READER of your site for some years, although never (but almost, once) an Episcopalian and no longer a Christian (at least in any orthodox sense). I keep reading out of a combination of nostalgia and the guilty fascination of seeing a train wreck in slow motion, I think.

I wandered to your link to a fairly incoherent article by Ghanian Bishop Kwame Nsiah on gay bishops. What struck me was his casual racism. White men evil, black men good. And I'm sure no one called him on it. It reminds me that the only empirically verifiable Christian doctrine is the ironically named original sin. That's what makes the races equal.

Stephen Manning
San Francisco, California, USA
6 October 2003

Avoiding party spirit

I HAVE BEEN A SUBSCRIBER TO ANGLICANS ONLINE for some time now, and have enjoyed much of your output and, indeed, frequently find the editorials interesting and, yes, even challenging. This week your editorial is based around an article by Andrew Brown, who historically has struggled with those of us who are labelled Evangelical. Although you do not explicitly support his article, you seem to be uncritical of its comment.

It seems to me that evangelicals, like liberals and catholic Anglicans, are unhelpfully stereotyped by others. Evangelicals, like all the different traditions in our church, have a variety of people within that tradition, some who one would gladly identify with, and others one would rather not be publicly identified with! Please don't fall into that trap, of tarring every one with a particular label with same brush, given your obvious frustrations regarding the current debate regarding sexuality.

I am confident that most of my evangelical friends would welcome anyone into their churches, regardless of race, colour, age, etc and... sexual orientation, as we do. Surely, if the gospel is not for sinners like me, it isn't for anyone? Please, please avoid a party spirit, even when there are aspects of that party you find distasteful. ot least, when it is a media stereotype or a minority that shouts louder than anyone else. In the end, we are one in Christ through faith in Him, and not because we share every aspect of theology and Christian practise with each other.

Paul Brooks
St Saviour, Island of Jersey, Channel Islands, British Isles
7 October 2003

Life imitates art indeed

YOU WROTE IN YOUR FOOTNOTE: 'Speaking of the cinema, we recall having once seen a futuristic science-fiction film in which all restaurants remaining on earth were Taco Bell. The nonchalant acceptance of this mind-numbing blandness was part of that film's means of horrifying its audience. Not only did criminals run rampant and not only was the government of the future corrupt, but all restaurants were Taco Bell. How much worse could it get?'

In that same film, there was portrayed the 'Arnold Swarzeneger Presidential Library.' It seems that because of his star-power, Congress removed the requirement that only natural born US citizens be president. It was a joke then.

The Reverend Andrew Gerns
Trinity Episcopal Church
Easton, Pennsylvania, USA
8 October 2003

The issue of tu quoque

IT HAPPENS THAT I PERSONALLY have seen the pain caused by the conservative rejection of homosexuality, and would personally like to do away with the prohibition. It also happens, unfortunately, that I hold strongly to the authority of the Bible as the inspired Word of God, and also that I don't see how a reasonable person can deny that Scripture condemns the practice of homosexuality; so I don't consider myself to have the authority to throw out the prohibition. And yes, I am familiar with at least the more common academic and popular progressive arguments, and they are I believe unreasonable — though I should emphasize that I mean 'unreasonable' only in the sense that they do not hold water, not that the people holding them are jerks. I just mean that I have yet to see a progressive argument that doesn't have serious logical or methodological flaws; they cannot be adopted by people who seriously want to know what the Bible means to say unless they are either rather ignorant or else rather muddle-headed.

What interests me is that by far the most effective progressive argument, in my experience, is one that runs roughly, 'You conservatives don't obey the Bible when it says _______ [fill in whatever here], so where do you get off telling us we have to be bound by the condemnations of homosexuality?' Most often I have heard this presented very simplistically, as a straightforward tu-quoque. Now, a tu-quoque (Latin for 'you, too') is a way to excuse your own bad behavior by claiming that somebody else has behaved just as badly, and it is not a very good excuse. (Just imagine your six-year-old telling you, 'But Sean was doing it, too!' It's no better an excuse when the person making the excuse is a bishop.) But the fact that a tu-quoque accusation doesn't excuse the person making it, doesn't mean that the accusation itself isn't perfectly accurate.

I agree with my fellow conservatives that the Bible does indeed condemn homosexuality. But Jesus also condemned divorce, and said very plainly and unambiguously (at least by the standards conservatives apply to the homosexuality passages) that if a couple divorced on grounds other than adultery, and then remarried, the second union was adulterous. It hardly seems that a Church that is serious about making sure it doesn't bless sinful unions, has any business blessing adulterous ones. But I sincerely doubt that very many of my friends who are up in arms about the idea of blessing Bishop Robinson's union it Mark?...anyway, I doubt many of them would have been willing to refuse the rites of marriage to Amy Grant and Vince Gill.

When it comes down to it, few of us conservatives want to say to Amy Grant, 'Because of Christ's words on adultery, we have to tell you that for you it's a lifetime of marriage to a husband you no longer can stand to be with or else a lifetime without romantic love.' We feel bad for Amy, and we're glad she's had a second chance at happiness. But we don't feel the same way about Gene Robinson. That doesn't mean our treatment of Amy is right and our treatment of Bishop Robinson is wrong, by any means. Jesus Himself never told us we had a 'right to happiness,' and as far as I can tell we can each expect to come to a point in our lives where He demands of us a sacrifice that seems intolerable; 'let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me' doesn't exactly sound like, 'let him follow me and I'll make sure there's an acceptable way for him to enjoy romantic love if he wants it.' But the point is that if we conservatives are not dying to our own selves daily, our calls for our progressive brothers to take up their personal crosses will have no power.

When people look at those of us who claim to take the Bible seriously, do they see us paying whatever brutal price our own cross imposes? As long as the accusation in the tu-quoque has validity, the people who use tu-quoques will continue to feel validated, however foolish that may be. When the tu-quoque has lost all its force because the accusation is plainly false, then perhaps our words will have a chance to carry some power of conviction and persuasion.

Ken Pierce
St Luke's on the Lake
Austin, Texas, USA
9 October 2003

'Extravagant whether in bed or in your shroud'

WE ARE FOLLOWING THE NEWS WITH INTEREST. I'm sending a copy of a poem by CH Sisson, 'A letter to John Donne,' (taken from The Oxford Book of Christian Verse, Donald Davie):

A letter to John Donne
NOTE: On 27 July 1617, Donne preached at the parish chruch at Sevenoaks, of which he was rector, and was entertained at Knole, then the country residence of Richard Sackville, third earl of Dorset.

I understand you well enough, John Donne
First, that you were a man of ability
Eaten by lust and by the love of God
Then, that you crossed the Sevenoaks High Street
As rector of Saint Nicholas:
I am of that parish.
To be a man of ability is not much
You may see them on the Sevenoaks platform any day
Eager men with despatch cases
Whom Ambition drives as they drive the machine
Whom the certainty of meticulous operation
Pleasures as a morbid sex a heart of stone.
That you could have spent your time in the corruption of courts
As these in that of cities,
gives you no place among us:
Ability is not even the game of a fool
But the click of a computer operating in a waste
Your cleveness is dismissed from this suit
Bring out your genitals and your theology.
What makes you familiar is this dual obsession;
Lust is not what the rutting stag knows
It is to take Eve's apple and to lose
The stag's paradisal look:
The love of God comes readily
To those who have most need.
You brought body and soul to this church
Walking there through the park alive with deer
But now what animal has climbed into your pulpit?
One whose pretension is that the fear of God has heated him into a spirit
An evaporated man no physical ill can hurt.
Well might you hesitate at the Latin gate
Seeing such apes denying the church of God:
I am grateful particularly that you were not a saint
But extravagant whether in bed or in your shroud.
You would understand that in the presence of folly
I am not sanctified by angry.
Come down and speak to the men of ability
On the Sevenoaks platform and tell them
That at your Saint Nicholas the faith
Is not exclusive in the fools it chooses
That the vain, the ambitious and the highly sexed
Are the natural prey of the incarnate Christ.

Maggie Hurll
St David's Church
Royal Palm Beach, Florida, USA
10 October 2003

'The current global movement is toward conservatism'

AS A 39-YEAR-OLD SINGLE MOTHER of two girls, I walked out of our church when one of the clergy was giving a sermon, in front of my two young daughters, on why we should support the decision of the General Convention on the election of a homosexual bishop. My nine year old daughter asked me 'What does a relationship between two men mean?' after hearing part of that sermon. Trying to raise young girls in today's society is challenging enough—I resent having political liberalism preached at me in the church.

I believe in the traditional reading of the scripture that denies homosexual relationships. I strongly object to the Convention's decision and have separated myself from St Anne's both physically and financially due to the their decision and the liberal attitude of the clergy. The current global movement is toward conservatism, not liberalism.

I will support the AAC in seeking a reversal of the General Convention's decision or a division thereof and a formation of a new conservative church body. I look forward to a church we can go to again.

Heather Sullivan
St Anne's Parish
Annapolis, Maryland, USA
10 October 2003

'The language of talk radio and political extremism'

I WAS NEARING THE END OF READING a presentation given by Bishop Duncan of Pittsburgh to the AAC conference in Dallas and was growing increasingly dispirited when I came across this remarkable passage:

The decision ... has been a source of great controversy and division among us, and remains so. Experiences of joy and possibility have often stood alongside feelings of pain and betrayal. We are only one generation into a several generation process of reception.
... In what is ahead we must allow this process to be lived out among us. Force and repression of conscience are part of the sad story that brings us to this day of intervention. We need to make godly provision for one another. We need to develop understandings of how our two integrities can proceed alongside one another, until our Good Lord eventually makes this matter plain to our children and grandchildren. There will be awkwardness as we shape our common life ... but we will get better at it, and we can find a way to honor one another and to protect one another, if we will to do.

It could have been written by Bishop Griswold or any of those who supported the actions of General Convention, but there's a catch. Bishop Duncan is writing about the ordination of women, not about the confirmation of Bishop Robinson's election or the blessing of committed relationships. And the 'us' and the 'we' he writes about pointedly exclude Bishop Griswold and all of us who welcomed the actions of General Convention. Bishop Duncan and his allies refuse any 'godly provision' for those of us who disagree with them; they will not even try to 'develop an understanding of how our two integrities can proceed alongside one another.' They cannot even admit that we, too, act out of conscience and deep faith, much less find a way to honor that conscience and faith.

Bishop Griswold has tried again and again to find a way to honor and protect these 'two integrities.' For his pains, Bishop Duncan and others have castigated Bishop Griswold in the language of talk radio and political extremism. Bishop Duncan calls for 'a communion-wide discernment in which we are called to listen carefully' but he will not listen, much less hear, any who do not already agree with him.

I find little that is Anglican in this, little that is Christian, little of the Holy Spirit, and I despair.

P.S. Thank you for your invaluable service.

James N. Sicks
St Martin-in-the-Fields (Episcopal)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
10 October 2003

Mirror, mirror, on the wall

I AM A BIT CONFUSED AS TO YOUR ORIENTATION. Are you for the Episcopal church, or for the Gaypiscopal one?

If I saw a group of people starting to dig under the foundation of my house, I would do more than pray to save it. I would call for help. So it is with the church.

Gays have already successfully lobbied in political affairs, so it perhaps my call for help is too late. Sodomy and all the filth it entails seems to be the norm. How can any man or woman look at themselves in the mirror when they live so contrary to nature?

Margaret I. Dale
All Saints of the Desert
Sun City, Arizona, USA
11 October 2003

So they 'grow big' out of the 'men okay-women not' model?

I MUST TAKE ISSUE that Churches grow big out of the we-they, good guys-bad guys model. We in the continuing Church, following traditional Anglicanism and deeming 'ordination' of women as priests and bishops as 'null and void', have been and continue to 'swim upstream' outside the 'official' Anglican Communion' while continuing the religion of the Christian Church, Anglican Communion, in varying degrees of 'churchmanship' mostly Anglo-Catholic.

It's been (and will continue to be) a long hard pull to remain truly Christian in the Anglican Church model while being denounced as schismatic and our bishops as 'vaganti' and still develop parishes where faithful priests and people meet and worship, juxtaposed, as it were, with a local 'liberal' Episcopal Church.

More often than not, we begin in a local funeral home (been there, done that, got the T shirt), and until and unless we too develop some 'bricks and mortar' we find it tough sledding. But we will 'keep on keeping on'.

The Reverend Canon Owen J. Loftus, Jr.
United Episcopal Church of North America
St Jude the Apostle Church School (Seminary)
New Port Richey, Florida, USA
11 October 2003

At the heart of it all

RECENTLY I TRAVELLED ON BUSINESS to San Francisco, arriving on a Sunday. San Francisco is a wonderful place to visit on foot, and I found myself at Grace Cathedral. I went inside and made a happy discovery. The church's hushed atmosphere, jeweled light from stained glass, and spaciousness all defined for me the peace and happiness that Episcopalians strive to attain in spirit. I felt at home.

I think that in the battles over social reform being fought in churches of the Anglican Communion we have forgotten the need to develop one's inner life. It seems to me that devotion to social agenda, whether conservative or liberal, has superceded our search for personal devotion. We Anglicans are the less for it.

David Schulenburg
Trinity on the Pike
Laurel, Maryland, USA
12 October 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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