Anglicans Online
 Worldwide Anglicanism    Anglican Dioceses and Parishes
Home News Centre A to Z Start Here The Anglican Communion Africa Australia Canada England
New this Week News Archives Events Anglicans Believe... In Full Communion Europe Ireland Japan New Zealand
Awards, Staff Newspapers Online B The Prayer Book Not in the Communion Scotland USA Wales World
Search Official Publications B The Bible B B B B B
This page last updated 8 March 2004
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 We usually do not publish letters written in response to other letters.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 21 October 2003

What a busy week it was for our letters page. We're delighted by the range of opinion, the thoughtfulness of expression, and the willingness to share deeply-held views with readers of Anglicans Online. Thanks to each of you.

'Networking, communication, and information, not rules, creeds, and doctrines'

A THOUGHT FROM AOTEAROA-NEW ZEALAND in response to your (as usual) thought-provoking comment on the recent declaration from the Primates' meeting. You wonder whether 'in this complex and connected world, it may be that the genius of Anglicanism no longer has a place'. I think the opposite is the case: it is because the world is now so complex and connected that the Communion can survive only if it is built in a spirit of openness and tolerance of practice and belief.

In economics, globalisation and competition are breaking down the barriers of centralised regulation and monopoly. The future world is about networking, communication, and information, not rules, creeds, and doctrines. This applies equally to the church. In an inter-connected world we must find ways of learning to live together and that means adopting a much less rigid and far more flexible approach to the nature of our communion with one another. The actions of ECUSA do not constitute a rethinking of the Anglican Communion: they represent the working out of difficult issues in a faith-filled way in the American context.

In my job I am blessed to be able to travel around the world and I have visited many Anglican communities over the last four years. Thanks be to God, our communion is alive and well and will endure these current challenges!

Stephen Jacobi
St Luke's, Wadestown, Wellington
Wellington, NEW ZEALAND
25 October 2003

From China: 'I offer this letter as a small contribution towards breaking down some of the stereotypes'

A LETTER YOU PUBLISHED ASKED FOR A RESPONSE from someone that supported the line taken by the North American Church on sexuality. I offer this letter as a small contribution towards breaking down some of the stereotypes created by the media regarding sexuality and the Anglican Church throughout the world.

I am a long way from North America, but I understand that the Anglican Church in New Westminster now blesses committed relationships between adult persons of the same sex and that some secular Canadian law also now re-defines secular marriage as 'a committed relationship between two people to the exclusion of all others'. I cannot see how these changes will lead to any moral decay but quite the opposite: a more honest, less hypocritical moral teaching on the part of society and the church. Part of the reason that unfavourable stereotypes of gay men and lesbians persist is that there is no public affirmation of committed, exclusive relationships between gay men or lesbians, as is the case for heterosexuals through the public rite of marriage.

Let us all prayerfully remember that our Lord had nothing to say about homosexuality at all, while he was a tireless supporter of those that religion of the time and society rejected. Wasn't it also those whom the ancient world considered the weakest and most vulnerable that remained at the foot of the cross?

Martin Murray
St. John's [Anglican] Cathedral Hong Kong
Shenyang, Liaoning, PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC of CHINA
20 October 2003

The Archbishop of Canterbury's 'missing interview'

I HAVE JUST DISCOVERED WHAT APPEARS TO EXPLAIN the Archbishop of Canterbury's 'missing interview' concerning the war on Iraq—I was mystified when it failed to materialise on the radio and have only just found out what happened.

I have tried since the war was started to find a meaningful statement from the Church of England (to which I belong) on where it now stands, and was very relieved and encouraged to hear that the Archbishop was going to make a clear explanation to us all. It now appears that he did explain, but that the interview was suppressed and never broadcast.

I am an admirer of Rowan Williams, someone who followed and fully supported his pre-war moral position, joined all the anti-war demonstrations throughout (including September) with my whole family, and, with others in our village church, fulfilled his request to pray deeply and regularly for peace since the war started.

I am deeply saddened by the silence and lack of leadership which seems to have engulfed the Church since the war was launched. I believe and feel strongly that we committed a great sin in attacking another country and killing thousands of innocents and are in desperate need of repentance and forgiveness. Why are our spiritual leaders not calling for an act of contrition? Why does our diocesan magazine (Southwell) feature and celebrate a British soldier on its front cover?

I hoped John Humphrys would provide the Archbishop with the opportunity to answer these questions. From what we now know of the 'lost interview' the explanation seems clear: he knows in his heart the war was wrong before it was started, was wrong after it was started, and is still wrong, but is not willing or able to say so clearly and in public.

The miserable story of the 'missing interview' speaks for itself. Perhaps the 'national church' can never do otherwise than follow the government of the day, and 'speaking truth to power' is just a forlorn hope. I had believed otherwise but my faith in our leaders is running out.

Andrew Jenkins
St. Katherine's (C of E), Teversal.
Teversal, Nottinghamshire, ENGLAND
24 October 2003

The missing portion of the Humphrys interview is here on the website of The Guardian.

From a Roman Catholic: 'Patience with difficult decision-making'

LAST WEEK I WROTE A MESSAGE to the Episcopal Church of New Hampshire and I can't discover whether they received it or not. My point is that the Anglican Communion here in England refer to themselves as believing, in the Creed, that they are part of the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church. If the American Church believes this too then we must all work together to be united in Christ. This means patience with difficult decision-making and not trying to bring about change through manipulation. These issues are of importance to all who claim to follow Christ and must be discussed fairly and squarely under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

I would plead with the American Episcopalian Church to persuade their local authorities not to ordain a candidate whose attitude towards aspects of his own behaviour is causing so much dissent throughout Christendom. The other main denominations of Christendom need to be prayed with for a solution to such problems of sexuality.

Mr. Frazer Palmer
St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church, Rustington, Sussex, ENGLAND
20 October 2003

Well, yes, we agree.

YOU WRITE: 'We want the communion to survive, make no mistake about it. But permanent life support is no way to live.' God is permanent life support. We have no other source. To imagine that we do, is not to live.

Joe Mock
Holy Trinity
20 October 2003

Deconstructing statements, letters, and wizards

REGARDING THE PRIMATES' JOINT STATEMENT, you wrote, "many readers have found this sentence peculiar and oddly ominous: 'As Primates of our Communion seeking to exercise the "enhanced responsibility" entrusted to us by successive Lambeth Conferences...' Your letter makes it sound as though the phrase 'enhanced responsibility' has no provenance or history. Yet, with very little effort, you could have found the following resolution from the 1988 Lambeth Conference:
This Conference... Urges that encouragement be given to a developing collegial role for the Primates Meeting under the presidency of the Archbishop of Canterbury, so that the Primates Meeting is able to exercise an enhanced responsibility in offering guidance on doctrinal, moral and pastoral matters.

Regarding the foregoing, the Conference wrote:

We see an enhanced role for the Primates as a key to growth of inter-dependence within the Communion. We do not see any inter-Anglican jurisdiction as possible or desirable; an inter-Anglican synodical structure would be virtually unworkable and highly expensive. A collegial role for the Primates by contrast could easily be developed, and their collective judgement and advice would carry considerable weight.

Instead of attempting to explain the source of the phrase in question, and instead of pointing out that the Primates explicitly disclaimed attempts to impose 'inter-Anglican jurisdiction' or an 'inter-Anglican synodical structure,' you use a fallacious interpretation of the phrase to conclude that the Primates may be moving toward 'a central legislative and executive authority.' The fallacy arises when you equate the phrase 'enhanced responsibility' with 'enhanced authority.' Of course, the two are not at all synonymous.

The real meaning of the phrase 'enhanced responsibility' relates to responsibility for providing collective and collegial guidance, for envisioning a structure in which shared listening and learning among Anglicans throughout the world is the goal. It has nothing to do with establishing 'central legislative and executive authority.' Quite the opposite—it envisions collective guidance and greater interdependence throughout the Communion.

You guys are real wizards with words. Under your magic wands 'responsibility' becomes 'authority,' and 'interdependent' becomes 'centralized.' Of course, your 'analysis,' is really just a set-up to conclude that the Anglican Communion isn't very attractive anymore, so nobody should be too upset if the unilateral actions of ECUSA this summer 'tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level,' as the Primates' Joint Statement put it. 'Not that big a deal,' you say, since the Anglican Communion no longer fits your definition of 'Anglican.' More magic: 'Anglican Communion' becomes 'unAnglican.'

The weekly letters on AO are editorials, which is fine. But the purpose of an editorial is to tell the truth, as the writer sees it. Thus, an editorial should fairly present the issue on which AO is taking a stand. Setting up straw men, as AO has done recently, is not only intellectually dishonest, it also misleads your readers, which is unconscionable.

Jim Rain
St Luke's Church, Dallas, Texas, UNITED STATES
20 October 2003

Editors note: We are not intellectually dishonest and we do not purposefully mislead our readers. We are sorry if you were misled; we doubt that many others were.

'What is the best way to assert the truth at this moment: by confrontation or by self-sacrifice?'

I APPLAUDED GENE ROBINSON'S ELECTION in New Hampshire, and I was glad the General Convention of the Episcopal Church ratified the choice of his diocese. But the Primates' meeting has given me pause. At this point, would it not be a better example of Christian discipleship for him to decline consecration for the good of the church?

Not that he should concede anything to the arguments of his detractors. On the contrary, I think he should stand by his convictions, which I share. The question is, what is the best way to assert the truth at this moment: by confrontation or by self-sacrifice? Those who have vilified Gene Robinson and accused the US church of heresy and immorality may not stop their campaigns, but can we as Christians minimize the long-term spiritual effect of his not claiming the mantle of episcopal authority, especially on those who feel ambivalent or hesitant about the issue?

It is significant that he was elected and approved. The election stands as a milestone for the future, and so declining to move forward now is not the same as declining to be nominated in the first place. If he were to step back (I do not say 'down'), it should be with the understanding that some means of expressing public support for, and solidarity with, Bishop-elect Robinson, would be devised. One idea that comes to mind is to have him preside at a (televised?) Eucharist in a prominent church with many concelebrants and many communicants. Let the liturgy speak, louder than any press release.

Patrick Coleman
St Andrew and St Charles Episcopal Church
Los Angeles, California, UNITED STATES
20 October 2003

'The world will continue'

YOU COMMENTED IN THE 19 OCTOBER NEWS CENTRE: 'We duly note the report that the sky is falling...' Speaking of the 'End of the World As We Know It,' here is my theory as to why it won't. (If the logic is convoluted, it is only because I am trying to fit in.)

The Presiding Bishop is reported to have said that barring the Second Coming, he will preside at the consecration of the Reverend Gene Robinson as Bishop coadjutor of New Hampshire.

It has been commented on in other places that the Cubs and the Red Sox did not meet in the 2003 World Series because Jesus is not ready to come back yet.

So the consecration will go forward.

And the world will continue.

We can go forth into it or not, rejoicing or otherwise. Our choice.

The Reverend Andrew T. Gerns
Trinity Episcopal Church
Easton, Pennsylvania, UNITED STATES
20 October 2003

Life after schism: Just who will do what?

I AM DEEPLY GRIEVED OVER WHAT SEEMS TO BE an almost certain split or schism in the Anglican Church. I am curious of a few things if the schism does take place.

Will all those provinces of the Anglican Church who feel so opposed to the actions of the Episcopal Church in the United States continue to send their seminarians here to be educated? Will they continue to send their priests here to 'learn from us'. Will they continue to accept funds and contributions from the heretic Church? Will the constant 'visits' of those Primates who object to the rightful decisions and actions of the Episcopal Church continue? Will they continue to lean on the Episcopal Church for financial stability as they have for years or will they suddenly be able to stand on their own two feet? If they wish to cut themselves off, will it be in toto?

I am very curious.

Br. Robert James McLaughlin, BSG
The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany
Ventnor City, New Jersey, UNITED STATES
21 October 2003

Thank you for writing it

THANK YOU FOR PUBLISHING MY LETTER. I am a lifelong Episcopalian, but I will take it as a compliment that you said I sound like a Baptist, if that means that I know my scripture and apply it to my life. More Episcopalians would do well to know the scriptures as well as the Baptists do.

You may print this if you wish, though I don't expect you to do so.

C. West Jacocks IV
The Church of the Holy Comforter
Sumter, South Carolina, UNITED STATES
21 October 2003

'A busted flush'?

PLEASE, FOLKS, BE A LITTLE LESS STRIDENT in the comments you add to your links. There is no hint of a 'lynch mob' out to get Canon Robinson in the story to which you link. The reference to 'Chicago during the depression' is also grotesquely unfair. African prelates are not issuing a threat in the style of Al Capone or Machine-Gun Kelly, but are warning of a serious risk of attacks on Christians as adherents of an 'immoral' religion.

As a theologically conservative member of the C of E (Anglo-Catholic, member of FiF, 'don't ask, don't tell', for what it's worth), and also a socialist and trade unionist, I think that theologically conservative Episcopalians are profoundly mistaken to ally themselves with extreme right-wing secular politicians by, for example, accepting backhanders from a right-wing millionaire.

The behaviour of the ECUSA establishment, and its contempt for African bishops ('bigots who can be bribed by chicken dinners'), appears to me to reflect the line in 'The Socialist ABC' — 'I's for Imperialism: the American kind is the worst'. Bishop Griswold and his colleagues seem to have no understanding that the free market paradigm of religious allegiance which prevails in the United States, allowing a niche market for ECUSA's mix of liberal theology and impressive ceremony, does not apply everywhere. I feel desperately sorry for Rowan Williams, trying to keep the Anglican Communion together, while the precipitate rush to recognise the legitimacy of homosexuality — and the inept tactics of some opponents of that rush — threaten to make him a busted flush within months of starting his archiepiscopal ministry.

Alan Harrison
S. Mary's, Hayes
Uxbridge, Middlesex, UNITED KINGDOM
21 October 2003

'The Anglican communion is really just a romantic notion'

I ENJOYED VERY MUCH YOUR MUSINGS on the state of the Anglican Communion. You bring up too many good points to mention. I do think, however, that your speculation that we may possibly be witnessing the demise of the Anglican Communion as we know it, is not quite accurate. I would offer that the Anglican communion is really just a romantic notion anyway. And as such, it really can't 'go away', because it was never really 'here'. What was and is here, is what you rightly called the Anglican 'mood'. Now as anybody with a basic understanding of psychology knows moods don't always correspond with facts. The Spirit blows where it will.

My point here is basically this: If the Anglican Communion 'breaks up', that fact cannot touch the 'Anglican spirit'. This spirit cannot be forfeited or taken away or lost. It's a lot bigger than than the sad fears and grumblings of the tiny minds that are causing so much current consternation.

Mike LaBelle
Bethesda Episcopal Church
Saratoga Springs, New York, UNITED STATES
21 October 2003

From South Africa: 'From one gay Anglican to another'

THANK YOU ANGLICANS ONLINE for the great work you are doing, keeping us, ordinary Anglicans informed about the happenings in the church we so dearly LOVE. Thank you for providing us with a platform on which the laity can express their views.

I have been following the election of Gene Robinson for the past few months. And I feel it is time that we, ordinary Anglicans, face the fact that schism is looming. I have prayed about this matter, asking the Holy Spirit to guide the Anglican Communion. But the more I prayed, the more it became clear to me, that we are the people of God and we are his mouth piece in this world.

Gene Robinson claims to be called by God and he has been praying about this calling. Do we not think that the Primates were praying about the same matter? And the outcome was for the concern of the ordinary Anglicans (worldwide). I hope and pray, that both parties were praying to the same Spirit whom we worship.

Gene Robinson, from one gay man to another: Yes, God has called you to the bishopric but only in God's time can all things be possible. I do believe God has called me to the priesthood, but I know that only in his time can I be accepted within this Province and be ordained to the priesthood.

To my fellow Anglicans, this is our church. If the clergy cannot find the courage to avoid the schism, let us as laity stand firm on the prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ, 'Peace I leave you, my peace I give you' and 'that they may be ONE, as You and I are ONE'.

My beloved brothers and sisters, please do not think that all your gay brothers and sisters are supporting the decision of the Diocese of New Hampshire to the detriment of the Anglican Communion.

Gene Robinson, schism is looming in this Church that you are called to serve.

Damian Bellairs
22 October 2003

From a Presbyterian in Northern Ireland

I HOPE YOU WILL ALLOW A PRESBYTERIAN TO OFFER HIS VIEWS on the Robinson controversy. Living surrounded by devoted members of the Church of Ireland, I feel I have some understanding of the dilemmas facing Anglicanism in the modern world.

I am sure that Christians worldwide, of whatever denomination, are praying for the Anglican Church at the present time. It seems such a pity to be contemplating yet another schism in the Christian Church at the start of the third millennium. The Christian Church has suffered too many schisms over the centuries.

The dispute seems to be between liberals based in the developed world, and conservatives based in the developing world. Yet there are many conservatives in the developed world, and many liberals in the developing world. It would therefore seem slightly absurd to separate Anglican from Anglican on this small issue, which is admittedly of great importance to some.

I am sure that Christ looking down from above must have tears in his eyes when he contemplates the schisms which divide his followers on the tiny little speck of cosmic dust below, known to us as 'earth'.

Alan Houston
22 October 2003

'Arrogant, patronizing, complacent intellectual wannabes in the Church long overdue for their comeuppance'

DAVID AARONOVITCH WRITES THAT 'Left to itself, the Church in England would probably get round to ordaining actively gay bishops over the next 10 years or so.'

That seems right. More precisely (since the Church has been ordaining gay clergy for centuries) doctrines regarding homosexual practices would have assumed a status comparable to obsolete municipal statutes regulating the operation of livery stables and imposing fines on scolds. Few cities bother to rescind these ordinances because, like the Roman Catholic Church's policy on contraception and like most Christian churches' official teachings on pre-marital sex, they do not function.

It is almost as if the Episcopal Church were rushing to liberalize its policy in time to look as if it were assuming a position of moral leadership—or to get on board with the politically correct doctrine before it was adopted by the masses and ceased to serve as a marker of social class.

The current dispute is not fundamentally about sexuality or, as conservatives suggest, about Biblical authority, but about prestige and the perceived power of an unrepresentative elite to get its way. In the US there is a cultural divide between a secular elite, socially if not politically liberal, and the majority of Americans who are religious, socially conservative and chronically irritated by the contempt of the liberal media and leftist academics. Debates about 'family values' and sexual conduct delineate the boundary between these two cultures, reflected on a grand scale in the divide between the global North and South. While many Episcopalians welcome what they regard as the Church's move to adopt a more intellectually tenable position regarding sexual conduct, others see it as a betrayal by religious leaders siding with the cultured despisers of Christianity (and of Christians).

In the US, status symbols have a short shelf life: elite fashions quickly become common property. Within the past 20 years, middle Americans have become considerably more accepting of gay and lesbian people and liberals clerics could have counted on increased acceptance within the Church. Yet they chose to court backlash by campaigning to 'educate' their constituency and by their complacent assumption that their agenda would eventually be adopted as part of the inexorable progress of the Zeitgeist. It is clear that, until recently, they assumed that conservative bishops in developing countries were incapable of organizing effective opposition and that members of the Church in the US could be managed through therapeutic programs scripted to promote 'reconciliation' and 'healing.' They just didn't get it.

I believe that conservatives are wrong about the ethical dimensions of sexuality and about the authority of Scripture. But I applaud them for sticking it to the arrogant, patronizing, complacent intellectual wannabes in the Church who are long overdue for their comeuppance.

H. E. Baber
University of San Diego
Chula Vista, California, UNITED STATES
23 October 2003

Whose ox?

I HAVE A FEELING THAT THE PROPOSED NEW POWERS for the Archbishop of Canterbury, revealed in today's London Times, will not be approved by the Third World bishops and their conservative sympathisers, because after the bullies get their way in the present crisis, Rowan Williams will be their next target.

Stephen Hough
presently Roman Catholic wavering, but recently less likely to change.
24 October 2003

Earlier letters

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


This web site is independent. It is not official in any way. Our editorial staff is private and unaffiliated. Please contact about information on this page. ©2007 Society of Archbishop Justus