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This page last updated 8 November 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 We usually do not publish letters written in response to other letters.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 28 October 2003

Proud to be members of an inclusive church

I AM A RECENT ADDITION TO THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION, having failed to convince myself of Roman Catholicism for most of my life. I finally feel like I'm on the right track. Picked a great time to join, though, didn't I? Talk of schism is everywhere.

What a shame. We are so quick to draw lines and separate ourselves from one another. We are so quick to justify our point of view and then state with great certainty that we are the ones most closely following the will of God.

I don't know if sexual orientation is part of our genetic code, if it's imposed by our early life history, or if it's a conscious choice made some sunny afternoon, and I don't really care. If, in Christ, there is no Jew nor Gentile, male nor female, etc., then there is good reason to believe that there is also no straight nor gay. I was truly surprised, naive as it sounds, to see the uproar surrounding the pending election of a gay bishop.

Well, not much has changed in 2000 years. We claim that love for all is our highest aspiration, yet we so readily withhold it for whatever the reason du jour.

Homosexuals have been coming through our doors and putting on the collar all along. Episcopalians just happen to be the first to acknowledge that fact in this manner. My wife and I are proud to be members of a church that welcomes everyone's participation, and where skin color, bank account, gender, sexual orientation, and political persuasion are not as important as a person's desire to follow Christ. We believe, as you point out, that we are all one in Christ. Thank you.

David Bragassa
St. Michael's Episcopal
Richmond, Virginia, USA
27 October 2003

We really weren't trying to incite anyone

THANKS FOR YOUR INCITEFUL DESCRIPTION of splinter groups. I was heartened to see you quote from the Bible, a book that I too like to read .. even the portions I don't care for.

Bill Kotlan
Diocese of Texas, USA
28 October 2003

Missionary to my own parish

AS ONE WHO ATTENDED THE MEETING IN DALLAS, I have followed fairly closely what the popular press, both here and abroad, has been saying. I neither heard nor saw any of the anger that has been reported, but rather a resolute desire to recapture the faith of our fathers - to make the Great Commandment and the Great Commission the central focus of our Church. We, like many others in ECUSA, have veered from that toward people-serving (we deserve a pat on the back) ministries. In Dallas we repented of our complicity and said, no more!

If ECUSA has been doing such a wonderful job for Christ, why has membership tumbled from a high of about 3.5 million in 1966 to 2,3 million today while our population has increased significantly? The Great Commandment is not being served well here in America.

All organizations have central goals, visions, missions, tenets which guide them. When these become broken or dysfunctional, the organization ceases to be what it was. This is not to say it is better or worse, but it is different!

I now consider myself to be a missionary to my own Parish after being a member for 39 years. I will be redirecting (not decreasing) some of my giving to those bodies which I believe will better support my understanding of scripture.

If this schism does eventuate, I don't believe God will prefer either side, because if He did, then which denomination do you suppose He likes best now? Are we Anglicans somehow superior to others? If longevity counts, the Roman Catholics win easily.

So finally, I believe we all choose our churches based on a large number of factors and none of us should feel superior to any other of us.

Clark Oster
Christ Episcopal - Cedar Rapids
Swisher, Iowa, USA
28 October 2003

Passion for the real call of the church

I ENJOYED YOUR ARTICLE ABOUT THE QUESTION of what name the party who wants to split the Episcopal Church may choose in order to convey where they stand on the issues. If Christians spent half as much time with half as much passion on the real call of the church, rather than worrying about being "right", think of the hungry children that would be fed, the homeless that would be sheltered, and the wave of peace and justice that would break out on the earth.

Cheryl Murray
Dallas, Texas, USA
28 October 2003

There's no one here to cast the first stone

YOUR OPENING LETTER IS WAY OFF BASE. The root cause of the dissension is not based on some predisposition of a schism and I am truly shocked at your comments about the dissent being politically based and not faith based. How absurd! I think you described the motives of those promoting Rev. [Mr] Robinson, not those opposing him. The opposing view is based solely on faith. Our purpose in this life is to love God with all our heart, and all of our mind, and all of our soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. But it also teaches that as we should not sin, neither should we condone sin. Loving a person and condoning sin are two entirely separate actions. We love our children, but we do not condone the wrong they do.

Rebecca W. Riggins
Rocky Mount, North Carolina, USA
28 October 2003

Who does Jesus say it is all right to exclude?

IN THE NEW TESTAMENT, IT IS CLEAR that the only affirmation necessary to become Christian is the statement 'Jesus is Lord' (the homological acclamation.) The other criterion for Christians was to live together and meet with other Christians regularly. Developed creedal formulas and detailed rules of membership and life came only as the Church gradually transformed into an institution (which by definition has its own self-perpetuation as its first rule, like every other institution.)

The Church developed into an institution as the prospect of an immediate Second Coming gradually receded. That's when people decided it was necessary for them to be in charge (claiming various conflicting types of guidance by the Holy Spirit), and when the practice of living as if Christ himself were truly and immediately present among us began to dwindle among the majority of people. Admittedly, this is no easy task; but the world would recognize Christ among us much more clearly if we behaved as though we know he is actually here.

Looking at the New Testament once again, my friend Gwendolyn Scott poses an interesting challenge: Read any one of the synoptic gospels straight through, and at the end, tell us who Jesus says it is all right to exclude. The answer is simple: no one. So to any who propose schism, I can only say that according to the Bible we Christians are meant to live together in Christian love, excluding no one, and all the rest is commentary. Let judgment cease: it belongs only to God.

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

Morality or moral blackmail?

I WOULD LIKE TO MAKE IT CLEAR THAT I would tend to a personal bias in favour of the Episcopal Church.

This is not because of any great affection on my part for homosexuality. Indeed I personally would like the age of consent for homosexuality to still be 21 in the UK; it was recently reduced to 18 by the Labour government. What consenting homosexuals over 21 do in private is up to them. However the "grooming" of young men under 21 by older men is a definite abomination.

On the more purely theological front, it seems illogical to stay in communion with other anglican provinces when they have woman priests and woman bishops, and "closet" homosexual priests, but then say you are out of communion because these homosexual priests become more open and honest about their sexuality.

The real motive seems to be to exert a conservative stranglehold on the Anglican Church, using the fact that most conservatives are based in the developing world. "You are against the Third World" is a cry I have heard a lot recently. No Christian who has read one of Christ's main injunctions - "Preach my Gospel unto all the world" - would even start to countenance such a thought. However if developing countries are saying that they will only countenance co-operation with the developed world if the developed world follows a conservative moral agenda they are applying a form of totally un-christian and totally unacceptable moral blackmail.

Alan Houston
Belfast, Northern Ireland
31 October 2003

The Sunday worshiping masses feel isolated

WHEN I SPENT SIX MONTHS IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS, some 25 years ago, the facility to worship at a church in communion with my own was something I valued, although - like having a Queen - it is hard to explain why.

But the UK and USA are moving in their own directions and the differences between our cultures are now far greater than those between our spellings! The issue of the moment would seem to be whether the way in which the Holy Spirit speaks to those who meet in Christ’s name, or pray privately, depends on the particular culture of their nation, or even their region within it.

Throughout England, many lifelong Sunday worshipers are totally perplexed by the views on sexuality that are developing in the Houses of Bishops on both sides of the pond. A lifetime of spiritual leadership about the responsibilities that derive from our unique status as the conceptual thinkers in the animal kingdom (made in His image and knowing right from wrong) is being questioned.

The Holy Spirit appears to be telling most individual worshippers not to change their understanding of how our bodies should be used as the temples of the Holy Spirit so that the Kingdom might be spread. Thus, not surprisingly, they find unsettling the change of viewpoint, or even the ambivalence, of those chosen to guide them in interpreting Scripture and turning our souls to God

Certainly, we accept that some of the edicts of the Bible are specific to a particular time. For example, the strictures on usury related to a situation where bankers were a small oligopoly; in our times, pricing drugs out of the reach of the third world might be the equivalent. Hence, the text slinging that is going on between liberals and evangelicals merely makes us look foolish in the eyes of gentiles. It cannot be spiritual.

For many, the basic concepts of our faith - as derived from the many teachings of the Bible - not only remain unchanged, but are supported by the Holy Spirit working daily within our souls as we try to listen. Nevertheless, it is clear that many are hearing and revealing divergent new concepts about how our bodies should honour their creator. Furthermore, they are being led to use their talents to strongly promote the new revelations. Sadly, the leaders amongst those who doubt these to be true revelations from God resort to the meaningless text slinging, referred to above. The Sunday worshiping masses feel isolated, with no real champion of their beliefs.

This isolation is particularly so in many parts of England, where the laity has no effective structure to voice their collective concerns. Ninety percent of churches, deaneries and dioceses provide no facility for the laity to discuss these issues meaningfully. A ‘laity conference’ is usually eighty percent presentation of an issue by the clergy, followed by group discussion of a narrow range of topics which skirt the main issues. It seems as if ‘divide and rule’ is the order of the day! Are the clergy and bishops scared that the media might get hold of a shared laity concern, which they feel might be as divisive as fascism?

Because of this it is hard to know where are the strongest and the broken links within the Anglican Communion. Is it a rural / city divide, rather than C of E / ECUSA? Do the laity in sheep raising Cumbria, UK hear the same unchanging revelations as worshipping ranchers in Wyoming? Is it those in central parishes in both London and New York that have received the newer revelation? Are the circumstances within cities such as to require particular interpretations of God’s love and thus require a spiritual leadership which embraces love styles which rural Christians can never associate with the temple of the Holy Spirit

Michael Jackson
St Luke's, Slyne-with-Hest, Diocese of Blackburn
Lancaster, ENGLAND
1 November 2003

A toast to the future, whatever it may be

WHATEVER HAPPENS ON ALL SAINTS SUNDAY in New Hampshire, let's take comfort that at least we are behaving better since the Arian-Athanasian controversies. And should there be formal breaks in provincial relationships, nonetheless we remain one still in a mystical unity in God's kairos. And no doubt ECUSA still holds a special place in the hearts of many in provinces that has chosen to part communion and there we have a communion of heart which structures cannot break apart.

Transitions are always that proverbial birth pang and when the sound of fury dies down, I have no doubt that we will emerge with a communion, somewhat different and perhaps uncharted, but nonetheless richer because we have chosen to struggle with issues rather than pretend they do not exist.

A toast to the future of our beloved Anglican Communion.

Lee Tuck-Leong
Saint Andrew's Cathedral, SINGAPORE
2 November 2003

Sophomoric names

I FOUND THE LEAD ARTICLE of 26 October 2003 regarding a possible split in the World-wide Anglican Communion to be demeaning and condescending of those you disagreed with.

In this article you claim a group of Anglicans has sought for years to bring schism. You then suggest sophomoric names by which those you disagree with might wish to define themselves.

Nowhere in your article is there an acknowledgment that this situation has been bought about by the unilateral actions of the Episcopal Church in the US and by the New Westminster Diocese in British Columbia.

I suggest that if you truly wish to work for unity within the Communion as you claim, you re-think your method to bring such to fruition, rather than as you have done, to exacerbate its divisions.

(The Venerable) Ron Ashford, Archdeacon Wanganui
St Peter's - Gonville, Wanganui, New Zealand
Wanganui, New Zealand
2 November 2003

Editor's note: we suggested sophomoric names for both sides, not just the one we disagreed with.

Thank you, New Hampshire


We are writing to thank you on behalf of our family and humanity everywhere for your courage. We hope and pray that the triumph of love over fear made visible by this act of consecration of Gene Robinson as the Bishop of New Hampshire is a giant step toward the acceptance of our differences that make this county so rich and vibrant.

Blessings too you and prayers for peace in the world,

Martin, Jane and Clayton Kilmer
Cottage Grove OR 97424
2 November 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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