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This page last updated 23 December 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 We usually do not publish letters written in response to other letters.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.

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

Letters received during the week of 14 December 2003

Our thanks and Happy Christmas to all who wrote to us since we launched our Letters page in March. We're grateful!

Lopsided? Or not?

I HAVE BEEN A LONG TIME READER of AO, and have appreciated its varied content over the years. I am, however, quite dismayed at the onesided coverage of the current controversies in the Anglican church. I have read many calm, reasoned arguments on the net from people who are on the conservative side of these issues, and yet they never seem to appear on AO. Not all conservatives are zealots; we too, have come to our position on these issues with much prayer and Bible reading; many of us are also deeply hurt by what is going on (talk to any of the dissenting priests in the Diocese of New Westminister, or some of the members of their congregations, if you doubt this). If you truly do want to contribute to finding the via media in this crisis, you would do well to cover both sides of the issue.

Kate Sanderson
St Alban the Martyr, Ottawa
South Mountain, CANADA
15 December 2003

Light after schism

THANK YOU SO MUCH for Anglicans Online and for its sane and eirenic ministry. I have just returned from the celebration in Pietermaritzburg and Durban of the 150th anniversary of the Consecration of Bishop John Colenso and of the founding of the Diocese of Natal. The 'frenzy' (Colenso's word) that John and Frances Colenso experienced and the years of isolation and abuse that they suffered for their 'heresy', and their defence of the Zulu people, have long since ended, and the schism in the Church long since healed. The Church there now honours the contribution of both Colenso and Macrorie (at one time rival bishops).

'Colenso Week' saw the launching of a new book on Colenso, now seen as one of the great figures of the 19th century. It is The Eye of the Storm, (Cluster Publications, Pietermaritzburg). As a retired priest of Sydney Diocese, I am distressed by Sydney's narrow intolerance that is alienating so many of its members, and what seems to me a lack of sensitive, pastoral concern for people.

To any like myself (as an honorary hospital chaplain) who walk through the wards of any hospital, or to any aware of the vast problems faced by a country such as South Africa — deep poverty, high unemployment, frightening crime, and a pandemic of AIDs — the petty frenzies of the church this year seem almost obscene.

At this Christmas and in the new year, God bless you in your ministry.

The Revd Dr John Bunyan
St Paul's Parish Church, Bankstown, Diocese of Sydney
Campbelltown North, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA
15 December 2003

The sound of one hand clapping

I INITIALLY APPLAUDED the American Anglican Council's (AAC) prophetic voice within the Episcopal Church though they are not my 'cup of tea'. Their stated mission was to reform the Episcopal Church from within, indeed to help the pendulum swing back toward the right. However, after having read their rhetoric over the last weeks, it appears that the AAC leadership is on a determined course to create schism rather than be prophetic. Indeed their rhetoric has already gone to the breaking point in its judging of the rest of the Episcopal Church, in their impoliteness to our Presiding Bishop (Politeness being a traditional mainstream value in the Anglican and Episcopal Church) and in sometimes demonizing anyone or any group who does not step in line with their interpretations of the Bible. The Episcopal Church is family and I am offended by their presumption of righteousness and their rudeness and judgment of “my Church family.” Their harsh voices are not historically mainstream or traditional in the Episcopal or Anglican Church, but are extreme voices that sometimes sound like the echo of the dark side of fundamentalism.

I invite the AAC to reclaim their prophetic voice and put it to use within The Episcopal Church. The Church needs your voice and your hands. The right hand should not say to the left hand, “I have no need of you.” It makes clapping for joy very difficult.

The Reverend James B. Shumard
St. Francis of the Islands
Savannah, Georgia, USA
16 December 2003

When you're bored...

THE WORDS OF 'IMMORTAL, INVISIBLE' and 'Away in a manger' can be switched between their traditional tunes to render new meanings! When this novelty wears off, the tune of 'Da Doo Ron Ron' can be used, with the repeated line for the chorus being at the behest of the musical director!

Mike Jackson
St Luke's, Slyne-with-Hest.
Lancaster, ENGLAND
15 December 2003


I READ CYNTHIA'S ESSAY and found it very sad, indeed. I am very sorry that she had to leave her parish. We are certainly living in difficult times. While our diocese has parishes and individuals on both sides of our controversy, St. John's has stayed essentially united. Because St. John's is a National Historic Landmark, we have thousands of visitors, including some from New Hampshire on recent Sundays. They are clearly feeling the pain of the church and understand the role they have played. I wish she could have found a way to stay in her parish. Cynthia is in my prayers. Anglicans Online is my first read on Mondays.

The Reverend Bruce A. Gray
St. John's Episcopal Church
Richmond, Virginia, USA
17 December 2003

A REGULAR READER AND BROWSER for a few years with an urge to say thank you. As I read 'The Parting of Friends' this morning, one of my first and strongest thoughts was 'I really do like these people'. It is surely one of the saddest experiences of our life together when that life can no longer be such; when we find ourselves outside of each other's Garden.

And so, with thanksgiving, I would include you both in one of my regular prayers and simply say 'God blesses and keeps us all', as you continue to be a blessing to us all.

Paul Bunnell
St Agnes Church, North Vancouver, Diocese of New Westminster
Vancouver, British Columbia, CANADA
17 December 2003

I EXPECT THIS MISSIVE WILL BE one of many in response to Cynthia's reflections on leaving the parish where she had been worshipping. Our experience at St. Matthew's Abbotsford had some parallels. After 18 months of objecting to withdrawals by the parish from the life of the diocese, including, in particular, withdrawal from the financial life of the wider church, we asked to be taken off the parish roll. We now drive a half hour or so to an Anglican parish in the neighbouring community.

We were not told directly that we are apostate, though I expect many thought and think this without actually saying so. Some of the kind folk at St. Matthew's did express a wish for us to stay. But it was clear that our staying would require us to stand impotently by (and no doubt, in the hopes of the folk at St. Matthew's, quietly by) while the other parishioners continued to countenance and in most cases support withdrawals from diocese and all that goes with that those behaviours.

As with Cynthia, we recognize that we have not undergone anything more serious than a dislocation we wish had not become necessary. The upside is that the parish where we now worship has been most accommodating, has received us as the refugees we consider ourselves to be, and has not pressed on us calls for participation and commitment at levels we are not ready to sustain. The liturgy continues to refresh. The more preaching which refers to issues of human sexuality and church governance in context rather than making these topics a focus is providing nourishment. The company of the others as they support parish life and prepare for relocation back to renovated premises teaches that the church for the most part is alive and is equipping itself and us to do God's work. And the sense of relief at being out of a black hole is wonderful.

Our hope for Cynthia is that her transition will prove to be as fruitful as ours has been.

Douglas MacAdams, Q.C
St George's Fort Langley, formerly of St Matthew's, Abbotsford
Abbotsford, British Columbia, CANADA
15 December 2003

They who would valiant be

THANK YOU FOR REMINDING US once again of the holy experience of pilgrimage in your December 7 issue. In the summer of 1992 I went with 19 members of our parish EYC on an Anglican Heritage tour of England, and the places we visited will always be dear to my heart. Seeing and praying at the site of Thomas a Becket's maryrdom was especially moving for me, reminding me of all the challenges of separating the mandates of faith and politics. The parish church in Windsor, with its wonderful memorial tablets and the sidewalk composed of old gravestones running alongside the church is a vivid memory. And the beauty and color of York Minster is unforgettable.

The journey we made was a living experience and participation in the history of our faith, and strengthened all of us in our sense of being members of a greater whole. From what I read of the account of Egeria, a fourth-century pilgrim from Spain to Jerusalem, her life was changed by visiting the holy sites there. Little did she know her pilgrimage would enrich the whole church by preserving memories of early Holy Week and Easter liturgies that would otherwise be lost. Some of those memories have gone into the development of our present Holy Week liturgies — once again underlining our part as individual members of a past, present, and future greater whole.

In a wider sense, we are all pilgrims through life, doing our best to follow Christ as we journey through the perils, sorrows, and delights that rise to meet us. If we have experienced the immediacy of the Holy at some holy site, perhaps we will be better equipped to recognize the Holy encountering us every day, at every stop along our life's journey. What better intention could we have, then, but 'to be a pilgrim'.

The Reverend Peggy Blanchard
St. Elizabeth Episcopal, Knoxville
Kingston, Tennessee, USA
18 December 2003

Missing the mark

YOU WRITE IN YOUR COLUMN 'As long as we are separated not from God but merely from each other, [the separation within our communion] will likely not have a huge impact….'

I think the premise that we are separating ourselves from ourselves and not from God is plain wrong. Emmanuel, God is with us, within us. We are in Christ, Christ in us. Right? When we push people away, any people, for any reason, when we marginalize people who we disagree with, or don’t like, we marginalize God within us, we push away Christ in us, we push away God. God have mercy on us and pray we are not condemned, for pushing each other away, separating ourselves from each other, is separation, and misses the mark, is 'hamartia' (sin). We are called to seek Christ in all persons, respecting the dignity of every human being. We are not called to separate ourselves from each other.

We should always — always — be reaching out toward one another.

Michael Johnson
St Stephen's Episcopal Church
Houston, Texas, USA
19 December 2003

The adjustable and the inadjustable

IT'S SNOWING HERE AND I'M IN THE OFFICE eating a chicken pot pie and watching the tiny flakes pile up.

Your homily for the third Sunday of Advent spoke sad truths. What are the faithful called to do? To love God, ourselves, and each other. That's pretty much it... well, and to sneak over and shovel the walk to the vicarage or the pensioner's home under cover of darkness, look after the little squids in the nursery or for the neighbors, yodel with the choir, etc., as directed by Heaven.

So what is it to love ourselves and each other? Seems to mean that we recognize the Divine in our own grubby little hearts and souls and in the hearts and souls of others. Doesn't mean we adopt or approve of their political views, sexual orientation, or feelings about broccoli. It just means we acknowledge that all of us are wonderfully and mysteriously made, and that God is indeed present in us. Think of it — not only does God love us as we are, perceived imperfections, warts, weirdness, and all, but BECAUSE we are: the mere fact that we exist is enough to recommend us!

The snow continues indiscriminately, falling, to quote my daughter's paraphrase of the scripture, 'on the adjustable and the non-adjustable'. I guess the adjustable faithful stay, and the non-adjustable look for another church.

Happy Christmas to you, and a blessed New Year!

Christy Favorite
St Mary's Episcopal Church, Anchorage, and St Peter's Church, Seward
Anchorage, Alaska, USA
19 December 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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