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This page last updated 25 July 2004
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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 We usually do not publish letters written in response to other letters.

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Letters from 11 to 18 July 2004

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'Please pray for Sri Lanka'

I AM AN AUSTRALIAN JOURNALIST who is deeply concerned about events this coming week that could affect the liberty of thousands of Christians.

On Tuesday, July 20, the Sri Lankan Parliament is expected to vote on a Bill that, if enacted, will threaten freedom of thought and religious liberty in the beautiful island nation off the southern tip of India. The anti-conversion law would effectively stop Sri Lankan Buddhists, who make up about 80 per cent of the population, from ever deciding to change to another religion.The country's Catholic bishops and other Christians have condemed the Bill in recent weeks and asked believers around the world to pray against it.

The Bill, among other clauses, stipulates that anyone who changes his or her religion, as well as the facilitator in the conversion, has to inform a designated local government official before doing so. Failure to do this would be punishable by a prison term of up to five years.

The law would also jail people convicted of what it calls 'illegal conversion' -- using fraudulent means to convert.

Legal sources in Sri Lanka said this week that the Bill defines conversion in such a way that any kind of motivation to convert -- even an invitation to a Buddhist to visit a Christian's home -- could be illegal. The term 'fraudulent' includes 'misinterpretation'. Lawyers fear the state may construe a Christian's claim that Jesus is the Son of God as a 'fraudulent' claim made to influence the target of conversion.

The Bill could also have the effect of banning all charitable work by Christians because they may be deemed as 'bribes' to convert Buddhists. Buddhism in Sri Lanka is closely linked with nationalism. Radical Buddhist clergy have been disturbed by the recent decline of Buddhism and growth of Christian churches, particularly in rural areas.

Anti-Christian violence has risen in Sri Lanka in recent years. In the first six months of this year alone there have been 48 reported attacks on churches, priests and congregations. Christians form about seven per cent of the population, although their influence is growing like a fire. There is a real revival going on.

Why should you care about this? Because, as US lawyer Clarence Darrow said, you can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom.

Please pray for Sri Lanka.

Bryan Patterson
Melbourne, Victoria. Australia.
17 July 2004

Not a disembodied reality

YOU DID IT AGAIN! Your meditation on your Sunday with your encounter with the Indian women was very helpful. Our communion (which is in Christ) IS there, we just need to accept it.

For those of us who have lived overseas (wherever overseas may be from our homes) and worshipped regularly in another part of the Anglican Communion, all of our current situation is not a disembodied reality that won't have much effect on our home parishes, but rather a reminder that our Communion is something to be lived, relationships to be treasured, a model of hope that Christians can show the world a different way to be and to act, even in the face of much division.

Isn't that what Jesus was saying in this past Sunday's Gospel (Luke 10) when the lawyer asked how to inherit eternal life and jesus replied with the story of the Samaritan who was willing to cross boundaries to serve someone in need? I don't think the injured man cared who came to his aid -- just glad not to have been left bleeding by the roadside. And Jesus commanded the lawyer to go and do as the Samritan had done.

The Reverend Victoria Geer McGrath
All Saints', Millington, New Jersey
12 July 2004

Mixing it up and making it work

A FEW YEARS AGO I ATTENDED Evensong and Benediction at All Saints, Margaret Street, after having been to both Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral for their renditions of the same service. This may seem extreme, but I didn't want to return to my home in the American Midwest with any regrets!

I was surprised to discover that, much as I loved everything about the worship at the first two churches, I found the music at Margaret Street to be the most moving and satisfying -- despite the fact that they had a 'mixed' choir, which would have been unthinkable at All Saints a century ago. Part of the appeal was the fact that they were willing to mix Anglo-Catholic ritual of the highest order with canticles and anthems by people like Stanford and Howells, most of whose sacred compositions had been written for those occupying the more 'moderate' liturgical camp of the English cathedral.

This seemed to be a concrete expression of what you wrote about in the 27 June editorial essay: blending what is old (ritual dating to the Middle Ages) with something newer (music from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries). But it doesn't stop there. As an 'Affirming Anglican Catholicism' parish, All Saints demonstrates that it sees nothing incompatible between maintaining a rich Catholic liturgical tradition and being open to new insights from the Holy Spirit. To me, that is the genius of Anglicanism. Long may it live.

William Bippus
St Paul's Church
Marinette, Wisconsin, USA
12 July 2004

'Tiny outposts of God's Kingdom'

THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMENTARY on sanctuary. Your words reflect my own feelings about holy space as I have traveled physically, or spiritually, from place to place. In my own parish, we strive to create that kind of pilgrim's rest for our own people, as well as those passing through.

We are an old parish, with a wonderful old Gothic building. The neighborhood around us is in decay and our membership travels miles to gather. We have chosen to remain in our location regardless of the challenges of urban blight and white flight. We maintain our gardens and our property, so that it is the very place you mention. A place where anyone is welcome to stroll or sit, listen to the voices of happy children at our school, or escape the world around them. A place wherein people come to worship the God reflected in the beauty of word and imagery around them.

As I reflect on our Anglican and Episcopal churches dotting the globe, in context of your lovely words, I am reminded of the old statement about being 'Tiny outposts of God's Kingdom here on earth'. There is an invisible unity in that oneness of spirituality and beauty of holiness which we share with all those in our communion -- and when all the preaching is done that is what will hold us together. Thank you for giving it utterance for me.

The Reverend Van Windsor, rector
Trinity Episcopal Church
Pine Bluff, Arkansas, USA
13 July 2004

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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