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This page last updated 10 August 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 We usually do not publish letters written in response to other letters.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 1 to 8 August 2004

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

In our last week's letter, we asked about Anglican heroes. This week we're delighted to share with you all the people we were privileged to read about in our correspondence. Have one you'd like to share? Let us know.

A mid-Victorian priest and theologian with generosity of heart and soul

In immediate response to your question about 'Anglican Heroes', let me weigh in with a vote for Frederick Denison Maurice, mid-Victorian English priest and theologian whose magisterial books The Kingdom of Christ and Theological Essays exemplify the kind of astute thinking, clear writing and -- most importantly -- generous attitude that is so often missing from our contemporary debates.

Although deeply committed to Anglican Christianity and unafraid to call error by its name when necessary, his unswerving dedication to finding common ground wherever he could, within the framework of classical Christian truth, should be an inspiration to all of us. Perhaps the most topical aspect of the example he sets us is his diligence in acquiring an 'inside' understanding, even of opinions he would then sharply criticise. Even where one disagrees with him, it is almost impossible to feel slighted by his treatment of one's own position; rather he calls the reader to radical reappraisal with a come-let-us-reason-together humility which is hard to resist, and which blends graciously with his wide erudition and sharp intellect.

Maurice, like many important thinkers before and since, was disparaged in his own day from two directions: from the secular world, as a man who wasted his considerable talents on theological niceties that mainstream society already viewed as quaintly outmoded; and from the church, as a dangerous liberal (his writing in Theological Essays against traditional notions of hell as eternal punishment lost him a lucrative professorship). For all that, his writing remains an inspiration (and perhaps, in a gentle sort of way, a rebuke) to many of the shriller, lazier theologians of our own day.

Daryl M. Hutchings
Christ Church Cathedral
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
3 August 2004

A godmother of prayer, faith, and love

I am a Vancouver-born Canadian of Japanese ancestry. A woman from the Isle of Wight, Ida S. Withers, was my godmother. My mother, before she was married, was Ida's roommate. They were both kindergarten teachers.

For the first ten years of my life we lived in Vancouver, and my godmother, along with several women missionaries, were regular visitors in our home. When Pearl Harbor occurred in December 1941, the regular routine was severely disrupted, and in a few months hence the Japanese community and our congregational life was dislocated.

Miss Withers decided to keep in touch with me by letter in the 'ghost town' of Slocan City. Her letters of spiritual counsel and advice to an elementary school-age child miraculously came regularly to 'Master Timothy Nakayama', undefiled by the black strokes of the censor. What she wrote did not contain any sensitive information, but they were filled with spiritual sensitivity and care!

After we were relocated in the immediate post-war years to Coaldale, Alberta, on the wide open treeless prairies, she continued writing to me to tell me about her prayers of intercession for me and the baptismal promises she had made for me in 1931. I remember that she wrote to me when I graduated from high school. She kept in touch by post, especially at anniversaries, and my graduation from university and seminary. She was overjoyed to know that I was to be ordained deacon, and then priest, at the pro-Cathedral in Calgary. She kept in touch with me by her prayers and her letters, and died shortly after Keiko and I were married in 1961. She was ever more faithful than I, and I thank God for her faithful and loving ministry to me of over thirty-five years, many that were fraught with uncertainty. I cherish having received her steadying regular letters over all those years with the assurance of her prayers! Thanks be to God!

The Reverend Timothy Makoto Nakayama
St Mark's Cathedral, Seattle
Seattle, Washington, USA
2 August 2004

A parish priest of reverence and enthusiasm

My wife and I agree that Father Noel Delbridge is our modern-day Anglican hero. Working as a locum priest, this stately looking gentleman (who is probably eighty years old or there about) could warm the coldest of days with his sincere warmth and friendliness. Father Noel is a leader who can manage a situation with all concerned feeling listened to and respected. His faith is an inspiration and he is always ready to lend an ear and dispense wise counsel. During mass, to watch him consecrate the host, one would think that this was the first time he had ever performed this sacred duty, such is his enthusiasm and reverence during such solemn occasions.

After spending time with Father Noel, you leave him with a renewed desire to be a better Anglican and a better Christian.

Like all true heroes, Father Noel would probably deny all of this and tell you he is just being himself ... and this is why we consider him so special and our modern-day Anglican Hero.

Michael McKeown
Christ Church, Essendon
Essendon, Victoria, AUSTRALIA
2 August 2004

An African archbishop, an ECUSA bishop, and an American lay theologian

My heroes:

The Right Reverend Coleman McGehee, activist Bishop of Michigan, who took risky positions on both civil rights and the gay and lesbian issues back in the 1970s. He's now retired but still active.

Verna Dozier, author of Equipping the Saints and Dream of God. Biblical scholar with much to say about the issues of inclusively following Jesus rather than exclusively worshipping him.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, for all that he has done and all that he has written and the various stances that he has taken in the face of criticism.

Joel G. Hill
St John's Church, Hagerstown, Maryland
Baltimore, Maryland, USA
2 August 2004

An Anglican writer and scholar who asked questions of depth

I don't think I would call him a hero, per se, and he himself would absolutely deny it: Clive Staples Lewis.

He is my spiritual mentor, certainly, and I suppose (knowing myself as I do) that qualifies him for 'hero' status. His insight and intellect have broadened my view of my faith, and added a depth to it I don't think anyone else could have done. I've read most of his apologetic works, collections, and of course, the Narnia series. Often, he is not easy reading. A few paragraphs are often all I can read, mark, and inwardly digest. Very dense writing; certainly not the cotton-candy fluff and sweetness one finds in many current apologetics.

I am not a person who is swayed by emotional appeals. It works for many, but has had no staying power with me. Lewis, on the other hand, is the one whose appeal to me is in what happens after the 'feel-goods' run out and you're left wondering what happened, what you did wrong, why the good feelings left (see Surprised By Joy). In his writings, he answered numerous questions I never even thought to ask. He has made me examine and question my faith and see it in a far different way from the faith of my childhood -- '... when I was a child, I thought as a child ... when I became an adult, I put away childish things'.

A hero? More like, heroic. A saint? He would be first to deny it, but I suggest a small-s saint, rather than a capital-S saint. Such as many of us are.

R. Frederick
St Andrew's Episcopal Church
Panama City, Florida, USA
2 August 2004

An American bishop whose life and teachings are unforgotten

Ah, heroes. What would life be without them.

My Anglican hero was the Right Reverend Robert Bracewell Appleyard, late Bishop of Pittsburgh. He was someone I could look up to, and someone who could look into me and help me be a better Christian. One of his sons was my parish priest.

I will never forget the feeling of his strong hands grasping my head at my confirmation. And I will never forget what he taught me, by words and deeds, about being a Christian.

Brian Reid
Christ Church, Los Altos, California
Palo Alto, California, USA
9 August 2004

An early 20th-century parish priest whose energy and achievements inspire

My Anglican hero is Dick Sheppard. Sheppard was appointed Rector of St Martin in the Fields, Trafalgar Square, in 1914. This web page, by the Peace Pledge Union, provides a great short biography of the man.

It is his energy in the face of chronic illness and depression that inspires me, and the wonderful vision and creativity of the parish priest whose mark is still on St Martin's almost 90 years after his arrival.

In the summer of 2002, on Jubilee Day (June 4), I was privileged to celebrate the Eucharist at St Martin's in the tiny little Dick Sheppard Chapel. Fittingly, it is a small cave-like room cut under the sidewalk next to the crypt. Painted white, with its simple memorial to Vera Brittain (another of my heroes), the ceiling is glass block, letting in the light from above and the shadows of the city dwellers and tourists above as they move in and out of St Martin's. It was a simple moment that I will carry with me always.

The church, great landmark that it is, is still an organic part of its space and time, it is a living, breathing parish and inspiration to the church.

The Peace Pledge Union was and is a wonderful accomplishment, but is is Dick Sheppard's vision of how a parish could be integrated with its community that captures my imagination and inspires me in my own ministry.

The Reverend Susan Hutchinson
The Greater Parish of Gaspe
Gaspe, Quebec, CANADAs
2 August 2004

Three Anglo-Catholic bishops, one presiding

Three of the Anglican heroes who have most inspired my own spiritual life are: 1) Bishop Charles C. Grafton, second Bishop of Fond du Lac [Wisconsin USA], whose autobiography, A Journey Godward, remains a too-little-known gem of the Catholic Movement. Grafton was, in many ways, a progressive, and very much shaped the most creative strain of American Anglo Catholicism. 2) Bishop William H. Brady, fifth Bishop of Fond du Lac, a wise and holy man who continued Grafton's tradition and made many of us into more mature Christians. 3) Bishop Frank T. Griswold, whose deep spiritual life shines like stars and who continues to demonstrate what it is to be a truly Catholic Christian.

Phoebe Pettingell
St Augustine of Hippo, Rhinelander (Diocese of Fond du Lac)
Three Lakes, Wisconsin, USA
2 August 2004

A martyred bishop and Anglican saint

I have recently finished reading Charlotte Mary Yonge's biography of John Coleridge Patteson, first Missionary Bishop of Melanesia.

The facts of his life are impressive: leaving family and the comforts of England, he worked tirelessly, under conditions of great physical hardship, and finally lost his life in the cause of bringing the Gospel to those who had never heard it. But the letters and journals which make up most of the book reveal an equally impressive inner life, deeply recollected, free of any sense of cultural or racial superiority, stengthened with might by the Spirit in the inner man. So it is particularly moving to see this saintly man nourished by things recognisably Anglican. He comments on the appropriateness of the readings for Morning or Evening Prayer on a particular day. He quotes BCP collects. He prays the long prayer from the Ordering of Priests every day to strengthen himself for his ministry. He discusses liturgical developments in the English Church circa 1870 with his correspondents in England, including John Keble, and moves to weekly Communion as the norm for baptised Christians.

In short, an Anglican saint, not a saint in spite of being an Anglican.

Mary Finlay
St Mary Magdalene Toronto
Toronto, Ontario, CANADA
3 August 2004

A bishop with the courage to fight for the right

The late Bishop Paul Moore of New York. To learn about his life you can read his autobiographies, Take a Bishop Like Me and Presences. A man of courage and vision and an advocate for justice.

Gillian Barr
All Souls, Point Loma
San Diego, California, USA
9 August 2004

Two writers, an inner-city priest, and a multitude no-one can number

The late David Watson, who has inspired me through his writing (One in the Spirit, Discipleship, etc.) and through his example as an evangelical, charismatic Anglican who remained loyal to the Anglican Church and found ways of renewing and developing parish life without 'kicking over the traces'.

Graham Corneck, the Vicar of the parish in which I found my first Christian home: A faithful parish priest in an inner-city parish in London. He set me an example of a spirituality that was not afraid to face up to the real world and that could cope with the messiness of human existence. Graham Corneck helped me to believe in a God big enough to be able to handle my and others' weakness, so that it was possible to be honest with oneself and with God.

I suppose that CS Lewis should also get a mention, but I guess that he will be mentioned by quite a few others!

Thanks for prompting me to remember not only the heroes I've mentioned, but also others (both women and men) who have been great influences in my Christian life.

Graham Jarvis
Church of Sweden (Lutheran, but I was ordained in the Anglican Church)
Örebro, Sweden
2 August 2004

Two bishops who dared

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, has been undoubtedly my Anglican hero. He has shown what I have lacked in facing the stupidity and unfairness of the apartheid system, risking everything to live the Gospel.

Bishop John Shelby Spong, for the courage he has shown to be honest to God and to himself. For the joy of thinking in a fresh way in this eternal search for meaning, for the rigour and seriousness he has developed at doing it.

Andrés Wiche
San Andrés de La Reina (St Andrew, La Reina)
Santiago, CHILE
4 August 2004

A priest who understood

My Anglican Hero: the Reverend Samuel Shoemaker. (Calvary Church, New York City; Calvary Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) The inspiration for the book Alcoholics Anonymous, he was given credit as a co-founder of that organization by Bill Wilson. Any comparative study of that book and the earlier writings of Samuel Shoemaker will leave the impression that Shoemaker, rather than Wilson, is the one who should get the credit for using the Sermon on the Mount and the Book of James to create a 20th-century roadmap to sobriety and eternal life. Apparently he was too humble to claim or accept the credit for his role in helping millions of alcoholics (and many others) to not only recover but also to find God.

AA meetings can regularly be found in ECUSA undercrofts throughout the United States. I do not believe that ECUSA has ever received recognition for this hugely successful ministry, but the Reverend Mr Shoemaker probably preferred it that way.

Shoemaker was educated at Princeton and became a leader of the Oxford Movement in the United States. He later moved to Pittsburgh where his important work continued in that city. He died in 1963.

His work made an enormous difference in my life. It continues to lead others, many of whom were not born during his lifetime, to discover that God is very much alive.

Frank P.
St Peter's Church
Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA
2 August 2004

A bishop who asked why

Bishop John Spong, a man who dares to ask why.

Miles Motture
St Stephen's Church
Calgary, CANADA
2 August 2004

A hero out of time

Give me a shout when you get around to the old-timers. I'll happily nominate William Tyndale. Yes, dears, I know he predated the 'Separation', but he was English!

Pepper Marts
St Michael & All Angels, Diocese of the Rio Grande
Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
3 August 2004

A 20th-century bishop who confronted war in all its forms

I have so many heroes of the Anglican Communion that it is hard to choose just one. But I would like to commend in particular Bishop George Bell of Chichester (1883-1958).

Bishop Bell was a remarkable and courageous Christian. He was an early and vocal critic of the Nazi regime of Germany. After Pastor Martin Niemoller was arrested and imprisoned by the Gestapo in 1937, Bell wrote a series of letters in the British press about Niemoller's plight. His public intercession very likely saved Niemoller's life. Bishop Bell was also a friend and confidant of Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

While a critic of Nazism, Bishop Bell was not reticent to critique his own country. It took no little courage in the midst of WW II to insist that the Kingdom of God was a higher cause than patriotism and that the Church was 'not the state’s spiritual auxiliary.' He was a vocal critic of the use 'area bombing' in which whole cities and civilians were targeted to reduce enemy morale.

On 10th May 1941, Bell made a speech where he described the 'night-bombing of non-combatants as a degradation of the spirit for all who take part in it'. He was thus an early critic of what has come to be called 'collateral damage'. Bishop Bell recognized that, however noble, just, or righteous the cause, any time we decide that some can be killed for the sake of others, it is a devil's bargain. And those who participate in such a logic of death diminish their own souls. It is a perennial but timely Christian truth.

The Reverend Matthew Gunter
St Barnabas
Glen Ellyn, Illinois, USA
4 August 2004

A modern-day bishop who witnesses to self-sacrificial love

My Anglican hero is Bishop Gene Robinson. Instead of hiding who he is, he has been open about his identity as a gay man in a long-term loving relationship. He did not let those who opposed his sexual orientation keep him from accepting his consecration as bishop, a consecration during which he had to wear body armor because of the threats made against him. He didn't set out to be a hero; he simply lives out the honesty that Christianity demands even though it has put his life and the lives of those he loves in danger.

I also think that his partner, Mark Andrew, is a hero as well. What he and Gene have gone through in the past year would have been enough to shatter even the strongest covenant relationship. Yet Mark has remained by his side.

Neither of them are heroic because they set out to be that way; they were honest with themselves and with the Church. And honesty is a hallmark of the Christian life. So too is sacrificial love, being willing to give up things for the good of another. For the good of the Church, for the sake of being witnesses of Christ's sacrificial love for us, they have given up their security and their esteem in the eyes of many and become targets for the worst kind of insults and threats. And Bishop Robinson's consecration has served as a witness to our GLBT brothers and sisters that the Episcopal Church in the USA has doors wide enough for everyone and love enough for every hungry heart. I thank God for them both.

Anna Cleveland
All Saints Episcopal Church
Gastonia, North Carolina, USA
4 August 2004

Two priests who would not limit the love of God

My Anglican heroes include the Reverend Dr Thomas Gallaudet, who established the tradition of sign-language ministry among deaf people in the Episcopal Church in 1852. Also the Reverend Henry Winter Syle, ordained in 1876 as the first deaf ordained Episcopal priest and, I believe, the first deaf priest of any denomination. For more information, go to Episcopal Conference of the Deaf website at

Henry Winter Syle and Thomas Gallaudet share a feast day (August 27th). My parish, St Barnabas' Episcopal Church of the Deaf in the Diocese of Washington, is hosting the Episcopal Conference of the Deaf convention later this month -- and where would we be without Gallaudet and Syle?

Edward Knight
St Barnabas' Episcopal Chuch of the Deaf
Rockville, Maryland USA
4 August 2004

A twelfth-century bishop (yes, we know...)

Regarding your request for news of inspiring lives, I cannot resist pointing out an apparently little-known bishop from the twelfth century who deserves better recognition in these troubled times of conflict. In seeking an exception to your time limit, I appeal both to the great need of such examples today and to your avowed love of tales of Bishops that have gone before.

I refer to Hugh, Bishop of Lincoln (died 1200). He inspires me in part because of his commitment to lofty principles, including the defence of the poor and the helpless, which led him to defy mobs as well as kings. All well and good. However, it is the stories of his conduct during his disagreements with Richard the Lion-Heart which are most moving to me.

His first interview with King Richard concerned in part the pursuit of overdue payments from the King for the monastery he was building in remorse for the murder of Thomas a Becket. Hugh is reported to have said, 'I do not despair of you. I know how much your many occupations interfere with the health of your soul.' He settled another argument with a kiss, and a third (over refusing to appoint a royal favorite to a post) by making a gentle joke.

His ability to demonstrate his love of his adversaries, while still bitterly divided over important issues of principle, that I seek to imitate. I have said many a silent prayer to St. Hugh on the way in or out of vestry meetings.

There is a brief biography of Bishop Hugh in James Kiefer's Lives of the Saints.

Robert Leduc
St Paul's on the Hill
St Paul, Minnesota, USA
5 August 2004

A parish priest who became a hero for an adult who wasn't sure she needed one

As an adult, I never really thought much of someone being 'my' hero. This is usually the thought of children. I have responsibilities, a child to nurture, a job for survival, clothes to wash, floors to vacuum, groceries to buy. Who has time for such nonsense? And then, despite the busy-ness of life, somone captures your thoughts, more importantly, your prayers.

December 2003 began a new chapter in the life of the Rector of St Thomas Episcopal Church. He was abruptly struck with the loss of sight, primarily in one eye at first. In the months that have followed he has lost considerable eyesight in both eyes. Now the 'good' eye has become the 'bad' eye, and the 'bad', the 'good'.

In solitude, I ponder the impact on his life, his family's, the church's, and even selfishly, my own. Can one reach an end, a finality to their faith -- somewhat like thinking the earth is flat and one can reach a point of falling off, or falling into (hopefully) the arms of God? Each day is new. Each moment, by moment, faith so small (mine), as in a grain of mustard seed, but faith so powerful (his) that it can move the mountain.

I now know you're never too old for a 'hero'.

Cathy S. Faw
St Thomas' Episcopal Church and School
Houston, Texas USA.
7 August 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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