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This page last updated 21 November 2005
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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.

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Letters from 14 November to 20 November 2005

Like all letters to the editor everywhere, these letters are the opinions of the writers and not Anglicans Online. We publish letters that we think will be of interest to our readers, whether we agree with them or not. If you'd like to write a letter of your own, click here.

Refuge from the storm

Thank you so much for your calm and quiet voice in these troubled and turbulent times. There is so much table-banging all around us, that it is good to be reminded that table-banging is not all there is. Nor does it get anyone anywhere except, it seems to me, at least, farther from Christ -- and from His injunction that we love our neighbor. If the split comes, as seems increasingly likely, we will all be the poorer for having lost the opportunity to listen to, to learn from, and to learn to love, those with a viewpoint different from our own. It is good to have at least one refuge from the raging storm around us. LGW

Lois Wye
Currently looking for a new church home
Washington, DC, USA
14 November 2005

Savage wolves will come in among you

Monday morning I read in the AO News Centre with a heavy heart about the meeting of the conservative bishops in Pittsburgh in which African bishops called for their conservative friends to leave ECUSA. Then I read morning prayer using the propers for Samuel Seabury's day - one of our founding bishops. Read Acts 20:17b-32, noting especially 29-30. I don't think this was a coincidence.

The Rev. Dr. Stephen L. White
Chaplain, The Episcopal Church at Princeton University
Princeton, New Jersey, USA
14 November 2005

Bin ich ein Berlinerweiß?

A minor correction to an otherwise splendid lead article ;-) You wrote:

At that instant, we remembered John F Kennedy's famous speech at the Berlin Wall that he ended by saying (in German) 'I am a Berliner', causing some people to claim (incorrectly) that he had said 'I am a jelly doughnut'. Clarity is very difficult to achieve, especially in translation between languages.

Indeed. The interpretation of Berliner as doughnut is in fact quite correct - not in Berlin, I believe, but through much of the rest of Northern Europe. As I discovered when living in a certain Scandinavian capital, they're still laughing about that episode there. And did you know that the danish pastry is only so-called outside Denmark? There it's called Wienerbrod - Vienna bread. I've never met a Dane who could tell me why, or what the Viennese think about it.

Daryl Hutchings
Christ Church Cathedral
Vancouver BC, CANADA
14 November 2005

(Ed: the consensus of 40 years of scholarship on this important topic seems to be that President Kennedy said the phrase the way that a native of Berlin would have said it. We find the explanations in the Wikipedia and to be informative, and this essay by Joseph Knapp rather beats the subject into submission.)

Focusing on what is truly urgent

I'm no mathematician, but when I read the report of that meeting of the conservative wing of the Episcopal Church in Pittsburgh, I started playing with numbers. According to the newspaper report, there were 2,400 people present, which represents some 1.2% of the supposed 200,000 members of the Episcopal Church of the United States who are in breakaway mode. And those 200,000 represent less than 10% of the 2.3 million members of ECUSA. Hmmm.

Let's see now, according to the Most Rev. Dr. Peter Akinola, the apparent spokesman of the African branch of the Defenders of the Faith, there are 18 million Anglicans in his Province of Nigeria. I wonder if the Nigerian figures break out in much the same way as the American figures?

With a plethora of natural disasters, leaving a tragic wake in various parts of the world, a multitude of wars, AIDS rampant in Africa leaving millions of orphans and an entire generation lost, crippling debt keeping poor countries poor, disease and famine endemic in the developing world, oppressive regimes in too many developing countries, and a widening gulf between the rich and poor of this world, wouldn't you think that the reverend gentlemen and their supporters would find more to kvetch about than whether or not the Bishop of New Hampshire, a man duly and properly elected by his Diocese and affirmed by the national church, should be a bishop? Why is it that sexual sins are more abhorrent than any of the others I listed?

Or am I being too Anglican?

With love in Christ and thanks for your continued fine work at Anglicans Online.

Rene Jamieson
St. John's Cathedral
Winnipeg, Manitoba, CANADA
14 November 2005

Not the Kings of Comedy

While I agree to some extent with your point in the introductory piece for the Week of 14, November. 2005 that the message and meaning of Holy Scripture is not always readily apparent, your illustration was totally off base. The fact that no one at your coffee hour knew who a Samaritan was except for a seminarian is not a function of the "mystery and depth" of the meaning of the Bible but an illustration of the incredibly poor job the Episcopal Church (USA, although I'd bet it is consistent throughout much, if not most of the Anglcian Communion) has done of educating its people in the Bible.

The level of biblical illiteracy in ECUSA is deeply distressing and, at the risk of offending many of my brother and sister clergy, the level of biblical illiteracy among the clergy is downright terrifying. We cannot have a real discussion, and honest debate, or any meaningful conversation about what the Bible does or does not say if we do not know the "story".

It begins with reading the Bible--not a paraphrase like Peterson's "Message" no matter how fine a paraphrase it might be. At worship, whether Morning Prayer or Solemn High Mass, Scripture needs to be taken seriously. Then, the homily must focus on the Word and not as the springboard for the preacher's clever and entertaining monologue--It's a sermon, not open mike night at the improv! Christian education for children AND adults must utilize real Bible study which means looking at the Scripture, not skipping to how we "feel" about it or our favorite oatmeal cookie recipe.

If you don't even know who or what a Samaritan is, you'd better not weigh in on what the Bible says or does not say about human sexuality, war, violence or ecology because ignorance, no matter how innocent it may appear,only fuels the fire of stupidity!

Fr William Bergmann
Church of the Good Shepherd
Clinton, Massachusetts, USA
18 November 2005

Who is my neighbour?

My compliments on the even-handedness with which you report on the ongoing infelicity in the Anglican Communion as between those whose view is that certain elements of Scripture are the only ones that matter and those whose view is that, well, certain other elements of Scripture are the only ones that matter. It is clear from the pain that occasionally slips through your commentary what it costs you to maintain your cool.

I had the idea that Hooker & Co’s view of Anglicanism was pretty much along the lines that it is indeed possible to accommodate a range of theological opinion within Anglicanism It does, though, require a considerable degree of courtesy towards those whose view of the truth differs from one’s own, and understanding of the basis of their differing views. And it’s not, I think, a cop-out to suggest that there is intemperateness on both sides; one may perhaps feel some sympathy for Bishop Robinson in his angry denunciations reported last week — the man has been called every name under the sun, after all. But North Americans who have taken the position of blessing same-sex unions and ordaining the honest-as-regards-sexual orientation DID, when all is said and done, throw down the gauntlet. And the American bishops have acknowledged that they may have done so without full consideration of its implications for Anglicans in countries with vastly different issues. I would not for a moment want to be in the position of an African bishop attempting to defend a broad-minded Anglicanism against the more forthright and stern Muslims and fundamentalist Protestants who are Anglicanism’s most credible competitors for adherents in East and West African countries.

Possibly one of the issues that haven’t been addressed fully is the somewhat differing concepts of integrity that pertain. Westerners sometimes take the view that honesty and integrity involve brutal candour and absolute consistency. (The puritanical Wahabi form of Sunni Islam and the Iranian mullahs’ form of Shia are generally the traditions that Westerners comprehend, as opposed to the perplexingly syncretistic and tolerant varieties of Islam that are perhaps the mainstream*.) Thus the diffidence of some people in eastern countries regarding the tenor of this particular debate: Pakistan, for example, has draconian penalties in its criminal code regarding homosexual offences but there has never been a prosecution under any of these sections. Hypocritical? Maybe. Or maybe the tempering with equity of the rigour of the law, as they used to say in English common law countries?

(There was a vastly pertinent discussion by the always splendid Roman Catholic scholar John Allen in the New York Times recently — alas, no longer available to non-subscribers — regarding the mutual incomprehension that arises within Roman Catholicism as between the strict-legalism approach of the anglophone world to black letter law versus the Latin world’s assumption that the strict letter of the law is an ideal to be espoused, not a code to be rigidly enforced. Perhaps even western Roman Catholic houses of bishops understood this when they gave it out in 1968 — not in writing, be it said — that Humanae Vitae needn’t be taken too literally. It is for this among other reasons, no doubt, that the Roman Catholic Church has managed to survive intact for two millennia, leaving aside such ructions as the secession of the Oriental Orthodox in the 5th century, the Eastern Orthodox in the 11th and the Protestants in the 16th.)

I am, though, mildly discouraged at the apparent throwing up of hands that is implied by the closing words of your most recent editorial: “Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord,” which may possibly imply, “Go away, then, if you must, to love and serve the Lord as you seem to see fit, and good-bye.” I hope it hasn’t nearly come to that yet — though I appreciate that you were addressing those who are already on their way out the door. One wonders what church home they go to, if they do go: possibly the cul-de-sac of the Anglican-use Roman Catholic parishes, held in, be it said, mild contempt by their new RC fellows.

(I am so-told by a Roman Catholic priest friend: What to do about the traditional joint service with the nearby Anglican parish and with the two bishops, now that their more rigorously “Catholic” parishioners have taken themselves off and constituted themselves an Anglican-use Roman Catholic parish? Oh for heaven’s sake, we don’t ally ourselves with the crocks! We do the service as we always have with the real Anglicans.)

A word about the flak you got regarding the Good Samaritan**. One doesn’t ordinarily think of Holy Writ explicitly as part of the secular legal system in western countries (apart from a few anachronistic atavisms from the days before the abolition of the Court of Chancery). But the best-known common law authority of all, Donoghue v. Stevenson [1932] AC 562 per Lord Atkin, which is the foundation of the modern law of negligence, takes as its authority the self-same Parable, and the question of whom a duty of care is owed to is couched in terms of “who is my neighbour?” The evolving law of negligence has been rather more with you than with your correspondents as to what exactly was meant: after all, one valid interpretation of Donoghue v. Stevenson would be that it is a matter of manufacturers of ginger beer owing their customers a duty to ensure that there are no snails in their bottles, but nothing more. Well, the case stands for more than that. But the courts are still working out how much more, 73 years later. So are Christians, two millennia later.

Mac Robb
Holy Trinity (occasionally)
18 November 2005

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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