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This page last updated 13 April 2006
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 We usually do not publish letters written in response to other letters.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 respond to a letter whose author does not list an email, you can send your response to Anglicans Online and we'll forward it to the writer.

Letters from 3 April to 9 April 2006

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.

A believer is not a heathen

In your leader this week about the man of Arab descent you met at a Roman Catholic funeral, I believe you erred in characterizing him as a "heathen." Since this man is of Muslim descent, even if not currently practicing, and by his own confession of faith believes there is "no god but God" (i.e, the God of Abraham, Jesus and Muhammad), then he should not be called a heathen. I would be wary of using that term to refer to a believer of any kind, but all the more of using it of a believer of Abrahamic heritage.

The Revd James N. Lodwick
Episcopal Church
South Bend, Indiana, USA
3 April 2006

(Ed: We took Fr Lodwick's advice and rephrased that paragraph not long after our initial publication. We're publishing his letter as a form of apology for what we originally wrote.)

God's to sort out

I am very grateful for Anglicans Online. It's my first Monday morning stop. Please keep doing what you're doing. My letter is in response to your report of meeting an Arab man following a funeral vigil and Mass. It reminded me of an experience many years ago at a wedding. Before the wedding, he asked if he could take Communion. He said he was Jewish. I pointed out that only the Baptized should take Communion. When he persisted, I said that if he presented himself for Communion, I would not refuse him, but by taking Communion he would be acknowledging that Jesus is the Messiah. He did take Communion, that day. I don't know what was in his mind, his spirit, or his heart. I always figured that was God's to sort out anyway.

When you commented on not inviting your new-found friend because of Lent and Easter, my response was, What better time? Thanks for all you do. Cynthia remains in our prayers.

Bruce A. Gray
St. John's Church
Richmond, Virginia, USA
3 April 2006

Barred from full participation

I have been reflecting on your editorial about your experience attending a funeral mass and being told by the priest that only Roman Catholics were welcome to receive communion. In the same issue there is a link to a Church Times article quoting Bishop Langrish’s remarks to the Bishops of the ECUSA, “any further consecration of those in a same-sex relationship, any authorisation of any person to undertake same-sex blessings, any state of intention not to seriously engage with the Windsor report, will be read very widely as a declaration not to stay with the Communion."

Last week I was on a diversity panel that included a male-to-female transgendered person, a lesbian and myself, a gay man. An audience member asked us about our religious views. The transgendered women said that she was not comfortable calling herself a Christian because of many negative experiences from people calling themselves Christian. The lesbian identified as agnostic, although both of her children attended Roman Catholic schools.

I volunteer at our local community center serving lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons. In a city with hundreds of churches, a pitiful handful welcome us to worship with them. Not one of them is from the Anglican tradition. Nearly every group actively working to marginalize us (Alliance Defense Fund, American Family Association, American Vision, Chalcedon Foundation, Christian Action Network, Concerned Women for America, Coral Ridge Ministries, Exodus, Family Research Council, Family Research Institute, Focus on the Family, Summit Ministries, Traditional Values Coalition, to name a few) identifies as Christian.

As the upset in the Anglican Communion concerning Bishop Robinson’s consecration continues to seethe, I increasingly feel as you did at your friend’s funeral service—barred from full participation.

F. William Voetberg
Emmanuel Episcopal
Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA
3 April 2006

Subtle but essential difference

Thank you for your reflections on the God whom Christians and Muslims worship. No doubt you will receive letters from those for whom you wrote 'fighting words' as you put it.

I think the matter is more subtle, however, than either your editorial or those who will disagree most strongly would express it. Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the God who created the universe and continues to sustain all that exists. Nonetheless, how the Creator interacts with creation — God's characteristics, God's nature — are described differently by Jews and Christians on the one hand and Muslims on the other.

For example, where is God when the people of God suffer? Jews have an understanding of the Lord being with the people of Israel, even in the midst of greatest suffering. Thus, Elie Weisel, forced to watch an execution in a Nazi concentration camp, says, 'God is there, hanging on the wire'. Christians take this understanding to its depths in the doctrine of the incarnation: the Creator actually becomes creature in order to share in our sufferings and liberate us from them.

Any concept of God sharing in human suffering is anathema to Muslims. According to Islam, Allah would not even permit a true prophet to suffer, hence Jesus was not crucified. In terms of interacting with human suffering, Allah is markedly different to the God of the Bible.

Many other examples could be given. So, while Jews, Christians and Muslims all worship the One Creator of heaven and earth, if God truly is as God does (as Karl Rahner put it), then the Judeo-Christian conception of the Creator is not the same as the Muslim conception of the (same, and only) Creator.

This is a subtle point, but I think it is essential both for our proclamation of the Gospel and also for honest dialogue with Muslims.

Revd Cathy Laufer
St Francis' Theological College
Brisbane, Australia
7 April 2006

(Ed: We're not theologians, but we had always figured that seeming differences like this were caused by our mortal inability to understand and not by the fundamental nature of God. Thanks for the clarification.)

Secretly Anglican

It was interesting to hear that your visit to an RC church came with the priest confirming that only Roman Catholics could receive the host at Communion. This seems to be more prevalent in North America where the "Catholic Church" is quite keen to assert that non-RCs must be "Protestants". You probably did the right thing by staying put in the pew.

I have received communion in an RC church in England (with the blessing of the priest) but felt unable to reveal I was an Anglican Catholic to the congregation. I have since spoken to one and she said I should not have been concerned. As someone attending Mass in the Church of England (same liturgy as RCs) I feel that the hierarchy in some places has memories and actions of a bygone period.

By the way, there was a book published, I believe in the 1920's, titled "Why Anglo-Catholics are not catholics at all". Have you come across this witty piece? I lost my copy and have been looking around for another!

Robert Parkhouse
St Agathas, Sparkbrook, Birmingham
Solihull, UK
9 April 2006

A threat to the unity of the Communion

It’s Palm Sunday: we are on the road to a celebration! No, not just the road to Easter joy — but the road to Jerusalem, to Passover, to sleeping through it all despite our best intentions, to abandonment, arrest, civil court, cannonical court, then back to civil court, beatings and betrayals– a crown of thorns. This is not exactly the road to the florist for lillies and bundle of palm branches with maybe a stop on the way back for Easter “candy” — the chocolate kind or the theological kind

We enter Jerusalem with Jesus. Jerusalem was a popular place during Passover. So much going on! People from all over the ancient world talked about what it was like, or what it would be like to be in Jerusalem at Passover. It was New Orleans at Mardis Gras! “Times Square” for New Year’s Eve! Rio for Carneval! But the Passover of our story would be different from all others. It would not only commemorate God’s covenant with the children of Israel and their delivery from captivity in Egypt — it would establish a new covenant — a new Passover — a new Jerusalem. It would change the world.

The people cried out “Hosanna to the son of David! (Words from this day will echo in the mass — in the Sanctus — Holy Lord, God of power and light, heaven and earth are full of your glory, blessed is the one who comes in the Name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest!) Jesus had become well known as a teacher, a leader, a prophet. Some, like hippy cousin John the Baptist, were openly saying that Jesus was the promised Messiah. That angered religious authorities. That was stepping over the line. That was a threat to the “unity of the communion” or the solidarity of religious authority. Better to miss the real reign of God in order to not break rank and challenge the power and authority of the status quo. Can we still “miss” the Messiah if the Messiah doesn’t arrive in our own image? Many had heard the words of Jesus from his own mouth — things that spoke of a new commandment of love — radical words of radical love, radical notions of inclusion for all — despite race, gender, or track record.

Here we are at the gates of Jerusalem today with many of the same issues. We wave palm branches that read like placards: One says “Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of the Lord.” Another says “Unity” — another “Reconcilliation” — another “Love Thy Neighbor!” Others say “All Welcome!”—“Open, Affirming, Inclusive.” But the human condition makes liars of us all! We are not united — there are many and varied stances on issues and attitudes. We still struggle to figure out just who our neighbor is — or who the Samaritan or leper amongst us is. If all are included– if all are welcome– some are more welcome and included than others. There is definitely a back door for some, a request for invisibility for others, a margin and a mainstream. We use the word “inclusive” — but it is clear that inclusivity and doing the right thing are open for debate and even religious authorities have a hard time doing the right thing if it is unpopular or a threat to the power or economics of the church.

All of our prancing and dancing and branching (with our palm placards) do not take away what comes next in our story. Jesus — love incarnate — who actually was and is reconciling, forgiving, and inclusive was on his way to the cross. It was our “Hosannas” that became “Crucify him!” We want to be self congratulatory and have our Jerusalem to be like Pasadena for the Tournement of Roses. But this tournement of roses has thorns. Our sins, our failings, our ignorance, our arrogance are thorny enough for a whole crown. This road leads to Calvary — not the big rock candy mountain. Jesus doesn’t arrive in a stretch limo — but on a donkey. It is not a red carpet entry — with Vera Wang vestments and Ferragamo shoes. Jesus arrives in a motorcade– well, donkey-cade, that almost mocks the hautiness of earthly power. He arrives to die — and to rise again — that we might live. Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of the Lord.

James Koenig
Cathedral Congregation
Los Angeles, California, USA
8 April 2006

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We launched our 'Letters to AO' section on 11 May 2003. All published letters are in our archives.


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