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This page last updated 13 November 2006
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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 We usually do not publish letters written in response to other letters.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 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 5 to 12 November 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.

+Bob Duncan's missing church...

Your comment on Bob Duncan's remarks contained this phrase, "The chapel he experienced as a student at Trinity College in Hartford, College in the late 1960s."

As the Chaplain of Trinity College from 1964 to 1990, I assure you that, although Bob Duncan was quite active in the Chapel, what he experienced there and then is very much in continuity with that now being realized here and now in the Episcopal Church. We were doing the new liturgies, peace masses, draft counselling, arguing for the ordination of women, the first meeting of gay students at Trinity took place in the Chapel's choir room, etc. etc. Drew Smith of Connecticut was a senior crucifer a couple of years before Duncan graduated.

I have frequently wondered what church he finds has been taken from him. Perhaps it was his sunday school in the Diocese of New Jersey.

The Reverend. Canon Alan C. Tull, Th.D,
Retired, attends and preaches at St. Mark's Cathedral, Salt Lake City
Orem, Utah, USA
7 November 2006

...absolutely not Trinity College Chapel

Your remark that perhaps the church Bishop Duncan had taken away was "The chapel he experienced as a student at Trinity College in Hartford, College in the late 1960s" is simply wrong.

A 1959 graduate, I have been in touch with Trinity on a continuing basis. In the late 1960s I served as assistant academic dean of the nearby Hartford Seminary and was in frequent touch with the College.

Neither the Department of Religion nor the Chapel (separate college divisions) reflect anything about Duncan.

The Reverend Canon Dr. Richard T. Nolan, retired
St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, Lake Worth, Florida
West Palm Beach, Florida, USA
9 November 2006

Names, meaning, and power

Thanks for that wonderful sermon from Wellington. As for what's in a name. Quite a lot, for the story of the name of the American Church is much more complex than the letters of Bishop Whalon and Dr Trempers might suggest. That story is traced in a fascinating and learned way by Robert W. Shoemaker in "The Origin and Meaning of the name 'Protestant Episcopal'", published in 1959. The shorter name was authorised soon after, in 1967, but a change had missed out by one vote back in 1910! And the use of the word "Protestant" was questioned as early as 1807.

Oddly enough, in England the name "Protestant" at one time was used almost exclusively of members of the Established Church and the word remains in some of the Church's official formularies, notably in the Order for a Coronation.

In the US, "Episcopalian" came mainly from another minority Church, that of Scotland. But members of the American Church have in practice been described in various other ways such as "Churchmen", "Protestant Catholicks" (1641), the "Orthodox", "Reformed Catholics", and "American Catholics" - although not with as many names as are found now among the numerous tiny "continuing" churches, sadly separated from communion with Canterbury.

"Anglican" for a long time was rare although Thomas Jefferson used it in 1788 of church people in Virginia. One might note that the "ecclesia Anglicana" of Magna Carta (= English Church) is not as old as "ecclesia Angliae" (= Church of England) used, for example, by St Anselm, with "chirche of Engelond" itself becoming common from the later 14th century. (But save us from AnglicanISM!)

I guess you are right about "Church of America", but the Church of Ireland did not change its name when disestablished, and it is also a minority Church though less so than the US Episcopalian. In Australia, the word "Anglican" does remind us of our vital link to the See of Canterbury (which some in Sydney would seek to weaken). On the other hand, many of the ordinary C.of E. patients I meet in hospital every week do not use or even recognise the term "Anglican". "Church of England" still works, although it is interesting to note that "Episcopal" (as well as "English" -but not "Anglican") was often used in Australia in the 19th century for what was officially for a good part of the century "the United Church of England and Ireland". And today some at least would prefer "Episcopal".

I for one, eccentrically, think we should simply call our Church (as was suggested in the 1890s and again by Archbishop Fisher in the 1950s) "the Church of Australia". Roman Catholic numbers are now larger, but Roman Catholics belong to one international Church. Ours is a autonomous national Church, by far the largest purely Australian one, even though part of the wider Communion. Such a name, I think, would ring bells. It would remove the disadvantages (the un-Australian associations) of the names "Anglican" and "C. of E.". As with "the Church of Ireland", it need not suggest any exclusive or exalted position. And it would be a reminder that the little Church founded by Richard and Mary Johnson among the convicts and marines at Sydney Cove in 1788 is the "canonical", first, and most historic Church of our land, worthy of its members' service and affection, and deserving of loyalty to its own broad and deep heritage and tradition.

The Reverend John Bunyan
St John the Baptist's, Canberra & King's Chapel Boston
Campbelltown, New South Wales, AUSTRALIA
6 November 2006

Adjustable Jesus?

Women have been leaders in the church from the get-go. We've always had homosexual believers, sometimes in the pulpit, who have had to deal with their own sins and weaknesses like everyone else. And the church has often reflected the social errors of its time, whether it was slavery in the past or the easily adjustable moral mechanism of our time. But all of this is business as usual and not the real issue.

Recently I visited an ECUSA church and heard from the pulpit that we are Christians only by accident of geography and that God has revealed Himself otherwise in other places. Thus, if we know Jesus alone, our God is too small. I left that parish that morning never to return, thinking I had lost my church, at least that particular venue. You rightly chastise the Bishop of Pittsburgh for that pronoun, pointing out that it is God’s church. Well, then, let me say that someone had taken God’s church away from Him.

It may be true, as you write, that "Stasis, in creation, is death." We have always changed and we will continue to do so. However, some things don't change — namely the One who is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. I've come to believe, rather than merely to suspect, that the real agenda in much of the change in the ECUSA has nothing to do with women or gay marriage, which are decoys. The ultimate goal for many who will never admit it and may not even know it about themselves is a new Jesus — one who is a little more adjustable. In such circumstances, creation is death and stasis is life.

Don E. Thompson
All Saints Episcopal Church, Bakersfield, California
Buttonwillow, California, USA
7 November 2006

'A theological question for our modern age'

The investiture of the new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church (USA) was a wonderful celebration for the whole Church of Christ and a witness to the possibility of grace and reconciliation between all Christians. Like many, the people of Saint Peter's and I gathered together to watch the service in our parish hall through the internet. So many of the images of the liturgy were striking, most especially the presentation of oil by another Christian Bishop, Muslim and Jew.

We chose to participate fully in the experience and to share communion. The electronic experience of this liturgy begs a theological question for our modern age: How to consecrate? Should a local celebrant celebrate concurrently? Should we commune from the reserve sacrament? Should the prayer for additional consecration be used after the PB began distributing? Could the Eucharistic prayer be said to consecrate both in Washington and locally?

This question has sparked an interesting conversation with both other clergy and members of Saint Peter's. I am unfamiliar with any guidelines circulated before this event, but it would seem to be a worthwhile pursuit to ponder.

As always, a deep debt of thanks and gratitude to AO and your ministry.

The Reverend. Jeffrey Ross
St. Peter's Episcopal Church
Lewes, Delaware, USA
6 November 2006

Fire and water

I have been a regular reader of Anglicans Online since 1999 and I was surprised at your "attitude" in the issue for the week of November 5th.

When I signed both ordination vows (as Deacon and as Priest) I vowed that I did indeed believe the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God. In all charity, I cannot see how you can't realize that the Episcopal Church is "revising" those Scriptures.

I do not want to appear more spiritual, but Jesus plainly said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." How can our new Presiding Bishop say that all people can reach God through their own human experience of the divine? I wonder what the early Christian martyrs would say to her? As the fire was lighted at their feet to turn them into a human torch for believing salvation is in Jesus Christ, I wonder if they would rather have said, "This is foolish. I am dying for something that's not necessary anyway. Those people can get to God without Jesus; why should I suffer untold agony for a faith that's not important for everyone? (Even though Jesus said it was for ALL people.)

Your implications that the Episcopal Church has not changed in the essentials, as Bishop Duncan claims, do not seem to "hold water" in my opinion.

The Reverend Roger A. Stinnett
St. Philip's Episcopal Church
Joplin, Missouri, USA
7 November 2006

'A living being to whom I belong'

Thank you so much for the words in your front-page letter. While I always turn to AO the first thing on Monday morning, delayed this week by being airborne much of Monday, I especially appreciate this week's column as it gave me to thought. And I realized that we can never speak of MY church as an object belonging to ME but only as a living being to whom I belong. As the Church is never a thing, it cannot be taken away, though indeed we may depart from her.

I was airborne Monday, returning from the East Coast where I visited my granddaughter and witnessed Bishop Katharine's Investiture and Seating. I can hardly wait to read your comment on those glorious occasions. Our church, the one we belong to which does not belong to us, is indeed alive and very, well.

Again, thank you for your continuing efforts to keep the matrix of the Anglican Communion in communication (I attended the workshop "The Compass Rose and the Matrix" led by Mark Harris at the November 3rd "Faithful Gathering of the Episcopal Majority" so am thinking in both/and terms.

Lee Lemmon
Trinity Episcopal Church, Los Angeles
Huntington Park, California, USA
7 November 2006

The definite article and that state university in Ohio

Dr. Catherine TREMPER of Hilliard, Ohio writes about the "branding" with reference to The Episcopal Church and The Ohio State University. She is incorrect in that it was a recent change to refer to Ohio State as "The Ohio State University."

I graduated in 1966 and it was The Ohio State then and it has been since the beginning. The phrase means that it is The State University of Ohio.

A Buckeye transplant in Texas,

The Reverend Stephen Secaur
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Woodville, Texas, USA
7 November 2006

What do you want from a church?

All that a person — who feels he must join a church — can do is to decide what he must have from that church. With some it is the sacraments, with some the ritual, with many the fellowship, and with others it is a club they have joined. In the last case (and in some cases, for those seeking fellowship), it is not terribly important what goes on in the church proper. If the sermon is bearable-to-good and the food afterwards is good, they will stick. To those who really need the sacraments and have decided that they fit into the "Episcopal or Anglican" Church, change comes harder.

I also have lived through the changing prayers books, women in the priesthood, all the worry over sexuality, and who is or can be in a state of grace (as if we would know). In the end, each person must look at what the church is to him, make sure that it is what Jesus promised, and then settle in for a just and reasonable conversation with fellow communicants.

Jesus must have wondered, too, if he was meant to preach to the people we meet in the Gospels. They were certainly not of one mind before they met Him. It was after...

JC Eriksen
St Clare's Episcopal Church
Blairsville, Georgia, USA
9 November 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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