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This page last updated 16 February 2009
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 We usually do not publish letters written in response to other letters.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 Canadian 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 9 to 15 February 2009

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.

All true, but whatever can be done about it?

Thanks very much for your spot-on comments about the various officeholders who affect the life of a parish, and, particularly, for your reference to Walter Mitty, which will do much, I think, to help me put things in perspective in the future! As a parish rector, I have found that people who feel frustrated or undervalued in their life outside the church are likely to use the congregation as an arena for seeking and exercising power.

The difference between a church and a corporation, however, is that, in the great majority of instances, the officers are not employees, but volunteers. A priest can't fire a parish officer any more than family members can fire one of their siblings. No matter how frustratingly poor the person's performance might be, asking an officeholder to step down is simply not an option for a rector, unless that rector is willing to face the enormous upheaval in which that action is likely to result. Corporate CEO's are beholden to customers and stockholders. The situation is much less clear-cut for a parish priest.

This goes both ways, of course. The congregation which is frustrated by a rector who is a "poor manager" doesn't simply fire its priest, but must embark upon an often painful process, involving the bishop, whereby the pastoral relationship is dissolved.

The Church is a sacred mystery; the corporation isn't. That we are living in the midst of that mystery is - to use a phrase familiar to Anglicans - both our greatest strength and our greatest weakness.

The Reverend William Bippus
St. Paul's Church
Marinette, Wisconsin, USA
13 February 2009

Can you help us in Port of Spain?

Do you have any information on implementation of Occupational Health and Safety measures in the Anglican Church? In Trinidad and Tobago, the law was passed for OSHA, and the Anglican Church has been asked to implement same.

Carol Trotman
The Holy Trinity Cathedral
10 February 2009

(Ed: We hope that our readers may know something that will help you; we'll relay any information sent to We suspect that OSHA implementation is unlikely to be different in a church. After all, OSHA rules are about workplace safety in the physical world, and that physical world does not change much from one office environment to another.)

But does God keep two sets of books?

According to a report in The Guardian (Monday 2 February 2009) Pope Benedict has promoted to auxiliary bishop in Linz, Austria, the Rev. Gerard Maria Wagner, an ultra-conservative Austrian clergyman who called Hurricane Katrina "God's punishment". He wrote that Hurricane Katrina was an act of "divine retribution" for the sins of a sexually permissive society, and that it was worth considering whether environmental catastrophes should not be seen as a result of "spiritual environmental pollution" — a type of "divine retribution" for New Orleans' relaxed attitude towards sexual promiscuity and homosexuality.

Given the attention paid by the media to divisions within the Anglican Communion over matters of sexuality, it is no doubt tempting to welcome focus on this sad example of ecclesiastical stupidity; but it is a temptation that ought to be resisted.

The notion of God as a divine accountant who keeps book on evil, and then visits indiscriminate wrath on entire populations, is unfortunately as alive and flourishing in the USA as in Linz. Bishop Gerhard Maria Wagner may be an idiot, but he is neither unique in his "reasoning" nor alone in his vindictiveness.

David Fisher
St James Cathedral
Naperville, IL USA
15 February 2009

(Ed: Father Wagner's appointment proved unpopular in Austria and it seems that he has asked the pope to take back his promotion).

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Earlier letters

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


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