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This page last updated 22 February 2010
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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 15 to 21 February 2010

Like all letters to the editor everywhere, these letters express 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.

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Last week we wrote about an incident in which a member of a parish was expelled by its Rector, and asked for your opinions about the general concept of expelling people from a church. We've selected some of the replies below.

About expelling people from a parish

Your leader was fascinating, as always, and it brought back recollections of a lifetime of Sundays spent in the pews of various Anglican churches across the Diocese.

In many ways Sydney Diocese gets a poor press around the world - described variously as "a museum piece" and the "power house of the Evangelical wing of the church."

Stouches come and go with a certain regularity (in some parish churches more than others) and involve power struggles between Rectors and choirs, leadership and parishioners, power struggles in parish councils etc and etc. Most are eventually sorted but their legacy tends to linger as the disaffected look for greener pastures and a forum to tell their stories elsewhere. Stories are told, retold and parish legends are born.

Over many decades of involvement in parish churches in various capacities I can recall only two times when someone has arisen in anger to confront and accuse the Rector of some misdemeanor or indiscretion.

One involved a bipolar person who became overexcited and had to be restrained and escorted outside to be revived with parish coffee. The other was much more interesting and occurred in one of the older churches in the Diocese when the Rector at the time embraced Pentecostal Practices with great enthusiasm. Overnight the parish changed as car loads of charismatics "came in". Old-timers who had previously occupied positions were forced out and made to feel worthless as a horde of newcomers set up all kinds of new structures.

It all became too much at an evening service one night when a conservative member stood up during the sermon to accuse the Rector of various forms of heresy. Needless to say the atmosphere was electric and groups of supporters later rallied to support both the Rector and his detractor. It was eventually sorted out with surprising good-will on all sides and gradually the event became a distant memory embedded in the parish history.

Healthy parishes handle stouches in healthy ways. In my opinion every parish needs a few eccentrics, pricklies etc to test the boundaries and the margins. Healthy parishes can cope with it all. Congregations need to be able "to put love into practice." It is easy to talk waffle in an abstract way about love but when the occasional nut or nutter comes in to disturb the peace we are all called to the test. It isn't good for any of us to become too comfortable or complacent!

Harry Pont
St Andrew's Cathedral, Sydney
15 February 2010


I guess someone who endangers others — physically — should be attended to.

I don't think expulsion of any kind is justified by who we claim to be.

St Stephen and the Incarnation, in DC, was church and home to quite a few street people. The parish had a group of people who befriended them, helped them manage themselves, and brought them into parish life. It was a lot of work.
But Christianity is, isn't it?

Judith Guttman
Luther Memorial
Madison, Wisconsin, USA
15 February 2010


It is unnecessary to expel a member who does not act out his beliefs. It is rather incomprehensible that anyone who is unbelieving of the tenets of the creeds should place themselves where they take part in liturgy that is to them unbelievable. If they repeat the creed week after week they are apostate and belong in another church.

They are punishing themselves and don't need us to add to that.

Healthy doubt is a necessary part of human life but to stay where you don't believe is a punishment in and of itself.

JC Eriksen
St Clare's Episcopal Church
Blairsville, Georgia, USA
17 February 2010


I've only known of two cases. The first, some years back in the deeper south, was a man who not only said that blacks were not fully human but was an active member of the KuKluxKlan.

The second was another man who bragged that had seduced young boys and made clear his support for the practice. He presented a threat to the congregation.

Both were what a rubric in the US 1928 BCP called 'free and evil livers'.

Columba Gilliss
All Saints' Episcopal Church [in Frederick, Maryland]
Adamstown, Maryland, USA
21 February 2010

Why are all the flowers used?

OK, this is not the usual sort of letter that I write to you [comments on a column, once a year or so] but I am feeling stymied and hope you can help. Any ideas where to find information on the history of the tradition of using flowers in church? I must not be creative enough in my entries to various search engines, because all I get is info on how to create the arrangements!

In regards to publishing this note — Please publish! Maybe other people will have thoughts or information.

Louise Boling
St Matthew's Episcopal Church
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA
18 February 2010

(Editor: we found this book; perhaps some of our readers will know more. The widely-known Church Flowers book by Judith Blacklock has a section about history; you can probably find this book in your library.)

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