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This page last updated 5 July 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.

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 We usually do not publish letters written in response to other letters.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 28 June to 4 July 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.

NOTE: Anglicans Online has been contemplating the closing of our Letters to AO section. It appears to us that all of the energy that once went into writing well-reasoned and thoughtful letters to editors is now being put into semi-literate rants in the 'comments' section of blogs and on Facebook walls. For at least a year now we have, every week, received more cash donations than letters to the editor. If you think we're wrong, then prove it by finding something that you care about enough to write to us.

We are heartened by the letters you sent in response to our contemplation, but we're reminded of the famous 1973 magazine cover of the National Lampoon, which we've plagiarized at the right on this page. If we keep getting letters, we'll keep this section of AO. If we have to threaten to shut down in order to get letters, we'll probably just quietly shut down.

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We knew you were out there somewhere

Please don't close down the letters page of Anglicans Online. I may have only written to you a handful of times down the years, but it is the page I turn to first after reading your front page essay.

Robert W. M. Greaves
All Saints Anglican Church, Jakarta
28 June 2010

I hope you keep your letter section going. It is one of the few places where we readers who only have a Plebian e-mail address can respond. Most blogs require a blog identity for their respondents.

On another note...

Most of the time I sing in a cathedral choir in a semi-large church in an urban setting. Our music program is good and keeps me fed for most of the year. I could go on and on about how much I have learned from singing in the the choir, of scripture and devotion, and how much this has shaped my personal devotion.

My husband, who does not sing, got tired of sitting by himself for months, and years on end and now goes to a smaller Episcopal church nearby. When I have occasion to go with him, it is always to the early (7:30am) service, Rite 1, (Elizabethan language).

It calls me back, back to the time before the 'new' 1979 BCP, when I was a newly minted convert, looking for a purpose in my life. I found that purpose in a small Episcopal church holding services of Morning Prayer and Holy Communion on alternating Sundays. I fell in love with the language, and Anglican Chant, that no one ever explained, you were just expected to pick it up. And there was a woman in the congregation who sang with a loud slightly off key voice; there has to be one in every congregation. But I knew in my gut that this was what the kingdom of heaven is all about, even though I had just decided that God is real.

34 years later, as I go with my husband to this small church with no choir at all, I think, each time I am there, of Anglican's Online, and all your readers, who over the years have contributed a small amount of 'technical' theological knowledge in their letters, but have offered a huge amount of experience of the 'atmosphere' of what this Anglican world is all about, big churches and lttle churches, all around the world. .

Anglicans Online is the only place I can find a letter from someone in Ghana or Australia. Your website and the letters from the readers help us to bind together. Whether we 'acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness' or hear 'from the primal elements you brought forth the human race and blessed us with memory, reason and skill' Anglicans Online and the readers' letters help us all stay communicated and connected.

Michelle Jackson
Trinity Cathedral, Sacramento
Elk Grove, California, USA
28 June 2010


Oh no! Please don’t.

I am a far too frequent correspondent and the prodigiousness of my contributions to your letter page embarrasses me. I quite (in the North American sense of “absolutely”, not the UK sense of “rather”)* deliberately reserve comment till at least 24 hours after assorted amusing, learned, vexatious, just nice or otherwise provocative items and observations that you serve forth every single week move me to offer pensées, aperçus and obiter dicta. One doesn’t like to blather on, you see. Often the very thought I had, I rightly anticipate someone else will also have and take the time to write about. Equally as often, my mooted contribution is mere pedantry — though in fact I love the pedantry you often offer on the front page leader —or would properly be signed, “Disgusted of Tonbridge Wells.”

Here are a few matters that I was tempted to write about in recent weeks.

(a) Brian’s (I am sure!) acid comment about the Coptic Pope. Yes, the Patriarch of Alexandria is indeed the Pope (he’s also the Patriarch of the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Churches and indeed till 1959 all bishops in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church had to be Egyptian. So, indeed, is the spiritual leader of the Bohri Muslims. But I see that another reader commented on this as I would have done.

(b) Week by week, assorted costive pedantries of mine, sometimes involving your earnest attempt to use international rather than US English. I assure you, the Canadian Press and Australian Press style sheets are often confused; British papers for that matter often equally so. That “license” is a verb and “licence” is a noun appears a particular bugbear, and “honourary” creeps in with hair-raising frequency.

(c) This week, as to the sad demise of the English eccentric in Anglican clericalism, the odd case of Bishop Michael Hough, soon to be late of the Australian Diocese of Ballarat in Victoria, Australia, my reflections (having met him from time to time in Papua New Guinea when he was a bishop there). He was a bearded, barefoot preacher, a former RC priest who fell in love and decided to marry and de-Pope, as ‘twere. But his eccentric (and assuredly dictatorial ways, which may have been effective in Papua New Guinea), apparently ran afoul of Australian indisposition to be told how to behave. Especially by an Englishman. Even in a diocese which took him on precisely because he disapproved of female clergy.

(d) My correspondence with Bishop Nazir-Ali, late of the English diocese of Rochester, a propos of his recent retirement as a diocesan bishop and his new ministry as director of the Oxford Centre for Training, Research, Advocacy and Dialogue — but more particularly as to his thoughts on the dire situation of Anglican Pakistanis (a subject of some importance to me). He’s a fascinating character: progressive in some Anglican causes of current moment; reactionary in some others. And also an Anglican clerical eccentric.

(e) The recent election of a new Anglican Primate of Papua New Guinea and the perils of expatriate missionaries becoming bishops in somewhat laissez-faire, not to say somnolent jurisdictions and attempting to light fires in extremely wet tinder.

(f) The issue of female clergy in cultures where they are putatively a cultural no-no. I arrived in Papua New Guinea in 1977 bearing a letter of introduction and congratulation from the then Metropolitan of Rupert’s Land to the then-newly constituted Anglican Province of Papua New Guinea. In the 1970s female clergy was the issue of the day. I wondered of my host, Archbishop David Hand, about this. He had done his homework as to liberal Canadians and said, “Oh, it’s a cultural matter, you know. Our people need church leaders who conform to traditional leadership patterns.” I of course accepted his writ as sacred: he must know what he was talking about, eh. Then I arrived in South Bougainville and the first question was, “Well, Sunday is coming up; we go to church. Are you coming to the United Church or the Catholic Church?” I chose the former, since that was the orientation of my inquirer. The minister of the pastoral charge wore a dress and her name was Eunice. Ah. Yeah, right.

(g) Further as to the recent snarky comment about the Pope of Alexandria, my recent encounter with Oriental Orthodoxy a propos of one of my sons and his Ethiopian best friend’s contested child custody and access dispute. (I’ve encountered Oriental Orthodoxy as to the Armenians and Ethiopians in Jerusalem, the Indian Orthodox in – surprise – India – and the Egyptians in Brisbane.) I thought it a good idea to take the fellow to church to back up his contention that native culture is important to him; the liturgy was five (!) hours long and involved serious longeurs: every word chanted in a musica

Mac Robb
Holy Trinity Fortitude Valley (occasonally)
Brisbane, Queensland, AUSTRALIA
28 June 2010


But abuse and controversy attract attention and letters to the editor

Though I rarely respond in writing to your efforts, AOL is unfailingly my first visit on Monday morning. I always find something to think about, pray about and be challenged by and I am grateful. Your helpful influence came to mind this morning while writing a weekly reflection on the upcoming Sunday Gospel, in this case, the sending of the 70 (or 72).

I don't mind if you decide to publish this or not. I simply want you to know that you are deeply appreciated for all that you do.

One of the most valuable resources on the Internet, in my humble opinion, is Anglicans Online, found at A dedicated, unpaid group of people, they keep up with and offer links to news and events from around the Anglican Communion, provide links to every Anglican connected website and resource they can find, offer a forum for thoughtful discussion and generally use the Internet as an incredibly effective tool for open communication. One of the most refreshing features of this website is their refusal to be dragged into battles or to take sides. When the usual fires flare up about the issues of the day, when Christians who should know better are speaking and acting in ways that do not reflect the love of Christ, the AOL team refuses to weigh in. As part of their service, they’ll tell where to find more information for those who really want it, but they keep calling us back to basics of being Christians in the best of the Anglican traditions. As Jesus taught, they model traveling lightly.

Jesus sent 70 (or 72, depending on which source you read) people out to tell others about him. He told them not to weigh themselves down with luggage, not to get caught up needless chatter with others they met on the road, and, above all, not to fret over the outcome of their mission. They were to carry their prayers for others to be about sharing the same good news they carried. They were to speak gently and peacefully, but, if rejected, they weren’t to chew on it and weigh themselves down with either self-recrimination or anger against those who could not hear. They were to let it go, to travel lightly. Everything else was God’s concern.

We can misuse Jesus’ teaching as an excuse to judge and reject others. Alternatively, we can receive it as deep wisdom that reminds us that we don’t need to hang on to hurts and resentments, we don’t need to bear the weight of others’ choices to refuse what we offer or even to reject us. Yes it hurts terribly when that happens. However, we are free, in Christ, to acknowledge their choices and prayerfully shake off the rejection as we would shake off from our shoes whatever we pick up from being outside. As with the 70 (or 72), the rest is God’s concern.

Sister Diana Doncaster, C.T.
Community of the Transfiguration
Eureka, California, USA
28 June 2010

(Editor: Thank you for your kind comments. And thank you for writing.)

Close encounters of the Triune kind

Quirky clergy are not all gone, though one more is dead.

Voila Father Paul, "otherwise known as Lieutenant-Commander the Reverend Paul Inglesby, who has died aged 94, held unconventional views on the origin of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) and once tried to stop the Queen watching Steven Spielberg's alien film Close Encounters of the Third Kind, claiming it was a satanic plot to seize control of her mind."


Laura Toepfer
Vallejo, California, USA
28 June 2010

Postcard poetry

Dear Friends, I read this week's essay on the lack of the eccentric and whimsical.

A project I'm working on now is a challenge to myself: to write a series of poems, based on a box of postcards. Each card has a picture on the front, and each poem's title must be suggested by the picture. Here is the one I wrote based on "Name."

Genesis 2:19--"And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof."

We learned in Vacation Bible School that
God gave Adam his first job, that of
"Middle Management Trainee, with opportunity for advancement.
Dress code casual. We are a no sinning office."
No college degree was required, and the
High school diploma was waived, although
I'm assuming Adam had already received
Creation's equivalent of a G.E.D.
Obviously he was clever, but since
He had yet to eat of the Good and Evil Knowledge Tree,
He hadn't figured out the need for figleaves
Stiched with elastic vines into boxers or briefs.
Adam just had to sit in his ergonomically correct chair
Created for him out of living tree branches,
With smooth bark that wouldn't chafe a naked butt,
While God lined up all the air's fowl and the field's beasts,
And passed them by to receive a perfect Adamic name
On an Edenic assembly line that stretched
All the way back to Vienna's city limits,
If indeed Vienna had been a city back then.
I wonder if Adam ever got bored
And named the peacock Ednamae and the wombat Bozo,
Just to relieve the paradisical monotony?
After all, the peacock was prissy and the wombat bit his finger
And he could see no end in sight to the line
Of walking and crawling and hopping and slithering and running and flying
Poop factories, all demanding his attention, waiting
To be classified, collated, named, and entered into the System.
His vacation was still being negotiated.
Would God, after reviewing the day's work on his
Celestial clipboard pull these out of the "Done" column
And put them back on the line to send them through again for Renaming,
And give Adam a Written Warning, with a copy filed in his Permanent Record?
From what I hear of God sometimes, I don't think
He would countenance the sin of whimsy,
Which although not deadly, is probably still a Class B Felony
Since it's viewed as a mockerial equivalent
By most perfectionist deities.

Douglas Curlin
Church of the Epiphany, Atlanta
Atlanta, Georgia, USA
29 June 2010


Your front page letter about the current lack of eccentric clergymen reminded me of my father's war stories.

During World War II Dad spent three years at RAF Gaza, where his duties included visiting the nearby monastery to buy wine. Some odd types ended up there, including the chaplain, "Durban Dick," a well-travelled man who was known to enjoy a drink. When he received orders posting him away from Gaza, after his farewell party he sat down in front of the train he was to board and refused to move, so had to be picked up bodily and placed on it.

I'm not sure Dad ever again met so congenial a clergyman.

Elizabeth Wrona
St. John's Episcopal Church, Youngstown
Youngstown, Ohio, USA
29 June 2010

Wasn't there a book about this?

One sure cure for Anglican Communion blues is to rent The Barchester Chronicles, a 1982 BBC series now on DVD. Here's the blurb from Amazon:

Alan Rickman, in one of his first film or television roles, turns in a tour de force of oily ambition. Geraldine McEwan's ferocious machinations are downright terrifying, while the sputtering Nigel Hawthorne (The Madness of King George) seems constantly in danger of bursting a vein. At the center of it all is Donald Pleasence. Making goodness compelling has always been difficult, since wickedness is always more dramatic; but Pleasence brings a deep and stirring passion to his role that proves as engaging as all the back-biting that surrounds him. And these are just the more familiar faces; a host of lesser-known actors give equally superb performances. The final episode (of seven) will have you on pins and needles.

Without too much effort, one can imagine contemporary versions of these 19th century Anglican characters. . . .

David H Fisher
Emmanuel Episcopal, LaGrange, Illinois
Naperville, Illinois, USA
3 July 2010

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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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