Letters: Episcopal Life Monthly December 2008

December 15, 2008

Episcopal Life welcomes letters, especially those with pictures, and will give preference to those in response to stories. Letters should be no longer than 250 words and must include the writer's name, address and phone number for verification. Send to Letters, Episcopal Life, 815 Second Ave., New York, NY 10017; or email to letters@episcopal-life.org. All letters will be edited for brevity and clarity.




I see the holiday reading of the Presiding Bishop included Terry Waite and Ollie North. I had no idea it was still in print, and it is a long time since I read it. One might point out that the book needs to be read with considerable care. It suggests that I was in league with Col. North in the Iran-Contra affair, and that suggestion is totally inaccurate.


I knew nothing about Iran-Contra, and the exchange of weapons for hostages goes against what I believed in then and what I continue to believe in now. I suggest you read my account of the affair, Taken on Trust. Had I known of Iran-Contra, it would have been madness to return to Beirut when I did and face possible death or captivity.

As it was, I only received five years in chains, but I have no regrets.

Terry Waite CBE
Bury St. Edmunds, Suffolk, England

In response to an online story about the Archbishop of Canterbury and the deposed Pittsburgh bishop meeting at Lambeth Palace, I hope the archbishop informed Bob Duncan that he could not be received into the Southern Cone House of Bishops without ordination. He is no longer a bishop in good standing -- rather, he is no longer a bishop!

Bishop A. C. Marble Jr.
Greensboro, North Carolina

I'd like to share what the event at Grace Church meant to me, described in the article "Shining Easter Light" (by the Rev. Patrick O'Malley, October). I was privileged to be part of the congregation.

As a congregation, we had talked about our response to the murder in our parking lot, in our community.

We moved to that site, the black markings on the ground that I took to be the blood of this young man.

Just being on that spot pulled me into being connected to what we were doing. Being out there, listening to the readings stirred my heart. The readings themselves were solemn, very, very caring and dramatic. I felt both deep compassion for the victim and for all those who took part in this violence. And then I felt … hope! -- directly from the same readings and prayers.

He was so young, and his death was so senseless. I wept for the violence of this incident, and it triggered in me weeping for all violence, all pain and suffering.

As I looked around at all of us gathered, hearing the readings, hope just grew in me! I felt so very strongly that we must keep remembering who we are as messengers to the world. It is we who must know and share the absolute hope that evil will not overcome. As the service continued outside, I felt such an urgency to be the church, that we all be the church in the world.

It felt like a message we want and must tell others, shout to the cosmos: Evil will not overcome! We can look at marks of blood and stand there knowing that isn't the end. God is with us. The light outshines the dark and will never be overcome. It was such a good message. I was deeply proud and grateful to be part of Grace community. I will never forget it.

Christina Nord
Havertown, Pennsylvania

I'd like to compliment Patrick Malloy for his excellent piece of writing in the October 2008 issue of Episcopal Life. His article titled "Shining Easter Light" was outstanding. It was sensitive, articulate and Christ-like.

It was, indeed, a gospel message for our times. Thank you, Episcopal Life, for running the article -- and thank you, Patrick.

John Boucher
Midlothian, Virginia

In response to: "Worshiping Online: It is really church?" (October), no, it's not the same as being in the pew or choir loft with the rest of the congregation.

But it is a joy and a gift to have the option of joining the webcast from Trinity Wall Street (New York) on the monthly Sundays when I am working as a midwife at Tallahassee (Florida) Memorial Hospital's Labor and Delivery Unit. The preaching, music and liturgy nurture and feed me even though the Eucharist cannot. And it was, of course, a delight to sing along with the gradual hymn, Ora Labora (Come, Labor On), during the September 21 service.

Miriam R. Gurniak, certified nurse midwife
Tallahassee, Florida

With all the letters on Father [John] Butcher's "speed bump" issue on the creed, here be another.

We are no longer a liturgical church -- we are a designer church. We are a salad-bar church, a build-your-own blend of hymnody, prayer sources and unraveling liturgical core.

That is a recipe for disaster. It was for the followers of Arius, and it will prove to be for us. Even John Wesley, who never intended a Methodist Church, had one start under his ministry, and he insisted on a liturgical rule based on the BCP of his day. The worship tradition of that church (in which I grew up) is a factor that drove me away. I found solidity in the Episcopal Church instead of goofy innovation and very poor liturgics.

That is the future of the Episcopal Church if we don't get back to our roots, and the Nicene Creed is intrinsic to those roots.

Janine Taylor Bryant
Oklahoma City

In his August 1 letter "Creeds are lacking," the Rev. John Beverly Butcher uses the fact that "… the creeds speak of the birth of Jesus and then of his death. There is no mention of the life ... teachings ... the healing power of Jesus" in order to make his point, "The heart of the gospel is missing."

Conversely, I always have used this same observation -- that the life and works of Jesus are summed up by a comma in the creeds -- specifically to illustrate that Christ's atoning death and his birth (without which there could be no death) are precisely the heart of the gospel. Teachings and healings or not, we are all deserving of hell, and it is only through Christ's death and resurrection that we are saved. I see no defect in the creeds as written.

John H. Campbell

Perhaps the church needs to say openly what it practices covertly: The creeds represent a historical link to the church through the centuries but do not represent a timeless, inerrant expression of our faith (Letters, October). To claim the creeds have a timeless inerrancy elevates the creeds above the living witness of Scripture and the Spirit.

As students of the creeds well know, each creed has a complex history that begins with its being written in response to a particular situation in the church and that continues with divergent and often convoluted interpretations.

A wide chasm separates many of these interpretations, even widely held interpretations, from what a prima facie reading of the creed would suggest that it means.

As knowledge increases and worldviews change, a living faith also must change or become irrelevant. We must remember that words -- whether one's own expression of the faith, creeds or Scripture -- are all earthen vessels that cannot fully contain the reality of God and God's love for us.

George Clifford
Raleigh, North Carolina

I have been a priest for more than 50 years, and it always has seemed to me that the traditional creeds and the Book of Common Prayer are superb expressions of Anglican Christian/Catholic faith. The purpose of a covenant, from what I understand, is to unify our divided church, implying that the catholic creeds and prayer book are inadequate.

It seems to me that the pressure for such a covenant comes from those who have a very narrow, un-Anglican understanding of the faith and would be extremely divisive. We have the catholic creeds and the prayer book! We really don't need a covenant.

The Rev. John Kettlewell
Schuylerville, New York

I was sorry to read in a letter from Judy Massey (October) two very serious errors of fact.

The first concerns the gender of the word "spirit" in the original biblical texts. The writer confuses grammatical gender with biological gender.

It is true that in Hebrew the word for spirit is feminine. (There is no neuter in biblical Hebrew.) Spirit -- whether Spirit of God or evil spirit -- see, e.g., I Samuel 16:14 -- is grammatically feminine. So also are words for hand, year, kingdom and sin! This has nothing to do with biological gender.

The word for spirit in Greek is not grammatically feminine but neuter in gender. The writer also says that the purpose of the Council of Nicea was to "institutionalize Roman power and authority." This, too, is erroneous. The occasion of the council was the Arian heresy and the need for the church to state clearly its understanding of the nature of Christ and its relationship to the salvation of the world. Nearly all of the bishops attending were from the eastern half of the church. The pope did not attend but was only represented by two legates.

J. Raymond Lord
Owensboro, Kentucky

In his July letter ("Prefer people to institutions"), Brett Barndt of New York writes, "I personally recall Jesus saying that we should pay our taxes to the government." Implying as he does that he was on the spot and therefore heard it said in the original Aramaic, I'll take his word over those later Jacobean translators who reported it as rendering unto Caesar. Mr. Barndt is apparently a good deal older than his picture would indicate.

He goes on to say that he has no qualms describing "the U.S. Congress and many other legislative bodies and processes here as corrupt and certainly not worthy of any moral obligations on my part." In addition to his feeling no moral obligation to follow the civil laws of the nation, he has a question for the "rectors, bishops and archbishops in South Carolina." While forthright, he is unlikely to encounter any of the latter, except perhaps as tourists, as at present there are no archbishops working in South Carolina.

Richard S. Jackson Jr.
Lenox, Massachusetts

This letter is in response to the letter titled "The two ladies do not know" from John D. Nielson in the September issue. I cannot speak for the other lady (Laurie Eiserich), but this lady (who prefers the word "woman") does know that [Bishop] Gene Robinson was once a married man. I do know that he was "respectable" and an ordained Episcopal priest who fathered two daughters.

I also know that he was divorced. I highly doubt that he "chose" a homosexual lifestyle. My guess is that he struggled with the way in which God created him due to the ramifications this would have for him.

As you know, our Savior preached inclusivity and love of all humankind. Our beloved Episcopal Church has a rich history of differing opinions, but, in the end, all are welcome at the table.

Susan H. Nealon
Hamburg, New York

What a wonderful reflection springing from his viewing of Religulous -- scarcely the result Bill Maher had in mind when producing the film, methinks! It's a real treat to see Fred Fenton's column ("The invisible product is all around us," Episcopal Life webpage and, in this issue, on page 16). I'm so glad to have heard about it!

He expresses beautifully one of the things that always has been so clear: that the essence of our call as Christians is to make Christ a little more visible in the world. He has just done that again with his letter.

The Rev. Laina Casillas
El Sobrante, California

I do not understand why the national church is so insistent on seeking legal action against parishes and dioceses that no longer can agree with the direction of the Episcopal Church. ("Executive Council promises support, money to continuing Episcopalians," October). Where is the Episcopal Church (TEC) getting the money to fight these battles? Each week, more and more Episcopalians leave, and not all of those individuals are conservatives or traditionalists. The money is not flowing into the coffers at 815 (Second Ave., New York -- the national office), and giving will only continue to dwindle.

Based on the above facts alone, how does TEC plan to fulfill its 20/20 vision? There is absolutely no way that those goals will be met. Why is it that when I ask anyone at the diocese, or send an e-mail to the national church about TEC's commitment to 20/20, I get no reply or the run-around? I venture to answer my own question by saying TEC has no vision or plan, except to act punitively toward those who disagree with the powers of TEC.

I have secular employment. My livelihood no longer is dependent on the pledges of distracted parishioners. I am free to focus on bringing others to Christ by bringing Christ to them. Shouldn't this be TEC's focus, too?

Whether TEC agrees with these breakaway parishes/dioceses or not, I believe TEC is being challenged to a greater spiritual conversion by these groups. Without conversion, TEC will fade away and miss the opportunity God has given them to transform others into the holiness and wholeness of life in Christ.

The Rev. Richard Daly

I am saddened when I see one of my brothers/sisters leave to inhabit another spiritual home. However, I have seen this kind of statement before on the lips of people who considered themselves the antipodes of Rev. Anne Holmes Redding ("Priest inhibited as a result of her conversion to Islam," Oct. 16, website): "If we want to survive as a church, and be faithful witnesses of Christ, I believe all the people of the world must be in communion."

My problem with the "survive" argument is that it makes me think that people genuinely think that it is up to them to "make the church survive." What a fundamental blasphemy! What is it to survive? To gather lots of people under one roof, namely your local church?

I think we are called to live and do so abundantly, whether we are many or few. At the end, "when two or three are gathered in my name" was said quite intentionally. The post-Constantine church was a church brimming with life because it had lots of people? On the other side of the argument -- are we afraid of death? Are we not supposed to go down to the grave, singing alleluia, alleluia? How do we measure the vitality of a faith movement?

The Rev. Canon Juan A. Quevedo-Bosch
New York

In response to the online article: "Pine Ridge church closings spark controversy": We saw this headline when our Episcopal church group [from Church of Our Saviour, Chicago] was volunteering at Re-Member last month, building homes in the reservation. We were stunned.

I guess I was surprised that, given the ugly history of the Episcopal, Presbyterian and Catholic churches in taking Indian children from their homes to attend "civilizing" boarding schools, the church now would abandon the reservation. We were especially shocked that the decision was made by a Native-American bishop. Maybe converting people to a faith that treated them so badly is just not an easy thing to do, and the church doesn't want to keep on trying. Is that what Jesus did?

Should the legal efforts -- and a much-needed rethink on the part of the bishop -- fail, the church buildings should most definitely go to the Indian communities, perhaps with help to convert them to community centers with computers, after-school classes and, most importantly, bus service.

Patricia Terry