Letters: Episcopal Life September 2008

September 1, 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 actually have seen this issue ("Keep Communion safe," July) similarly encountered in my own Diocese of Oklahoma. One of my friends happens to be an alcoholic. Out of concern, I brought this before a lay reader/chalice bearer because the person also takes several powerful medications that absolutely forbid concomitant alcohol consumption in even the most miniscule amount. Well, the lay chalicifer said that he had asked his priest about a similar concern and the priest advised him that because Christ is
"transubstantially present" in the consecrated elements, it is not truly wine ... only its appearance.

Well, that perturbed me. The fact that any priest would be "put out" by a person needing a particular dietarily safe host I found to be pernicious and pharisaical and to say the least, un-pastoral. But the priest did rise to the occasion. Good for her. I thank Dr. Susan Delaney for getting us to think about these things. It took courage and it is very important. As for the theological blogs and discussions about the validity of sacrament and substance, I can only quote Our Lord who said that, paraphrasing, "The Sabbath was made for humankind; not humans for the Sabbath." This is a Christian no-brainer.

Janine Taylor Bryant
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

I read latest edition of Episcopal Life, and found the article titled "Keep Communion safe" by Dr. Susan Delphine Delany.

I was grateful for the discussion. Gluten intolerance is a serious issue in regard to eucharistic participation. My own parish makes available at all Eucharists gluten-free hosts, kept on their own paten. So we are ready for celiacs, both in our parish as well as visitors.

Yet, to be candid, I felt that there are additional factors to be considered in this question that the article didn't cover that I feel are also worth some attention and reflection. Also, somehow, I found myself unable to resonate with the title. I don't mean to be picky and certainly don't want to be negative. But of all adjectives that I've ever thought of as descriptive of Holy Communion, it would have never occurred to me to use the word "safe." Whoever said that what we do in church (by God's grace and command) is "safe?" I remember what Mr. Beaver says to Lucy about Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: "Course he isn't safe. But he's good."

The Rev. Adam Linton
Ogden, Utah

I read with interest the July article about the Seamen's Church Institute's year-long intern program. Readers might be interested to know that in 1991, another group of seminary and ordained interns studied under the tutelage of the Rev. Robert Montgomery, a Presbyterian minister, at SCI's Port Newark center. The then-director there, the Rev. Jean R. Smith (later SCI's executive director), created the program, modeled on a standard eight-week CPE program, to inspire clergy and seminarians to commit themselves to ministry with seafarers. Our class was the first of many.

Along with a Burmese Christian pastor, a Filipino Presbyterian pastor, and a U.S. Greek Orthodox seminarian, I spent that summer going on board ships (with satellite phones because there was no internet or cell phone access then), bringing seafarers back to the Port Newark Center and, most of all, providing a caring, human face to a group of people who are often treated like prisoners or slaves.

While I now serve a parish in landlocked Vermont, my time at SCI as intern and later as administrative assistant to the director has continued to serve as a critical foundation of my ministry because those seafarers showed me the many faces of God that we must all serve and love.

The Rev. Lee Alison Crawford, Ph.D.
Northfield, Vermont

The June issue's story on the Archbishop of Canterbury's meeting with the Pope ("Top level dialogue") left me puzzled: Is it possible that it is the Pope's attitude toward the Anglican stance on inclusivity that is causing the "difficulties and obstacles"?

The article seemed to imply that it is the Anglican Communion's problem rather than the Roman church's. This seems backwards to me. Does the Anglican Communion not stand behind its decisions to be inclusive? If it does, then how could their decisions, made
in love, be a problem?

Since when does following Jesus' many examples of love and equal treatment of and for all humanity create a problem for anyone except those who will not or cannot be as wonderfully Christian? Let's be clear about just who has the problem here!

Deb Payson
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania

Thank you for the article on "Sermons that work" (July). After reading the article and some of the sermons on the website, I now know why the preaching in the Episcopal Church is so bad. The socalled "sermons that work" are humorless, tedious and lacking in passion. The writers of the sermons apparently do not know that our nation is at war, our economy in the doldrums and our environment on fire. There are few if any calls for action and no personal illustrations or human stories. They are logical, clear, spiritual and cold.

The article quotes one of the sermon writers, who brags that she is delighted to weave together themes from the three lessons: the Old Testament, the epistle and the gospel. When a preacher presents her congregation with multiple biblical references, she confuses and wearies her listeners. I have had three years of seminary biblical studies and get lost trying to figure out what the preacher is talking about. The poor layman with minimal Biblical knowledge simply tunes out.

I do hope "Sermons that work" will offer preaching that is compelling, prophetic and relevant to our life and times.

The Rev. Robert Warren Cromey
San Francisco

I want to thank Bishop Alan Scarfe for writing his commentary ("Tale of two disasters," July) about the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raid. I feel so strongly as I read about our national response to the immigration problem, that we are following closely in the footsteps of the Roman Empire.

I can just see the totality of the preoccupation of the American people by their own troubles, their indifference to the suffering of the poor and others, as well as blindness to their own involvement in the root causes of all of these problems, all the while professing undying faith in some version of Jesus or institutions they've created in his name. Jesus resisted unceasingly against this aspect of Judean and Roman society during his lifetime, and we know the terrible results of that story, which persist unto this very day.

There is no way to escape history repeating itself, even for the U.S. of A. I thank Bishop Scarfe for taking a stand amongst bishops, most of whom these days seem to be silent or confused, or too busy bashing fellow citizens to pay attention to the paradoxical core of Jesus' teachings.

I hope the bishop's words will begin to move things around the edges of this terrible monolith we find ourselves in. The notable compassion of Iowans like him is heartening to me, as was that of the Amish in Nickel Mines a few years ago, distinguishing themselves amongst pious separate peoples.

Brett Barndt
New York

Christopher Cook's letter, "Choices lead to poverty," addresses "all those people who are consumed with eradicating other people's poverty." By this I can only hope he means all Christians.

Cook advises us to spend our time and money helping children and teenagers to make healthy choices. This is good advice in itself. However, he implies that we should also wash our hands of those whose poverty is due to their own poor choices. One of the poor choices he lists as an example is having "bastard children." Setting aside Cook's unfortunate offensive wording, there are two problems with his premise.

The first problem is a practical one. You can't help children in poverty without helping their parents. Programs specifically for children (Cook mentions Scouts and tutoring, for example) are a great start, but what children really need is an economically stable home life, with decent housing, health care, food and social support for the entire family. Cook suggests becoming a foster parent or adopting an older child. This helps some children who are victims of abuse or neglect, but it is equally important to support families and enable them to effectively care for their own children -- even if those children are, in Cook's words, "bastards."

The second problem with Cook's argument is that if we are followers of Jesus, we just aren't allowed to wash our hands of the poor. Jesus taught that there are no disposable people, ever, regardless of our past choices. In fact, Jesus was particularly concerned with ministering to those who had made bad choices or whose misfortune was thought to be their own fault.

Let's follow Jesus' example, and show compassion for all people in poverty.

Abigail Fleming
Bradford, Vermont

I was somewhat surprised to read in the July Episcopal Life an article titled "Where millions have prayed" that the Roman Empire occupied Britain from AD 43. I was born and educated in England, and we were taught that Julius Caesar landed in England in 55 BC (or BCE as it is now styled). Some historians now believe that the Roman Army's first invasion was a few years earlier.

I recall going on a school trip to St. Albans to tour the cathedral and the excavated Roman city of Verulamium. St. Alban was believed to be the first English Christian martyr (approximately 324 AD).

After the Roman Army departed Britain in 410 AD to fight the invaders of Rome itself, some Christian communities did survive. When St. Augustine came to Kent he was met by Queen Bertha, who was a baptized Christian, and went to the little church of St. Martin, which still survives in Canterbury to this day. As a previous Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. George Carey, remarked in his sermon when he visited Christchurch Cathedral, St. Louis, "God is a surprise!" Dr. Carey went on to explain how surprised Saint Augustine
must have been when, instead of meeting the pagans he expected, he found Christians and a church in Kent!

I think it is important and inspiring to realize just how long the Christian religion has been practiced in the British Isles and how it later spread from there to other lands.

Catherine E. Cummings
St. Charles, Missouri

There are two letters on the back page of Episcopal Life, July, that I must comment on: "Limiting Robinson a shame" by Laurie Eiserich and "Respect dignity of all" by Susan Nealon.

The ladies do not know that Gene Robinson was once a respectable married man, ordained an Episcopal priest, fathered two daughters. He divorced his wife and chose the homosexual lifestyle in direct violation of God's word (Lev. 18:22). God does not condemn the homosexual any more than he condemns sinners like you and me. You and I must recognize our sin, make confession, refrain from that sin and ask God's forgiveness. The homosexual is living in sin, God said so. He or she must recognize that and make confession before God, as the rest of us must do. God condemns the sin, not the sinner. You and I cannot continue to live in sin and expect to be forgiven.

I believe there are many in our denomination today who are listening to man instead of God. Please read I Kings 13 in its entirety and then make up your mind who you should follow.

After writing this, I read chapter 13 again. God showed me something I had not seen before. Could Verses 33-34 reference the Episcopal Church?

John D. Nielson
Redding, California

I am writing in response to the Rev. John Butcher's letter concerning the Nicene Creed ("Creed is a speed bump," June).

While it may be true that the Nicene Creed was not officially a part of the liturgy until the 11th century, according to Dom Gregory Dix, from the earliest of days repentance and the acceptance of the belief of the church was the condition of Baptism into the Body of Christ. Converts were formally interrogated before they received the sacraments.

It was also found necessary to make sure that Gentile converts truly were converted and did not simply accept Jesus as one more savior among other gods or other lords. The baptismal creed dealt respectively with the Persons of the Trinity and clear traces of this can be found in the first half of the second century. The prevalence of Gnosticism brought further elaboration of this creed in the part of the second century, as found in Hippolytus' account of Baptism as a threefold question and answer in a text that is the "obvious parent of our Apostles' Creed" (Dix).

The Council of Nicea carried things a bit further -- to make the creed a test of faith for those already in the church. So by a solemn proclamation, they might "prove that they believed what the church had always believed and not some new private invention of their own" (Dix).

It also seems to me with all the controversy within the church and numerous things being taught that never have been part of the "faith handed down to the saints," that we need a statement and test of orthodoxy following those sermons. Perhaps those who wish to eliminate the creed also wish to eliminate orthodox Christian belief.

The Rev. William J. Gerhart
Edison, New Jersey

My grandmother, Mama Winifred of blessed memory, said "Oh my!" when she opened the 1979 Book of Common Prayer for the first time years ago. My exclamation was slightly more invested with holy profanity when I read of the Rev. John Butcher's slicing the symbol of the faith, the Creed, for his liturgy. Common prayer, Father, come on now!

A good and noble army of martyrs died for that creed. My late grandmother would have thrown the missal at any priest so arrogant and foolish as to nix the symbol of the faith. Now, Anglican latitude allows for change, but not for treason to the fabric of the faith. Maybe Father Butcher should be a Unitarian. That is a grand church. But we are not Unitarians.

A dear friend and Greek Orthodox priest tells me that the Nicene Creed goes all the way back to the Second Nicene Council. The 11th century merely marks the official interpolation of the creed.

Let's stop tampering with the liturgy.

Janine T. Bryant
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

The Presiding Bishop is surely right when she emphasizes the importance of the Anglican Communion as a large "distribution network" all across the globe ("Presiding bishop preaches at historic London Church," August). But her statement that we are the "largest," and that "no other body" can boast a church or faith community at the end of the road in most parts of the world is perplexing in the extreme. Perhaps she's forgotten the existence of the Roman Catholic Church, surely as widespread and probably moreso, and well over 10 times larger than the Anglican Communion (even counting the GAFCON schism). Disturbingly odd statement.

I hope it's a misquote, and that she's referring to the Christian churches as a whole -- in which case she's absolutely right.

The Rev. Robert Corin Morris
Summit, New Jersey

I read with mixed emotions the letter by the Rev. Robert Warren Cromey (June) concerning the 1943 Easter service on Tulagi for the military, stating that it was glorification in the guise of worship at Easter Time.

Yes, we are trained killers, what does he expect when young men are expected to do battle with such treacherous enemies as we are faced with today? But we are also human, many of those same "killers" risked their lives in humanitarian missions such as the Berlin airlift, bringing relief to thousands of starving people.

In many places where I was stationed we supported orphanages and bent regulations taking people in isolated villages to emergency care in military vehicles. I believe it was entirely appropriate for the story to be featured in Episcopal Life and we should all be thankful that our military places such importance on keeping the troops in touch with God. Ask any military man and I'm sure that he will tell you that he prays for the day when he can find some way to overcome the enemy other than taking his life in battle.

Harold F. McQuaid,
SFC, US Army (retired)
Philadelpia, Pennsylvania