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Letters to the Editor
Episcopal Life welcomes letters 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, phone number for verification. Pictures are welcome. Send to Letters, Episcopal Life , 815 Second Ave., New York, N.Y. 10017; or e-mail to letters@episcopal-life.org. All letters will be edited for brevity and clarity.

Correcting an omission
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In February's Episcopal Life, I read the obituary of Jeanie Wylie Kellermann, a young woman of extraordinary gifts and record of service, for whom we in the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross had long been praying through her serious illness. As I read, something in your article troubled me, and I decided to write to you.

Jeanie's obituary tells us that she was the daughter of  "an Episcopal priest, the Rev. Sam Wylie, later bishop of the Diocese of Northern Michigan." I believe that any member of the SCHC -- or any who knew this remarkable family -- felt strongly the omission of Jeannie's mother's name, for Bea Wylie has been a gentle, wise and memorably strong woman for all who know her, let alone the daughter to whom she was devoted, who grew up in the spirit of her home.

We at Adelynrood had the privilege one summer of hearing Bea, a beloved leader in our society, speak of the influence of her own growing up in a deeply religious home. In the less public ways of her generation, and her role as Sam's wonderful partner, she modeled the values that Jeanie lived by.  Her influence on the life and service of Jeanie must have been immense. I missed its mention in your memorial notice, and was moved to write.


Resist bullying
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When the Anglican Communion issued the October 2004 report urging our Episcopal Church to apologize for offending the culture and sensibilities of our more conservative brethren over the consecration of Bishop Gene Robinson, we willingly bent over backwards as far as any person or group with a backbone can bend. Then, we bent a little farther and accepted what has obviously become a “listening process” that only one side is honoring.

The meeting in Pittsburgh on Nov. 11, 2005, made it clear that the ultra-conservative wing of our communion will accept nothing short of total capitulation.

The recent actions of Archbishop Peter J. Akinola of Nigeria apparently have taken the preaching of the gospel of intolerance to a new level. Archbishop Akinola has reportedly used his weight to egregiously support a new law that would not only criminalize same-sex marriage, but also, apparently, prosecute for affections acted upon in private. Gay citizens would further be denied freedom of petition and assembly. The law also would end freedom of the press on these issues by threat of imprisonment.

Do not let this Taliban-style theocracy come to our shores where efforts are already afoot. Jesus never hesitated to speak out against the stiff-necked, pharisaic leaders who insisted on their legalistic, literalistic, fundamentalist interpretations. A bully is never appeased even by total capitulation. You know what Jesus would do.


Gallagher story appreciated
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Thank you for sharing Rev. Bob Gallagher’s "Enough is enough" (March). Recently I bought a book called Please Stop Laughing at Me by Jodee Blanco.  Her story reveals the agony of bullying in the schools she attended. It amazed me to read that bullies write this off as "teasing." 

It is cruelty at a time in life when children want approval, validation and the belonging of community with their classmates. Just as author Jodee Blanco did, the Rev. Gallagher asked us to take notice, be aware and step up!  My heart breaks for those Sams in our world.


Kudos for Varghese
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I have just finished reading "Time for Columbus tea party''  by the Rev. Winnie Varghese (March).  It is the most articulate article on the subject of continued dialogue between ECUSA and the Anglican Consultative Council that has appeared in Episcopal Life in a long time!  Not only do I agree with her argument and conclusion, I applaud her directness in addressing the subject.

I think you have found a real jewel in Varghese, and encourage her to continue the argument in the months to come.  We all need to give deep and prayerful consideration of the matter of how we are to be God's people in the 21st century.


Community focal point
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Early on Sunday morning, March 12, historic Church of the Holy Trinity in downtown Juneau, Alaska, was destroyed by fire. Nothing is left but the foundation.

Juneau, Alaska's state capital, a city of 30,000, is accessible only by air or water. The core parish community is made up of loyal families who are now represented by the third and fourth generation. The church was a focal point for the downtown community and a magnet for many of the nearly one million cruise ship passengers who pass through the town every summer who came to worship.

The 110-year-old church’s McPhetres Hall was a focus of local activity. It was the home of Theatre in the Rough, a local Shakespeare-only repertory company, and Opera to Go, as well as concerts, slide shows, local folk dance groups and more traditional social outreach such as AA and feeding the hungry.

It is difficult to explain what a key role Church of the Holy Trinity has played in the life of this small city. In a way it has always been the glue that held the town and its very fragile population together. We Juneauites live on the edge of the abyss here; most of us are refugees to as much as from, and for a significant number of us Alaska is the end of the road. These people, along with legislators, state workers, housewives and husbands, rich and poor — the broadest possible spectrum of people -- all found a home at Trinity.

The congregation has been offered hospitality by the nearby Roman Catholic church in its hall, but it hopes to rebuild as soon as possible. The parish is not well-to-do, and the Diocese of Alaska is one of the most financially challenged in the Episcopal Church. Gifts of money, vessels, vestments, books and other church goods would be gratefully received and can be made through the rector at the parish website http://www.trinityjuneau.org/ or at revsilides@gci.net.


Modern ‘stations’ inappropriate
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The article “Contemporary icons” (March) by Gwyneth Leech and the photographs of her artwork showing the Stations of the Cross depicting parallels with the Iraq war was painful for me to read. I found this display inappropriate. It seems to me that it is offensive to use the Passion of Jesus as a vehicle for a political diatribe. Using the image of the United States soldiers to torment our Lord was particularly loathsome. I wondered why the artist did not illustrate the Darfur station with soldiers in blue helmets, or would this be politically incorrect?

Abu Ghraib is certainly cause for shame and lamentation and is inexcusable. But are there other issues that might concern Christians? Such as the suffocation and immolation of thousands of innocent people at the World Trade Center? Or the decapitation of live prisoners by the radical Islamic militants? Does this cause concern for the parishioners of St. Paul’s, Norwalk, Conn.? Does the artist see any of these issues?

The classic Stations of the Cross have been sacred for nearly 2,000 years. I do not believe this generation needs a modernized version in order to be enlightened as to world affairs. Wasn’t Jesus suffering enough?


Protect the animals
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Cynthia Cohen raises some valid concerns for the implications to humans of injecting human cells into animals (“Chimeras a myth no more,” March 1). But she overlooks the ramifications to those who stand to lose most in the chimera stakes: the animals.

Modern studies show us that other animals have qualities that qualify them for more moral consideration than we currently grant them. Animals plan, play, anticipate, deceive, remember, create tools, perform goal-directed behavior and know what another knows. They feel a broad range of emotions ranging from joy and excitement to frustration and despair. Science has been especially reluctant to address the positive aspects of animal existence, and my forthcoming book, Pleasurable Kingdom: Animals and the Nature of Feeling Good (Macmillan, May 2006), seeks to redress the imbalance.

The animals used in chimera research not only suffer injections, blood collections and premature death, all of which cause pain and severe stress; they must also endure life in barren cages. About half of the 100 million or so mice in labs today suffer from cage stereotypies — functionless, repetitive behaviors derived from the chronic frustration of natural behaviors (e.g., foraging, hiding, exploring, burrowing and choosing social partners).

Until we graduate to a new ethic that denounces the deliberate harming of sentient animals, chimeras ought to remain the stuff of Greek mythology.


Welcomed by the church
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I just read the article ("Condemed by truth") by the Rev. Patrick Malloy regarding his struggle to integrate spirituality with sexual orientation in fully serving God.  Although I am only 22, I grew up Roman Catholic and have been on hiatus from the church for several years. After discovering that I am gay at 14, I waited a few years to tell my Catholic confessor at the time.  He told me, "You do understand that this is a disorder.  You have two choices.  Either redirect your feelings toward women, or be completely celibate."

Somehow, I do not think God gives gay and lesbian Christians only those two options when attempting to reconcile their spirituality with sexuality, especially when sexuality is manifested within the confines of a loving, committed relationship.  I found a spiritual home in the Episcopal Church in 2004.  Although I have not yet been confirmed, I know in my heart that I have found my spiritual home.  In every Episcopal parish I have visited, I have always received a very warm welcome.  For that, I commend our church leaders.  I am more than confident that God will lead us through the current trials we are experiencing both in the national church and the Anglican Communion.

To those gay Catholics who find themselves spiritually betrayed by the Church of Rome, I extend, on behalf of Anglicans the world over, a welcome into our churches, especially my beloved Episcopal Church.


Dismissing evolution
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I am indeed surprised that some people take evolution seriously (“Science and religion: Friends or foes?” February). In my college days – Ohio State, class of 1935 – it was an issue. In a course in historical geology, our professor believed in it. We had to give him the right answers to pass, but few students took it seriously. It was just another theory that could not be proved. I personally thought it was an insult to an adult’s intelligence. In the 70 years since then, I considered it a dead issue. I still think so.

The news media, true to form, has dug it up and is trying to get some mileage out of it. It isn’t even sensational. I am unable to find Dover, Pa., on a large map, so I think the district judge is “grandstanding.” Soon I shall be 93 and, in May, I shall complete 57 years as an Episcopal priest. I am more convinced than ever that God created man at a level above other animals, endowed man with some talents and gave him opportunities to be useful. Animals lack this and exist mainly for man’s benefit, directly or indirectly. They have no use other than that.

Man, in turn, was created to be in the family of God, and [God] has eternal possibilities for him in heaven. He treats us differently, as children.


Questioning Narnia warfare
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In all the comments on The Chronicles of Narnia (“Fanfare no fantasy,” January), I am surprised that no one has noted its commendation of violence and war.  Has no one noticed that: Peter has to kill a wolf in order to achieve knighthood; and that Aslan wins the war as he slaughters the opposition?  Are these actions we want to commend as Christian?  Yes, the war is only two paragraphs in the book, but Aslan's decisive role in it is still there, and Peter still slays the wolf.  Is this the message of Jesus Christ, that we cope with bad people by killing them?

And is no one going to comment on Lewis's atonement theology?  As he explains his return to life, Aslan says: "... When a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's stead, the Table would crack and Death itself would start working backward ..." (p. 163, Harper Trophy Edition, 2000).  This is substitutionary atonement – someone had to pay the price for human sin, and that is what Jesus did.  This is an atonement theology that is being questioned increasingly for its nurture of violence.

It is quite easy to center on giving one's life for a great cause and overlook asking is the cause truly "great."  For the Christian in war, one asks: Is the war truly "just?"


Diversity lacking
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How can a committee of bishops, priests and lay people present a four-person, lily-white slate (“Presiding bishop candidates,” March)?  What would have been wrong with an eight- or 10-person slate that would have included persons they would deem best who are black, brown, Asian, Indian or other?  We may claim to be liberal, but when it came down to the presiding bishop, we went back to our old stereotypes.

Lacking historical context
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Reviewers Orthwein and Porter (“Good Night and Munich,” March) say that Good Night and Good Luck documents Sen. Joe McCarthy's  "witch hunt exposing alleged [italics mine] Communist infiltrators in the government, military and entertainment industry." This film depicts Edward R. Murrow as truth versus McCarthy's evil.

Truth and evil were not so easily sorted out in those Cold War days. This is where the film goes awry. Yes, McCarthy abused his position to make reckless accusations of spying and Communist Party affiliation. But the movie fails to put his anti-Communist crusade into historical context. The movie presents McCarthy as totally evil and those resisting him, Murrow especially, as heroes. But the government, military and entertainment industry had been infiltrated by Communists. McCarthy was onto something, even if his methods were extreme.

While calling McCarthy a "venomous influence," Columbia historian William Leuchtenburg summarized the situation thusly: “In the postwar period, the Cold War added plausibility to the view that the United States faced a serious threat from subversives within the government who were in league with Communist powers and movements abroad ... McCarthyism thrived on the fact that there were real Communist plotters in the United States, though their menace was fearfully exaggerated.”

Many would say that Soviet communism, not Senator McCarthy, posed the greater evil. By failing to show that McCarthy's foremost motive was to rid the United States of real, not imagined, Soviet agents, this movie risks becoming a historical caricature, like Oliver Stone's JFK. Your reviewers should have pointed out this glaring omission.


IRS review unsurprising
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An excerpt of the sermon by the Rev. Dr. George Regas delivered at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., was published in the January issue. I note that the portions of the sermon that probably triggered the investigation by the Internal Revenue Service were carefully omitted.

"An IRS audit will not diminish the prophetic ministry of All Saints Church," Regas is quoted as saying.  The Rev. Ed Bacon, rector, states: "What is at stake is that precious, holy freedom from intimidation when religious leaders enter that sacred place called a pulpit."

With all due respect, "diminish[ing] the prophetic ministry" or seeking "freedom from intimidation" are not the issues here, but rather the legal obligations of All Saints as a corporate entity.  Any church is free to exercise its First Amendment rights or pursue a prophetic ministry or maintain the sacredness of its pulpit.  However, such churches are simply prohibited from using tax-deductible contributions to fund such worthy efforts if partisan politics is involved.

Perhaps this is why William Stringfellow, noted lay theologian of the 20th century, encouraged Episcopal churches to renounce any tax-exempt status.  Stringfellow argued that this was one way in which the government sought to mute criticism of its policies from religious leaders. In short, you cannot have it both ways.  A church cannot claim the benefits of tax-exempt status but then not honor its obligations, which are an integral part of that status.

The sermon by George Regas (if one reads all of it and not just self-serving excerpts) comes dangerously close to crossing the line.  Under the circumstances, an IRS investigation is hardly surprising.


Stop extremist shouting
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It seems to me that at this time in the slow but sure decline of our beloved church and our beloved Christianity, that what we don’t need is more talking heads screaming at each other and at us from the extreme ends of the religious and political spectrums (“From the edge: A passionate perspective,” March).

What we do need is for the religious people and the political people to be quiet for a while and give those among us who are more interested in being Christians than being religious or being political a chance to see if we can save what little is left of our Christianity. 

We should remember that the Council of Nicea was all about exclusion: exclusion of Marcion, exclusion of the Gnostics and exclusion of the Ebionites.  These were good Christians all, but not acceptable to those bishops intent on creating a religion or to the bishops who were playing politics in the court of Constantine.  I would remind my religious and political friends that the bishops at that council had something going for them that our bishops don’t have today; they were sponsored by and would answer to the emperor Constantine.

Based on what she said in her column, the Rev. Winnie Varghese seems to be exactly the kind of religio-politician we don’t need any more of at this time in our decline.


Remember humility
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I do agree with a passionate perspective from the Rev. Winnie Varghese.  I do believe it took courage for her to set this opinion out in a public way.  I am not in favor of isolation, but I am in favor of our being who we are, which would include humility.

I would recommend that we also take a peek at the PB's article, wherein he quotes a contemporary monk: "To live in today's world as a faithful person is enough of a discipline.  There is no need to take on more."  I would suggest we listen to the letter from Mary Page Jones: "And we are arguing about who is right, who knows God's will, who can read the Bible in the purist way."

Ah, yes, it was said a long time ago by a little known prophet Micah 6:8, "He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God?"  It is a simple command but often so difficult for us to do.  May the Lord continue to bless our efforts.


Don’t dismiss creation story
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I must say that the "Science and Religion" article in the February issue was interesting.  I would have to count myself as one of the seven percent of Americans who is reasonably scientifically knowledgeable.  It is my interest in science and the Holy Bible that led me to read books on creation science. Starting with a biblical view does not mean that science is contradictory to the Word of God.  The world wants to hold on to evolution because it means that the Bible can then be bent to mean whatever you want it to mean. 

By stating that the first chapters of Genesis are just majestic stories, you have now allowed any other portion of the Bible to be just majestic stories.  Any reference to Genesis and creation in any other portion of the Bible does not mean anything.  There is no basis for marriage or family because these were not uniquely created by God.  Sin has no real importance because death and imperfections were occurring from the beginning.  God's creation was not perfect.  Why do you need a savior when man was not responsible for the separation from God, and death coming into the world?

As for me and my family, we do not hold to the Episcopal view of God.  Our God is awesome and did create all things in six days.  The Episcopal and Anglican view seems to have moved away from the true gospel message. To point someone to salvation through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you need to start with creation and man's fall into sin.  It is sad to see more people willing to compromise their salvation for acceptance by the world.


Double standard in Palestine
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All the world demanded democratic elections in Palestine. There were democratic elections. But it appears that such elections are a good thing only if they return our friends to power.

The Israeli government has announced it will withhold money it raises on behalf of the Palestinian Authority unless Hamas renounces violence and recognizes Israel's right to existence. It enjoys the support of the European governments. Nobody demands the Israelis unequivocally recognize the Palestinians' right to live in an independent and viable state, stop the further development of the illegal settlements and withdraw at least behind the green line of 1967. Hamas has already refrained from violence for roughly a year, while Israel has continued developing its settlements by taking away Palestinian land.

A leading Hamas spokesman has publicly declared that Hamas would recognize Israel's right to existence if Israel committed itself to withdraw from the occupied territories. The Israeli government is not prepared to make such a withdrawal at any time and under any circumstances. The Israeli prime minister's adviser, Dov Weissglas, has been quoted (in Haaretz, Feb. 16) as having said about the Palestinians,  "It's like a meeting with a dietician. We have to make them much thinner, but not enough to die." Given the present situation in Palestine with a large proportion of Palestinians already living below the poverty line, such cynicism is outrageous, but the U.S. and European governments appear to refuse to take note of it.


Column was touching
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I was touched by "Enough is enough".  It made me want to time travel so I could locate the young boyhood "Reverend Bob" and slap him upside the head.

A lesson to share
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I really appreciate the article "Enough is Enough" in the March issue of Episcopal Life.  I am a retired health educator, but I do a lot with the Peer Helper program at our local high school. I have been training them on health issues for about 19 years.

One of the subjects that is presented by another person is "bullying," and I intend to share your article with her.  I think it would be helpful for the peer helper "wannabe's" to read it -- it makes the topic more realistic rather than just hearing a definition of bullying and learning how to address it.


Encourage sensitivity, not surgery
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As an Episcopalian and a hospital social worker who works with children born with congenital birth defects, I read the article by Mr. Gallagher (“Enough is enough,” March) with great interest. I found his points to be poignant and well taken. Bullying and teasing of children and adults who have visible differences is a very large and concerning problem. However, I was extremely concerned to see his comment: "Today, Sam's parents would find a way to have plastic surgery performed on their son, but in those days, scarcely anybody could afford it ..."

Nothing should be further from the truth. It is critical that as adults guiding children to develop into adults who feel accepted and are accepting of others, we guide them to develop sensitivity and compassion. We must not rely on, nor recommend, surgery as the primary way to achieve normalcy so that those who are perceived as different can "fit in" better and be treated kindly. Surgery involves real health risks.


Questioning the statistics
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As a member of the vestry and spouse of the parish treasurer, I have just participated in an exercise called the Parochial Report, required to be filed by March 1 each year by ECUSA.  I was amazed at the early 20th-century approach required for the membership part of the report. 

There are classes of Episcopalians: those confirmed (which a good many churches no longer do or certainly do not require, since baptism does it all), transfers (which most of the few Episcopalians who are new never heard of) and members in good standing (I guess everyone else who attends fairly often, takes Communion and pledges or puts money in the plate but has not been confirmed or transferred).

We live on the west coast of Florida, and we regularly get “snow birds” who spend months down here, participate fully in a parish church, but still regard themselves as members of their church up north.  If ECUSA is really interested in an accurate figure of church attendance, as opposed to a compilation of statistics (which we all know are a step worse than damn lies), they should just let parishes report who comes to their services.


Don’t require ‘club’ membership
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I am deeply appreciative of someone speaking about the club mentality that seems very pervasive in our denomination (“Club mentality damaging,” December). However -- it is a purely human behavior of group dynamics that can be checked.

I am a chaplain who came to the Episcopal Church several years ago. The closed-group dynamics that I observe are really depriving the church of marvelous and miraculous gifts and servants. While I enjoy the stability and beauty of all that is ancient and beautiful, I believe it is necessary and essential to insert some movement and change. Being part of the “club” shouldn't be a requirement for discernment in anyone's process for ordained ministry.


Artist’s work shocking
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I was absolutely shocked to see the story on “Contemporary Icons” (March) depicting the Stations of the Cross with references to Abu Ghraib and prisoners taken on Middle Eastern battlefields now being held in Guantanamo.

The artist states, “We are living through a terrible period of war with Iraq …” She does not seem to understand that we are not at war with Iraq, but with the terrorists who are located in Iraq and elsewhere and who routinely murder innocent men, women and children in the most brutal ways to achieve their objective of destroying our country, our God and us. Our forces confronting these terrorists and so many terrorist victims and their families are not well-served by the depiction you published.