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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.
Scientific, religious modes parallel
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As a professional astronomer, I am regularly asked about evolution and ID.  I answer that science demands proof; religion demands faith.  These modes of thinking are parallel, and where there is no intersection, there is technically no conflict.  What there can be is a colossal and centuries-long misunderstanding as to where the boundary between science and religion lies, a line it is dangerous to blur.

Exemplifying this is the recent letter parroting the tired, blatantly erroneous use of the term theory. A theory is not a guess, but a complex, exhaustively tested explanation of a phenomenon. Theories are supported by substantial -- or, in the case of evolution, overwhelming -- evidence.

Two great achievements of 20th-century thought, quantum mechanics and incompleteness theory, demonstrate that the universe contains unprovables, uncertainty, a basic “fuzziness” that scientific and logical systems cannot circumvent.  So as a scientist, I accept the greatest unprovable of them all: the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.

But we force religion into science classrooms at great peril.  We foster scientific illiteracy, and we shed the humility that acknowledges that neither evolution, nor Big Bang cosmology, nor genome projects, nor other aspirations of our soaring curiosity deny God.  Science can neither prove nor disprove God; and religion must not be used to attack science, which has given us the comfort and technology to contemplate the wonder of God’s works.  The day our school starts shoehorning ID into its science curriculum is the day I begin home-schooling my kids.


Profound effect
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I am a member of an Episcopal church in Memphis, Tenn. However, we live in Garmisch, Germany (in the Alps), where my husband (a college professor) teaches for the Defense Department.  I was moved by the story “Enough is Enough” (Subtitled “Priest rues the price of joining in childhood bullying,” March) and shared it with my Women’s Bible Study Group.

Many ladies, especially those with children, approached me [about it.]  There are many “Sams” in all of our lives.  I just wish he had found a different solution to his problem. Suicide is always the long-term solution for what (sometimes) may be a short-term problem.
Please know that your article has had a profound effect.


Thanks to Malloy
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I thank Patrick Malloy and the editors for the inspiring article “Condemned by Truth,” (subtitled “Admitting sexuality forced him to abandon dream of Catholic priesthood,” February). Growing up in a small town is a challenging experience for an openly gay man. If, “When the soul of man is born in this country, there are nets flung at it to hold it back from flight,” mine has had boulders.  The ministry of Father Malloy’s story spoke to me personally.

His healing words were an inspiration to my friends and myself.  Thank you Patrick Malloy for being ethically bound to take a “reckless path.”  Your journey takes us beyond the limits of people’s prejudice. In a small town on the edge of the Pennsylvania coal region, your story came like Easter; setting angry thoughts aside and opening hearts to God.


Don’t censor letters
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The letter of Jennifer Warrillow in the April issue of Episcopal Life in which she demands that letters that advance opinions counter to her own should not be printed is an example of a disturbing trend.  (Ms. Warrillow’s letter concerns oil drilling in ANWR.)

The notion that the opinions of others should be withheld because someone disagrees with them denies the free exchange of ideas and the concept of a fair and impartial press.  One hopes that the editors of Episcopal Life would not censor an individual’s opinion because it is not politically correct or fashionable.


Convocation aids military
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Thank you for the wonderful cover story about the work and ministry of the Convocation in Europe  (“Trans-Atlantic ministries,” April).   As you have so aptly described, it is a flourishing part of the wider Episcopal church that embraces great diversity in cultures and languages.

One group that it also has embraced through the efforts of both Bishops [Geoffrey] Rowthorn and [Pierre] Whalon, is the American military community serving throughout Europe.  As a retired Navy chaplain, my family and I lived in Gaeta, Italy, from 1998 to 2002, where I was the command chaplain to the Sixth Fleet flagship.

After I contacted Bishop Rowthorn upon becoming geographically resident within his jurisdiction, the bishop invited me to participate in all gatherings of convocation clergy.  Over four years, my family and I were known, loved and involved in the ministry of the convocation.  With at least five other active-duty military chaplains, as well as Bishop George Packard, the bishop with jurisdiction for all federal chaplaincies, I participated in the convention of 2001 in which Bishop Whalon was installed.

My family and I were among the Episcopalians received by Pope John Paul II, as shown in the photograph in the April issue of the pope with Nicholas Britton and Will Henry Lawrence, my then 8-year-old son.


Tradition not the answer
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I am concerned about the church 30 to 50 years from now. Has there been any demographic study showing how many Episcopalians are in various age groups: 10-20, 21-30, 31-40, etc.? It would be wise if the church had this information in order to tell if the church is going or gone.

I believe the church is caught in the trap of tradition. “Even if you are on the right track you will get run over if you just sit there.” -- Mark Twain.

I suggest to the reigning hierarchy a complete review of which track the church is on and how people can be attracted to a more meaningful liturgical service. Pentecostal and faith-based churches are growing at an astounding rate. They preach the Bible. They sing contemporary hymns that move the spirit.

Episcopalians are increasingly becoming a cloistered clique with an ancient form of worship that no longer means much to the majority of people in this growing country. Tradition loses its meaning over time. People, especially young people, are interested in what is real in today’s world. It is time to look beyond the robes and rites.

If everyone is thinking alike then somebody is not thinking.” -- George S. Patton.

The Episcopal Church has an immense store of knowledge and talented people. That store needs to open and take on the toughest mission field of all: the United States of America.


Consider children’s needs
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Buoyed by their recent legislative successes in opposing marriage equality, right-wing groups in the United States now would seek increased bans on adoption and foster care by same-gender couples.  In doing so, they utilize their usual sky-is-falling hysteria and crass appeals to bigotry.

Trouble is, all of the leading child-welfare organizations oppose restrictions on parenting rights based on sexual orientation, finding that gays make good parents and that their children are as successful and well-adjusted, if not more so, as children reared by heterosexuals.  The American Bar Association also believes that sexual orientation should be no barrier to adoption.

Often same-gender couples adopt children who are physically, mentally or emotionally challenged, or who are otherwise hard to place – those kids who, sadly, nobody else wants. Thirty-four percent of lesbian couples and 22 percent of male couples already are raising children acquired through adoption, foster care or natural means.  This compares to 46 percent of heterosexual couples. 110,000 children await adoption.

It is my hope and prayer that anti-gay-parenting will be seen for the hatred it is, and that the kids’ best interest be always prioritized by lawmakers, the courts and all of us.


Wrong view on Cuba
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Our ineffable presiding bishop makes a pilgrimage to Cuba, one of the handful of remaining communist regimes, and -- what a surprise -- echoes the “blame America” mantra of the far left. [He] scolds America for that unhappy nation’s disastrous economic policies that have resulted in hundreds of thousands of its citizens fleeing at risk of their lives to, where else, the United States of America. Nor did the man who represents the Episcopal Church to the world have anything to say about [Fidel] Castro’s gulags chock full of dissidents who failed to appreciate the joys of his “paradise.” 

TV criticisms questioned
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Correcting a hymn credit
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At the end of the April column (“Resurrection dance”), some lines from a great Easter hymn are reprinted with a credit line to Palestrina. Indeed, he wrote the music, but the words are attributed in the 1982 Hymnal as follows: Latin, 1695, translation by Francis Pott. In the Lutheran Book of Worship, we have the words credited as follows: Symphonia Sirenum, Köln, 1695, tr. Francis Pott. Palestrina deserves credit, but not for the text.

Don’t discount Mary’s role
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After reading some of the letters concerning the ARCIC statement on Mary, I am compelled to add my observations to the chorus of readers who, for some reason, are downplaying Mary’s role in salvation history.  We are confronted to determine our own view of Mary in this very important role as Mother of God and her relationship with Jesus and the whole Christian Church.

The Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception and Assumption seem to be very misunderstood within the ranks of the Anglican Communion. Notice that I did not raise these ideas of Mary to the level of dogma. Dogma demands that we believe these as necessary for salvation in the same light as the Trinity.  The creedal statements are sufficient in this regard.  But Mary’s role in the life of the Christian Church is essential for the fullness of the faith one delivered to the apostles.

(Mr. Blaies is a member of the Society of Mary.)


Praising musical diversity
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Interesting article (“The British are coming!”, December). There is so much variety within the total volume of Anglican Church music that you might say it ranges somewhere from almost anything goes to doing what the British have always done. The mighty organ has been both loved and despised.  The use of guitars, once unheard of, is very common in Latin and Mexican services. African bongos and  ethnic instruments accompany a variety of melodies praising God from many ethnic church communities. And of course, there are services held where there is no music at all.

The variety, in my view, has brought about a more easily understandable meaning of the word of God to a great diversity within the Episcopal Church The musical pallet has broadened and deepened the faith of many. There is a struggle to maintain authenticity and originality to inspire newly composed material. We should be grateful new and innovative material is welcome in some churches, while “the older the better” is welcome in others.


Ignoring Palestine facts
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In his September, January and May letters, the Rev. Dr. Hanns Engelhardt has conveniently ignored verifiable facts in his assessment of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. An example is his criticism that the “U.S. has done nothing to make the Israeli Government commit to a just peace.”

In fact, Israel has continuously sought a peace that ensures its survival since its inception in 1948. Common sense dictates that when one is surrounded by one’s enemies and outnumbered 20 to 1, peace really does provide the best hope for survival. As for the U.S. doing “nothing,” he is again incorrect. Every administration since Nixon’s has devoted disproportionate time and effort seeking a resolution.

In the prologue to his 800-page treatise “The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace,” Dennis Ross, the U.S. point man on this issue during the first Bush and Clinton administrations, recounts the extraordinary lengths Clinton went to in early 2001 to resolve this conflict. Previously unimaginable concessions already had been agreed to by then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, concessions that would have resulted in “an independent Palestinian state that was territorially viable and had Arab East Jerusalem as its capital.” Nearly every significant Arab leader urged Yasir Arafat to accept, but reject it he did.

Ross summarizes historical factors that have made peace so difficult to attain, one of them being the “absence of leadership, especially among Palestinians.” Dr. Engelhardt’s frustration is understandable, but his indignation should be directed at these Palestinian leaders who are incapable of recognizing peace when it slaps them in the face.


Let God do judging
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I never forget a picture that I saw some years ago. It was a picture of a little boy with Down’s Syndrome and had a caption that read: “God doesn’t make any mistakes.”

I believe this to be true, thus believing that God’s plan includes homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, etc., etc.,  There are so many that are willing to point out that these people are not “Christians,” therefore not fit to serve the church, but they conveniently forget that Jesus also said, “ Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

In my opinion, we would all be well served to let God decide who is worthy of serving him and concentrate on our own behaviors.  Maybe if we all try harder to treat our fellow man as we want to be treated, we will all be doing a better job of serving our Lord.


Echoing the past
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While perusing the assortment of letters to the editors in the April issue,  I was struck by the letter from Jennifer Sterner about lesbians and gays becoming priests.  She said:  “Simply find another way to serve God.” Those very same words were directed toward women who were seeking ordination until a scant 30 or so years ago.  Similar words were directed toward African-Americans seeking ordination until not too many decades ago. 

She also states: “It’s against the laws of the Bible.”  Perhaps she doesn’t realize that a strict interpretation of those laws also would prohibit anyone with a birth defect, an amputated finger or other body part, or any of a whole assortment of “defects” from becoming a priest as well. And strictly speaking, one could also interpret St. Paul as telling women to just keep quiet in church... which could also include a church publication. It’s never as simple as some would wish or think, is it?


Doctrines sound heretical
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In the February issue, you mention the matter of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of the Virgin. My feelings are quite simple. If this bunk is included in the doctrine of the Episcopal Church, I will be forced to leave it. The Immaculate Conception and Assumption are nowhere treated of in Scripture. It looks like heresy to me. The same applies to their “going through the Blessed Mother” to reach God. Heresy. And denying Communion to Christians … Why is the Episcopal/Anglican Church cozying up to these people? It is a mistake.

Apology precedes seeking reparations
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What sympathizers with Ms. [Nell Braxton] Gibson  (“Readers, columnist debate worth of apology to African Americans,” January) really want is not just an easily worded apology from us. If they show gratitude for our apology and accept it, then they will no longer have a justice claim on the endowments and income of the Episcopal Church. If Ms. Gibson accepts the apology, then she forgives us and we are reconciled, and she gets nothing more.

But beware: When ECUSA apologizes to Ms. Gibson and friends, they then will have our own words confessing to them our complicity in doing them wrong by profiting from the unpaid labor of their ancestors. Once we confess, then they will have our self-proclaimed guilt as justification for asking for slavery reparations.