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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.
Proud of our denomination
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When I was received into the Episcopal Church in 1993, it was one of the proudest moments of my life. When Bishop Winterrowd caressed my face and told me, “Mary, I’m proud of you!” I would have fallen to my knees, had I not been kneeling. Since then, my church continues to make me proud.

When Bishop Gene Robinson was elected, it brought back memories of frustrated Roman Catholic priests I know, wondrous and spiritual, now abandoned. Upon hearing the news that GC had elected Presiding Bishop-Elect Katharine Jefferts Schori, I jumped up and down with excitement. This church amazes me!

I cringe to think of the number of lay and clergy in this country who will not even open your July/August 2006 issue, simply because of the photo of the new presiding bishop-elect on the front page. Or did they instead go right to page 3, where you interrupt the good news with “Many react skeptically”? It’s obvious that this publication is trying to please everyone.

My prayer is that, one day, all of us will read every word on every page – no matter whose picture is on the cover. Hopefully, one day, all will be one in the message of reconciliation. God bless Episcopalians. I couldn’t be prouder to be included among them.


Another apology expected
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I was so interested to read, in the issue almost entirely given over to the great brouhaha over the place of gay people in the church's family, an apology from the church for its stance on slavery and segregation.  I suspect that it will not be very long (surely not 100+ years!) before such an apology is issued to our gay and lesbian congregants by a shamefaced and penitent church.

Consider animal welfare
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As a member of the Episcopal Network for Animal Welfare, I was concerned to see an advertisement for live Maine lobsters and the promotion of their use in parish fund-raising efforts (July/August).

There is complex and conflicting scientific information concerning the degree of suffering inflicted upon lobsters from the time their claws are bound by rubber bands to the point of being boiled alive.  I place the issue within a much simpler realm.  Why would parishes consider lobster boilings for fund raisers when there are so many other possibilities?   I would ask the same question concerning "pig pickings," "deer roasts" and other social events centered around animal death and suffering.  

The message of compassion as modeled by Jesus Christ is one of the strongest our church has to offer to the world. Let our celebrations of community at parish gatherings reflect that compassion. 


Dorchester chaplains heroic
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The Dorchester chaplains are heroes of faith.  I am more than pleased, overjoyed, to hear of the suggestion that the chaplains be added to the Calendar of the Church Year (“Saints added to the calendar,” July/August).

My first recollection of hearing the story of the chaplains was in 1967, during my time in the Chaplain Orientation Course, the Air Force vehicle for transforming priests, ministers and rabbis into military chaplains.  As an idealistic young chaplain, I fervently hoped I could live up to their bravery and self-sacrifice.  As an old, well-retired chaplain, doubtless a jaded specimen, my hopes have not changed.

On Feb. 3, moving from Newfoundland toward Greenland, the U.S.S. Dorchester was struck by a U-boat torpedo.  She was sinking.  Four chaplains -- a Jew, a Roman Catholic and two Protestants -- ministered to the crew under these most difficult circumstances.  These four chaplains then gave up their life vests to four men in need of them, and together gave themselves to the sea.  Among the many sites that tell the story and its ongoing life is http://www.fourchaplains.org/.


Text misrepresented
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H. Doyle Smith’s letter in the July/August Letters (“Listen to the Bible”) starts by alluding “essentially” to Exodus 22:1-23 “‘If you oppress the ‘Palestinians,’ I will bring you war, and your wives will become widows and your children orphans.’” This is neither the literal nor the “essential” content of that text, Verse 21, “Thou shalt neither vex a stranger, nor oppress him: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Period).

The word stranger in Hebrew (in the torah) is ger and means “a guest,” also a “foreigner.” It cannot even be made to mean Palestinian, which in Hebrew is always Pelishtiy and in English is variously translate inhabitants of Palestina (or Palestine), but most often “Philistine.” These, along with the Moabites, Ammonites, et al, were the terrorists against God’s chosen people Israel and an abomination in the land. There is a broad difference between a terrorist and a guest.

Smith’s allusion to Mohammed’s claim that somehow Islam became necessary because Christians and Jews didn’t live by the Scriptures belies the fact that anyone claiming to be a Christian without also being a Zionist is not living by the Scriptures, and has made the advance of Islamic terror and oppression possible.


A humorous incident
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Saturday, July 22, 2006, was a glorious day at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.  I was there for the investiture of Bishop Marc Andrus.

Just before the service was over, I decided to visit the rest room and beat the pre-lunch rush. While washing my hands at the sink, I overheard a cell-phone conversation between a teen-ager and her friend in another state. "Guess where I am," she said. "I am at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. I think they are ordaining the pope!"


Calming the storm
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We are all very concerned over the election of Katherine Jefferts Schori as the next presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church. Some say that it is all for the good, and let [the election] sink the Episcopal Church if it must. In all probability it will lead us into a radiant future. Others say it – and [Jefferts Schori] – will unavoidably sink the church, destroy our relations with the rest of the Anglican Communion and make it impossible to minister to the world or to ourselves in these chaotic times.

Will it? The disciples faced a similar situation as they crossed the Sea of Galilee, in Mark 4:35 (the Gospel for the Sunday after the election). They, too, were in a great storm and convinced they would sink. They, too, were convinced that God had abandoned them or had no power in the chaos. The language describing the storm shows the depth of their fear – as our language shows ours.

In the middle of this faithlessness, this lack of conviction that God would see them through, they call upon Jesus – as we should.
His response shows his faithfulness to them, even though they have lost faith in him. More importantly, it shows his ability to calm the very real storm they are in, as he can calm the very real storm we are in.

We may have done the right thing in electing Bishop Jefferts Schori. We may have done the wrong thing; but Jesus does the same thing he has always done, which is to calm whatever storm we have entered and stay with us through it.


‘Universalism’ nothing new
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I read with interest Lauren Stanley's column about working with African students at a seminary in South Sudan (“Lessons don’t come easy,” July/August) and her struggle with what to say when they ask her about who is saved. She says: "I am afraid that if I give the universalist answer, I am imposing a Western liberal, progressive thought on conservative Africans."

"Universalism" is as old as Origen, who found warrant for it in Saint Paul. And it was also from the close study of St. Paul that many 17th-century American Baptists came to embrace the idea as well, and to found the Universalist Church. These were often backwoods people, probably not much better educated than her students, but they found their inspiration, as Origen did, from these lines, among others, in Paul:

"For he is destined to reign until God has put all enemies under his feet; and the last enemy to be abolished is death. Scripture says, 'He has put all things under his feet.' But in saying 'all things,' it clearly means to exclude God who subordinates them; and when all things are thus subject to him, then the Son himself will also be made subordinate to God who made all things, and thus God will be all in all." (NEB)

It is also possible that Stanley's students, many of whom were raised as non-Christians in non-Christian homes, are asking her, even pleading with her, to give them a way to understand the fate of beloved parents, grandparents, siblings and others who perished before ever being baptized. It would be kinder to give them the tools of hope and point them to such possible interpretations, not just offer well-meaning suggestions that they "make up their own minds."


Church embracing secular goals
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In its zeal to be all things to all people, the Episcopal Church has embraced secular and political instead of spiritual goals:

  • amnesty for illegal immigrants
  • reparations for slavery
  • approval of gay unions; election of gay bishop(s)
  • female presiding bishop

The decision makers at the top are degrading an old and beautiful Christian tradition. The result? Apostasy.


Real property at stake
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Episcopal Church rapprochement with Canterbury seems to be based on semantic feel-good nuances such as walking together, discernment, etc. This is in the Episcopal Church tradition, which has served the church well when common sense prevailed.

However, the debate and dialogue within the Episcopal Church is silent for the most part in citing Scripture, morals, dogma and tradition as a basis for actions that have created alarm in the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church consensus seems to be based on the belief that all who come to Christ are qualified at all levels by virtue of agape love and acclamation. This all-inclusiveness is beautiful but has led to little rumbles in the past.

What is at stake here is not theological practice but real estate. No doubt some parishes and dioceses are basing their decisions on real property issues. After all, there is a lot of prime real estate potentially up for grabs, and the legal profession will have to go back into medieval common law to come up with equity decisions concerning the disposal of real property by parishes and dioceses.


Bishops chose poorly
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It is hard to believe that the House of Bishops has dropped to such a minor league status as to elect a woman as presiding bishop. I get the impression that good bishops either no longer belong or that they are hopelessly outnumbered, out-gunned by a liberal group. If so, do we need a House of Bishops? Surely we need something much better.

I am 93 and a priest in the Episcopal Church for 58 years, nearly 44 in the Diocese of Newark. About 50 years ago, we had two outstanding bishops, Leland Stark and George M. Rath. Both were dedicated pastors. Their full-time job seemed to be to be a pastor to the pastors, ready at all times to help in a crisis.

I began my ministry in the Anglican Church of Canada. I must say I like their method of electing a bishop better. There were no names on the ballot, write-ins only. A ballot read “My vote for Bishop is ….” We could write in any name. As long as he was a priest in good standing, at least 30 and not over 70, it was counted. Here our ballots have to include a woman, a gay, a Negro, whether or not they qualify.


This theology bad for church
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Our “Mother Jesus”? (“Voices of the General Convention,” July/August). Oh please!

I felt the Holy Spirit moving greatly out in the bunkhouse as I read this today, and what he inspired in my heart is that just as what’s-her-name brought down the last Chinese dynasty, Katharine Jefferts Schori and the Jesus-wants-me-to-be-happy theology (see Theophilus North by Thornton Wilder) will finally bring down the Episcopal Church.