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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.  

 

Praise for Epiphany School
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The article “A most unusual school” (October) about Boston’s Epiphany School for disadvantaged youngsters touched me deeply. Out of experience, I appreciate what the school is doing: First give the child a full stomach of nourishing food so that the mind can function, and then help that mind as it grapples with homework. Add to this the religious instruction (and the uniforms) to give direction and order so the child aims for achievement. This is what we would wish for every child.

Some years ago, I read that every dollar spent to help a child psychologically will save $100 for help later in life. God bless the administration and staff of Epiphany School.


Church must take lead
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"Different View from Israel" (Letters, September) really isn't so different. Regrettably there are many Israelis who have not met a Palestinian in the Territories, have not had any dialogue or even traveled to that neighboring area to experience firsthand the brutal military occupation of these forsaken, indigenous peoples.

It appears that the rationales of the various Israeli citizenry are: 1) not wishing to confront their own lack of concern for humanity; 2) not wanting to experience on site and by sight how the Israeli military government has victimized the vulnerable Palestinian civilian population.

As a longtime member of Women In Black, which was founded in Jerusalem in 1988 by Israeli-Palestinian women standing together in silence for nonviolence and peace, I am increasingly angered by the absolute disregard on the part of the Israelis, the United States and the world of the ethnic cleansing occurring now for four generations in the Occupied Territories and Gaza. We all need to give voice with proactive actions to stop these prejudicial, destructive policies. And we do know that the churches, clergy and government leaders with any moral compunction must take the lead.


We’ve separated heart and head
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Thank you for the article “Bicultural bonanza” by the Rev. Dr. Pamela Long. I read it with interest. Particularly I was excited and intrigued by the last section, “The bloodiest Jesuses.”

She wrote, “We Americans can understand the concept of sacrifice pretty well – our ancestors sacrificed a lot in building this country. But we are afraid of blood, and we like avoid every kind of suffering … The missing crucifixes in our American churches speak not only to our preference for the Risen Christ, but also to our inability to identify with pain. If we cannot identify with Jesus’ pain, can we identify with the pain we see on the faces and bodies of those in our community?”

We don’t identify with Jesus’ pain. We don’t identify with the pain of others; also, we don’t allow ourselves to feel our own pain. We have separated head from heart. We follow in the footsteps of one of the patron saints of our society, René Descartes: “I think therefore I am.”

Thank you again for this article. I propose to quote it in a sermon.


Joy in presiding bishop choice
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Winnie Varghese writes that many people who do not know our church well think we did a good thing in walking away from cultural prejudices and choosing Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori as our next presiding bishop ("The Price of Compromise," October).  Let’s not forget the joy Jefferts Schori's election brought to thousands of Episcopalians.

Recently, I attended the investiture of the eighth bishop of California.  The service was held in beautiful Grace Cathedral, at the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco.  As the long procession entered the church, the congregation erupted in sustained applause, punctuated by cheering.  Naturally, I thought this special greeting was for the new bishop or the popular retiring bishop.  Instead, it was California Episcopalians welcoming the presiding bishop-elect on her first visit since her election at the General Convention in Ohio.  As she glided down the aisle, an elegant, tall figure in cope and mitre, I confess to having had tears in my eyes. 

After the service, I met Bishop Katharine as she greeted in front of the cathedral.  She is warm and wonderful and has the aura of apostleship.  I am confident that she will give firm, positive, winning leadership to the Episcopal Church, guiding us through challenging times with wisdom and authority.


Thanks for column
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Thank you to Winnie Varghese for capturing in her column what so many of us thought of General Convention, the process, the MDGs, and the prospects for proclaiming the gospel in the various mission fields outside our doors. Keep writing!

Unnecessary details
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In reporting on the recent election of the new bishop of South Carolina (“California priest elected to lead S.C.,” October), why was it necessary to add a pejorative "elected from a slate of three white, conservative male candidates"? Your comment drips with unwarranted disdain. Within a church where "diversity" is an idol, is there no room for white, conservative males?

I can't imagine reading a sentence like this in Episcopal Life:  ". . . was elected from a slate of two African-American male liberal candidates, and three women liberal candidates (one Hispanic, one white and one African-American)."


Refuse consent for S.C.
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Is it 1861 all over again?  The Diocese of South Carolina has elected as its next bishop a priest who publicly states that he will join that diocese in refusing to acknowledge the office and authority of the presiding bishop-elect.  The Very Rev. Mark J. Lawrence thus clearly signals his open defiance of the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church and his transparent intent to violate the same.

How can he possibly, in good conscience, take the oath "to solemnly engage to conform to the doctrine, discipline and worship of The Episcopal Church" as required by Article VIII of the constitution of the Episcopal Church and by the liturgy for the ordination of a bishop?  He and other bishops and clergy who have made similar statements of defiance already are in open violation of their ordination vows and thus are liable to presentment and trial.

I urge bishops and standing committees to refuse to consent to this election.  If South Carolina wishes to start another Civil War, this time in the ecclesiastical arena, and be taught another lesson the hard way, so be it.  Let the lesson begin.


MDGs may yield unintended results
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Alexander Baumgarten’s commentary, “An Achievable Goal,” (October) states that the goal is doable.  How soon no one knows.  But there is a problem with the goals of the Millennium Development Goals.  All of the diseases that are mentioned here are also Western diseases.  If and when we can control AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, our population will grow. But the population of Africa and Asia certainly will expand to a greater extent. And the unintended consequences of that are more severe poverty. 

As the population of the developing countries increases, the Western nations’ subsidized farmers would see greater market potential for sales. The developing countries would not be able to compete, because the cost of exporting them would be undercut by Western nations’ subsidized farming. 

An example of this situation appeared in the Wall Street Journal several weeks ago about an African country wanting to grow high grade-cotton.  Some one from the Cotton Producers Association said that they never would allow that to happen. Too many U.S. cotton growers would be hurt.

The World Trade Organization has been trying for years to get the Western nations to reduce the subsidies with no luck.  With the increased market possibilities, no subsidies would be cut. And the Millennium Development Goals would another monument to Western greed.


Letter ‘uninformed and malicious’
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In the September issue, there was a letter from Frederica Thomsett and Alfred Moss maligning not only the founder of the University of the South but the university itself and by extension Episcopalians in Southern states. The letter described the founder of Sewanee, Bishop Leonidas Polk, as "a slaveholding bishop who died in battle fighting to preserve a racist social order” and as someone who "intended the school to be an institution for white males only."

There is so much I would like to say in rebuttal to this letter, but instead I will only make six brief comments.

  1. Slavery in America began in 1641 when Massachusetts became the first colony to legalize it. Later, the New England economy was largely dependent on the importation of slaves from Africa to America.
  2. Thirteen of our first 18 presidents owned slaves, the last being Ulysses S. Grant. Roughly one-half of these 18 presidents identified their religion as Episcopalian.
  3. Current scholarship avoids the "good guys versus bad guys" version of the Civil War that these two writers rely on. Indeed, four slave states, Delaware, Maryland, Missouri and Kentucky, fought on the side of the Union. These four states were exempted from the provisions of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.
  4. In the 1800s, several northern states had black codes that denied basic civil rights to blacks.
  5. At the time Bishop Polk founded Sewanee, all Episcopal schools in the nation, including Trinity School in New York, were for white males only.
  6. Leonidas Polk was not the only Episcopal bishop who owned slaves. Several bishops in the North did also, a fact contained in the documentary by Katrina Browne, a Cambridge, Mass., resident and descendant of one of the North's most prominent slave-trading families.

If these two writers will do a basic amount of research into slavery and racism in the 1800s, I think they will come to the conclusion that they must apologize for their uniformed and malicious letter.




It takes more than giving
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Me thinks [Alex Baumgarten] is preaching to the choir.  Americans are, for the most part, generous if they know their contributions are actually getting to the people in need.  However, just as currently in Dafur, the local/national governments of the country are corrupt, and aid simply gets swallowed up by the government and doesn't get to the needy.  How would he fix this? Otherwise, donation is moot.

Regardless of local poverty in an area, there is also a small, local economy (small shops and sellers of goods) whose living also is dependent on being able to sell goods and services.  If their market is taken away by donated aid, they go under and become destitute themselves, adding to the problem.  So how do you get the charity only to those who have nothing and who cannot effect the local economy? 

This problem is quite complex. Just our giving alone will not solve the above problems.  The question is:  How do you fix the system so that aid can flow to those who really need it?


Support Episcopal organizations
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Alexander Baumgarten's editorial on the Millenium Development Goals is remarkable as it does not mention or advocate congregations working with the Episcopal/Anglican churches and organizations as a way to fulfill the MDGs.

Five Talents International (http://www.fivetalents.org/) is one such organization, as is Episcopal Relief and Development (er_d.org). "One" is doing very good work to be sure, but why is it that we are following their lead?  Our denomination and Christians in general have set the standard for helping the poor for 2,000 years, not because it's the right thing to do, but because Christ commands us to do so! The church is leading the fight against poverty, and congregations should support those organizations within our denominational family.


Don’t forget environmental stewardship
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The commentary "An Achievable Goal" by Alexander Baumgarten (October), the international policy analyst for the Episcopal Church's Office of Governmental Relations, did a fine job of lifting up the issue of global poverty for the members of the Episcopal Church.

Unfortunately, ignored in this editorial as in other Episcopal responses to the MDGs is the central role of ecological sustainability, one of the MDGs and essential to any plan to address issues of global poverty. Desertification with its resulting famine, polluted watersheds that cause a majority of infant deaths around the world, and the growing number of environmental refugees swell the roll of the world's poor.

The national Episcopal Environmental Network, as well as the creation committee of the National Task Force on Science and Faith, exist to promote an understanding of the key role of environmental stewardship in any viable faith for the 21st century. Having represented the Episcopal Church at the Earth Summit of 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, I believe that issues of sustainability need to be brought constantly to our attention.


Hearing another viewpoint
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If God has given each individual the gift of a mind to individually read, listen, discuss and ultimately form our own conclusions, then why not let readers of the Episcopal Life have the opportunity to read all information offering a different viewpoint on homosexuality than the one that seems to be the prevailing opinion and stance of today’s liberal Episcopal Church. I offer the following book: Homosexuality -- Can It Be Healed by Dr. Francis MacNutt, founder of the Christian Healing Ministries and a member of the Order of Saint Luke, an international and interdenominational healing organization. His website is http://www.christianhealingmin.org/.

Homosexuality mischaracterized
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Frederick Bowers (“Responding to the provocateur,” September) states that homosexuality “is a sexual preoccupation.”  In the nine-and-a-half years that my partner and I were together (until his death), our relationship was characterized by love, faithfulness, unconditional support in very hard times, personal growth, joy, gratitude and a lot of hard work.  We were no more “sexually preoccupied” than any couple trying to cope with life. 

Mr. Bower calls homosexuality a “First World sickness.”  The American medical, psychological and psychiatric associations have concluded that homosexuality is innate and not a sickness (and that efforts to alter sexuality are potentially very harmful).  Homosexuality has been apparent in virtually all societies, and in all periods: ancient Greece, China and Japan, ancient Egypt, India, medieval Persia – all left literature and art witnessing to same-sex attraction. There also are well-documented occurrences of homosexual behavior in more than 450 species of animals, from courting to mating, from lifelong relationships to raising the young.

“First World sickness” just won’t hold water. God's love is not won through obeying complex rules and observing taboos. It reaches out to all of us and brings us all in.  We must guard against rejecting the grace that is a gift to every one of us – and sexuality is part of that grace. 


Try to understand motivations
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I found it interesting to contrast two letters to the editor that appeared side by side in the October edition of Episcopal Life. The Rev. Steve Holton’s letter ("Calming the Storm") espoused trust in Jesus’ faithfulness; Lynn Ford’s ("Church Embracing Secular Goals") seemed to advocate despair in the face of recent conflicts in our church.

In the wake of perceived crises, we often are tempted to believe we know the motivations behind the actions or words of others. Ms. Ford seems to suggest that those who advocate for amnesty for illegal immigrants, reparations for slavery, approval of gay unions, election of gay bishops or the election of a female presiding bishop are doing so solely out of a desire to capitulate to secular or political pressure. I am reminded of Jesus’ words, "Judge not, lest you yourself be judged."

As Christians, we are called to a higher standard; we should at least make an attempt to understand what motivates another’s actions before we presume to know why they believe and act as they do.

When we oversimplify and belittle the motivations of those who are entrusted with leading the church, we call into question the Holy Spirit’s power to act in our church. To cry "apostasy" when we disagree with the actions and decisions of our church is to doubt the power of our Savior to calm the storms, whether big or small, within the life of our church.


Departure the wrong answer
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I am so disappointed with the bishops and parishes that want to leave the Episcopal Church because "it's heading in a direction that's not biblical."

I am currently reading Death by Suburb by David Goetz.  He makes an excellent point in his book.  A lot of people are church "commuters" that go from church to church at the drop of a hat.  He says that it's easy to be tempted to leave a church when things get messy. People don't like conflict and disappointment.  It's always easier to leave when the going gets tough.  But something happens when you walk with each other through the trouble and disappointments: spiritual growth. You get to see God at work in peoples' lives.

How many people have you talked to that found that they were closest to God when they were at their lowest point in their lives?  Everything is wonderful when we first join a church.  And then the honeymoon wears off. How are we to mirror the relationship that God has with us, in each other, if we turn and leave at the first sign of disagreement?  God through Jesus showed us how relationships are supposed to be between Christians.  What kind of example are these pastoral leaders, these bishops, showing to the rest of us when they say that they are taking their marbles elsewhere because they no longer like the sandbox?  What kind of message are we sending to nonbelievers when we leave because we don't believe the same thing?

I'm disappointed in some of the things that happened at General Convention because I'm a lesbian; but, ironically, I'm more disappointed about what's happening in TEC because I am a Christian.  Is this what we are called to do? To leave when the going gets tough?


Political and spiritual goals inseparable
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Lynn Ford's October letter illustrates a fundamental mistake regarding the proper role of the church in the broader society: the separation of "political" and "spiritual" goals. There is no difference. The whole point of the Incarnation was for God to come to earth and live as one of us, to bring the kingdom of heaven to the here and now!

Jesus taught us to love one another as God loves us, and "political" progressivism, when done in the context of love, is simply the living out of that mission he bestowed on us. The neighbors he taught us to love are the same people, regardless of whether they are viewed from a political perspective or a religious perspective!

Moreover, Jesus constantly modeled and preached destruction of old and beautiful tradition in favor of new approaches that were more sincerely grounded in his new philosophy of love. He was forever upsetting the status quo in order to reach out to people on the margins of society. The modern-day equivalents of those marginalized people are precisely such groups as Ms. Ford complains about: gays, slave descendants, immigrants and women. And her term "amnesty" is the political equivalent of forgiveness, which was the absolute center of Jesus's message.

Like Mary Hicks, another October letter-writer, I pray that Lynn and others like her will come to rejoice in this fact of love and acceptance and be proud of our denomination for applying it ever more fully to its task in the world.