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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.


Thanks for essay
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I think the essay (“Resurrection dance: Surgeon imagines the joy of Jesus’ awakening,” April) is a beautiful, wonderful, emotionally true re-creation of what Jesus may well have experienced. I think it is one of the best things Episcopal Life has ever published.  I told my dance teacher about it (Sacred Circle Dance), and she asked for a copy.

Thank you for making it available to us, and for having the courage to branch out in a new direction.  At age 77, I get awfully tired of the nuts-and-bolts side of religion, and so appreciate any glimpse of God.


Music for the heart
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Surely the good doctor must also be a heart specialist! His article (“Resurrection dance”) made my heart sing! Thank you.

Cuba stance correct
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Being old enough to remember Fulgencio Batista and the pre-1959 régime in Habana, it seems that Presiding Bishop [Frank T.] Griswold gets matters right (“Griswold visits Cuba,” April).  Since American policy is broke, let's fix it.  We historians will consider Fidel Castro to be a deeply-flawed revolutionary; but he will certainly be in the history books!  Vicente Echerri's figures of Castro's "victims" (“Wrong stance on Cuba,” Letters, May) are open to refinements and correction; but the issue here is relevance.

American foreign policy to isolate Castro has resulted only in his hanging onto power longer than otherwise might have been and in the impoverishment of the Cuban people.  It is time for a change, and the church should lead that change.  Griswold's efforts were singularly laudatory and deserving of a "bravo!"


Writer’s view didn’t evolve
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The astonishing May letter from the Rev. George  Davidson, opining that the doctrine of evolution is "an insult to an adult's intelligence," filled me with great sadness. My astonishment lies not so much in the fact that, only 10 years after the divisive Scopes Trial of 1924, educational institutions of Mr. Davidson's day still considered evolution an unproven novelty to be derided in the face of the creation myths in Genesis, but that in the intervening six decades since ordination Mr. Davidson has apparently not allowed himself to read anything but the King James Bible, nor listened to the voices of the vast majority of educated persons, secular and religious (including, most recently, the pope), who embrace the basic tenets of Darwinism as best explaining the undeniable fact of evolution.

If, according to the prayer book catechism, we are indeed created in the image of God, this means that we are to reason, as well as to love, to live in harmony with creation (yet another concept apparently rejected by Mr. Davidson). Further, we are to love God ... "with all our heart, soul and mind."  To me, ordained some 48 years and a part-time college instructor, I find that the true insult to our God-given intelligence is not to use it in the conduct of our daily lives and to explore the empirical evidence of evolution open to any who would but look.

For the church’s well-presented view, see its Catechism of Creation at www.episcopalchurch.org.


Wrong definitions used
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I am compelled as a biology teacher and Episcopalian to respond to Mr. O'Donnell's comments (“Hypothesis, not fact,” Letters, May) regarding evolution. Mr. O'Donnell, in his dismissal of evolution, misuses the terms theory and law in fundamental ways that undermine his argument. These are scientific errors that even my ninth-grade students don't make.

In science, the word “theory” specifically denotes an explanation for a set of observations -- an explanation that has been well-supported by numerous experiments and/or observations. Examples of scientific theories include atomic theory, heliocentric theory and the germ theory of disease (none of which even Mr. O'Donnell should find as shaky).  “Laws,” on the other hand, are merely statements of observation. Contrary to Mr. O'Donnell's argument, because laws are merely statements of observation, while theories are explanations, theories never become laws.

Additionally, Mr. O'Donnell's mischaracterization of evolutionary theory as "shaky" holds little water when one considers the mountain of corroborative evidence from geology, physiology, developmental biology, genetics, molecular biology and biochemistry.
Lastly, I take issue with the argument that evolution excludes God, as if only evolutionary theory has done so. There is nothing uniquely atheistic in biologists in omitting divine explanations for events. The fact is that science deals only with natural, not supernatural, explanations for phenomena.

I am not alone in contending that evolution and religion are completely compatible. I highly recommend the book Finding Darwin's God by Ken Miller (evolutionary biologist and devout Catholic) to any interested in understanding evolutionary biology and how at least one scientist reconciles evolution with Christianity.


Happy with hiring
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It is with joy and expectation that I see Episcopal Relief and Development has hired Richard Ohlsen (“People,” May) as the director for domestic disaster response and preparation.  I think we are all keenly aware that we must be prepared, for disasters will continue. 

Shortly after 9/11, I was appointed to be the (volunteer) coordinator for disaster response for the Episcopal Church.  One of our best accomplishments during my tenure was securing a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Critical Incident Stress Foundation (ICISF.org).  Besides this, not much headway has been made in getting our church prepared for emergencies.  Thus, I am delighted ERD has created a full-time position to address our preparation and response.

Please keep Mr. Ohlsen in your regular prayers as he offers us a proactive direction towards ministry in crisis situations.


Nominees mischaracterized
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As a member of the Diocese of California who participated in two of the walkabout gatherings for our candidates for bishop, I found Doug LeBlanc’s comment that there were no conservative or evangelical finalists for bishop nothing short of astounding (“Screening out: In choosing a bishop, do nominating committees increase, or limit, diversity?” May).

Leaving those gatherings, which were attended by more than 2,100 faithful Episcopalians, one was most struck by the deeply profound experience of an encounter with Christ and a call to personal conversion and recommitment. What I experienced that week bore considerably more resemblance to a traveling tent revival than to any Episcopal election I had previously been a part of. 

To suggest that the seven candidates who bared their souls, shared their faith and called us to proclaim the Gospel to a world in need were anything besides evangelicals was frankly insulting.  I only hope that at Mr. LeBlanc’s next speaking appearance he is half as eloquent in inspiring his listeners to personal faith in Jesus Christ and the accompanying work of ushering in the reign of God.


Slate too small
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Based on my recent experience in the Diocese of Tennessee, I agree with Doug LeBlanc’s article about bishop search committees. Our committee, clearly skewed to the right, presented us with only three candidates, all of whom had strong conservative evangelical credentials – such as the American Anglican Council, the Anglican Communion Network, Fuller and Gordon-Conwell seminaries, etc. A group of clergy got together to petition for a fourth candidate, a moderate.

One of the problems with having such a small slate of candidates is that there is not much room for movement. If we had 11 candidates, like Albany, we might be able to find one most of us were comfortable with.


Diversity important for mission
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On behalf of the board, leadership and staff of The Fund for Theological Education, we gratefully applaud the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church for its important pastoral letter, The Sin of Racism: A Call to Covenant, recently released and read in churches across the nation. The letter rightly calls the church to “recruit and empower people of all races and ethnic origins as leaders in the church” and supports the “dedication of equitable resources for all races and ethnic origins in the funding of theological education for all ministries, lay and ordained.”

More than one-third of accredited theological schools and seminaries in North America report that they have no scholars of color on their faculties – and student populations also fail to adequately reflect the growing diversity of the general population.  Seminaries, churches and communities need and deserve gifted leaders who reflect the diversity of those they serve. This is why working to identify and support racial/ethnic students and faculty in theological education, and dedicating resources to do this work, are more important than ever – for the sake of the church and for the church’s mission in the world.


Objecting to headline
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Thank you for your profile of Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori in the May issue of Episcopal Life. I appreciate the number of people you talked to in profiling her.

However, I want to register a serious objection to the headline of your article.  I find it egregious that all the rest of the profiles endeavored to encapsulate something significant about the candidate -- e.g., "values Anglican tradition," "fosters missionary expansion," etc. But Bishop Schori is singled out as "First female nominee."

In the article, I found plenty of material that could have been the headline's focus, but to focus on her sex rather than her qualifications will make some readers assume that she is a token candidate, the best of a scrubby lot, rather than someone who brings real qualifications and potential for the mission of the church to the table.


Headline misleading
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Bishop [Charles] Jenkins is "inviting all to the table," according Douglas LeBlanc (Profiles of candidates for presiding bishop, May).  Unless, of course, you are a practicing homosexual, in which case you can eat in the kitchen with the help.  Bad choice of title for this article.

Obsessing on wrong subject
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John Chane rightly raises his voice against Archbishop [Peter] Akinola (“Abandoning pastoral concerns,” Commentary, May).  Sadly, the archbishop uses ecclesiastical prestige and political persuasion to impose a narrow morality upon the church and denigrate certain of his fellow human beings and Christians.  It is worse than a narrow morality; it is an obsession that focuses much energy upon a particular subject —homosexuality -- that in itself is harmless. Rather, let the archbishop and others expend their energies upon the vast forces of destruction that can destroy us all -- warfare, racism, genocide, poverty, the pillaging of the environment.

Criticizing Akinola wrong
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Bishop Chane's attack on Bishop Akinola demands an equally strong response.  Bishop Chane is my bishop, and I have watched how he plays into and encourages the gay agenda at the expense of other things, and as if he is unconcerned with the vast and divisive social consequences of legally protected homosexual behavior.  The last thing Africa needs is to legalize homosexuality.

It is well known that Nigeria, in particular, and many other countries of sub-Sarahan Africa are dealing with rampant AIDS, tribalism, animist religion, war and widespread poverty of a kind virtually unimaginable in America.  Many such countries are also dealing with Islamic extremism and underground shari’a law.  For Chane to so viciously attack Peter Akinola, who made Time's list of the top 100 people of influence in the world, is a tragic and bizarre misuse of his power as the Episcopal bishop of Washington. It mainly succeeds in showing him in a poor light, except to those who agree with his ideology.

No society in history in the process of building itself up is welcoming to open and active same-sex and other nonmarital behaviors and  relationships for the reason that the behavior involved, usually sodomy, is socially destructive, improperly disciplined and transgressive, leading to a devisive overfocus on itself just as we have seen in the Episcopal Church in America!  Most gays are not interested in marriage, particularly men.  In Holland, where gay marriage has been legal since 2001, only about six percent of self-identified gays have taken such a step, and the institution of marriage has been further weakened.


Thanks for reprint
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Thank you for reprinting Bishop Chane’s analysis of [Archbishop] Akinola’s support for repressive legislation in Nigeria.  That support would appear to be consistent with his acceptance of financial support from wealthy, extreme right-wing figures in this country. From a moral perspective, I don’t understand Bishop Akinola’s apparent priorities.  Although he has spared no opportunity to denounce American bishops who voted in favor of Gene Robinson’s consecration, I have yet to hear his views on the slaughter of unarmed civilians in Darfur.

Bishop Akinola certainly is an extraordinarily divisive figure.  If he is interested in exercising spiritual leadership in this situation, perhaps he could begin by “bearing the burdens” of those he accuses of not bearing his burdens.


Groups need support
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My comment is that more attention should be given to developing groups like mine.

The world needs to know that Archbishop Akinola is doing all in his powers to wipe us out, so as to keep his face up. We are voiceless and feel so bad that most of his supporters are in the United States. How can a man who supports the killing, jailing and abuse of those whom God has put under his care claim to be doing the work of God?

We Anglican LGBT members in the Church of Nigeria want Akinola to begin the listening process.


Many work for justice
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I recently read Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold's "Upon Reflection" piece ("Defining God's perspective") in May's Episcopal Life and, after re-reading it several times, find myself compelled to write.

What compels me to write are the statements that "God's righteousness is revealed among us in the person of Jesus, and it is the Spirit of Christ at work in us that renders us persons of justice …  Justice has to do with our participation in God's relationship with the world.  Justice has to do with seeing others and the whole of creation from God's perspective." These are beautiful words and, had they been written by clergy of the Roman Catholic Church, I would not be so surprised.

The presiding bishop appears to be saying that, in order to be just or to practice "justice,” one must not only be a believer in God, but must also be a Christian.  Are there not righteous and just nonbelievers and non-Christians?  Cannot one be a just and caring human being without believing in God, or believing in God but not in Christ?  I believe that there are many such people who have made and continue to make this world a good place.


Decrying ‘we vs. them’
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What bothers me about the current tensions in the Anglican Communion is that what we used to boast about -- "comprehension for the sake of truth" -- seems to have been forgotten. Since Elizabeth I declared the Elizabethan Settlement, which stated that the church would be both Catholic and Protestant, we have prided ourselves to be in a church that is both white and black, male and female, straight and gay, etc.  Doesn't the parable of the wheat and the tares speak to this, too?

Certain parts of the Anglican Communion seem to be becoming a we versus them instead of an us. When I read what some Anglican leaders are saying, to me they sound like Jerry Falwell. We expect that of him, knowing where he is coming from, but not from certain heads of the Anglican Communion around the world and also within these United States.  


Focus on areas of agreement
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Bishop Chane is correct (“Abandoning pastoral concern,” May). It would do all Anglicans good if we recognized that there are Christians of good conscience on both sides of the issue of homosexuality and if we worked together on issues that we did agree on.

I grew up in Singapore, where then-Archbishop Datuk Ping Chung Yong ordained four Episcopal priests as bishops of the Anglican Mission in America. If he and Archbishop Akinola were to direct such fervor at the issue of, say, global poverty, the world would be a much better place.

Unfortunately, it does not seem that Archbishop Akinola has done so. Indeed, during the riots in Nigeria over the cartoon controversy, the archbishop reminded Muslims that they did "not have the monopoly of violence in this nation." Subsequently, Christian mobs retaliated against Muslims in the city of Onitsha, killing at least 80 and forcing hundreds to flee.

Tony Campolo, a Southern Baptist minister and professor of sociology, sees homosexuality as a sin, but he also realizes that people do not generally choose their sexual orientation and supports civil rights for lesbians and gays. Perhaps Archbishop Akinola would like to read his work. In the meantime, perhaps the Anglican Church should question Archbishop Akinola's consecration before questioning Bishop [Gene] Robinson's.


‘Appalled’ by plans
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I have read "Abandoning pastoral concern" in Episcopal Life. I am grateful that this article was written, because after reading about the controversy surrounding gay bishops in the New Yorker, I was feeling rather upset.

I am appalled at the plans that are being made by the Nigerian bishop.  I believe in the dignity of each individual and in respecting differences within humanity.  The plans to "renew" churches in the United States are extremely divisive and aim at the basic principles and rights of this country.

I also find the behind-the-scenes giving of money to the cause of the Nigerian bishop by conservative, wealthy folks politicizes the struggle within the church.  We must fight these efforts to wrongly influence our churches and the congregations of other denominations.

It is true that we have conflicting views within our church; that is one of the reasons that we are strong.  We must be allowed to continue to struggle and learn from each other until we find "the middle way" that respects and includes all people regardless of sexual orientation.


View law in context
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I find Bishop Chane's criticism of Nigeria's Archbishop Peter Akinola most disingenuous.  Bishop Chane charges the Nigerian archbishop's sexuality stance as championing "institutionalized bigotry." He refers to Akinola's support for a new law that would criminalize same-sex marriage in his country and deny gay citizens the freedoms to assemble and petition their government.

Surely he realizes that Archbishop Akinola and others who live in Islamic countries walk a tightrope as they live out their faith and lead the Anglican Church.  The proposed law needs to be seen "in light of the wider conflict between civil law and shari'a law.  Under existing Islamic law in effect in some parts of the country, actions listed in the proposed law currently stipulate the death penalty,” said Canon Akintunde Popoola, spokesman for the Church of Nigeria, in an article in The Living Church on Feb. 27.

Faith McDonnell, in the Episcopal Action Briefing, Winter 2006, [publication of The Institute on Religion and Democracy] states "The 'Same-Sex Marriage Prohibition Act' before the Nigerian Federal Assembly would instead charge violators with penalties of up to five years in prison."

While the proposed federal legislation criticized by Bishop Chane is difficult for Americans living in a democratic society to agree with, we have to realize that our society is not living, thankfully, in constant fear of the rule of Islam.  McDonnell also noted rightly that "Christians who live under or alongside Islam face the dual challenge of rebutting the charge [that the church supports Western immorality] while also opposing the imposition of shari'a [law]."


Stance unscriptural
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I read the commentary on Archibishop Akinola and … I find it unconscionable and irresponsible that the Anglican Communion is doing nothing to censure this man for his stand against basic human rights.

This archbishop's legal maneuverings against basic human dignity should cause us more pain than any issue he may have with homosexuality/same-sex marriage or blessings, or with our autonomous decision to elect an openly gay bishop. Does he not read or understand the words attributed to our Lord, "for as often as you have done it to the least of these...YOU have done it unto ME"? Has he no conscience as a leader and as one in a position of special trust?

Please do ask his supporters (high-profiled or otherwise) in this country to ask your questions of the archbishop, and if they find no answers that are consistent with our catechism and our sacred Scriptures, that they immediately withdraw any and all support, in the name of the one who first loved us. Thanks for the article, disturbing though it was.


Love the key in unions
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While soon to celebrate my 37th anniversary with my husband, we have many gay friends and believe that God smiles on any union that exists in love.  Our best friends happen to be a gay couple who have been together for 40 years and are the epitome of what a relationship should be -- mutual love, respect and devotion.

I truly don't see how anyone can consider himself a Christian when he wants to sublimate a huge section of the population.  This seems a step back to the times of witch burnings.


Church is for all
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It is high time that people within the communion stand up and remind all of us that God is for all of us, even though none of us is lovable by nature or by the quality of our lives. God loves us. Perhaps it is all right to remind ourselves and each other that love may or may not be what we feel. Always, it includes what we do, how we live and relate to each other. Therein lies reconciliation.

I have been told that the chairperson of the selection committee in Gene Robinson’s selection was asked, “What were you thinking of?” The person answered, “We weren’t thinking about his sexuality. We were thinking of his humanity.” I listened to a homosexual man speaking to meeting of people, some of whom were interested and some of whom were curious. I remember so clearly the passion with which he said that no one would choose to be homosexual; it is too hard.

Bishop Robinson has said, “This is not about what I do; it is about what I am.” The church is meant for everyone; the church is the body of Christ. When it reaches out to fewer than all of us, it is not what it is meant to be.


Agreeing with Chane
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As a member of the Host Committee for General Convention here in Columbus, I was obviously interested in the presentation of the candidates for presiding bishop in the May issue of Episcopal Life.  However, it  was not until I reached Active Voice  and Bishop Chane's letter that I really rejoiced!  Thanks be to God.

As an aging, cradle Episcopal layman, I have been looking and wanting some leadership such as Bishop Chane puts so clearly and succinctly before us in his letter.  I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to read it.   My own position in this quandary of global church has become much clearer, thanks to John Chane. 


Don’t penalize for love
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Thank you to Bishop Chane for his Active Voice column. Our 55-year-old lesbian daughter has lived faithfully with her partner for 27 years.  They are college graduates, hold responsible jobs, own their own home, pay taxes, vote and participate in their home community in countless selfless ways, including constant loving concern for their aging parents.  Each is the kind of person anyone would be extremely proud to have as part of their family.  Thank God they do not live in Nigeria, where under the new law championed by Archbishop Akinola, our daughter and her partner would be imprisoned for five years simply for holding hands!

We share Bishop Chane’s outrage at the silence of the worldwide Christian community regarding this morally indefensible position of the archbishop.  Whatever one thinks about homosexuality (learned behavior or as much a gift of God as one’s heterosexuality), there is absolutely no excuse for penalizing in any way two people whose love for each other is genuine, lasting and self-giving.


Stance is not Christian
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In response to Bishop Chane’s article on Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria: I was appalled that a man who is the leader of the Nigerian Church even dares to call himself a Christian. Whatever happened to Jesus’ commandment that we love our neighbor as ourselves? Are not all of us God’s children? We may not agree with homosexuals lifestyles, but who are we to judge?

I thank Bishop Chane for speaking out against this bigoted man.


Appreciating Chane’s concern
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Regarding Bishop John Chane’s commentary: I am relieved to see Chane’s concern expressed for the GLTB constituent of the mystical body of Christ. I share what seems to be a mystification at such an attitude as that of the Most Rev. Peter Akinola, archbishop of Nigeria, and his like-minded churchmen who would purge the Anglican Communion of those of us who are GLTB, open and out.

A few years ago, after completing my first religion degree, I accepted ordination to the priesthood of an autocephalous church of apostolic succession that ministered to GLTB Christians in the Catholic tradition. Sadly, our own diocese had a policy that precluded my aspirancy to holy orders in the Episcopal Church. My being priested by an Old Catholic primate was to serve, not as an act of schism, but of ministry to those GLTB Episcopalians and others who were not entirely welcome, at the time, in their churches.

When our ecumenical parish closed, I donated all of my vestments to the Episcopal companion diocese of West Ankole in Uganda – the Diocese of Oklahoma’s companion diocese at the time. I hope that the archbishop, Peter Akinola, will learn of this gift of love from his GLTB Christian brothers and sisters.


Clergy should speak up
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I am appalled by the support statement of Peter Akinola, the archbishop of Nigeria, that limits the human rights of gay and lesbian people. African nations may be years behind us in the West in matters of social conscience, but to support these restrictive laws is to assume God's prerogative. Leave the judgment to our creator and get on with doing the will of Jesus in the world.

Where are the outcries of those who are more civilized?   We need some more of our clergy to speak up on this matter.  These are our brothers and sisters.  Let us treat them with love and acceptance. 


COE not a state church
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There is much to commend in Barbara Fuller's article on music (“Out of practice,” May). However, there is one error that cannot stand, since it is often heard.

The Church of England is not a "state church," nor is it aided by state funds. The crown makes use, for example, of Westminster Abbey for state occasions like coronations but pays not a penny towards the expenses. The Scandinavian churches are state churches, and even the Evangelical Church in Germany has its clergy paid through the state, backed by an optional tax levy. But not the Church of England. I am aware of this firsthand, having spent most of my ministry in that church.