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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 All letters will be edited for brevity and clarity.

Why focus on one issue?


Here in Virginia, a small Episcopal church has essentially gerrymandered itself into a new, imagined position under a Ugandan bishop in reaction to the actions of a diocese in New Hampshire.  If this wasn't sad, it would be funny. I have to ask the vocal group of Anglicans who are willing to burn down our shared house in order to keep others lying about their lives: Why this sin in particular?  Why such desperation about homosexual practice and not about the many sins of omission and commission that are surely rampant among Anglicans? 

Are we followers of Jesus or not?  If so, and if the focus is to be on Scripture -- rather than on grace, prayer and the leading of the Holy Spirit -- then why is it that we are asked to condemn a practice never mentioned by Jesus, while the church has accepted divorce, which is addressed by Christ in the gospel?  And why are we not clamoring for the church to speak out more strongly against state-sanctioned violence and against the routine exploitation of the poor here and around the world? How can a largely prosperous and comfortable denomination justify focusing on the mote of sexual sin in others, while ignoring the beam of complacency and gluttony in itself?

How can it be clearer than Jesus has made it:  We are all sinners, all in need of grace, all falling short.  Ranking sin and judging others is a game for Pharisees.  Accepting and welcoming all, however their brokenness manifests itself, is the only attitude befitting recipients of Jesus' saving work on the cross.

Wrong focus at convention


I recently attended my first diocesan convention, and it was an interesting experience. A great deal of time was spent debating subjects over which our tiny diocese has virtually no influence. We watched a sample television ad that, in true Episcopal fashion, was pretty but didn’t mention Jesus.  We passed a budget that over-funds a bloated diocesan staff that costs more than $800,000 in just personnel costs for fewer than 12,000 total members of the diocese. We avoided discussion of important issues over which the church might actually have some influence.

We are in a church that is tearing itself apart and presenting a ridiculous public image in order to accommodate the sexual preferences of some clergy. Many feel the ECUSA is actually hostile to heterosexuality. We have always had, and I hope we will always have, homosexual clergy, but to put the entire church through this agony and trial only to suit the needs of clergy who wish to make a public show of their sexuality is clericalism at its worse. This is not an issue brought to the fore by the people in the pews, but primarily by the clergy.

I pray that someday, the Episcopal Church USA will exhibit a little more interest in Christianity. I am grateful to belong to a parish that focuses on Christ and not social and political issues. We all can have various political and social views, and the lessons of Christ will inform us but may lead us to some different conclusions.

Commission unrepresentative


The article in the November Episcopal Life (“Considering global relationships”) stated that the commission appointed by Presiding Bishop [Frank] Griswold and Dean [George] Werner was made up of 14 people.  It was interesting to note that there were no lay members, and only one came from west of the Mississippi River.  The commission does not look to me like it is representative of the church as a whole.

I guess that Bishop Griswold and Dean Werner did not want to take a chance that an opinion other than theirs would be forthcoming.   It will be interesting to read about the report after the convention next summer.

Intrigued by Breastplate

In reading (Cindy Carlton-Ford’s article, “‘Give me this little servant of God’,” November) I was interested in the song St. Patrick's Breastplate and looked it up in the 1982 Hymnal, as my priest suggested.  I don't believe I ever sang it in all my years in the church.  I was intrigued, since I read a beautiful prayer attributed to Dag Hammerskjold, which I say daily:

“Christ of the Seven Directions is with me.  Christ above me to uplift me. Christ below me to support me.  Christ before me to guide me.  Christ behind me to protect me.  Christ on the left to meet me.  Christ on the right to greet me.  Christ within me to sustain me.”

Allow oil drilling


Chad Kister of Athens, Ohio, (“Save the Arctic Refuge,” Letters, November) states that he has "just returned from the great Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." If so, then he understands that it is a large semi-arctic swamp, frozen in the winter and tundra in the summer.  There are no trees, no great herds of animals, and no threat to wildlife if nonintrusive opening of this area to oil development be allowed.

The greater issue is that this land is the land of the Alaskans, and they wish the premises opened to such use. If  Mr. Kister honestly believes that oil companies are out to make an obscene profit, there is nothing in the world stopping him from investing in these companies.  Were he to invest, say, $10 every month in oil company stocks, he soon would be able to call himself an oil baron, as is the case with all of us.  For that matter, a lot of us already do own oil company stocks, and there is not the least bit of shame in this.

We should part amicably

It is obvious that the Episcopal Church will not be able to maintain our denominational ties much longer. Our witness to American culture can continue to be one of animosity and litigation, or we can respect the dignity of each other by working towards an equitable -- and just -- parting of the ways, showing our culture that irreconcilable differences can be handled in ways that honor one another.

Yes, I am from Pittsburgh, but I would remind the reader that this diocese has members whose support of the issues goes both ways. Yes, I do have my particular viewpoint. But I ask, are we more interested in the proving of the abandonment of communion or in the abandonment of our witness to those around us? The choice is ours -- may we choose wisely.

Not a clear-cut situation

I was drawn to the letter (“Israeli wall necessary,” November) by Violet Lawton. Until recently I agreed with her. Upon reading her letter, I looked in the archives to find the article in July/August that she calls “disturbing.”  I agree “Crisis in the Holy Land” and the accompanying article by Phoebe Griswold are indeed disturbing – however, not for the reasons sited by Ms. Lawton. 

We just had our Diocesan Convention last week in Burley, Idaho, and one of the vendors was a Palestinian Christian born and raised in Israel  He and I engaged in a discussion about how Palestinian Christians feel abandoned by the worldwide body of Christ.  I was shocked.

While it is true that Israel must deal with terror on a daily basis, it is also true that Israel uses undue force and degrading tactics on the Palestinian people.  One of my spiritual mentors taught me that in ancient times the Jews believed that, if they brushed up against a gentile, they were unclean and needed to wash.  The ancient Jews also believed that their “neighbor” was another Jewish neighbor and not a gentile neighbor.  Truly, gentiles could be treated as dirt with no law being broken.

After speaking with this Palestinian man, I believe that many of today’s Jews in Israel have the same attitude.  It is no wonder there can be no peace in the Holy Land. Americans like their villains to be clearly defined. Our news media have led us to see the Israeli/Palestinian struggle as good guys versus bad guys. As Christians viewing this struggle, we must ask tough questions and look beyond traditional news.  There are plenty of bad guys to go around.

Wall needed for defense


I agree with Violet Lawton’s criticism (“Israeli wall necessary,” Letters, November) of the Episcopal delegation’s visit to the Holy Land. I continue to be embarrassed by the anti-Israeli bias of your publication. Shortly before his death, you published a photograph of a grinning Arafat posing with the presiding bishop and other church officials. Is it any wonder that many Jewish officials still distrust the motives of Christian denominations such as ours?

The delegation of church leaders were reported to be discomforted by viewing the fence – strictly a defensive structure – as well as by road blocks. Surely such inconveniences pale in comparison to the number of lives saved by such measures. No nation would tolerate its borders being crossed by suicide bombers. Why should the world’s only Jewish nation be an exception? Many Americans are alarmed by insecure borders that permit those seeking jobs to enter. One can only imagine the reaction in this country if, instead of job seekers, these were bomb carriers.

In the long and ugly history of anti-Semitism, the most pernicious type has been that of blaming the victims -- in this case innocent Jewish civilians.

Reword the question


Violet Lawton (“Israeli wall necessary,” Letters, November) claims that we as Episcopalians have to see both sides. Right she is; but her question "How would we feel if Canada or Mexico kept sending suicide bombers into our country?" unfortunately doesn't avoid the unfair slant she deplores.

It should be reworded like this: "How would we feel if the United States had occupied most of Mexican territory for many years, denied the Mexicans an independent state, planted settlements in the occupied country, taking away farmland from Mexican farmers and robbing their means of subsistence from them, and if then some Mexicans (not "Mexico," please!), out of anger and despair, would resort to acts undisputedly atrocious?"

Taking all these things, which are undisputed and need not be investigated by "a short stay in that area," as having happened, it may appear necessary to build a wall. But let us build it on our own territory, and not, again, through the occupied country, taking away more land and means of subsistence, barring more children from attending school, more women in labor from reaching a hospital. How would Violet Lawton feel if she had to deliver somewhere on a muddy country road because soldiers of an occupation force denied her access to a hospital?

Reflections appreciated

I was really glad to see “Reflections on recovery” in the October edition of Episcopal Life.  I met Bill McLean at the first annual gathering of the National Episcopal Coalition on Alcohol in Memphis, Tenn., more than 20 years ago.  Little did I realize as my wife and I set off for this gathering and to celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary that it would change my life and my ministry.  It was at this gathering that I came face-to-face with the fact my father (deceased by 3 years) was alcoholic, and that made me an ACOA – Adult Child of an Alcoholic.

I attended my first ACOA meeting and began to read everything there was on the subject. Bill encouraged me to get into treatment regarding the ACOA syndrome. I worked for the Nassau County Department of Drug and Alcohol Addiction and soon went back to school to get my MSW. I became an addictions’ specialist, became chairman of our diocesan Committee on Alcohol and Other Drugs for 15 years and eventually became president of Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church.

As the years went by, I had the pleasure of getting to know Bill McLean. He is also a past president of Recovery Ministries of the Episcopal Church and has contributed a lot to the field of alcoholism by his actions and witness.  Thank you.