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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.


Thankful for election
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“Praise God from whom all blessings flow” should be the rallying prayer of all Episcopalians at the election of our new presiding bishop, as God has revealed God’s will to our church. After all, we prayed that the Holy Spirit would guide and direct those at General Convention for the renewing of the church, so when God has revealed God’s will shouldn’t we be joyful -- or has Christianity been reduced to self- serving ideologies where God’s will is confirmed when it is in alignment personal beliefs? That reasoning is idolatry at its worse, as it reduces God to subjective beliefs or a God of our creation.

Thank God that the Holy Spirit has directed the hearts and minds of those who are responsible in electing a chief shepherd to guide our denomination regardless of one’s theological sensitivities.


Rejoin Roman church
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It is with great sadness I read the reports of your 2006 Episcopal Convention U.S.A.  Please ask Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori to read the Holy Bible again regarding homosexuality and sin.

I pray that conservatives in the Anglican Church, whose faith is strong in the real presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, will return to the Roman Catholic Church, where we remain steadfast in the tenants of the Bible and the traditions handed down from St. Peter.  May God bless you all.


A bad compromise
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Neville Chamberlain, though a well-intentioned man of peace, foolishly sought to appease Adolph Hitler, allowing Europe and its inhabitants to suffer greatly. Our House of Bishops, though well-intentioned, sought to appease those who have clearly and continuously demonstrated that they only will be appeased by total capitulation and total domination.

While I would never suggest that any bishop of the Anglican Communion is even slightly like Adolph Hitler, the reports from Nigeria are quite chilling, as [Archbishop] Peter Akinola has reportedly used his weight to egregiously support a new law that would not only criminalize same-sex marriage, but also, apparently, prosecute for affections acted upon in private. Gay citizens would be further denied freedom of petition and assembly. The law would also end freedom of the press on these issues by threat of imprisonment. Will GBLT citizens next be required to wear pink triangles on their clothing?

Shouldn’t our bishops at least have had the backbone to exact quid pro quo for the cowardly compromise they set forth? Rest assured, even this two-steps-backward source of shame will never appease those who would bring Europe and America under their Orwellian rule.


Embrace the future
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While some of our brothers and sisters in a few of the newer African churches for whom General Convention’s controversial resolution was apparently designed may take comfort in it, other African Anglicans surely do not: Archbishop Desmond Tutu spoke recently upon receiving the Union Medal at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, letting his views be known forcefully, eloquently and unambiguously on the personhood and full equality of gays.

Sadly, to equivocate on fundamental matters of justice and personhood in an attempt to preserve “a seat at the Lambeth table” strikes too close to home to positions taken before our Civil War by those who also wanted to avoid divisiveness but chose to do so at the expense of the lives of those already too long oppressed.  Thankfully, no one today would try to advance the biblical supports then alleged for slavery.

Our church needs to embrace the future, not pass resolutions and adopt practices that compromise its – and our -- integrity.


Missed opportunity
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I am a gay man with an Anglican theological education, trying to wrap my head around the results of the General Convention.
Basically the convention said: “Give the communion what they want, and maybe they will stop yelling at us. We don’t have to believe it …but maybe they will stop.”

Come to your senses. They want us on our knees, and this will not be a proper response for them. The convention passed on the opportunity to stand up for what it believes about the church and to move the communion forward, even though that might mean that we walk separately for a while.

I think that we are buying into an abusive relationship with the greater communion. And the biting voices of the communion will not stop yelling with the convention’s response to the Windsor Report. From our beginnings, Christians have vastly differed with each other, and when we could no longer tolerate the difference, we traveled on different roads.

Can we demand and threaten the African conventions to condemn polygamy in their own countries? Can we demand and threaten the African conventions to condemn female mutilation as an initiation with puberty? Can we demand and threaten the African conventions to condemn the practice of buying unwilling brides with cattle?  I think that we are more polite than that.


Shear enjoyment
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I enjoyed Martha Sterne’s article (“Shear comfort,” June) about the loving ministry of hairdressers and loved the cartoon. I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in November 2004. My hairdresser, Roger, cleared his calendar so that I was the only one in the shop when I came to have my hair buzzed off due to the side effects of chemo. I’m so glad Martha Sterne wrote about these ministers that we sometimes overlook.

In a recent article from a seminary dean, he talked about the “techne” of ministry. My dictionary didn’t have that word, so I still don’t know what he was talking about, and I was saddened that such obtuse language was used. Your article was accessible to everyone. Thank you!


Another view of mills
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Please allow me to present another side in the history of the northern textile mills (“Documenting ugly history,” June).  It may not be such common knowledge as the triangular trade, but I think it bears mentioning.

Tens of thousands of us in this country come from families who found the northern textile mills offered them an opportunity to escape grinding poverty and the stifling social strata of Victorian England.  While conditions were less than ideal for these immigrants, they found the cotton mills gave them a way to become successful through hard work, intelligence and the courage to come to a new place and try their luck -- reminiscent, in a way, of some of the immigration motivations this country is facing today.

I do not condone slavery; no right thinking person does.  But I will shoulder no guilt for the opportunities the northern textile mills offered my forebears.


Guilt not hereditary
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It was amusing to read the recent piece “Documenting Ugly  History” (Episcopal Life June 2006), where both the subject film-maker and article’s author suggest that any living person carries a  guilt burden from two-centuries-old events. No such need to carry, atone, make reparations or apologize exists, theologically, legally or morally. The sins of a father are not part of one’s inheritance, much less over centuries of succession.

To suggest otherwise would be to negate the forgiveness of sins through God’s grace and the redemption provided by man’s laws. The furthering of a healthy spiritual and societal development  requires us to examine the errors of the past, but it certainly has no moral imperative to re-cloak ourselves in a centuries-old hair shirt. Suggesting that anyone living today needs to become an apologist for his or her family history – or, for that matter, anything whatsoever that occurred before he or she lived -- is in itself a morally questionable act that we should avoid.

The ending of slavery today is a worthy goal, but the use of an  imaginary hereditary guilt is not the correct call to action. The Episcopal Church should avoid becoming the mouthpiece for such false calls.


Looking for painting
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Victoria & Albert Museum, London / Art Resource, NY
“The Angels Hovering over the Body
of Jesus in the Sepulchre,”
watercolor by William Blake (1757-1827),
Victoria and Albert Museum, London.   (Victoria & Albert Museum, London / Art Resource, NY)

Just this morning I was reading a back issue of the Episcopal Life -- Active Voice, and came upon the fascinating article by Dr. Jonathan Steinhart (“Resurrection dance: Surgeon imagines the joy of Jesus’ awakening,” April).  It was so touching and quite a fresh outlook on that unknown time.  Thank you for sharing that beautiful impression.

My husband is being ordained a deacon (at age 72) in the Episcopal Church this Saturday.  He loved the watercolor by William Blake displayed with the article.  Are you aware if there are prints available of that wonderful picture?  I would love to give him one as a gift.


Research ignored
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The commentary of Raymond J. Laurance “Relieved by results” (June) trashes intercessory prayer as representing the “magical wing of religion” and as “medically ineffective” based on the results of one recent study by Prof. Herbert Benson of Harvard Medical School. Laurence ignores the more than 131 scientific studies supporting spiritual healing dating back to the early 1960s that show statistically significant healing results that are reported in Spiritual Healing: Scientific Validation of a Healing Revolution by psychiatrist Daniel J. Benor, M.D.

Laurence asserts, “Many theologians reject out of hand the notion that any person or group can effectively intercede with God in any respect.” He suggests that “Paul Tillich and Karl Barth, the two major Christian theologians of the 20th century (and certainly no opponents of prayer), would have scoffed at the idea.”

The Rev. Laurence has not done his homework. Tillich affirms intercessory prayer in clear language. In Systematic Theology, Vol. III, p. 279, Tillich does not scoff, but he makes a clear distinction between authentic prayers of intercession and magical praying:
Valid intercessory prayer is not magic, but, to use Tillich’s words, “an expression of the state of being grasped by the Spiritual Presence.”

This is most certainly not the “magical wing of religion,” as Laurence claims.


Praying for sick works
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Call me irresponsible; I did not breathe a sigh of relief at the news that prayer does not impact disease.  (I did laugh a lot.)
I have personally witnessed more than a thousand miraculous healings following prayer – healings of all kinds of conditions ranging from cancer to the common cold and including one raising from the dead some hours after the doctor in the ER had pronounced the patient dead. 

I recently participated in a prayer project in Northern California that resulted in a 58 percent reduction in cancer admissions to our local hospital as against the same quarter a year earlier.  Despite the findings of the Benson study, I think I’ll just keep praying for sick people -- and encourage others to do the same, even if responsible theologians disagree.

Call the Rev. Laurence unfortunate.  He does not want to pray for people because their expectations might be elevated by such a practice.  Do we serve an omnipotent God or a godlet who cannot handle the neediness of his people? With respect to the statement that he has never encountered a doctor who prays for his patients in several decades of service at a major hospital -- he needs to get out more.  I would be happy to introduce him to a number of doctors who pray regularly for their patients -- and have yet to be sued over it.  God bless you all anyway.


Affirming healing prayer
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I would ask the Rev. Laurence to look at Agnes Sanford’s healing gifts, the gifts of Emily Gardiner Neal, the Order of St. Luke the Physician.  I also would be rather concerned that he would not pray for me should I come under his care.

I shudder to think that God does not take an active concern for my life and the lives of those around me in need and that he does not answer our prayers for healing.  Why pray at all then? If I have no God to go to with my daily intercessions (and even Jesus interceded for others), then are we to assume that God set the world it motion and then said, “To hell with you all.  Figure it out for your selves and leave me out of it?”

The writer appears to be very calloused in regard to prayer for others.  I hope God has a sense of humor or is at least, when this “priest” needs him, compassionate.


Doctors do pray
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Where else but the Episcopal Church would you find a hospital chaplain responsible for pastoral care who doesn’t believe in the power of intercessory prayer? Is it any wonder that Episcopalians are leaving the church by the thousands and that churches are closing all over the country?

How would you like to be in the hospital and have this guy come to call? What does he do, shake their hand and say, “Good luck, no reason to pray, God doesn’t listen anyway?”

I personally know doctors who do pray with their patients, with very good results. It’s a very sad day indeed when the Episcopal Church no longer believes in prayer. I really don’t see a future for this once-loved church, and, God willing, I won’t ever be subject to the so-called “pastoral care” of the Rev. Laurence.


Seeing prayer’s results
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I am a social worker in a trauma unit of a 1000-bed teaching hospital.  Every day I see the wonders of prayer and faith. I may be a part of the less-respected magical wing of religion; if so, then so be it. I am so glad that God has not read about the study that Rev. Laurence referred to.

Different view from Israel
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After reading Father Engelhardt’s letter to the editor in the May on-line edition of Episcopal Life, I e-mailed a copy of it, which I found quite disturbing, to a college classmate, Fred, who has lived, worked and raised a family in Israel, asking him, “Are those statements factual? If not, what are the facts?”  Here is his reply:

“These statements are not factual and, in fact, are deliberate misrepresentations of a factual situation which the writer is fully aware of regarding the status of the disputed territories in the West Bank, the position of Hamas on recognizing Israel’s existence (not under any conditions), the status of the 1967 ‘border’ (a cease-fire line, not a border), the so-called starving Palestinians (whose leaders make the other Palestinians children into human suicide bombs while keeping their own children in schools in Switzerland), on the millions they pocket from the aid given them by the Europeans, Americans, other Arab states and even the Israelis.”


End the occupation
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In the June edition of Episcopal Life, on page 5, it was mentioned that the situation for Christians in the Holy Land has deteriorated since Hamas took control of the Palestinian legislature.  No mention was made of Israel’s 40-year-long occupation of Palestine. How many Episcopalians are aware that the Episcopal Church is a member of Churches for Middle East Peace?  See www.cmep.org.  How many of your readers are aware that our Church has joined with the other mainstream denominations in calling for Israel’s occupation to end?

Saddened by divisions
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It saddens me, irritates me, concerning the election of a bishop here in middle Tennessee. After many votes, we are now in the process of starting over with a new committee and nominees.

It appears the split comes from an unwillingness to refrain from passing judgment on people’s lifestyles, their faith and all manner of issues. The divisions within denominations is a sad commentary on our Christian living. It has divided families, longtime friendships, churches.

That is not the way God wants us to live.


Hiring British a ‘copout’
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Perhaps the heady, if unrealistic, world of Sedona influences Barbara Turner in her piece, “Out of practice,” (May). She is right about the marketplace:  Having The Hymnal 1982 on CD-ROM allows some churches to have a “musician” with no more talent than to operate a remote. Her argument, however, that musicians should be paid to practice is problematic. Musicians should be paid, and many Episcopal churches still do not pay musicians; but musicians need to live and work in the real world.

Her reflections on British children is straight out of Narnia -- not the Britain I am aware of.

The Leadership Program for Musicians Serving Small Congregations, an ELCA/ECUSA joint venture, has some high-flown goals.  It does not, however, generally address the problems increasing numbers of churches are facing: a paucity of keyboard musicians of any sort. Finding adequate musicians for most of our churches is challenging. Hiring British ex-patriot musicians is a copout on the parts of those churches doing so. Americans have always been trained privately, few schools ever had music programs of note, and most of such were private/parochial schools ... but Americans do have talents and understandings to serve American churches.

The Cathedral Church of Saints Peter and Paul is free to hire whom it wishes. It was wrong to bypass the talent they did in selecting a British musician.


Victimization is ‘pathetic’
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The victimization of gays that Ms. Varghese portrays in her column is pathetic.  The only difference that I note between my gay clergy friends and their straight colleagues over the past 40 years is that the gays are more grounded, are better scholars and exhibit more courage than their cowardly straight counterparts. None of these clergy to which I refer are drunks, embezzlers or dysfunctional nut cases huddled in their ornate closets out of fear.  They were stellar witnesses to Christ. 

It is time that the liberal elites that control the denominational leadership quit their self-serving tactics by attempting to erode the autonomy of groups facing serious injustice.  Is this Christian?  I don’t think so.  I thought the central message of Christianity was victory over all this rather than enslavement through the perpetuation of the victim mentality. Maybe we should change our official name to Episcopal CULT in the United States of America.


Balance local, universal
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“Message for ‘brokeback’ church,” printed in June, raises important issues for the Episcopal Church.  The article voices a general concern for the people in local communities, congregations, workplaces and neighborhoods whose interests and everyday issues are not necessarily represented by the international communion.  I share the concerns expressed by the Rev. Varghese.

There is perpetual tension between the universal church and the local church.  It is at the universal level (General Convention) that policy is made.  It is at the local level that priests, deacons and the laity minister to all God’s children.  It is a tension that must be held in balance.

The Episcopal Church is a part of the universal church, the living body of Christ, spread out through time.  My hope and prayer is that all involved will struggle fervently with what it means to be the church, a countercultural community that does not live according to the world’s standards.  Regardless of the outcome, let us work together to build up the church and local communities.


A church of divided mind
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In his Reflections of June 27, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says the decision of the Episcopal Church was taken without even the American church itself  having formally decided as a local church what it thinks about blessing same-sex partnerships. He also says that the American church has behaved as if the matter had been resolved, that it was foreclosing debate by ordaining someone and that its actions in 2003 were pre-emptive.

I believe the first statement is inconsistent with the second set of statements.

I suggest, instead, that the American church did not resolve the issue but did permit one diocese to ordain and consecrate, that the debate is far from foreclosed and that its actions in 2003 (and in 2006) show a church with a divided mind. I believe the situation is similar to that in which Peter entered the household of a gentile, ate with those gentiles, preached the gospel to them and baptized them -- all without consulting the wider church in advance, and in the midst of a church with a divided mind.


Don’t ignore ECW
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What happened to the Women’s Triennial Meeting? Did it get cancelled? I don’t think so. Did you think it of no significance, therefore not worth mentioning?

I was a member of the National Board of Episcopal Churchwomen, 1997-2000, and a many-time delegate to triennial meetings and have experienced the seeming indifference to same. I know for a fact the General Convention would be in financial difficulty if it had to foot the bill for the General Convention if the women were not present to book hotels, pay for part of the convention center and patronize restaurants, stores, etc.

Usually I don’t complain, but this was just too much.

Did you think because women were elected, i.e., presiding bishop, president of House of Deputies (hallelujah), and you did write great articles about them, that you did not have to mention ECW? C’mon. I have a great recipe for deep-fried crow, with dessert of humble pie, if you’re interested.


Thanks for article
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I read your paper in far-away Minnesota with interest and pain.  But I am heartened at your printing, from Religion News Service, Kevin Eckstrom’s May article “Navigating sexuality controversy: Special commission urges caution before electing second gay bishop.” The several cautionary statements reported by Mr. Eckstrom suggest that some in American Episcopalianism have at least some respect and care for the faith, commitment and Biblical integrity.

Though a 40-year Congregational minister, my work since the Rwandan genocide of 1994 has been to bring healing and reconciliation to church leaders in Rwanda, Burundi, eastern Congo, western Kenya, Tanzania and south Sudan. Christians of all traditions, and certainly Anglicans in those countries, have felt deeply wounded by U.S. Episcopalians’ disregard of biblical teaching and moral traditions and concern around the understanding of homosexuality as a chosen sexual expression, much less as an acceptable moral behavior for leaders in the church.

The American church’s dismissive attitude toward black leaders of Third World countries has seemed to belie a significant racial prejudice, with not a small touch of Western and American self-righteousness and superiority. The world communion has called for repentance and apology -- neither of which has come. The above article hints at perhaps the beginning of that penitent spirit and a more generous care for the faith and commitment of the great majority of Anglicanism’s worldwide communion.

May you grow more and more humbly in the direction of the concerns Mr. Eckstrom reports.  Thank you for the article.


Wyoming clarification
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I write as a member of the Council of the Diocese of Wyoming.  In your most recent edition, there was an article on congregations that have left the Episcopal Church in response to the ordination of the Bishop of New Hampshire (“Proving effects tricky: Statistics indicate small percentage of parishes withdrawn since 2003 decisions,” June).  The author listed that one congregation was lost in the Diocese of Wyoming.  That statement is not accurate. 

Three members of the clergy have left the church in response to the actions of the 2003 General Convention.  In each case, they attempted to take the congregation with them, but they were unsuccessful in doing so, and in all three cases a substantial majority remain active members of their Episcopal parishes.  In a fourth instance, a congregation was closed for a short while in a dispute between the bishop and the rector.  The dispute was unrelated to General Convention’s actions.  That congregation has now reopened, again with the vast majority of the membership intact. 


Akinola portrayal flawed
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I am an Anglican from the Church of Ceylon worshiping in the Episcopal Church. I do so in the trust that by being part of the Anglican Communion, the Episcopal Church would uphold the values of the Catholic and Reformed faith of our communion.

I was troubled, therefore, when I picked up your May issue at church and read Washington’s Bishop John Chane’s no-gloves attack on His Grace The Most Rev. Peter Akinola of Nigeria for backing the bill on homosexuality in Nigeria. I have lived and taught in Nigeria and have felt the warm hospitality of the Nigerian Church to a fellow Anglican. Indeed, it was my home church for three years. Certainly I saw no bigotry there.

Bishop Chane’s painting of the Nigerian Church viewed through his portrait of the archbishop is simply flawed. According to the second great commandment, “like unto the first,” we must be able to see others by putting ourselves in their shoes. Bishop Chane seems to have failed abysmally at this.

Let me first state my presumption that religious life is a life of restraint and discipline. If there are intrinsic tendencies in us that flout divine law, we are called upon to restrain those tendencies. A religious life is not a life of giving in to the flesh. The church is for strengthening us in that battle and not merely to offer forgiveness to the self-indulgent who do not even try to be faithful to God’s teachings. This seems to be the Episcopal Church’s problem.


Discrimination persists
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Two recent actions at the Columbus General Convention provide evidence that the Episcopal Church, despite what it says, still discriminates against its gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

First, the House of Deputies and the House of Bishops approved the election of the Rev. Canon Barry L. Beisner as bishop coadjutor of the Diocese of Northern California even though he has been twice divorced and is now in his third marriage.  The Episcopal Church decided a long time ago that it would ignore Scripture when it comes to divorce.

Then, pandering to other provinces and dioceses of the Anglican Communion, and, in particular, to the Nigerian and other African provinces, both houses of General Convention passed Resolution B033 calling upon “bishops and standing committees to exercise restraint by not consenting to the consecration of any candidate to the episcopate whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church and will lead to further strains on communion.” 

The passage of Resolution B033 shows that the Episcopal Church is back paddling when it comes to the possibility of electing a bishop who just might be gay and living in a committed relationship.  What message does passage of this resolution send to Bishop Robinson of New Hampshire and to others throughout our church?

Either we believe that God, the Holy Spirit, is still alive, leading and speaking in church councils (i.e., General Conventions and diocesan councils and conventions) of our Episcopal Church or we believe the Holy Spirit is no longer operative in the councils of our church.  Either this election was of God or it was not.

The Convention of the Diocese of New Hampshire and the 2003 General Convention approved Bishop Robinson.  Allow the wind of the Spirit to blow where it will.  Leave it to the councils of the church to elect and approve our bishops in the American church.


What should we restrain?
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What on earth does it mean to call for restraint in consecrating bishops “whose manner of life presents a challenge to the wider church”?  If I am not very much mistaken, I believe that the manner of life of Jesus Christ would present a challenge to the wider church -- in fact, it always has.  The evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience constitute a challenge to the wider church.  Does this mean that diocesan conventions should refrain from voting for members of religious orders because their lifestyle would constitute a challenge to other Anglican churches? 

I live right down the street from a female bishop, whose manner of life would, I am quite sure, give challenge to most of the Anglican Communion, simply because her manner of life is that of a woman.  Should we exercise restraint in consecrating women?  The only thing about Gene Robinson that is truly offensive to most of the Anglican world is that he is open and honest about his life.  Honesty is a bar to consecration -- is that the upshot of this resolution? 

Or is this resolution pandering to the faction that wants to set a higher priority on remaining connected with the Anglican Communion than on honestly and openly respecting that which we discern to be the movement of the Holy Spirit in our branch of the Holy Catholic Church?


Compassionate action needed
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We see in Peter Melton’s letter (“Ignoring Palestine facts,” June) the misguided focus of perpetuating the myth of the wondrous “peace deal” with Israel that the Palestinians (Yasser Arafat) rejected, but with no return of refugees or compensation, no contiguous territory for a Palestinian state. When will Israel recognize the Palestinians’ right to exist in their own viable state?

Our Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold issued the “Call to Action” (May) in which he made the heartrending plea in the Palestinian humanitarian crisis to all governmental and church bodies. (No reference was made to the Israeli government withholding millions of dollars of collected Palestinian tax monies, which contributed significantly to the breakdown of the Palestinian society infrastructure, thereby causing the health, medical, economic crises.)

Presiding Bishop Griswold calls us all with this plea: “I would say further that humanitarian aid should include support of both economic development and peacemaking efforts. A breakdown of the infrastructure of Palestinian society at this moment can only lead to chaos, lawlessness and deep suffering. Unilateral action does not lead to reconciliation.”

Please, let us all respond to these calls for compassionate action for brotherhood and peace.


Stance requires explanation
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In the June issue, a letter from C. Peter Melton, Atlanta, places the blame on the Palestinians for a lack of peace in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, which I believe is biased in favor of Israel. During General Convention, an Internet news release reported a deputy’s claim that the Palestinians are to blame for the lack of peace in the Holy Land. This again, I believe, is a biased opinion.

Since the Anglican Communion has attempted to help the Palestinians achieve a just settlement in establishing a separate state, I think there should be a major article in Episcopal Life explaining why the church is trying to help the Palestinians. We know that the church does not support violence.

A series of letters back and forth on the controversial subject can go on for months. The church has taken a stand, and communicants should know what the stand is and why the church has taken a stand.

The Rev. Clyde Everton
Boise, Idaho