Letters to the Editor

Published November 1, 1998

Shoddy allegations

Dear editor,

Regarding your September analysis of the Lambeth Conference, you rightly state that “it would be hard to prove a connection beyond a reasonable doubt” and then go on to list seven points on which to smear conservatives with buying African votes.

In essence all you have proved is that American conservatives spent money at the Lambeth Conference. In marshalling your evidence you tar a very worthy project called the Five Talents. But worst of all, you suggest without evidence that two-thirds of the world’s Anglican bishops are susceptible to bribes.

Any church newspaper worth its salt should be aware that it was the Kuala Lumpur meeting in 1994, at which there were no western delegates, where the concern of two-thirds of the world’s bishops on homosexuality was first noted. The Dallas conference to which you refer produced a statement, which if anything was more muted than the Kuala Lumpur Statement.

Secondly, you refer to the Ugandan martyrs who were killed because they refused to be sodomized by their king last century. As far as I am aware this was never proposed as an argument in debate, but merely a factor which helped to explain some of the sensitivities felt by Ugandans on the issue of homosexuality today.

Thirdly, you refer to the Church of England Newspaper’s article on Bishop Spong. Although you criticize the headline referring to witchcraft, you fail to disclose the outrageous and intellectually racist remarks of the Bishop of Newark.

Fourthly, and most damagingly, you refer to a rumour which you were unable to confirm by press time, that at least one African primate is being sued for divorce on the grounds of multiple adultery. The use of the word “apparently” confirms what a shoddy and tentative allegation this is. If you have proof you should publish and be damned. If you have no real proof you should make no mention of it during your investigations. If it transpires that your source was inaccurate, then you have smeared all the African primates for no good reason.

So-called Western conservatives and evangelicals can defend themselves but it is unlikely that African bishops will ever read the remarks you have made in the Anglican Journal. Surely they deserve better than to be insulted without redress. Andrew Carey

Deputy Editor

The Church of England Newspaper

London, England

(via e-mail) Editor’s note: The Anglican Journal is distributed to all diocesan bishops in the Anglican Communion.

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Moved to tears

Dear editor,

Very little news of the Lambeth Conference reached us on the West Coast. So, when the special Lambeth supplement arrived, I avidly read every word.

The accounts were clear, concise and unbiased. I was astounded by the enormous diversity within the Anglican Church and the awful disparity. When I read that a bishop’s wife said, “I don’t want to go home,” I was almost moved to tears.

What is to become of my church? Joan Newman

Kamloops, B.C.

* * *

Objectivity lacking

Dear editor,

I write to express my profound objection to the tone, content and blatant bias of the analysis by editor David Harris that forms the backbone to your Lambeth Conference ’98 section.

Mr. Harris writes as if the Anglican Church of Canada is a homogeneous, theologically liberal body and that all readers of the Anglican Journal are confirmed liberals looking for conservative conspiracies whenever they run into opposition. This is simply not true.

What I expect from the Journal is objective reporting. The facts Mr. Harris presents about conservative lobbying, or the allegations about buying votes with cash, or the allegations about an African primate “apparently being sued for multiple adultery” (as if this does not happen to First World bishops, to our shame) are surrounded by so much bias I don’t know if I can believe them at all.

Maybe there is truth in Mr. Harris’ writing. I am sure there must have been truth that has been omitted. For example: how much did the pro-homosexual lobby spend in preparing for Lambeth? What educational material have they been distributing over the last few years?

There are times when we must champion causes, but let us do that knowing that change takes time, that we ourselves have had a hard time changing, and that those on the other side are trying just as hard as we are to be faithful to Jesus Christ. In fact, they may even be right. Or at least, more right than we are. Dare we be that humble? Mark Gibson

Partnership for Church Development

Ste-Agathe-des-Monts, Qué.

(via e-mail)

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Spirit of the law

Dear editor,

In reading the letters to the editor in the October issue of the Journal, I could not help but think of the Pharisees – those self-righteous officials of the established church who presumed that their knowledge of the law and their rigid adherence to the letter of that law, was of prime importance.

When one writer talks of the Lambeth resolution as a “reaffirmation that sexual relations are permissible only within marriage” I hear a Pharisee talking of what the letter of the law permits. When other writers speak of “helping those in wrong sexual relationships,” and of “an abnormal lifestyle,” I hear the echoes of Pharisees, quick to judge others.

While homosexuality has become the flashpoint for debates in our church, I believe the issue is really far deeper, and yet far simpler – it is a debate between those who look to the letter of the law (and find their justification in a literal interpretation of isolated scriptural pronouncements, taken out of context) and those who look to the spirit of the law (love the Lord your God … and your neighbour as yourself).

When one looks at the actions of Christ, one sees someone who always put serving the needs of others before the letter of the law. Christ’s actions with the Samaritan woman, with the woman taken in adultery and with the lepers, showed over and over again that Christ put the needs of others – love of neighbour – above the church-led laws and norms of his society, as enforced by the Pharisees.

Is there any similarity between the “back-room politics” practised at this year’s Lambeth Conference, and the plottings of the chief priests and scribes, leading up to the arrest of Christ? Roger C. Bond

Stoney Creek, Ont.

(via e-mail)

* * *

Agreement on debt

Dear editor,

It is predictable but lamentable that the letters responding to the Lambeth Conference have focused narrowly on the issue of homosexuality. There were other issues on which the bishops agreed.

I too applaud the leadership given by the African and Asian bishops – on the issue of international debt. If we take our lead from the African bishops, we will not be shy about proclaiming the economic and political implications of the Gospel.

We are being invited to join our voices with theirs in the Jubilee initiative to work for the biblical principle of forgiveness of debts, in a world where materialism is leaving the poor countries poorer, and the rich countries in chaos.

In Canada, this means supporting remission of Third World debt, restoration of First Nations land rights, and relief of poverty and unemployment for everyone.

If we want to follow the example of the fastest-growing parts of the church, we must learn to be faithful in our social relationships as well as our sexual relationships! Canon Fletcher Stewart

Henry Budd College for Ministry

The Pas, Man.

* * *

Look to cause

Dear editor,

I appreciate the refreshing honesty with which the Chancellor of the Ecclesiastical Province of Canada says that Canon 17, (Priests Worry About Becoming Licensing Canon Fodder, October Journal), recently passed at General Synod, will create a process for resolving disputes within the church rather than subject clergy, bishops, parishes and dioceses to expensive wrongful dismissal litigation.

This is a classic instance of dealing with symptom rather than cause: the symptom is expensive wrongful dismissal suits. The cause, however, is not clergy who have the courage to take on the church, but the incompetence of the church authorities involved.

Employment law spells out clearly how to dismiss an employee; in business and industry it is done all the time. As chairman of a non-profit corporation operating a group home, I was involved in the dismissal of a manager with whom the board was dissatisfied. We sought and followed legal advice; the employee in question was terminated. When he went to his lawyer he was advised that, the board having followed due process, there were no grounds for legal action.

What the church has done in passing the new canon is to put itself beyond the law, saying in effect, to hell with fair employment practices.

Had there been no wrongful dismissal suits there would have been no need for this canon.There is no guarantee that there will be none in the future and clergy have reason to be anxious because there is no court of appeal, while those who perpetrate injustices in employment practice will be able to hide behind the skirts of Mother Church, alias Canon 17.

I am glad to say I write from the safety of a happy retirement. Colin Proudman


* * *

Be the best we can be

Dear editor,

I write regarding Archbishop Michael Peers’ September column, Class System Alive and Well. We all, knowingly and unwittingly, encourage this very system. Leaders of countries who consistently abuse their people abominably receive top treatment upon visiting here.

Entertainers and those involved in sports receive adulation and monetary rewards, often far out of proportion to their talents. They become icons, unlikely examples to which our children aspire.

Business people, doctors, lawyers, those in our very own churches, operate on an unacknowledged class system.

But we do live in a democracy and unless we are all willing to wear clothes that do not differentiate us or to draw our money from a common pot, this will never change.

Regardless of what class we find ourselves in, this does not prevent us from being the best we can. Like on the airlines, we all eventually arrive at the same destination – no class distinction! Beth Lewis

Bobcaygeon, Ont.

* * *

Not progressive

Dear editor,

I wonder if there is anything progressive or Christian in what John Sandys-Wunsch commends as Progressive Christianity (Opinion, September issue.) Classical orthodoxy, by such a standard, is hopelessly retrogressive, since it acknowledges Jesus as God’s only son, and not just “our gate to God’s realm” – as if other religions provided their own gates.

We might ask, how confident are we that other religions do just that? What if failure to proclaim God’s salvation in Christ is the real form of rigidity and retrogression?

Classical, ecumenical orthodoxy is not about absolute certainty. As Christians, we proclaim with conviction, rather, that Christ is the only Saviour, not because we came up with the idea but because God has made it known in history. This does not mean that non-Christian traditions have it all wrong. Progressive Christianity, or “the freedom to be oneself,” sounds more like the freedom to start your own private religion, which when finally (and paradoxically) organized will have little truth to offer the world. Steven Griffin


* * *

Sign of surrender

Dear editor,

I strongly object to coverage given to Peace Activists Target Cenotaph in your September issue.

There is a serious problem with Rev. Heap’s view of wanting to “trade a sword for a plowshare.” One could take his views and expand them to include that all war memorials should be banned because they glorify war.

Mr. Heap should note the sword is inverted. An inverted sword is a sign of surrender and humility, not aggression or oppression.

Years ago I travelled to France and Belgium where I witnessed the thousands of graves of Canadians who gave up their lives in the First and Second World Wars so that we could enjoy the phenomenal freedoms in Canada we experience today. This experience moved me to tears and I vowed to ensure their sacrifice must be remembered.

Surely the Anglican Journal should devote such extensive coverage to more deserving, serious and challenging issues. Keith R. Morley

Barrie, Ont.

* * *

Missed the point

Dear editor,

Rev. Dan Heap has missed the whole point of the symbolism of the war memorial.

St. Paul says “Take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God,” Eph. 6:17. The cross of Christ’s love and St. Paul’s Sword of the Spirit are not in conflict but in complete harmony, an open invitation for all to preach peace in this time of remembrance. Archdeacon Ron Matthewman

Windsor, Ont.

* * *

Liked review

Dear editor,

I’m writing to say how much I enjoyed Peter Elliott’s September review of Saving Private Ryan. I agree with all that was written about the strong performances, and that the film is one of Steven Spielberg’s best. I also agree with Mr. Elliott’s conclusion that “You are left knowing that in this war-filled century, only the infinite love and mercy of God can save us.”

I would like to add that there are some interesting similarities and contradictions with Christianity in the film. Our Father sent someone to save each of us. And as with Captain Miller in this film, Jesus died saving us. Unlike Captain Miller, however, Christ never asks us to earn it. Being saved is a gift of grace. Robert Everitt


(via e-mail)

* * *

Corrupted language

Dear editor,

I object to the corruption of the English language in the Journal, particularly in the September article on pensions.

The article says, the church may soon extend survivor benefits to “same-sex spouses of national church staff and clergy.”

This is a misnomer. There cannot be same-sex spouses. Spouse by definition and by court ruling is the wife or husband of the other party. To misuse the plain meaning of the word spouse will in effect destroy the whole concept of marriage as it has been known in our society and in the church.

The church would well be advised if it is to protect the institution of marriage to urge the government to establish a “non-married couple” status separate from a married couple. You do not have to pervert meanings of words when there are other remedies. Eric L. Teed

Saint John, N.B.

* * *

No compassion

Dear editor,

As a Jew and a regular reader of the Anglican Journal, I found Mr. Carriere’s report of his visit to the Middle East disturbing. He showed much compassion for the plight of the Palestinians, but none for the Israelis.

The writer has omitted the revenge threats issued by Palestinian leaders which, of course, Israelis must guard against. And this, not surprisingly, involves tighter security and its concomitant inconveniences.

Bulldozing houses is one of the few actions that can dissuade suicide bombers. When faced with a constant terrorist threat there are no good alternatives.

Mr. Carriere devotes much attention to the occupation which was forced on Israel by the 1967 war in another failed attempt by Israel’s Arab neighbours to wipe out the Jews. Returning to the 1967 borders would just shift the focus to the 1948 borders; nothing would be solved.

Modern Israel is the rebirth of the Jewish homeland. Until the Arabs accept this and disavow the notion that Jews are invaders, occupiers and aliens in the Middle East, war will be the status quo. Murray Cass

Markham, Ont.

* * *

Measured report

Dear editor,

The Journal is to be commended for printing Mr. Carriere’s measured report.

It is simply not acceptable, or worthy, for Israel’s leaders and supporters to paint all criticism with the brush of anti-Semitism.

We know there are wrongs on both sides; there are also innocent people caught in the middle. It is shocking that the Jewish people who are familiar with the barbarity of oppression should now have so little sensibility regarding the cruel treatment of Palestinians.

There cannot be peace without justice and one necessary first step is for Israel to honour the peace accord. Howard V.Walker



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