Letters to the editor

Published March 1, 1999

Spong returns Fitz’s volley

Dear editor,

I find it fascinating that the retired Bishop of South Carolina, Fitzsimons Allison, cannot talk about theology without attacking me (Heresy Still Alive and Well Today, in the January issue).

In his old age, Bishop Allison has tended more and more to see his own views as equated with the Gospel, so that anyone who disagrees with him is “apostate.” His remark that I do not even believe in a God who answers prayer is both gratuitous and inaccurate. I do not believe that God is Fitz’s servant, nor do I believe that God allows baseball players to hit home runs or football players to catch touchdown passes so that their team can win, as is so often claimed. Prayer is far too profound a subject to dismiss with a cute one-liner.

When Fitz Allison was an active bishop, he campaigned vigorously for me to be removed from the House of Bishop’s theology committee because I did not agree with him and was, therefore, a heretic. Presiding Bishop Edward Browning responded to that appeal by removing Fitz Allison from that theology committee. Heresy hunters are always destructive and distorted people.

Bishop John S. Spong

Bishop of Newark, N.J.

Editorial frightening

Dear editor,

Your February editorial, Reporting Bad News Part of Good News Message, reminds me of the Will Rogers’ description of a man who got on his horse and rode off in every direction. On the one hand, it assumes a role for the church press as interpreter of the “nuances and subtleties which are at the heart of many religious issues.” On the other hand, it claims a role as the ecclesiastical auditor-general charged with the responsibility of scrutinizing the church’s activities and pronouncements “to keep people honest.”

To say that the article is presumptuous is to state the obvious. It presumes a level of knowledge and sensitivity on the part of the religious press that has not been proven and is not in evidence. It also presumes for itself a function as censor for which it has no mandate. These are characteristics which make thoughtful readers suspicious.

As an apologia for the role of the Anglican Journal in our church, I find the editorial intemperate, even frightening.

As a reader, I am insulted by the arrogant tone of the item.

Canon Lloyd Gesner

Burlington, Ont.

Confusion clouds homosexual debate

Dear editor,

I read Reginald Stackhouse’s article on the same-sex question (January Journal) with feelings of ambivalence. I do agree with him about the state of confusion that now clouds the debate about homosexual Christians.

However, to compare human beings with animals is wholly uncalled for. He would, I am sure, agree with me that while some domesticated animals (like some of their owners), and deviant primates, may display some same-sex sexual orientation, same-sex lions, for example, would have very little chance of survival in the wild.

While the American bishops who “are putting on a kind of Wild West show” will be called to give an account for their actions, I take issue with Mr. Stackhouse for lambasting the African bishops for the stand they took at Lambeth. That stand was taken in the catholic tradition of the Anglican Church and his attack was wholly unfair.

In fairness to Mr. Stackhouse though, he should be applauded for providing us with a summary of the same-sex debate thus far. Particularly of interest is the need to ask more questions in this debate at a time when no clear leadership has emerged on the issue.

My own question in this regard would be whether the church in its 2,000-year history had ever faced this question before and what her response to homosexuality among Christians had been. If the current debate is purely a 20th-century response to a longstanding disease, then it is time for our church leaders to show some leadership.

If some Christians do not feel comfortable to enter heterosexual relationships for which we have been created, then they should seriously consider a life of celibacy or some other form of remedial process to correct their shortcomings.

Archibald J. Crail


Support one another

Dear editor,

Mr. Stackhouse articulates well the true dynamic of the homosexual/human sexuality debate that currently rages through our church.

Mr. Stackhouse is right that we are creating a sub-class of Christians, who just happen to be our clergy. They are required to deny their God-created humanity as sexual persons as opposed to laity who are welcomed into our church with their same-sex partners.

I was taught that sin consists of not only action but also intent. How can the church continue to teach that homosexual persons are “good in the eyes of God,” yet deny them the natural consequences of the sexual expression of their humanity? How can one sin when the intent of one’s action is to enter that most powerful of human experiences: to love another fully.

In an age when relationships are collapsing all around us, the debate within our church must shift towards how we might as Christians support one another to live the Gospel of loving one another with integrity. It would be a more authentic expression of our love for Christ if we could celebrate fully not only who we are as the children of God, but who we love as well.

Rev. Douglas Graydon

Pastoral Counsellor

Casey House Hospice


Red light is next

Dear editor,

Regarding your February front-page headline, Amber Light for Same-Sex Blessings, it constitutes a divinely inspired Freudian slip. At all traffic light intersections, at least in Toronto, after you see an amber light, the next one is a red light: stop.

“God moves in a mysterious way his wonders to perform.”

William L.N. Somerville, QC


Editor’s note: Though in some places, like Britain, amber precedes green …

Restore red book suggestions, please

Dear editor,

I wish to express my consternation with the 1998-1999 (Year A) edition of McCausland’s Order of Divine Service. In view of the various lectionary changes we have endured in the last 15 or so years, it was refreshing to see, half-a-dozen or so years ago, a list of recommended hymns made available through the Anglican Book Centre, more recently as an appendix in McCausland.

Upon receiving my copy of McCausland (nine weeks late, I might add), I was appalled to see that the red hymn book, unsatisfactory though it may be, is not represented at all in the listing of hymns. No explanation is given nor is an apology offered. All too predictably, the new hymn book was featured and, curiously, so is the old blue book.

Since 1971, the Anglican Church has, for better or worse, been pushing the red book – the illegitimate product of unmarried parents – to such an extent that it has become, rightly or wrongly, the de facto standard hymn book for Canadian Anglicans. The least the church can do is to continue to provide a list of hymns from the red book since so many parishes are stuck with it.

It is bad enough that the liberals and feminists who have managed to insinuate themselves into General Synod (and their toadies into the House of Bishops) are pushing their brainchild hymn book on an Anglican population which, by and large, despises their sub-Christian, secular agenda and doesn’t necessarily want to give credence to and/or spend money on a book which promotes it. It now appears as though the church is intent on eliminating all other options to the new hymn book by systematically eliminating the resources which help us to use its predecessor. History has a way of repeating itself. I thought that we already learned that lesson with the BAS.

No self-respecting Anglican choirmaster (who ought to be a lover of good music and good literature) would be caught dead working from this travesty, and the powers-that-be ought to be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for attempting to thwart those of us who are attempting to continue to struggle with its predecessor.

William McArton

Trinity Church

Parry Sound, Ont.

(via e-mail) The decision to drop the listing of the (red) Hymn Book numbers was based on the fact that, in recent years, sales of the Hymn Book have fallen off, suggesting declining use, while sales of the Book of Common Praise 1938/1962 have continued strong. In the first two months since its release, the new hymn book, Common Praise, has sold over 35,000 copies, indicating wide acceptance. Also, hymns selected from the red book for all three years of the lectionary have appeared in previous editions of McCausland’s Ordo (1995-96, 1996-97 and 1997-98). However, the Ordo is published as a resource for liturgical planning, and is intended to meet the needs of its users. So, we at ABC Publishing would like to thank the writer for his input.

Robert Maclennan

publishing manager

Anglican Book Centre

?Ecumenism’ has different meanings

Dear editor,

I read with interest David Harris’ January editorial, World Council and Host Zimbabwe Each at Crossroads, in which he raises questions about the commitment of the Orthodox Church to ecumenism and the WCC.

This article, like many others in your January issue, reflects a misunderstanding about Orthodoxy. The Orthodox Church does not view Christianity according to the “branch theory” – that all those bearing the name Christian are somehow members of the church. Orthodoxy is unbroken historically and doctrinally from the Apostolic church, and recognizes itself as such – as the fullness of the Christian church without addition, deletion, schism or heresy.

As far as ecumenical discussions go, the Orthodox seek the reconciliation to the church of those who have broken from it. While those from different confessions may certainly love Christ and as such, are Christians, this is quite a different question as far as Orthodoxy is concerned, from whether or not they are part of the church established by Christ.

While this approach is certainly not ecumenical in the modern liberal sense, it is ecumenical in the historical sense (as in the Ecumenical Councils), and is the view of the Orthodox Church – which perhaps explains the perplexity of other members of the WCC when it comes to dealing with the Orthodox.

Geoff Korz

Hamilton, Ont.

?Christian’ has different meanings too

Dear editor,

My mind boggles at the advice of Peter Elliott in your February movie review, Pass on the Prince, Opt for the Bard. According to the December 1998 issue of Focus on the Family, Spielberg’s “Dreamworks consulted religious figures from several faiths, including Dr. James Dobson, Rev. Billy Graham, Rev. Jerry Falwell, and Dr. D. James Kennedy.”

The original script was changed in several places to “accommodate religious beliefs” and “not diminish the messages or values of the story as it is in the Bible.” In spite of this and the fact that “the Prince of Egypt gets (these biblical facts) right and includes awesome special effects,” Dean Elliott insists that the “bawdy, erotic romp,” Shakespeare in Love, is a “more satisfying” and “delightful” movie. He says he prefers the “sexy” Shakespeare to the thinned-out book of Exodus.

I read Christian movie reviews to get a Christian perspective on movies I might see and I am sure others do the same. Perhaps Dean Elliott’s opinion would be better read in a paper that is not looked to for Christian guidance.

Rhianfa Louise Riel

Abbotsford, B.C.

(via e-mail)

Christians must renounce wars

Dear editor,

Regarding Christians and war, I wish to address points raised in some letters to the editor in past issues of the Anglican Journal.

In May 1998, A.B. Sturton, opposing our Primate’s condemnation of possible military action against Iraq, said Christians and other decent human beings ought to “recognize evil and do something about it.” True. But then he said, “The choice is not whether anyone will die, but rather, how many.”

No. The Christian choice for “doing something” is to follow Jesus who says: “Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you …” (Luke 6: 27-28). Jesus lived and died by that choice and rose again to enable us to live like him.

The Queen’s Own Rifles’ sword on the cross outside St. Paul’s Bloor Street reminds us how Canadians went abroad to kill or be killed. In no way is that the “word of God,” (Eph. 6: 17) – Archdeacon Ron Matthewman (November letters) has skipped over verse 12: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood … .”

Neither is it Keith Morley’s “sign of surrender and humility,” (also November letters) but rather a declaration of victory and warning to future enemies.

I undertook that duty, with misgivings, when I volunteered for the Canadian army in 1944. However, after the shameful massacre of Iraqi civilians since 1991, as a Christian I renounced that duty.

Since then, I have sought to learn and follow the harder commandment to love my enemies, at home and abroad. I fully believe Jesus the Christ calls us to risk any loss of suffering for ourselves in order to love our enemies.

Anglicans in Canada do a good work of mercy and love to the people of Iraq by sending money through the Primate’s World Relief and Development fund to the Middle East Council of Churches, as emergency aid to Iraqi civilians. However, so long as Canada supports bombing Iraq, and sanctions that kill thousands of young Iraqi children every month, our Christian message of civilian aid may be contradicted by the terror of allied warfare – unless the Christians of Canada renounce war altogether.

Rev. Don Heap


End despair together

Dear editor,

I commend Margaret Dinsdale’s January article, In the Midst of Plenty, Despair, as it clearly indicates the driving forces that have led to increased rates in homelessness. In addition, I support Gwyneth Bell’s call (in a January letter) for us, as a community, to challenge authority. As keepers of our brothers and sisters, we have been charged with the responsibility to provide for their needs and to challenge the government to do the same. We have been able to stop the bleeding through the services offered to battle poverty, but we have not healed the wound.

It is time to break the silence. The number of homeless has been growing much faster than the number of volunteers in this field of ministry. Government and churches must work together towards a solution. We need to set aside our inherently selfish ways and embrace the power God has given us through his grace. “If you love me, feed my lambs and take care of my sheep.” (John 21:15-19)

Cynthia McEwan

North Bay, Ont.

Stand up for professed faith

Dear editor,

Perhaps Rev. Rick Walsh has himself become a little over-zealous (Clergy Protest Ban on Jesus in Swissair Prayers, February Journal). Yes, if Ottawa was behind the directive limiting free speech at the Swissair memorial service, but the prime criticism must rest with the United Church minister, Rev. Carolyn Nicholson, for not publicly standing up for her professed faith.

Are Christians so afraid, or should that be termed ashamed, that they conform to what political correctness demands. Come now, what would Jesus have done?

Jacqueline Neck,


Chaplains bring God’s love to mourners

Dear editor,

I am a member of the Canadian Police Chaplain Association and the International Conference of Police Chaplains. Part of our training in both organizations is sensitivity to the diversity of belief one encounters, especially in memorial services. Chaplains are called upon to conduct services after some of the worst disasters in which police, fire and emergency response personnel are involved. One of our members, for example, conducted the memorial service for the victims of the Oklahoma bombing.

Even in official services, such as the installation of a new RCMP divisional commander, one must remember not everyone present is a Christian, yet they would not be there unless they considered the spiritual dimension important in carrying out their duties.

As an Anglican priest, I conduct a Christian service.

I usually begin by saying something like, “Welcome to our service for … . As Anglican chaplain I may use some expressions which are alien to you, but we are all here to ask for God’s blessing and to invoke his help in our undertakings. Please enter into the spirit of the worship, join in the prayers as far as you are able, within the quiet of your own hearts and let us be united in spirit, for God is gracious and understands our differing perspectives and will hear all our prayers.”

After one such service I was approached by a Jewish business leader who said, “Thank you for that service. I really felt part of it.” To make people feel part of the worship is the aim of the chaplain. The outreach can follow, and very often does.

While chaplaincy offers many opportunities for Christian evangelism, public services are opportunities for us to be seen as God’s servants in the world. They are times to be instruments of his love and grace, and if we are careful in how we say things, we will cause many people to renew their faith or to be drawn into faith in God.

Public services in a multicultural society give more opportunities than we can imagine, for the atmosphere of the event is in the hands of us who are called to enchant people with Jesus Christ in a disenchanted world.

J. Malcolm Wilson

Hon. Assistant, St. Paul’s, Palmerston & Christ Church, Listowel, Ont.

Chaplain, RCMP member assistance program, “O” Division

(via e-mail)

Jesus comes first

Dear editor,

It seems inconceivable why any government official would want to edit United Church minister Carol Nicholson’s sermon for the families of Swissair victims at Peggy’s Cove (February Journal). She was apparently directed to omit the name of Jesus and any reference to Christianity, raising a great deal of consternation from coast to coast and beyond.

It seems, and rightly so, that no lingering or lasting animosity against the government or its officials is evident, especially after the prime minister apologized for any of his agencies on “the hill.”

St. Paul said, “no earthly leader should stand between himself and the Lord Jesus.” Paul’s words are pivotal to Christianity. All he is advocating is that in all things, Jesus is to come first.

Rev. Dr. Robert Crocker

Sydney, N.S.

(via e-mail)

New and newer words still challenging

Dear editor,

Regarding Rusty Wright’s January letter, Modern Language; if the language of liturgy is the sole encouragement for or deterrent against church attendance, why do those uncomfortable with the BAS still attend or those of Mr. Wright’s persuasion, tolerate humbly the BCP? Deaf people, may it be pointed out, are there in the congregation. Silent prayer can be in any language.

I ask, however, what choice does the churchgoer have in the selection of traditional/modern? Has a congregation ever been invited to vote? Is the choice the prerogative of the priest or by mandate from Canterbury?

Further, who gets the early morning worm – the “woulds’t” and “coulds’t,” “and with Thy (capitalized) spirit” – for which the senior who spent years learning same must rise in the dark and hie to the bells through a breakfastless chill? Or the “also with you” (lower case) and “holy is your (lower case) name” – straight journalese delivered of all claptrap, just perfect for vigorous youth who love to rise in the dark to leave the day free for skateboarding – as well as for his parents, young enough never to have learned there was a church within the church.

With the new perpetually outmanoeuvring the new, what will we have in the 2010? Maybe a blend of Allah, Jesus, Yahweh, Confucius? The churches will be packed to busting.

Ruth Renwick

Yarmouth, N.S.

Canterbury’s role needs clarifiction

Dear editor,

In a January issue article titled Gay Activist Fined, a significant mistake was made by the news service ENI. The article referred to the archbishop of Canterbury as “the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion.”

While we are a catholic church, the archbishop of Canterbury is not elected from the worldwide communion of the Anglican provinces and their primates.

The Anglican Communion has many leaders – they are the diocesan bishops. While the secular view might hold the archbishop of Canterbury as leader, his jurisdiction does not go beyond Canterbury and he has no authority in any diocese.

Rev. Jack Barrett

Lethbridge, Nfld.

(via e-mail) Editor’s note: The article should have referred to Dr. Carey as the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion. He is both a diocesan bishop and as Primate of All England (the archbishop of York is styled Primate of England), he has metropolitical jurisdiction over the province of Canterbury.

Joint parenting works well

Dear editor,

In Kathy Blair’s January article, Anglicans Take Up Child Custody Issue, she quotes Lloyd Gorling’s statements (in part): “the failure of the legal and court system to recognize and to understand the importance to children of being raised by both parents” and “fights to get control over the children in order to get support payments is one of the largest single factors in court custody battles today.” Lloyd Gorling’s comments were bang on.

Evidence, though purely anecdotal, emanates from not only my own experience, but that of many others I know or have known. Even some women have been perturbed at the “winning of custody” by other women who have nevertheless benefited from the prejudice of the courts and the legal system.

If requested, I certainly would provide interesting input to the project or committee led by Mr. Gorling and Victor Wehrl. I do have joint custody of my children and I firmly believe and my children would certainly echo my sentiments that joint parenting, preferably equal, is the best for children of a dissolved marriage. However, there are also other factors.

Ms. Blair also states, “the economic situations of women after separation in most cases are substantially worse than those of men.” This issue needs addressing.

Judging by the experience of many, I believe there should be no such thing as child support payments in joint parenting cases, and joint parenting should be the normal result, except in cases of proven abuse. This is an important point – the abuse must be proven. False accusations are, or have been, prevalent. There should be some time-limited spousal support to allow the recipient spouse time and opportunity to pursue re-training, education or whatever creates a better economic situation. No parent should view support payments as a kind of perpetual money pit, from which to draw or into which the money is thrown. The children only lose from the bitterness produced.

Children of dissolved marriages need to see that both parents can stand on their own two feet. It works out so much better that way; my own children have said so.

Wm. E. Grubb

Pembroke, Ont.

Anti-Semitism lingers in church

Dear editor,

I was sorry to read in a January Journal article, Jews Upset at Remarks, that Jewish participants were upset over “charges that Jewish leaders use the Holocaust as a club to oppress others … .”

Since the first century AD, Jews have suffered more at the hands of Christians than from any other group. Despite this, the Anglican Church of Canada appears to encourage a very negative attitude toward the Jews – as in your article.

Palestinian Arabs have a case which should be listened to, but to suggest that their motives or ultimate goals are lily-white or to denigrate either the Arabs or their Jewish neighbours or ignore what they have suffered – from their Arab neighbours, but more importantly at the hands of us Christians – will only make a difficult situation worse. Anti-Semitism within the church is a deep grief. I ask that our church’s leaders make themselves much more aware of our own history of Canadian anti-Semitism. It is all recorded in the well-documented book, None Is Too Many. Then perhaps they would not persist in encouraging anti-Semitism.

Beverley Ward

Tracy, N.B.

Room for new debate on church agendas

Dear editor,

Now that the conservative votes at Lambeth have removed, for a while, the blessing of homosexual unions from most synod agendas, might I suggest a crusade to help fill the gaps?

More and more hetero-sexuals are cohabiting in common law or informal arrangements with no wish for a civil or church marriage.

Those looking for a cause could organize these cohabiters into a militant minority, convinced that the church is at fault by depriving them of a blessing of their unions. They could mount an attack to correct the deprivation, based on the usual ridicule of church standards in the modern world, and so help fill the agenda gaps for years to come.

Gerry Treleaven

Nanaimo, B.C.

Buy Canadian, eh?

Dear editor,

Some years ago, I noticed that our parish envelopes were marked as printed in the U.S. I enquired why such simple articles could not be produced in Canada. I recall being told it was because the Lutheran Church in Ontario handled this business for the Lutheran Church in the U.S.

When attending a Christmas Eve service in Ottawa with my family, I noticed the Order of Service was printed on stationary produced in the U.S. by Augsburg Fortress.

I am not opposed to free trade or free enterprise, but how far should we go with our 60-cent dollar?

K.B. Culley

Westmount, Que.

Changes not needed

Dear editor,

As I look upon the changes in the Christian churches, in the Bible, in the Prayer Book and the hymn book, I find everything is being cauterized and refined to reflect the present day attitudes, giving offence to no one politically or socially, and neutering all of us.

Is it any wonder congregations are melting away? Why go to church when a course in sociology can explain everything in such a neat way? Is it not a matter of wonder that converts to Islam are growing and the Jewish people remain steadfast? Do you think perhaps it is because the Torah and the Koran have never been altered? Maybe we should stop trying to sanitize our book of worship. Or is that a much too simple remedy for what ails us?

Mrs. Jean Orr


It’s simpler to talk about Jesus

Dear editor,

I have seen various letters about Bishop Michael Ingham’s book, Mansions of the Spirit, but little discussion of its contents.

The first part of the book discusses the leading non-Christian religions of the world and the admirable lives that some of their followers live, and says that they will all be saved, because it is incredible that God would destroy anyone except, perhaps, those who are intentionally wicked. Therefore, there must be other ways to Paradise than by accepting Jesus as Saviour.

The book concludes by saying that, since our particular religions do not matter, there is no need for Christians to preach Christ’s salvation, so long as we respect and love each other.

If the Bible is not the inspired word of God on spiritual matters, the church is going to be splintered, with people believing what they wish (as opposed to what the Bible tells them).

It may be that people who have never heard of Jesus can get in touch with the Holy Spirit and be saved (e.g. Abraham and the Old Testament heroes). But surely it is simpler if they are told about him, and our duty is to tell anyone who is willing to listen.

John Pickering

Ladner, B.C.


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