Letters to the editor

By on September 1, 1999

Positively alarming

Dear editor,

I find the statement, “Text calls Anglicans to Accept Pope’s Primacy?” (Anglican Journal, June 1999) positively alarming.

As a baptized, confirmed, regular church member, I feel many issues need to be resolved before the ?one church? concept can become a reality.

As stated in the article, Rome does not compromise, so we Anglicans obviously have to make all the concessions.

What happens to women priests and what about our married clergy? The issues of birth control and abortion (for medical reasons) are huge stumbling blocks.

Are Anglicans expected to accept the doctrine of transubstantiation all of a sudden? Are we to believe in the concepts of heaven, hell and purgatory as they are taught by the Roman Catholic Church?

It has been my privilege to visit churches, synagogues and temples in many parts of the world. In all, I have shown respect for the various beliefs and traditions. This does not mean, however, that I intend to adopt any of them as my own faith.

The final quote from Bishop Murphy-O?Connor I find particularly offensive: ?The primacy of the pope is a gift to be shared.? Why do not we offer to share our gift … the primacy of the Archbishop of Canterbury? Perhaps a referendum is needed to find out the feelings of church congregations, not just the aspirations of some clergy members.

Ann Potter

Brampton, Ont.

An act of lunacy

Dear editor,

Is anyone else confused?

On the one hand, we Anglicans seem to celebrate our flexibility ? our middle of the road somewhat fuzzy dogma. On the other hand, some of our bishops suggest we should accept the primacy of the pope and union with a church whose vocabulary excludes the words ?flexibility? and ?change.?

I like the description of the Gift of Authority statement as an ?act of lunacy.?

Fred Zeggil

Ste. Anne, Man.

Collegiality absent

Dear editor,

The office of bishop of Rome, i.e. the pope, has never been one of first among equals, even within the Roman Catholic communion. The concept of collegiality is not remotely entered into ? Vatican Councils notwithstanding. If you think that is a harsh judgment, I would refer you to the final report on the subject of birth control where the recommendations and report of committee members chosen by the Vatican were blatantly overruled and ignored.

The report from ARCIC has some fine dreams and suggestions that the pope?s primacy should ?help uphold the legitimate diversity of traditions.? Unfortunately, many issues of concern to the laity, both Roman and non-Roman, are to the pope and curia, non-negotiable.

Given the precarious state of finances in the Anglican Church,

I suggest one area of saving: move the Anglican members of ARCIC into a setting more conducive to theoretical musings on the nature of authority ? especially as it pertains to another Christian communion. A cloistered garden comes to mind.

But perhaps this too shall pass ? 30 odd years ago the rage was union with the United Church ? at any cost.

The unity of the first and second persons of the Trinity is not dependent on one being in authority over the other. It is a unity of equals.

In what way does the primacy of one over another build up the unity, not domination of, the whole? What gift are we talking about here ? the gift of the primacy of the bishop of Rome? Go read church history and find out how and why that ?gift? came to pass. It is unfortunate that musings on the form and nature of authority have been hijacked and turned into a rallying cry for papal primacy.

Sheila A. Welbergen

Winnipeg

Papal authority may be godsend

Dear editor,

The proposal by a recent Anglican and Roman Catholic commission that the world?s Anglicans accept papal authority prior to full communion between the two traditions may be the godsend that the silent majority of disgruntled Anglicans has been awaiting. The pope?s exercise of universal primacy in a united church would provide the strong leadership so lacking now in the Anglican Communion as the noisy minority continues to create change for the sake of change.

From innovations such as female ordination right on down to the introduction of new liturgies that encourage standing, sitting or kneeling at will, the need for an increase in order and guidance has become increasingly apparent to many adherents of Anglicanism. Although the pope?s infallibility would face a poor reception in Anglican circles, his overall authority would certainly be a welcome change from our current laissez-faire approach.

Ironically, time may yet prove that the bishop of Rome, albeit the object of Anglican distrust over the years, may be the instrument through which the basic tenets of our Anglican heritage will be preserved.

William J. Holtham

Toronto

Consult Orthodox

Dear editor,

Any decision to accept the pope?s primacy would be premature before we have consulted with the Orthodox traditions within the Christian faith.

Also, thank you for the June article, Religious and Cultural Context of Balkans Overlooked. It helps one to understand.

John Serjeantson

Brome, Que.

Retrograde nonsense

Dear editor,

What kind of retrograde nonsense has overtaken our (usually) sensible, moderate denomination? This issue was decided centuries ago after many years of the Church of England fighting to be free of Roman domination.

What with the push to override Scripture and bless homosexual union, even to ordination and (U.S.) Bishop William Swing?s striving for a one world, all encompassing, ?everyone?s in? church, the ?gates of hell? are certainly trying hard to prevail against the church.

Thank God for his word and his promise that they shall not!

Fred Christmas

St. George?s, Lowville

Erin, Ont.

Networks is helpful

Dear editor,

I have been very interested in reading Leanne Larmondin?s new column, Networks. After years of resisting jumping into the information age I finally became convinced, mostly by my children?s teachers, that it was time to enter the 20th century before the 21st was upon us. Leanne?s column is helping me make some sense of this amazing technology. Thanks Leanne and keep up the good work.

Rev. Richard Durrett

Victoria

(via e-mail)

Divine dentistry

Dear editor,

Beginning on March 3, 1999 at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF) and more recently at Selwyn Outreach Centre here in Peterborough, there have been reports of miraculous appearances of gold or bright silver dental fillings following prayer. Such reports reflect earlier claims from California.

I suggest that these claims reflect elements of human psychology and are not a witness to divine intervention. Our motivation to belong, to conform and within evangelical circles to see God at work, is indeed very strong. The fact that not one of these claims has stood the test of dental verification supports this notion. In fact, those claims that have been examined have led to the claimants, somewhat embarrassed, admitting they had forgotten or overlooked much earlier dental restorations.

I am in no way discounting God?s presence in our lives, or the acceptance that we are surrounded by miraculous and divine intervention.

I have no doubt that those who have witnessed the gold teeth episodes will claim that such events demonstrate God?s love for them and that it is a sign to expose the skepticism in those outside of this privileged group. Bible exegesis demonstrates quite clearly that the miraculous is to build the body of Christians as a whole and is to be used as an effective evangelical tool, and not favour one particular sub-group. In fact, such elitist claims cause great concern for the majority of Christians and can actually serve to further alienate non-Christian groups.

A God who heals does just that. He heals us emotionally and physically, but does so directly and simply. He did not give the lame man a gold crutch, but healed so the crutch was thrown away.

The gold teeth episodes do not reflect divine intervention, but they do, quite markedly reflect individual need and the effectiveness of group psychology and mass hysteria.

Should any reader disagree, I would be delighted for them to put forward any individual who can, without any doubt, demonstrate that not only do their fillings still exist, but also their root cause was divinity and not dentistry.

Andrew Swift

Peterborough, Ont.

Story reaffirming

Dear editor,

I am a 16-year-old high school student. I would like to commend you on your June story, Father Draws Jesus into Shooting Tragedy. Ever since the school shootings in Colorado and Alberta, I have been thinking about what living a Christian life at a high school really means. I have learned it is never easy to stand up for what you believe in but it is always worth it.

So often I have heard about the school shootings with no or very little reference to God, Jesus or Christianity in the process of healing.

Your story reaffirmed that Jesus is with us no matter what, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can comfort others in their grief, even when we are grieving ourselves.

Another aspect of your story that I deeply appreciated was the importance of prayer. For the last two years, I have organized an event called See You at the Pole at my school, where students pray at the flagpole before school starts one day in September. To hear of a priest doing this at the school where his son was killed encouraged me; to know that even though prayer is not taught in schools, it is very important and it must be at the centre of our lives.

It was also encouraging to hear about who Jason was: a normal teen, in some ways a lot like me, not a hero or an evil villain who was killed, as in a movie, but a real teenager.

I thank you for your awesome story, and I thank God for the comfort you have imparted to me.

Jennifer Golem

St. Peter?s Lutheran Church

Sullivan Township, Ont.

Jesus already there

Dear editor,

Surely, you goofed!

The article, Father Draws Jesus into Shooting Tragedy, was informative and well written. But, the headline ? ugh! In common parlance, ?to draw in? suggests ?to pull in something (someone) reluctant to enter? or even ?to drag in that which does not belong there.? On both counts, your headline is misleading and unfortunate.

Surely, Jesus would not be reluctant to enter that unfortunate situation ? indeed he was already there before your reporter. Equally, as you justly pointed out in your editorial, Mr. Lang was, what for Christians ought to be, ?doin? what comes naturally? ? though few of us would rise to the challenge in such circumstances. Mr. Lang?s witness in this horrible situation is done a disservice by the unfortunate implication of your headline.

Doug Woodhams,

Cogmagun, N.S.

Start from Scripture

Dear editor,

It is surprising that our leading evangelist does not make his argument for the ?open table? from a biblical standpoint (Sharing the Joy, May ?99).

Membership, i.e., adoption through the waters of baptism into God?s family regardless of biblical literacy or other factors is the basis on which communion ought properly to be administered. Scripture, as well as the way it has been interpreted throughout the life of the church make it abundantly clear that the Lord?s Supper is nourishment for the faithful.

Our understanding of the Lord?s Supper must be scriptural, which in turn means that we must have an understanding of the passover, the context in which the eucharist was instituted. There we learn that all were welcome to partake if they desired. However, the males among them were to be circumcised first ? the mark of membership in God?s covenant.

Furthermore, Scripture teaches that the first eucharist was shared only with the disciples, which implies full membership in the company of believers.

The Lord?s Supper is a sign of our communion with God and with other baptized Christians.

To receive the sacrament without having first been initiated into that fellowship would be a false sign of communion. St. Luke goes so far as to suggest that abstaining from baptism is a rejection of the purposes of God.

The first step in leading the new life is repentance and baptism, which is the means by which sin is washed away and we are made full members of the church, grafted into Christ?s body. Those who remain tainted with original sin are therefore not ready to receive communion, regardless of how much they desire it. But then, their desire to partake should be seen as an indication that they desire to be full members, in which case, baptize them!

Following Jesus calls for radical commitment, the first sign of which is submission to God through baptism. Until that happens, there should be no discussion of eucharist.

Rev. David W.T. Thurlow,

Prince Albert, Sask.

Rev. Ian C. Wetmore,

Zealand, N.B.

BCP the standard

Dear editor,

Rev. Alyson Barnett-Cowan argues that the Book of Common Prayer is ?an evolutionary document? (June Journal) and reminds us that ?this foundational book has always been in process of revision.?

Her argument does an injustice to the variety of alternative liturgies, which predominate in the liturgical world by suggesting that they belong to the evolution and revision of the Book of Common Prayer. They do not.

They stand outside the Common Prayer tradition self-consciously and by intent. They arise from the Lambeth 1958 decision that rejected the classical Prayer Book tradition as the basis for liturgical revision.

There have been developments and changes within the Common Prayer tradition from 1549 to 1959 (Canadian BCP).

Alternative liturgies reflect various shapes and understandings of liturgy. That in itself is surely a good thing. There can be a variety of shapes and styles of liturgical worship so long as they are consistent with the essential principles of the Christian faith as they have been received by our church. Constitutionally and theologically, those are embodied in the Book of Common Prayer. Without the Book of Common Prayer in its integrity we cannot have alternative liturgies. To collapse the Book of Common Prayer and the Book of Alternative Services into one book and call it the Book of Common Prayer does no justice to either.

The outstanding features of the system of spiritual life which the Book of Common Prayer embodies are: (a) its credal centrality as informing and shaping our worship ? meaning the three catholic creeds without substitution or alternative ?liturgical affirmations of faith;? (b) the primacy of Scripture expressed in the eucharistic lectionary ? the Collects, Epistles and Gospels ? which provide the interpretative framework for the reading of Scripture; and (c) the interplay of the theological principles of justification and sanctification in the order of the book as a whole and in its parts.

None of these features are distinctive in the world of alternative liturgies. The Book of Common Prayer cannot honestly be reduced to an old rite in a composite book of various rites.

Rev. David Curry

Windsor, N.S.

(via e-mail)

Alyson Barnett-Cowan replies: I don?t think I disagree with Mr. Curry. The gist of my article is that both the BCP and alternatives evolve and form part of our tradition, but that the BCP remains central doctrinally.

Respect decision

Dear editor,

In the May issue I read an interesting article (Aussie Pilgrimage Highlights Goal of Racial Healing) by Allan Reeder. It seems that leaders of 20 national churches will meet at Uluru with the Governor-General for a service on Pentecost Sunday (June 11, 2000) with the goal of helping to heal divisions between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.

Uluru is the aboriginal name for Ayer?s Rock, a tourist attraction for many years. When I was there in early 1994 aboriginal people had taken over the administration of the park from the parks service and were working to restore the sacred nature of the rock and to discourage tourists from climbing it. I chose, with three others from our tour group of about 20, to walk around the rock, a nine-km trek undertaken at 8 a.m. to avoid the heat of the day. The red-brown stone was beautifully etched in hugh shell-like shapes which enhanced its spirituality.

I commend the organizers of this pilgrimage and agree whole-heartedly with the decision not to promote the idea of a mass gathering because the ecology is so fragile. I would also urge future visitors to respect the aboriginals who want to restrict access to the hill. I can assure them that walking around Uluru will be just as unforgettable an experience.

Joyce Waddell-Townsend

Kingston, Ont.

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