Letters to the Editor
The current issue of Reflections is superb. It has been stimulating to me and has proved to be enlightening—in a dark time in a field without much light or much wisdom.
Reverend William Anthony ’45 BD
I wish to thank you for forwarding the Divinity School’s recent pornographic journal. My nine-year-old son, who collects the mail, was particularly keen to discuss the pictures on pages 13 and 35.
I had been wondering, but I guess the sellout is complete.
Reverend Paul Hartt ’95 M.Div
Arguably, YDS has produced a work of soft-core pornography in its Spring 2006 edition of Reflections!
The artwork, from the grabable buttocks on the front cover to the vulvaesque bouquet on the back cover, hovers between Audrey Beardsley and Georgia O’Keefe, as if Duchamp and Pearlstein had never lived; its nudes pulse with the passion of the air brush, like the old “Petty girls”- see p. 35, all pout and nipple-see p.51.
The text reflects the images. Most of the essays try to resolve structural and procedural issues of ecclesiastical polity and order as if they were ethical issues of fair play: the reticence of the Anglican community, for example, to consecrate bishops that, to them, practice sodomy, is called an “obsession.” The arrangements by which a membership organization governs itself are conflated with Constitutional limitations applicable to public bodies.
Personally, I see no reason why homosexual men and women should not be General Presbyters, presiding bishops or, for that matter, Supreme pontiffs. Sexual practices are not, for me, markers for church governance. But my views are not generalizable, and decent people feel differently. Post- structural post-modernism will, I know, subside, as biblical fundamentalism is in the process of subsiding, but for now, it seems as slick as the artwork to say that these are “spiritual” issues, rather that governance, warm, moist feelings, not discipline.
The heart of the problem is the proposition that churches, temples, mosques, congregations and assemblies are divine projects and not simply social arrangements. The argument is made that if God made all forms of human sexuality, “His” church should encourage all sexual practices among its leadership. Alas, that is just what has been going on in the Roman Catholic Church, the hegemony of the pederast.
For many of the essayists it comes down to Jesus. Do I hear snickers about “the disciple He loved best?” But that’s all nonsense: as Tillich taught, Jesus is a picture, just as Ivan Karamozov is a picture. In short, if the application of any version of the metaphysical in theology is applied to forms of social control, the result is sophistry, which is a literary version of pornography.
Theodore S. Meth ’47Div
Once again you and your contributors have hit a proverbial “ten strike” with the spring, 2006 edition of Reflections, “Sex and the Church.” The range of topics (refreshingly not limited to gay/ lesbian issues as they relate to the ordained), the diversity of the academic and pastoral perspectives from which the various writers see and enlighten their subjects, and the careful, calm reasoning applied to these usually divisive issues makes every page a truly invaluable and pragmatic fit to the Churches.
Framed by the insightful editorial comments so precisely expressed by Ms. Manson and Dean Attridge and meaningfully punctuated by the image of Tamara de Lempicka, which in my personal opinion exemplify a high benchmark of achievement in the realm of figurative art, I would hazard to say that this latest collection of superb essays from Y.D.S. faculty and alumni will have set a new standard in the current and greatly appreciated incarnation of this journal.
What strikes me most about every aspect of this edition of Reflections is its amazing balance in tone and content as it bridges that usually evasive chasm which so often separates academic se- riousness and popular comprehensibility. I only hope that such a precious contribution is received and digested by the various forms of Christianity that exist in this country and across the globe—finally, a fire with more light than smoke!
In the final analysis (exemplified by the astute placement of Michael Bernard Kelly’s piece as the “parting impression”) I came away from the experience of reading and receiving this latest gift from YDS with a much needed rebuttal to the charge that the supposedly dying mainline, “liberal” denominations (of which I am certainly a convicted member) are overly obsessed with issues of human sexuality at the expense of some sort of disembodied, not to mention absurdly pris- tinized, sense of mission. The simplistic and limiting category of “either/or” clearly does not apply here. Rather, in honestly and boldly facing these crucial human themes we in the Churches can actually do mission rather than avoid it. Thank God you destroyed, at least for this member of the faithful, yet another false and completely unrealistic duality that is so often presented as an oppressive and unquestioned fact.
May God bless you as you continue your marvelous work.
Reverend Michael J. Roeske ’00 MDiv.
Palm Springs, CA
Thank you for … the Spring 2006 issue of Reflections. From Daniel Helminiak’s opening article to Michael Kelly’s appraisal of Sister Jeannine Gramick’s ministry, the writing is bold, well-informed and provocative, and I am not surprised to learn that you’ve received many requests for additional copies. Perhaps most interesting to me was the “church-ly” nature of so much of the writing, as the authors grapple with pastoral practice and ecclesial polity alongside their explorations of identity, spirituality and power. Please convey my congratulations to Jamie Manson, along with my thanks, for her skillful assembly of this successful issue.
Henry Luce Foundation
I am an older, experienced Episcopal priest, serving as Vicar for a reasonably well educated small congregation in a close-in suburb of Buffalo. A number of the members here are eager to probe the sexually oriented debates and tension within our denomination, and have managed to assimilate a fairly broad reportage on the subject, and still keep their inner dialogue and shared conversation going with energy, eagerness, and hope. The material presented so beautifully in the Spring issues of Reflections seems to offer the opportunity to deepen, rather than broaden, their continuing search.
Faithfully and Thankfully yours,
Reverend John A. Russell ’59 BD
The articles in the Spring 2006 Reflections just arrived, and I found the articles on the church’s hang-ups with regard to sex both interesting and right on. Equally interesting, but curious: nine pictures of female frontal nudity are included, but only one modest cover picture of the backside of a nice looking male. Does the Editor have hangups that prevent her/him giving us pictures of the frontside of attractive males? Or is there some obscure YDS policy that says of female frontsides that Lo, they are good, but male frontsides are an abomination to the Lord?
Wayne Brice ’62 Div
Fort Worth, TX
Thank you for this edition of Reflections.” I carefully read all the articles in it and learned some things from all of them. I liked the first article best – “Sex as a Spiritual Exercise.” About five years ago I read a book entitled Why God Won’t Go Away. It is a study of mystical experiences and two neu-roscientists and they discovered that mystical experiences in all religious traditions deactivate the two areas of the brain that relate us to time and location/space. This gives the experience of being united with all things in all of time, a mystical experience. I don’t think that this is mentioned in the Helminiak article, but a mystical sexuality that is mystical does this. In fact, as noted, sex is so powerful because it dislodges us from the on-going connections of daily life – space, time, restraints, responsibilities, etc. Sex will produce mystical experiences about as readily as public worship does –not often.
Twenty some years ago I wrote a paper on sexual relations and I came to the conclusion that sex is not really an end in itself but a means to an end – relationship with another person. I follow Tillich’s thought, and also that of others, that a thing, including sex, is moral if it enhances the lives involved and doesn’t denigrate them or the community.
Richard Stazesky ’52 BD
I am a 1983 graduate of Yale Divinity School/Berkeley currently serving an Episcopal Church in Fort Smith, Arkansas. The human sexuality debates within our church are, of course, a matter of deep struggle and personal concern, both within our congregation and for me as a priest and a member of the Church.
In that context, I am writing to express my complete and deep disap- pointment with the recent Reflections. It struck me as little more than a self- serving, often belligerent, assertion of “progressive” ideologies with little in the way of genuine self-examination or self-criticism. I believe it is of almost no value as a contribution to the current debate within the church. I would have expected better from Yale Divinity School.
The mainline churches have all wagered their futures in an effort to respond with dignity and humanity to those people who, in the wake of thirty years of unchecked expressive-experiential utilitarianism (Bellah), have come seeking the life and blessing of the Christian community. The churches have struggled to do that while still honoring the deep questions and concerns of those who stand within the tradition. The depth of my frustration and disappointment with your number is called forth by what that struggle has asked of me and my church, as you do it little honor.
The Rev. Jeffrey F. Champlin ’83 M.Div.
Fort Smith, AR
I have just finished the current copy of “Reflections” and it is a remarkable read. I am taking Margaret Farley’s sexual ethics seminar and from the perspectives gained in that class I appreciate especially how timely, balanced, fair and informative this issue is. I hope everyone reads it cover to cover. I am proud to be a member of an institution that speaks up like that.
Grace and peace,
I received the latest issue of Reflections in the mail yesterday and already have had an opportunity to read a few articles. I must say that I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that this is one of the best issues of the magazine ever! Its articles are timely, informative, stimulating and thoughtful.
David Viggiani ’91 MAR
I’d like to take this opportunity to commend and thank you for the Spring 2006 edition of Reflections. I received my copy in the mail yesterday, at first I skimmed it–joyously!–reading small sections from every article before I started reading from the beginning in earnest. I called to see about ordering more copies to send to friends and associates who will want to read it as well. The breadth and scope of the articles is truly impressive and I am grateful beyond words that you and the Divinity School had the courage to address this issue in all of its complexities. I sincerely believe that this journal has taken the debate on these issues to a new and higher level (long overdue), and that those who might argue that there is a lack of balance will have great difficulty demonstrating any evidence of that.
Congratulations and thank you once again.
Armand M. Belmonte
Waterbury, CT, ‘91 MAR