Guest Editorial: The Very Rev. John Paul Downey

Category:  BloggERy
Tuesday, December 4th, 2012 at 2:21 PM
Guest Editorial: The Very Rev. John Paul Downey by Cory Vaillancourt

In the current edition of the Erie Reader, Luke Gehring reviewed "Icons in Transformation," a show he found incompatible with, and insensitive to, his Orthodox beliefs.

"This show is best avoided, and those who love icons and respect the Orthodox community will do so," Gehring said.

Recently, we heard from the Very Rev. John Paul Downey, Dean of the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint Paul - the venue for the controversial show - and we thought that in the interest of driving discussion with you, our readers, we'd publish his comments so that you can acquaint yourself with both sides of the story.

First, read Gehring's review; then, read Downey's comments, which appear unedited, below. Then, let us know what you think.

With regard to the review of Icons in Transformation at the Cathedral of St. Paul, it is unfortunate that the review was published before the exhibit opened by a reviewer who has not seen it. We understand that the reviewer’s convictions render the exhibit unacceptable to him by definition, but aspects of the review are misleading.

For instance, icons themselves are only placed in the Cathedral and Chapel. The opening reception will take place in a hall separate from any of the icons. I am indeed not qualified to make in-depth remarks about icons, but I believe I am qualified to welcome people and express gratitude and to share how my own spirituality has been enriched by icons for many years.

Most importantly, this deeply spiritual exhibit will respectfully introduce icons to many who would otherwise know nothing about them. And yes, it does present a visionary artist’s work, grounded in icons but looking beyond them. Episcopalians have a world and faith view that allows for this, and perhaps at times that will be controversial, but I invite anyone who attends the exhibit to let me know directly if there is anything about it which could be construed as “insensitive” or “intolerant.”

Like the reviewer, our community of faith also has convictions which are not practiced in the same way by other Christians. An example would be that women can be ordained in the Episcopal Church. We do not expect others to conform to our practices and we seek to relate to them with charity and with gratitude for the many aspects of faith we do share. We live in a city of diverse views on many things, and some differences are substantial. However, I hope the Erie Reader will stand on the side of valuing our diversity and of accurate representation of our differences.

The Very Rev. John Paul Downey
Dean, Episcopal Cathedral of Saint Paul

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