Faith Matters: Will Barbie Save The Episcopal Church?
Published on: April 11, 2010
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  • Neville

    The funniest part of this highly accurate denunciation was the reference to the value of “the bond with Canterbury”, as the Anglican church in England is in no better shape itself.

  • joe

    Professor Mead, I agree. Strange, I look back to my college years and the discussions I had with my German professor about the future of the Church. He was inflexible that the ordination of women to the Bishopric would eventually add ruin to rubble and dissolve what remained of Anglician doctrinal orthodoxy. I am still not entirely convinced, but I do place the lion’s share of blame on ’68ers.

    I find the Church now dealing with the question of homosexuality of its priests without considering the notion of the Apostolic Succession, but simplistically relying on the arugmenta that the Old Testament was superceded and Jesus did not explicitly mention the subject, so how can the Church act in his stead? No discussion on the variety and depth of sin and the need for the contrition of the sinner, but a bathtub-thumping absolutism that this is not sin. I do not care to weigh-in on the subject but the quality of intellectual discourse by the Church Elders was abysmal.

    We have in short grown soft and attempted to mold ourselves to the current generation instead of remaining a refuge from it. Moreover, the attempt at change was made without unanimity. Substantial sections of congregations watched these evolutions over the last two decades and became apathetic and dismissive. This pathetic tolerance is suitable for a society lumbering along, but not for an energetic, healthy congreation. We should have looked back to the centuries of struggle and copied the Catholics whose greatest strength has always been constancy: ‘the Church fobids everything, but the Church forgives everything.’

    The Episcopal Church can not survive without the Anglican Communion. Should we be given our walking-papers, I, among many, will walk as well.

  • SC Mike

    Mead, buck up, man!

    Surely you can take solace, if not great comfort, in your church’s unwavering propagation of the majority of the Ten Suggestions.

    Er, are there still ten in the Episcopal communion? I forget, hard to keep track.

    Whatever. At least the Catholics won’t be getting a Barbie Cardinal anytime soon.

  • andrewdb

    And the most recent General Convention decided to pay a “living wage” and pension equality to the lay employees. Now I am all in favor of a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work, but making sure even more employees are paid even more doesn’t seem to address a major elephant in the room

  • Phil Snyder

    The Episcopal Church’s slide into oblivion was caused by its recent (50 years) quest for “relevance.” They decided that women priests would make the Church revelent. The decided that Social Justice would make the Church revelant. The decided that a new liturgy would make the Church relevant. Now blessing same sex unions will make the Church relevant.

    The quest for relevance is like trying to be “cool.” When you try to be “cool” all you do is make yourself the object of diresion. Christianity is not “relevant.” It is true. If it is true, then it is, by definition, relevant.

    Instead of trying to be “cool” we need to be true to the teachings of Jesus Christ and to the teachings of His Church. We need to proclaim the power of Jesus Christ to make all things new and to defeat sin and death. We need to model the new life given by Jesus Christ and stop this silly quest for relevance.

    Phil Snyder

  • Jeffersonian

    I left TEC/ECUSA years before the consecration of Gene Robinson. All it took for me was my “bishop” coming to our parish and telling us that, while “I am the way, the truth and the life” was all well and good, if we really wanted to know the Mind of God we needed to look into Islam, Shinto, Buddhism, etc. It was the first time I was take with the urge to rebut a sermon so a congregation could get a Christian point of view.

    TEC is simply not a serious organization, nor is it any longer Christian in any sense of the word. Those that it is not marching directly into the maw of Satan it is suing into penury so it can prop up its dissolute nomenklatura with the proceeds of the property sales (never to rival Anglican entities, to be sure, but Muslims are free to purchase).

    My only disagreement with your post, Professor is your lament about the impending ejection of TEC from the Anglican Communion. You may be right about this, but I seriously doubt it. Canterbury has shown itself to be a staunch ally of 815 and defender of TEC’s serial heresies, unrelenting bullying and subversion of its own canons. For Rowan Williams to change course now would be a jaw-dropping event. He’s going down with the ship, a ship that TEC deliberately scuttled.

  • Ken Smith

    Having read this brilliant piece, I can better understand the reasons Mr. Mead has become by far my favorite blogger. I’ve long thought that a keen and personally felt engagement with both religious institutions and religious truth is a prerequisite for being a truly broad and well rounded thinker. Intellectuals who never engage on this level are necessarily oblivious to a large aspect of reality and thus inevitably fail to observe or communicate adequately in numerous areas that are, ostensibly, unrelated to religion.

  • Paul Gross

    I will never forget a dear friend of mine, a devout Episcopalian who was in a fit about the changes to the prayer book some 35 or so years ago. I am not an Episcopalian, but think it has done what many mainstream protestant religions have done. In an attempt to remain current and appeal to the young, they have lost sight that their main goal should be to persevere the eternal truths. In the process they have not only not attracted the young, they have alienated the elder members of their congregation.
    to use an idiom of the day, Barbie is a sign that the church has “jumped the shark.”

  • Tom Windberg

    My wife is a ‘cradle’ Episcopalian. I am a ‘fallen’ Roman Catholic who came to the Episcopal Church when we married 38 years ago. At that time I was told there were about 4 million Episcopalians. Today there are, I believe, just over two million. If that doesn’t say ‘we got problems’, I don’t know what does. Professor Mead has hit the nail on the head. The Anglican Communion may survive in America, but I believe the Episcopal Church is doomed unless it changes its ways and remembers what Christianity is about.

  • R.C.

    What a wonderfully accurate piece!

    But, you know, there is a solution.

    Excommunicate openly (practicing) gay bishops. Start teaching Christian sexual morality as it was taught for the first 1900 years after the Resurrection. (Any competent historian knows that means revising the 1930 Lambeth decision which permitted contraception, by the way.) Laicize theologically and morally heterodox clergy at every level, from Katharine Jefferts Schori on down. Declare prominent heretics, such as Mr. Spong, anathema. Require in all seminarians and of all clergy an understanding of the Real Presence that at minimum meets the understanding of Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Sts. Augustine and John Chrysostom, and, well, every serious saint and theologian in the thousand years of British Christianity between 500 and 1500.

    Do that over the next ten years, and over the succeeding forty years the Anglican communion will be the fastest-growing communion in the West, both in terms of converts and the increasing personal holiness of the faithful.

    What can I say? God’s Spirit moves when His people are faithful to defend the truth He once for all delivered to the apostles.

    Orthodoxy is required. (One cannot be orthodox, while believing that 80% of the wisest and holiest Christians who have ever lived were mostly wrong in the beliefs and morals they taught!)

    The only difficulty, of course, is whether the Anglican community is structurally capable of exercising the authority required to enforce decisions of the type described above.

    I hope so. But it’s been a long nasty fall, from Oswald Chambers and C.S.Lewis, to the current mess. Perhaps the Anglican communion will recover. If, five hundred years hence, Anglicans are as rare as Shakers or Donatists, the reason will have been a trendy refusal to rally around orthodoxy.

  • But the Church Pension Fund is the about one financially solid organization left, so at least the incompetent spendthrifts who have ruined the church will all retire well.

    Not so. You may depend upon it: when the Episcopal Church finally runs out of money, the General Convention will pass an act of legal fiction enabling it to bleed dry the last remaining healthy host in the organization.

  • Montjoie

    Yeah. Well, you embraced John Spong’s “Christianity that Must Change or Die” and, not unpredictably, you died instead.

  • Luke Lea

    I believe it was John Updike who wrote somewhere that faith was not a permanent virtue, but more like a holding action. Buck up! Christianity has done its work. The evidence is all around us. Our secular institutions, on the other hand, the most precious of them, are hopefully forever.

  • The one caution I’d offer about Episcopal Barbie is that by and large folks in the pews at least used to prefer their pastor not to be quite as attractive physically as Barbie. Exceptional beauty or handsomeness in the messenger can make it difficult to concentrate on the message. One strikingly-beautiful pastor we knew long ago went out of her way to tone down her looks for just that reason.

  • Lindsay

    Yet another proclamation that TEC is doomed, and that all the gay-bashers and misogynists are better Christians than Episcopalians could ever be. With a new twist, though — GOD is killing TEC! WHOA!

    Apparently, if a church wants women to have an equal role in leadership (hey, like that guy Jesus did!), and opens its arms to the socially downtrodden (ditto!), it’s on a one-way track to hell. Yawn.

    If we were on a quest for “relevance”, wouldn’t we be preaching the same simplistic, spoon-fed crap that you get at those “big-box”, 10,000-member non-denominationals? Wouldn’t we be preaching things like Joel Osteen’s theology of prosperity? That would really get ’em in the doors. Wouldn’t we be telling every member that we’re the one true church, and everybody else is going to hell? That would scare them into staying. Would we be asking our congregations to think for themselves, or just telling them what and how to believe?

    Last I checked, the only churches which were growing were the ones who insist that they’re the ONLY way to heaven — and thus force people to stay — and those big non-denoms where Christianity is wrapped up in a nice, neat, candy-colored package, complete with bad pop music and brainless feel-good messages about how much awesomer you are than everybody else because you’re “saved”. And let’s not forget the churches whose whole doctrine consists of bashing other faiths (Episcopalians are high on their lists). Those places are popular. It’s a function of the society in which we live, unfortunately.

    Personally, I don’t *want* my church to be popular if it has to be like those places. They give me the willies. I love the fact that in the Episcopal Church we’re called to discern our beliefs and our relationship with God, that nothing is made easy, that my congregation is made up of all kinds of people (both wardens are women, one is gay, we have families from India, England, several African nations…I could go on and on), people on both sides of the “gay bishop” debate, and that, despite that, it’s a family. I love that we pay attention to tradition, art and history. I love that we are a church that celebrates beauty in our worship. I adore the fact that the little quirks of genteel society pop up regularly in our life together (dark meat in your potluck chicken salad? The horror!!!). And I think Episcopal Priest Barbie is adorable. Her sacristy, in particular, is a hoot.

    I believe people who look at a gift from one priest to another (the Barbie doll) as an excuse to bash the whole church are misdirected. If you’re not comfortable with TEC, maybe it’s not the place for you. Try out a different denomination. But don’t waste so much time bashing the Episcopal Church or declaring it dead. Please. It’s getting old, and it’s inaccurate. There are plenty of us who love it and are willing to work through our differences with each other to do God’s work. There are plenty of us who would rather minister to the sick, the friendless and the needy than quibble about gay priests and Barbie dolls.

  • Michael Lonie

    Maybe missionaries from Nigeria and Ghana will come to America and Britain to evangelize the heathans, fallen away from the Anglican Church.

  • R.C.

    Lindsay,

    Respectfully, where are you getting your information?

    For instance, you refer to “gay-bashers and misogynists.” There are surely some of those, and surely they prefer other communions over the Anglican.

    But the ongoing conversation doesn’t involve them. It’s all about orthodoxy (on matters of faith and morals) and whether TEC abandonment thereof is the cause of its increasing nonexistence.

    Perhaps your view is that anyone who advocates historical orthodoxy on sexual morality is, necessarily, a “gay-basher” or “misogynist”…is that what you meant to say?

    If so, then (a.) there’s vast objective evidence that you’re incorrect; (b.) Jesus, the Apostles, and all the saints and martyrs of the last 2,000 years were, by that argument, also “gay-bashers and misogynists”; and (c.) all the historical facts and rational argument in the world are unlikely to change your mind, because you’re in a defensive crouch firing volleys of invective and not seeking truth with an open mind.

    But I hope that isn’t your view. Indeed, you give me reason to hope, since you state, “Apparently, if a church wants women to have an equal role in leadership (hey, like that guy Jesus did!)….” This is good: You’re appealing to history, to Jesus’ own words and deeds, to make your point. You aren’t discounting the role of objective knowable facts in the discussion.

    That’s great! Hang on to that.

    Now the difficulty in what you said is that it isn’t actually true. It’s great that you’re appealing to Jesus’ example; unfortunately, you aren’t familiar with what his actual example was.

    Women were honored and accorded unusual dignity by Jesus: This much comes galloping from the pages of the Gospel narratives. BUT, He did not select any women as apostles, despite the availability of Mary Magdalene, Salome, and even His own mother.

    Granted, the Blessed Virgin Mary is viewed as mother of all those who are “in Christ,” and John’s apocalypse arguably depicts her as the “Queen Mother” in the Kingdom of Heaven, crowned with stars. This is likely a role of higher authority even than the apostles.

    But it was the apostles, from whom priestly and episcopal authority derives, to whom He granted “keys” symbolizing authority. He gave them authority to speak in His name. And though He had opportunity to select women, He did not: They were all men.

    And of course you won’t get any farther through recourse to the apostles. Paul is pretty unequivocal about the requirements for a bishop, for an elder, for a deacon. One phrase can be interpreted to refer “deaconesses,” but there are problems with that view: And authority is found in the bishopric.

    The saints and martyrs and doctors of the Church? Nope, sorry, no help there, either.

    I’m sorry, but if you wish to make an argument for priestesses, the facts require you to FIRST admit that it’s an innovation, erupting suddenly after the passage of 2,000 years of Christian history, and more Jewish history before that. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong: But it means you can’t appeal to “what Jesus did,” or for that matter what any Christian believed prior to about 1960.

    Another error you make is to identify TEC as uniquely in the practice of helping the poor, opening its arms to the downtrodden, et cetera. Sorry, but that’s just plain libel against other Christians; in fact, U.S. tax information shows that the more evangelical and fundamentalist types routinely trounce the Episcopalians when it comes to charitable giving and volunteerism. They give more money (both as a percentage of income and in overall dollars). They give blood more often. They serve in soup kitchens and the like more often. They just plain seem to care more.

    Now what they don’t do, is reverse 2,000 years of Christian teaching in order to make their point about loving those who’re sexually immoral. They just go ’round paying for AIDS treatment out of their own pockets and visiting folks in clinics. Perhaps that’s what you have in mind, calling them gay-bashers? That they care for the homosexual community WITHOUT affirming homosexual liasons as moral?

    Anyway, it’s wonderful that you, in the TEC, join your fellow Christians in assisting the needy. But that’s not a distinguishing factor between TEC and the rest of Christendom.

    The distinction between TEC and the others is heterodoxy in matters of faith and morals: Many in the hierarchy teach things about God and Christ and chastity which would be bluntly and uniformly called heresy and “doctrines of demons” by the wisest and holiest persons of the last twenty centuries.

    Everybody knows that. It’s not as if the historical record is vague on these points.

    So the question remains: Why would the Holy Spirit send converts to TEC, to be fed doctrinal poison, even if they happen not to have slacked off in caring for the poor? Is God the Father such a terrible parent to His children? When they ask for bread, will He send them to a place where they’ll get snakes and stones?

    No. Not when there are so many alternatives where care for the needy is found in conjunction with orthodoxy!

    Hence the declining numbers. The data is there; but one must be willing to look at it.

  • GimmeThat

    One problem. Barbie is “only” 50 years old. That would make her a youngster in most Episcopal churches.

    Lindsay exemplifies a lot of the problems with the denomination. Firstly, she exudes hubris which is the predominate characteristic of Episcopalians, smugly satisfied with being small and exclusive – all the while preaching “inclusiveness.”

    “There are plenty of us who would rather minister to the sick, the friendless…” More bunk. The TE former church gives less than almost all denominations to the poor. They talk but don’t walk.

    “Apparently, if a church wants women to have an equal role in leadership (hey, like that guy Jesus did!), and opens its arms to the socially downtrodden (ditto!), it’s on a one-way track to hell. Yawn.” I don’t remember any female apostles. Maybe she is reading another Bible? Oh, that’s right. Episcopalians don’t read the Bible. We wouldn’t want to be accused of being a “Bible thumper”. Their ignorance of holy scripture is one of the main reasons that the denomination is going down the toilet.

  • Catholic

    As a lapsed Presbyterian now converted to the Roman Catholic church, I see many non-evangelical protestant denominations in the US going through the same process.

    “Modern” philosophies, where words like “relevance” are tossed around, are inherently defective and lead away from meaningful Christianity; It’s hardly a surprise that many “progressives” are anti-Christian – they are the ones most attached to those philosophies. But… followers of relativism and modernism and seekers of “relevance” have moved into positions of great influence throughout protestantism, except in the Orthodox churches (RC, eastern rites) and the evangelicals.

    Everything in between seems to be doomed.

    Ultimately, it’s sort of like Constitutional interpretation. You can decide the scripture means whatever makes you feel relevant and tradition and apostolic succession are archaic irrelevancies, or you can stick to the orthodoxy.

    I chose the latter, and if you want Orthodox Christianity, it’s hard to be Catholicism. We are getting lots of former Episcopalians and Anglicans – whole Anglican parishes in England are converting (of course, there aren’t a lot left).

    We have fun too… and wine every week 🙂

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  • J J

    Wow, the comment thread on this thing keeps on going.

    Lindsay mentions the horror of dark meat in a potluck chicken salad. Since leaving ECUSA, I’ve eaten varied and amazing, food with the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox. The Greeks have lamb, (every part of it), baklava, The Russians have some sick good seafood, the Copts (Egyptians) seem to fast 11 months out of the year but rock the most amazing vegan dishes. There are Syrians, Ethiopians, Indians, and I have yet to sample their delectable cuisine. Oh, and everyone has their own style of hummus.

    Midnight Easter services are amazing. at midnight everyone breaks the fast with baskets of food, glorious food….. Oh, and the spirituality is great as well.

  • AnglicanXn

    I agree with Prof Mead that the Episcopal Church is in deep trouble. She has squandered her financial heritage, and she is in denial about the seriousness of the situation. There are many parishes that are simply plugging away, able to keep going because of people who are so attached to the place or the people (or both) to leave – but as these die out, there are few to replace them. Many in the pews would be hard-pressed to give a summary of basic Christian beliefs, and so would find evangelism difficult even if they wanted to do it.

    But even worse, there are those who have come to the Episcopal Church because it is “Christianity Lite,” with few beliefs needed. Lindsay above is typical of these, scorning classic Christianity for a version that allows her to pick and choose among the truths that God has revealed through the prophets and apostles. She has little understanding of historic orthodoxy, preferring to cast aspersions upon what she thinks conservative Christianity is. I sometimes think that those who speak as she does simply want to be spiritual in some way, worshiping a god who overlooks their sin rather than a God who took sin seriously enough to atone for it himself, so that we could be forgiven and cleansed. In taking such an indulgent god, they are able to be engaged in spiritual activities and at the same time indulge in their favorite sins without guilt.

    I do agree with Lindsay that Joel Osteen is a heretic. He has created a god that has a few similarities with the Triune God of Scripture, but which is a creation of positive thinking, not of theology. Some of the “big box” churches have indeed gone for the lowest common denominator version of conservative Christianity – but most do bring people to a solid knowledge of the living God and provide means and opportunities to grow in knowledge and service of the Lord.

    But those who remain in churches that proclaim Jesus as the only way do so out of fear. Rather, they remain because they have found the one who has freed them from guilt, given them a deep and intimate friendship with the Creator of the universe, and instilled in them confidence that their lives matter – that the Lord has something of significance for them to be and do.

    If there were a complete cure for AIDS and you had AIDS, would you complain that there was only one cure – or would you rejoice that there was a cure?

    We human beings are mired in sin – and in the denial of sin. When we know our dire situation, and when we know that there is a remedy that costs us nothing but being willing to avail ourselves of it – then we can have life, now and evermore.

    If the Episcopal returns to this basic reality of the Christian faith, it will once again be a living, growing Church. If it does not, it will remain as a fading social institution for a generation or two, and then be found only in the history books.

  • Sad to be Episcopalian

    Thank you for your article. It is a sad but accurate commentary. Would more of our leadership understand what you have written, we would not be where we are. There are those who have fought these things, but they were too few. We as a church are reaping what has been sown.

    What is even sadder is those of us who don’t want to go the path leadership is headed. STOP wasn’t heeded over the years, nor will they now. What’s left for us who remain? Especially if the rest of the Communion kicks TEC and even the Church of England/Canterbury out?

  • ‘Yes’ to everything you wrote.

    My guess is that the fops (thank you for using that word) in the mainline churhces will endure in power until the money runs out. Above all, they are self-interested career politicians.

    But the Church stands and will always stand.

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  • nycjoe

    If you don’t like it, leave it. Just walk out the doors and go somewhere else. It’s clear the way TEC is moving, and if you don’t like it, get out. The vast majority of the church finds you out of touch. So it’s not the church for you. The doors are at the back. Walk out of them instead of fomenting schism and discord. You’re not wanted here any more.

    To think you’ll still be “Anglican” is tremendously optimistic and terribly naive.

  • Dotar Sojat

    That African Diocese in the US just keeps getting bigger, and Bishop Kate continues to wonder why.

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  • Where the Episcopals have gone, the United Methodists are trying to follow. Give us one more generation and we will be even with where you are now. And we are perfectly okay with that.

  • Dear Mr. Mead,

    As a mainline Protestant pastor in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), I tend to agree with some of your sentiments in what is going on within mainline Protestantism. I agree that we are tending to support ways that no longer mesh with the greater public and we do tend to be servants of what you have called the “blue beast.”

    That said, your latest post along with the comments are giving me pause. I am openly gay and live happily with my partner. I am also the associate pastor of a church in Minneapolis. I am open about being gay and partnered, but I also don’t make a big deal of it. I know there are people in my congregation who don’t think I should be in the pulpit because I am a “practicing” gay person, but in the end, they have simply made their objections known and we have learned to be civil and respectful of each other.

    What gives me pause is the temptation to think that all that is going wrong in the Episcopal Church and the wider Protestant church is because we allow gays to be come preachers. One commenter seemed to say that all that was needed is to excommunicate people like me, which frankly bothers me.

    I think that there are many reasons that mainline Protestantism in in decline and I think you share some of them in a good, succinct manner. But getting rid of gay preists or adopting a more conservative political stance won’t save the church anymore than admitting gay clergy or adopting liberal politics will.

    I’m sorry, but I am not the cause of the Mainline’s decline. But I do want to work with my sisters and brothers, even those who don’t agree with me, in discerning God’s will into how we can breath life into our churches again.

  • Formerly Merlin

    Lindsay – It’s great that your church(es) do all these things. But do they teach the creed? Do its members believe the creed? Is it more than the time in the service when one contemplates what needs to be bought at the grocery store on the way home? Do they recite it on the grounds that “the church believes the creed, even when none of its members does”? (I’ve heard that argument from a formerly liberal Epis, now atheist, Ivy League grad. Not stupid, nor in this case, logical.)

    Jesus was great, very loving, accepting, etc. But his acceptance of the woman caught in adultery was acceptance of her, not her lifestyle or action. He said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Didn’t say, “Go in peace, and pay no heed to your actions.”

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  • Vera Unwin

    I am horrified.
    Whatever next.
    The more we become like the world – the more the world will reject us.
    This makes me extremely sad and hurt for our lovely Lord Jesus

  • Jay Lewis

    I’m in the Diocese of Olympia which is currently on a “diversity” kick of the sort that corporations dabbled in 25 years ago.

    The line is that we’re too white and need to “radically welcome” newcomers. This is in the Puget Sound basin, mind you, which vies with Iceland and North Korea as the least diverse place on Earth.

    Nonetheless, our clergy has for two years admonished us in every third sermon not to “fear the other,” folks who will arrive in great number any day now, incidentally forcing us to change our liturgy, which we’re also not to fear.

    Now this does several things for the church bureaucracy:
    1) It shifts blame for the church’s decline to the members, who are presumptively a bunch of bigots.
    2) It makes it impossible to question the clergy’s competence, as any questions are presumed to be evidence of backward thinking.
    3) It strips the members of their dignity, so we don’t have to be taken seriously. No need to speak up, you’ll be treated like you’re irrational.

    Watching all this play out, I’ve come to wonder whether successive fads in clerical focus have been so attractive because they relieve the church hierarchy of any responsibility to minister to actual church members.

    Instead, I’ve seen a phenomenal amount of attention given to social work, which any number of agencies and dedicated charities do better; and to last decade’s fashions in cultural issues.

    So here’s my radical suggestion to the church fathers for rescuing the Episcopal church: If you want to reach an under-served audience, who not start with Episcopalians?

    Reach out to those who have wandered away and stalked off.

    Reach out to those, like me, who zone out after the Lessons, and wait patiently for the Liturgy to resume.

    Reach out to those who went numb years ago and keep attending and tithing because they don’t know what else to do.

    Give them what they need: The pageantry, elevated language, refined manners, intellectual stimulation that used to make Episcopalians believe they were dignified servants of God.

    In short, do the jobs you were called to do.

  • David

    Professor Mead’s commentary is both incisive and painfully true. Now a Canadian Anglican for over 20 years, I have had the sad experience of watching the church in which I was ordained and served for nearly two decades quite literally disintegrate before my eyes.

    Yes, there was the usual nonchalant clucking about our silly institutional idiosyncrasies (“whiskypalians”), but the tone of the conversations were always that elite air of self-confidence, and worse, smugness, “All’s well with this old church; for heaven’s sake, it’s not good form to be zealous, urgent, or shrill.”

    Hopefully, for reasons of honesty and integrity, I do hope the false prophets who commandeered the mics at diocesan and general conventions for two decades are now silent–at least out of respect for the cooling corpse of a holy institution that had the resources for Gospel-filled service to our world, and squandered it.

    But a final comment on the above comments. First, I have some knowledge of the churches that Lindsay so glibly dismisses (not sure how she can consider these people as sisters and brothers in Christ!). And I have observed many of them in Africa and Asia. Since she appears to be so complacent in her Episcopal skin, she is unlikely to discover just how off the mark she is. A big part of the lesson here is learning that there is a lot of diversity out there that still somehow has grasped the gospel in its power to transform lives and societies. Regrettably, the diversity of the Episcopal sort these days does not wield that kind of power.

    Second, I read here a litany of remedies–if only the church had not changed the Prayer Book, ordained women, etc., the Episcopal Church would not be in this mess. Friends, these are at best sympomatic and irrelevant at worst. The problem is much deeper and more systemic.

    John the Baptist once reminded some faith-less listeners that God could raise up “stones” that would preserve Abraham’s seed for a new generation. Where we see ugly stones to be kicked aside, just maybe they are a new generation of living stones. They may not suit our aesthetics, but they just may be a witness for the future. If this be true, we should at least be grateful.

  • Kelso

    ***Proud to have jumped from the train wreck 31 years ago when the Book of Common Prayer was destroyed.***

    We have not produced one single Bishop the like of Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in the entire time since we allowed the draft dodgers of the 1960s to become Bishops.

    We had the most beautiful liturgy in all Christendom and destroyed it to please a bunch of tie-dyed hippie priests and divorced bishops….I’m surprised Our Lord (we didn’t presume to call Him by His first name) has left the remnant afloat this long.

  • Orthox3

    Michael Lonie wrote: …”Maybe missionaries from Nigeria and Ghana will come to America and Britain to evangelize the heathans, fallen away from the Anglican Church…”

    Ummm…Michael: They’re already here (CANA, ACNA, etc.) and revival/growth (in both numbers as well as spiritual maturity) is happening in their churches: all of which is causing the PB and her hench-men/women major ulcers…

  • George Woodward

    What an appalling screed. I don’t believe I’ll ever view Mr. Mead on television with the same interest. I love the Episcopal Church. There is so much good unfolding, and in good grace and humor, as reflected in whoever had the whimsy to think up this version of Barbie. I see no love or affection reflected in this piece, and can’t imagine why he calls himself an Episcopalian if this is how he feels. Many of us feel and think far differently, and are quite happy people worshiping in our parishes and contesting for the mystery of Jesus unfolding among us.
    Blessings on all who think differently,
    GFW

  • midwestnorwegian

    Sic Semper Tyrannis. TEC and absolutely EVERYTHING attached to it can’t die fast enough for me.

  • Simply superb in describing the complete demise of this branch of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

    Thanks for this remarkable piece of journalism and reflection, it should be read in church like the dictums that pass as Pastoral Letters of the HOB

  • Stacy

    I have to confess that I greeted Episcopal priest Barbie with delight. I know that many believe that the Episcopal Church is doomed and/or condemned (i.e. self-imposed and/or God-imposed), but in my work with college students, I’m convinced that the Gospel is taking root among Episcopal young adults in a vibrant way that transcends liberal vs. conservative. They are deeply committed to Scripture, Tradition and Reason (to the confusion of some of their elders) and find fights of their fathers (and mothers) are distressing and a distraction from Christ’s call to them as individuals and as a community. I have students who were atheists who have found in the Episcopal Church a sense of mission, home, hope, and forgiveness; others raised in the Church, who are finding a sense of vocation and mission. They love God, cherish the Prayerbook (1979 and 1662!), delight in our idiosyncrasies. Things are grim, granted, on some fronts of the church, but they’re grim across the board — even the Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics have lost members. May we continue to be open to the Spirit’s encouraging, reconciling, and, yes, convicting movement among us.

  • Lavaux

    I love the Anglican liturgy and The Book of Common Prayer but won’t join the TEC because of the glaring juxtaposition between its worship and practice. Too bad there’s no one in the TEC with the Apostle Paul’s authority to set things aright. Such a waste!

    Does anyone know how I can find a proper Anglican church in America?

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  • meep

    A bit off-topic: this Dickens buff enjoyed the reference to Mrs. Jellyby.

    Can we look forward to further references to the old standards Veneerings, Pecksniff, Montague Tigg [or was it Tigg Montague?], Mrs. Harris, Quilp, Sally Brass, or the Micawbers?

  • keithj0731

    Ok, I’ve read Mr. Mead’s piece several times and no where do I see him praising ‘gay bashing, and misogynists. What he does is point out that bad leadership is the major source of the problems within TEC. I have to agree that he is right. The PB herself pointed out that our decline started long before Gene Robinson. Mr. Mead is right in saying that the only people who win in these lawsuits are the lawyers. We are in trouble. Declining membership, dioceses and parishes operating with huge deficits, and General Seminary on the verge of closing. This is not being hateful,it’s just being factual.The passion and the anger that comes from this article is not hate but love. . Mr Mead is watching something that he loves dearly being treated poorly. He is not anti-gay, anti- woman nor anti-TEC he is anti-bad leadership.Another thing, yes other denominations are losing people as well, but we can’t afford any loses without replacing them at least at a 1to1 ratio. I am also confused with the notion that to love your church you must accept everything that it does wholeheartedly or you must leave. So when the people who hold the ‘supposed’ majority opinion, were in the minority, then they should have been asked to leave TEC? If we all think alike and act alike, doesn’t that make us a cult? I think that it would do us good to pay attention to what Mr. Mead and others have to say.

  • Bot

    Let’s compare the Episcopal Church with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon):

    The Episcopal Church is closing a parish each week; the Mormon Church builds a new church building every day of the year.

    Only 28 percent of Episcopalians believe Jesus Christ was divine (according to Fred Barna’s research). 70 percent of Mormons believe Jesus Christ was sinless.

    According to the UNC-Chapel Hill study of teenagers’ religiousity, Episcopalian youth were almost indistinguishable from agnostic youth in their adherence to Christian principles. Mormon youth topped the charts in Christian characteristics. And the Mormons do this with a lay ministry.

    When denominations concentrate on peripheral, devisive issues such as women’s ordination and “homosexual pride” and neglect teaching from the Holy Bible and parishoners’ spiritual needs, inevitably, decline occurs.

  • Maybe the Episcopal church (and the Anglican Communion) aren’t God’s “official” church. I’m sure it originally started with good intentions, and all that, but maybe the E.C. doesn’t have the Lord’s official stamp of approval.

    Where might the Lord want you to be _now_? To keep the EC ship from sinking, or move to a ship (or the ship) that actually has His blessing and imprimatur?

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  • For an informed response from a monk of the Episcopal Church, I offer this: http://brotherkenneth.wordpress.com/2010/04/16/faith-that-actually-matters-mother-barbie-and-walter-russell-mead/

  • Liberals are fond of characterizing our remarks as mean-spirited but read nycjoe’s remarks above and ask yourself who is mean-spirited here.

  • Dan+

    I keep reading the comments on posts like this one and I am struck with one overwhelming observation. The arguments against what TEC is doing are based on preference. They should be based on Scripture. What does God have to say on the subject? Until we have a return to Scripture as God’s Holy Word that is binding upon all (see 1 John 1:5-6) there will not be a turn around in the Episcopal Church. Let us pray for that re-awakening.

  • Great! I am great to read this coming from you. I’m looking forward to read more another posts in the future. 🙂

  • salvatore

    The Episcopal Church began for obviously political reasons (Henry VIII). It became a reasonably tolerable compromise (The Elizabethan settlement). The eighteenth century witnessed horrible complacency. Zanies throughout the nineteenth century made it look somewhat Roman Again. Then Gene Robinson and Mrs. Shori took office. The archbishop is an amazingly interesting fellow, though I’m not quite sure I understand him very much. It’s all rather absurd.

  • scripture-reading-episcopalian

    To better understand our faith and position read Romans 2.

    We (at least I) see this chapter as a call to accept all people. Not as an excuse not to minister/witness. We should strive everyday to lead by example in our own lives. But, just a thought…how many divorced pastors do you know? (not to pick out sins or condemn–that’s not it. But as an example, divorce is written about far more in the Bible than homosexuality, and Jesus’ position is just as clear.)

    I believe that God doesn’t speak to everyone in a cram-it-down-your-throat way. It’s not that we’re not “Bible-Thumpers.”

    As for the church shrinking. Unfortunately, in many churches that I’ve experienced with a set-in-its-way congregation, the people can come off incredibly uninviting. (I know that seems obvious, but could be a start for those looking to to attract a younger demographic…which ultimately will lead to a future for the church.)

    Just a humble thought.

  • Ellen on a mission

    I guess I want to say, “What is the essence of faith?” And while I’m at it: “What is the nature of God?” I think I’m reading (many of you write about) a big, mean God who has his finger over the smite button, just waiting for an error. Anyway, friends, where’s the love? Seriously. Where?

  • HopefulEpiscopalian

    I’m a 24 year-old male who is also aspiring to join the priesthood in the Episcopal Church. That being said, I hope we have a Barbie priest someday preaching in that sexy tippet and preaching bands;) jk. I am a traditionalist, but I’m so sick of hearing the doom and gloom stories of the Episcopal Church. When I invite my evangelical friends to the Cathedral, every one of them is impressed with our worship, and how deeply biblical our worship is. Many of them have even bought prayer books (BCP). I have a diverse group of friends and I am deeply aware that they need Jesus and His redemption, as well as Christian discipline which presses on to maturity. The Episcopal Church is a place where we can have our prayer book, read our bibles daily, and daily encourage each other to walk a constant path to goodliness and holiness, without having to sacrifice the real joy that life has to offer. I think it’s well high time to acknowledge that liberals really aren’t very fun oftentimes – you can’t just go out and have a good time with liberals. You have to be so careful about not saying anything politically incorrect, you can’t just have that second drink, and you can’t simply believe in an enchanted reality, the resurrection of Christ, and a real hope in redemption of creation and the human person. I totally like the idea of being a big family – I see it with my own friends back at home, and I have actually seen Christ’s love amongst us. I agree with Stacy above – I think the Episcopal Church is Christianity’s best kept secret, in spite of its problems – we’ll have to see how a new generation deals with these issues. I’m not too sure how the issue of homosexuality will play out – it’s kinda hard to eject gay bishops and clergy, but hopefully we’ll move toward a more orthodox AND open faith. My one fear I still have is the slow death of Protestantism – I don’t really even call the mega-churches protestant because theologically and practically they are not. If Protestantism dies so too will the Episcopal Church, not to mention Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, and the like.

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