Faith Matters: Rebooting The Episcopal Church?
Published on: May 16, 2010
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  • K2K

    Mr. Mead, surely you are aware of the fracture of Anglican England over the prospect of the first female (not lesbian) bishop in Britain?

    “A Canterbury Tale:The battle within the Church of England to allow women to be bishops.
    by Jane Kramer

    At least today’s Anglicans and Episcopalians are avoiding actual bloodshed. I can not quite remember the confessional issue that led to the Thirty Years War in 18th century pre-unified Germany, and the death of one third of the populations.

  • WigWag

    Sadly, nothing breeds hatred as much as religious schisms and it’s true for all religions. The faithful are always far more furious at those they consider apostates then they are to followers of other religious traditions.

    It’s not just members of different branches of the Anglican Communion who have opposing views about the ordination of homosexuals and women. We see the same type of anger between other co-religionists like the Sunni and Shia or between ultraorthodox Jews and their less devout brethren.

    In Jerusalem just tonight, the Haredim are rioting because of a decision made by the government at the insistence of more moderate Jews to build an addition to a hospital in Ashkelon that the Haredim claim is being built on an ancient Jewish burial site. Most secular Jews think the Haredim are crazy.

    Surely WRM could feel the hostility between the various Christian sects during his recent visit to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. At the site where Jesus was crucified, the Eastern Orthodox, Armenian Apostolic, Roman Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox and Syriac Orthodox Churches coexist in an extraordinarily uncomfortable relationship that frequently leads to misunderstanding and even to violence.

    Whether it was the 30 Years War between Catholic and Protestant antagonists, the Spanish Inquisition directed against Jewish and Muslim conversos who the church feared were not sufficiently catholic, or the war between Imam Husayn and Shimr Ibn Thil-Jawshan at Karbala, religious disagreements have always been particularly harrowing. It is especially emotional when both sides are absolutely convinced that their adversaries are guilty of blasphemy.

    While we may have learned to avoid solving these disputes through violence, the same intense emotions govern modern version of these disputes as prevailed in the past.

    I hope that the Episcopalians can arrive at an amiable solution to their disagreements.

  • As an observant Jew, I generally refrain from commenting on fights in which I have no dog. However, Mr. Mead has just returned from Israel, and his several postings impressed me with his understanding of both Israel and Jews. Based on inferences I drew from several passages, he seemed to have been in contact with Jews of the orthodox persuasion.

    It is for these reasons that I would like to pose a question: to what extent is the Gospel considered Holy Writ? What I mean is that given Paul’s strictures, coupled with several millennia of exegesis, how could the Episcopalian Church, after “reflection and discussion” come to a different conclusion without diminishing the Writ’s holiness?

    Reform and Conservative Judaism have grappled with the same question and with the same result: degrade the Writ and achieve the desired result.

    I have always deemed the general trend of “official” Episcopalianism as tracking that of Reform Judaism (or vice-versa, if you prefer): the apparent transformation of a religion (an agreed upon scriptural canon and rituals, shared myths, defined notions of G-d, and so forth) into a socio-political movement in which the “works” required for salvation are re-written along the lines of commitments to fuzzy-friendly social justice. In short, one’s own behavioral ugliness becomes less important than a commitment to the cause de jour.

    No repentance (teshuvah, if you prefer) required; donations to NARAL or the ACLU will suffice to wash away one’s sins.

    Something like this may be in store for liberal versions of Judaism. Do you see a similar future for Episcopalianism?

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  • andrewdb

    You write “the Episcopal insistence that all the world should march to the beat of an American drum and an American timetable on this issue.”

    Having followed this issue rather closely for some time, I do not recall how or when the US church has required that others consecrate openly (ie, honest) gay bishops. When did this occur?

    I do recall that this issue has been studied by the US church for several decades now, and that the Canadian, NZ and English churches aren’t all that far behind the US on this subject.

  • The Episcopal Church lost its soul in the 1970s when the bishops forced the new, red, heathen prayer book on the unwilling parishes. It was force worthy of a totalitarian government.

  • Luke Lea

    Two views on the decline of the wasps:

    “Episcopalians were disproportionately influential in the expansion of opportunity and justice in the United States and the world in the not too distant past. Theologically, intellectually, politically, we provided this country with some of its greatest leadership. ” Walter Russell Mead


    “A crisis has developed in modern America largely because of the White-Anglo-Saxon Protestant establishment’s unwillingness, or
    inability, to share and improve its upper-class traditions by continuously absorbing talented and distinguished members of minority groups into its privileged ranks.” Robert Frank in WSJ

    I think the second writer got it backwards.

  • M. Perkins

    “…without harm to Christian faith and morals.”

    I’m sorry that you’ve reached this point without awareness of the teaching of Jesus Christ on sexual immorality (porneia) and marriage. We all fall short and have need of repentence. The Episcopal Church teaches otherwise.

  • Rev. Byron Westbrook

    I can’t help thinking the Episcopal leadership’s “accelerated” approach is driven by their numerical decline (and of course, vice versa). The demographics say their time is short, and they know it. So full speed ahead with what the leadership thinks is right. Short-term consequences in the pews, or even in the broader culture, are of lesser import, when extinction seems inevitable. A bit of kamikaze thinking, I’m afraid.

  • Richard Aubrey

    Agree with Rev. Westbrook.
    When discussing the decline in membership, including the low birthrate among Episcopalians, Jefferts-Schori remarked that Episcopalians were attempting to be good stewards of the Earth by reducing their impact.
    Sort of a feature of extinction, not a bug.
    Failing to consider that the future belongs to those who show up for it and that won’t be the Piskies.

  • John Rogers

    My parish in Massachusetts is a microcosm of the larger problems in ECUSA. The rector is constantly jetting off to Africa to right some injustice, or starting a school for underprivileged girls in a neighboring and less well-off town — all noble ventures — but he is notorious for not even knowing the names of the members of his parish, and he is nowhere to be found when members of his parish are sick or in need of spiritual comfort.

  • ameryx

    Mr. Mead, if you have a criticism to make against the bishops of the Global South, then make it. It is cowardly to say that the Nigerians don’t have clean hands, then to decline to elaborate. You leave the charge unanswerable. Shame on you.
    And why the focus on sub-Saharan Africa, and Nigeria specifically? Are you unaware of the Anglican bishops from Asia and Latin America who have expressed concern about the direction of TECUSA? But then, perhaps you are simply a racist.

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  • The Rev. Phil Snyder

    This is actually a rather well balanced article. I am a Deacon in the Episcopal Church and I strongly oppose the ordination of anyone involved in sexual relationships outside of marriage. I also oppose “blessing” those engaged in such relationships.

    Now, I am willing to be persuaded that blessing same sex unions is closer to God’s revelation in Holy Scripture, but I need to be shown the evidence in Holy Scripture. Every argument that I have heard supporting the blessing of same sex unions starts out assuming that they are blessed and moves on from there.

    The Episcopal Church does need a re-boot and I believe that it will happen eventually. God often lets His Church fall into secular thinking only to recall it to Himself.

  • Bob Engler

    Sexual immorality extends well beyond the homosexual behavior. He’ing and She’ing outside the covenant bond of marriage is every bit as immoral as any of the permutations that are celebrated amongst our other-oriented brothers and sisters. As a survivor of the Episcopal Church, I believe its dissolution began when it began peeling God’s sovereignty off of His love for all His children so it could replace the Gospel of Salvation with its own gospel of love.

  • Danny

    Mr. Mead,
    I deliberately did not read several of your difficult pararaphs…just as you have the New Testament.

  • aggy

    “…all sides are turning cultural preferences and habits into religious mandates without an adequately critical theological examination of their own biases.”

    Only someone who had not been paying attention over the last twenty years could say this. Both sides know perfectly well the theological stakes, and are well aware of the arguments about culture. The conservative arguments about homosexuality are based in scriptural teachings about marriage and what marriage represents and means, and two thousand years of theological tradition. It has absolutely nothing to do with culture. The same cannot be truly said about the liberal position on this issue, which openly admits at this point that cultural pressures are part of the change in theology. They may think those pressures are in line with the spirit of the New Testament, but most Anglicans actually disagree.

  • R.C.

    No, no, no.

    We are adults here. We ought to exercise the tough-mindedness to which adults are obligated.

    That is: We ought to have the courage to ask the question: “What is true?” and, having established that, only as a secondary concern, ponder the question “How may I act on the truth most charitably?”

    That is integral to human maturity: One must not believe or say that X is true except because it is. Believing or saying that X is true because it is uncontroversial and is easily phrased in a gentle fashion is, simply, a sin. Doing it in important matters is what 1st John calls “a sin which leads to [spiritual] death.” It is hell’s work.

    So: What is true?

    In this case: Is it true that, according to God, homosexual relations are a perversion of His plan for sex?

    The answer is “Yes.” We arrive at that conclusion by a reductio ad absurdum: To say that it isn’t is to say not only that the Apostles cannot teach authoritatively about sexual morals, but neither can any other Christians for one thousand nine hundred years (!), or about 95% of the history of Christianity. (More, if you include Judaism’s history before Christ.) If that were true, Christian truth is utterly unknowable by Christians: You might as well hang it up and say, “For all we know, it’s the Wiccans who are most reliably preaching the faith once for all delivered…well, not, apparently, to the apostles, but presumably to somebody.”

    We should not be surprised that this is a shocking conclusion for us: Our civilization in our era is insane on matters of sex to a degree that few others ever have been. All societies and eras have moral blind-spots; there is ample reason to suspect that this is ours. In such a case it would be surprising if God’s sexual code did NOT run far afoul of our own notions.

    The question, then, is do we presume to instruct God about sexual morality, or allow Him to instruct us?

    In short, it is, as usual, our PRIDE which is messing with us. Best to swallow it, bend the knee, and repent.

    After that, the question of the excommunication of Robinson, Glasspool, and other moral heretics comes easily. It is the adult, mature, thing to do.

    It is of course not necessary that it be done harshly: One can correct a Christian brother gently without failing to correct him. One can remonstrate without reviling.

    These poor souls were taken in by the silly, philosophically untenable moral relativism of their era. They have fallen into a narrow-minded parochialism which lacks sufficient historical perspective to see beyond the myopia which is peculiar to their western culture in the tiny slice of history represented by the last fifty years.

    They are probably partly at fault: It is easier to be taken in by such error when it happens to excuse one’s own hardest-to-fight sins. (Just ask a Southern American slaveowner in 1845.) But we need not treat them as devils: Just as fellow sinners called (like the rest of us) to repentance.

    And if they heed that call, the salvation of their souls may result.

    And isn’t that the most important thing, anyway? I mean, let’s keep this in perspective: The United States of America, the Episcopal Church…these are human institutions. It is vanishingly unlikely that they will last another thousand years.

    But Mary Glasspool? She will either celebrate her seven hundred fifty millionth birthday at table with Jesus Christ, one small subordinate celebration in the eternal wedding feast of the Lamb, or…she won’t.

    Taking the long view, any step by us which leads her closer to Christ is of greatest importance. The Episcopal Church and Anglican communion? They’re so much dust. Mary Glasspool is where our decisions have eternal consequences.

    So let us be tough-minded. Let us face the truth first, and then ask how to deliver the truth in a charitable and winsome way.

  • It’s also impossible to avoid the reflection that the [U.S.] Episcopal church is unilaterally imposing its own vision of the church on a worldwide communion.

    This is very similar to the attitude of American Catholics, particularly the bishops’ conference, to the worldwide Catholic Church: “That Pope fella there needs to listen to US, not that silly glowing pigeon.”

    The only thing that’s prevented the Catholic Church in the U.S. from fracturing is that all bishops are ultimately appointed by that Pope fella.

  • Jeffersonian

    I agree with ameryx: This “pox on both your houses” approach is lazy and the focus on the African churches is intellectually dishonest. Leaders of Anglican provinces in Asia, Latin America, Caribbean and the Middle East have been no less critical of TEC and the ACoC.

    And really, “the beginning of the end??” Please. That milestone was passed decades ago with the Pike, Righter and Spong debacles. We’re in the logical denouement now, with TEC openly embracing heresy and sin from the very top of the organization. Parishes are leaving or collapsing, as are entire dioceses. The end is near for this dirty and apostate “church.”

  • Judith L

    Meanwhile, we “pew potatoes are left with no real home. Being a communicant of The Church of What’s Happening is meaningless. Finding another church with the balance and, let’s be honest, aesthetic values, of the Episcopal Church of earlier days is a non-starter.

  • TMink

    I am less worried about what the various denominations think about the ordination of gay clergy than I am interested in what Scripture teaches. If you read the first two chapters of Romans, that question is settled.

    The next question is whether or not the denominations choose to obey Scripture or sin. Denominations who stray into heresey will reap the rewards of opposing God Allmighty. Good luck to ya!


  • chuckb

    I have spent the last 40 years of my life in the wilderness, so to speak. I stopped paying attention to God when I was 14. My wife, who is very devout, has shown great patience with me in this respect. For the last 12 years, since the difficult birth of my youngest daughter, I have been trying to find God, so far unsuccessfully. The point of this is that in following the travails of the mainstream church’s attempts to adapt themselves to the perceived needs of their parishioners and the arrogant and deeply self-centered attitudes of the clergy, I have found it to be increasingly difficult to view the Christian faith as a worthwhile goal. The current state of the Anglican churches seems to me to be representative of all that’s wrong with Christianity.
    My question is: Why would God allow His church to fall into this state? If the Bible is the true Word of God then why are so many people so confused. You’d think that God could do a better job of making his purpose/laws clear.
    What am I missing here?

  • Helen Cook

    I and my family left the Episcopal Church in 2004 after the first gay Bishop ordination AND our local parish doing a calendar in which the older women of the church sat in the pews with their shirts off and nipples just below the pew line. Each month had it’s own naked woman for that months calendar girl, sitting just strategically enough that not all the business was visible. Having debated the ordination and opting to see what our own parish would do, the calendar was the tipping point.

    There is much rotten in the entire church. After having no church home for a year and a half, I broke down and went to the Baptist church my husband grew up in, the one I had told him before we married that I would not go to, too fundamentalist and all. What I found was a preacher who sounded the preachers I had listened to as a kid, one who still believed in the Bible as the word and who made it clear that good works would not get you to heaven. We rarely, rarely miss a Sunday. The youngest child who has been raised firmer in the faith shows that. The two who were raised in the Episcopal church are fairly sure that if God exists he’d really be a nicer guy and not be so intense about not doing things that you really, really want to.

    I miss weekly communion but have come to love the joyful singing and preaching that puts the focus on the word and not on works. The Episcopal church has become little more than a social club full of people are so convinced of the own righteousness that they don’t need God’s.

  • Luke Lea

    chuckb asks, “My question is: Why would God allow His church to fall into this state?”

    How about because it has already accomplished its mission? Check out reform Judaism.

  • Bob

    It is tragic how the word “love” has been redefined to be essentially actions and words which make another feel good. Rather than confronting someone who is sinning greviously, many in the church would rather affirm them in their sin. Are we more good than God? God condemns all kinds of sexual sin. (Indeed, it was one of the 33 different sins in the Old Testament which carried the death penalty.) Did God need to get with the program? Did He need to become enlightened? Where once we fell on our knees before Him and cried “have mercy on me a sinner” now we think we can grade God’s papers? “Paul was wrong about A”, “Jesus didn’t quite understand B”, and so on. How arrogant.

    I agree that the church is in great need of revival. I agree that those in the church who laud their own righteousness over unbelievers are a big part of the problem. The solution, however, is not to swing the other way (no pun intended) and embrace open sin so that we look as “tolerant and loving” as the world.

  • deek

    “And those who criticize this step most bitterly need to reflect that earlier steps to desegregate Episcopal churches and ordain African Americans were once bitterly fought as well.”

    I don’t recall having some sort of color to one’s skin as being a sin expressly stated in the New Testament do you?


    People leaving in droves and you blame it on bigotry.

  • pep

    Like many people I don’t have any particular animus against gays, and in fact, don’t really see being actively gay as a sin, or at least a very serious sin. But that doesn’t mean that I think it is okay for the bishops to simply change the church to fit their own preferences, any more than it is okay for Supreme Court justices to ignore the constitution and legislate from the bench. This is an exact parallel to what the bishops have done. In both cases, they seem unable to accept that they are not the supreme authority, that there are foundational documents and precepts which they are not entitled to change just because they think it makes them better people.

  • Let’s be honest. The Episcopal Church is filled with apostates and heretics. They have abandoned the traditional faith but insist on staying within the church’s walls for whatever reason.

    If they were honest with who they were, they would just go elsewhere. But heretics usually don’t do that.

    There are parallels with secular government. Why do people stretch the legitimate meaning of the Constitution instead of trying to pass an amendment?

  • Peter

    Episcopalian church is dead.

    Flee from it.

  • As a committed American Jew, I have been reading Mr. Mead’s anguished comments on the decline of the Episcopal Church with great interest. Some of the context is of course quite different but I hear some very familiar notes in the stereotyped opposition between tradition and innovation and the deeper problems caused by a lack of theological seriousness on all sides. Ecumenicism is so important because serious people of faith have much to learn from one another while remaining true to their traditions.

  • John Galt

    “It’s also impossible to avoid the reflection that the [U.S.] Episcopal church is unilaterally imposing its own vision of the church on a worldwide communion.”

    At my former church, it always struck me as ironic that the same people who thought Bush was wrong to semi-unilaterally invade Iraq thought it was perfectly fine for the ECUSA to unilaterally redefine sexual relations without consulting the other countries because, after all, we’re wiser and more noble than the brown people.

    I say “former” because I’m a Baptist now.

  • DoDoGuRu

    Reveal Truth isn’t about being “adult” enough to make “compromises”, and your analogy to black segregation is specious in the extreme.

    Being black hasn’t been a moral error from Moses through Augustine. To compare black Christians to charlatan bishops who want to live in sin is highly demeaning.

  • Michael Bender

    Walter Russell Mead who I admire greatly looks weak and completely confused with how to handle sin when it comes nicely packaged.

    The purpose of the Christian Church is to help all people fight the sin IN THEIR LIFE. And that sin is first, not loving God above all else and second, not loving your neighbor as yourself.

    The sin of the 1960s Episcopal Church was the perpetuation of second class citizenship to its black neighbors. And the sin of 2010 Episcopal Church is the perpetuation and support of the homosexual life style.

  • jgreene

    In my humble opinion there is nothing positive added to human culture by the canonization of the cult of homosexuality.

    While we tolerate the gay lifestyle it is a dead end, and children of gay “relationships” suffer from the confusion of a disfunctional and maladjusted childhood. There is nothing good for children in being a part of this unnatural coupling.

    Live and let live, be kind to others, but do not accept lifestyles that seek to force acceptance of unnatural behavior on other human beings.

    The Episcopal Church has long been moribund, and this will be one of the final nails in the coffin of this “church”.

  • When I was a communicant of the Episcopal church in my 20’s it was heaven on earth. I thought that my time here on would be spent with this wonderful theology and tradition that would sustain me. Then in 1973 the tri-convention voted to start giving money to Puerto Rican terriost groups it was time to leave. When the rest of the NCC blather followed, I did leave. I found the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and have never looked back. I pray for the Episcopal church every day, but as we say here in the south, it ain’t looking to good.

  • “I’ve never been more deeply convinced that the Anglican spirit has something unique and necessary to offer the United States and the world”

    Please explain the unique and necessary thing that the Anglican spirit has to offer the US and the world. And if you accomplish that, please explain what the Anglican spirit is.

  • ameryx

    To chuckb:
    You ask a good question, which deserves a detailed answer. Here is what I believe:
    1. God actually made His laws pretty easy to understand. There are only 10, they don’t run to thousands of pages, and use pretty simple terms.
    2. Just like any group of miscreants looking to get away with something, the human race has expended considerable intellectual resources on misconstruing God’s law. One has to have a certain degree of intelligence to be able to misunderstand.
    3. God has allowed portions of the church to fall into disrepair for the same reason He allowed Adam and Eve to bring all of Nature into a fallen state. For free will to mean anything, actions must have consequences. Note also how many times He had to let Israel lapse into slavery, bondage, exile. One generation would get the point, and turn towards Him, and a couple generations later the bestandbrightest would figure out a way to do just what they pleased, restarting the cycle.

    If you are seeking God, rest assured, He will find you.

  • BLBeamer

    “Episcopalians have the reputation not simply of being theologically liberal, but of not being theologically serious. It is not just that people disagree with conclusions that we have reached; they don’t think we take these matters seriously enough. We have acquired the reputation of being flighty, feather-headed seekers after theological novelty who uncritically import the latest fads of secular culture into our religious doctrine and life.”

    I am not Episcopalian, and that is exactly my view of the American Episcopal church. If not for my friendship and conversations with faithful individual Episcopalians, I would be shocked to discover that Episcopalians cared a whit for Scripture, apostolic teaching, or traditional Biblical morality.

    Thank you, Mr. Mead, for this thought-provoking article.

  • The “Anglican Spirit?” Yes, by all means.

    What was once my American Episcopal Church? I say, “Begone. You are no church.”

    And I say, “Drive it fast to its tomb. This from Jacques.”

  • peter

    So I take it then, that the Episcopal Church no longer considers it a bad thing if I am not actually married to the woman (or man, wouldn’t want to appear sexist) sharing my bed?

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  • chuck

    “Flee from it.”

    “No Place so Sacred from such Fops is barr’d,
    Nor is Paul’s Church more safe than Paul’s Church-yard:
    Nay, fly to Altars; there they’ll talk you dead;
    For Fools rush in where Angels fear to tread.”

  • W. T. Beckett

    Thanks, Mr. Mead, for your comments here and elsewhere on the sad spectacle of The Episcopal Church’s decline. Your views are both insightful and charitable, qualities lacking in TEC leadership these days. I’m a former cradle Episcopalian who left out of dissatisfaction with Church leadership as much as theology, or lack thereof.


  • The issue is between what God would have you do and forcing change on society. We have all witnessed cruelty against effeminite boys. We don’t have to be told that it is bad.

    But the kind of change that is being forced on the church is also bad. It says that homosexuality is morally neutral (in some circles it is veiwed as preferrable) and is very intolerant of anyone who disagrees. A few years back, a local rabbi was ‘outed’ by a local gay activist group. He committed suicide. The response from the activists was that it was an unfortunate consequence of an act that was necessary for the good of society. With a little research, anyone can rattle off dozens of similar stories. I do not view the kind of institutional change we are talking about here as in any way benign. Quite the opposite.

    Stepping up and befriending someone who is cruelly rejected is what God would have us do. Demanding that society change to accomodate a political agenda in the name of compassion is another. We all know where those agendas have led us in the past. They are full of corruption and hypocricy.

  • This topic has me teed off.

    The thing that all these kinds of people (liberal cultural elite) have in common is a low opinion of the commoner who pays the taxes and gives offerings that support their lifestyle. They think, or at least want the world to think, that the common man is a bigot who secretly hates homosexuals, blacks, etc. and needs to be taught.

    Look up the word ‘bigot’ in the dictionary and tell me who the bigot is.

  • Mr Mead,
    I’m the systematic theology professor at the Episcopal Seminary in Austin, and want to offer a bit of critical applause. The sanity you bring to this discussion of the present, past, and future of the Episcopal future is very rare. I completely agree that the question about how one stands on sexual ethics ought to be separate from the question of consecrating gay and lesbian bishops–and also, I would add, from the question of composing same-sex liturgies. I do think though that you are a little too generous regarding earlier generations of Episcopalians. The Niebuhr generation certainly saw itself as bearing the future of western democracy on its back, but this is not necessarily a point in its favor. In fact, today’s church might simply be that one’s heir: just like Niebuhr, today’s church sees itself as enlightened beyond other, non-western nations, and also sees itself as capable of translating the gospel into a modern ethic without any significant theological discernment. The only difference is that the ethic into which we translate the gospel is now social rather than political, since TEC’s political clout has waned over the past half-century to the point of dissolution.

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  • esther

    After much agonizing over the loss of many cherished personal bonds with our parish community, our family made the decision to leave TEC last summer, after General Convention gave tacit permission to bishops to consecrate gay marriages in their diocese.
    Interestingly, while our (female, unmarried) “pastor” usually announces and discusses the business undertaken by recent church conventions, she was strangely silent about this one! Only those of us who read the newspaper knew of the church policy change; others were totally in the dark.
    Evidently, walking between the raindrops is a strategy now being used by some of these parish “leaders” in order to avoid the enrollment consequences of TEC’s flighty permissiveness, while still receiving their annual allowance from the Diocese. They accomplish this by presenting to the public, and to prospective new members, the face of a community non-denominational church (i.e. leaving “Episcopal” out of the church’s name on road signs, such as “St. Joe’s Church” rather than “St. Joe’s Episcopal Church”; and failing to acknowledge our membership in the Diocese of —- on documents such as church bulletins…except on Sundays when the Bishop comes, of course. [material related to particular parish situation deleted — ed.]
    The lack of gravitas is accompanied by a paucity of abstract thinking capacity and spiritual comprehension which transforms calling sinners to repentence into an act of the deepest kind of Christian love. Our pop psychology culture has programmed us to view feelings of guilt as bad. Since guilt is often the initial impetus that pushes one towards the realization of the need to repent, therefore, by this twisted reasoning, repentence is a negative process as well.
    TEC has unfortunately confused the tenets of personal righteousness, including unconditional love, with those of institutional righteousness and moral authority. The church is supposed to be God’s mouthpiece on earth. It is supposed to set the example, to hold up the highest standards of behavior and morality, and to call us to repent and seek salvation.
    Jesus did not say to the adulteress who the people were stoning, “Thy sins are forgiven thee—now, go ahead and continue sleeping around if you still want to.” He said, “Thy sins are forgiven thee, GO THY WAY AND SIN NO MORE.”
    They just don’t get it.

  • Jayne

    Having watched a video of the Consecration of Mary Glasspool last night, I find this discussion interesting and ineffably sad. The comments here call to mind the beautiful Episcopal church I recall from my youth. The Glasspool consecration ceremony, on the other hand, was stunning in its paganism. If this is the current state of the Episcopal church, I’m sorry to tell you that it is post-Christian, which explains why it matters not what Saint Paul taught. How sad.

  • Cailleach

    How wonderful it is to condemn “those nasty homosexuals” – for it keeps us feeling sanctimonious and ever-so-pure. And prevents us from looking at our own sins (those discussed by Jesus of Nazareth, whom we SAY we follow, not Paul of questionable-pedigree). Those interesting things that Jesus said, like Judge not, and “as you do to the least of these,” and caring for those alone and shunned. Never once did Jesus mention homosexuality. Not once. You can look it up.

  • Cailleach

    As the author mentioned, Paul’s complaints seem to have been focused on sexual misconduct like adultery, pedophilia, and treating people as sex OBJECTs rather than as humans with feelings. So… by treating “homosexuals” as objects – as “broken/perverted THINGS” rather than our brothers and sisters .. I just wonder who might be guilty of the sin of porneia?

  • Christian Rideout

    Like many I have wrestled with a desire to accept homosexual relationships as quasi-equal to heterosexual relationship in the church.

    The record of the Gospel, however, does not offer any encouragement. While Old Testament strictures may be dismissed by some, and while Paul’s words have been questioned by some, there is simply nothing in the Gospels to suggest that Jesus Christ would have sanctioned any kind of novel sexuality. While his teachings on divorce are not exactly analogous, it is clear (at least to me) that had he sanctioned any novel sexuality, we would have known about it.

    I come to this conclusion sadly. I wish it were otherwise. But I am not about to wish it into believing otherwise.

  • Byron Estes

    Since it doesn’t appear that any gay episcopalians have commented here, let me just say that I am extremely proud and happy that the Church has finally seen fit to accept and give full support to folks born gay like myself. We feel the movement of the spirit and a great lifting of the weight of ages of prejudice, from Paul – and from Moses in some of those nasty statements in Leviticus. Heck no, I won’t be eating any shell fish anytime soon – dear Lord! I only wish I could reach out to the Africans and others who would condemn gay people so harshly. It is so ironic that African cultures that historically accepted their gay members before colonialism set in are now some of the harshest critics of folks like me. In any case, thank you Bishop Katherine and those pioneers who could see through the prejudice to God’s love. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  • The “beginning of the end” wasn’t the consecration of Mary Glasspool, as ill-advised as this event was in light of the Episcopal Church’s relationship to the greater Anglican Communion. Nor was it the 2004 consecration of Gene Robinson, nor the irregular ordination in 1974 of the “Philadelphia 11” — the first female priests.

    These events that have shattered the Church are the consequence of one event, generally unremarked in most discussions of the decline of the Episcopal Church. This pivotal moment occurred with the revision of our liturgy. Tinkering with this great work began in the 1960s and continues apace today.

    Trial-balloon liturgies were floated in parish churches throughout the 1960s and ‘70s to soften up communicants for the 1979 Prayer Book, in which the language shifted the emphasis from God-centered to human-centered.

    Today, most of the Episcopal Church uses the 1979 or even more radical departures from the classic 1928 Book of Common Prayer (BCP), the most recent of a series of scripture-based BCPs originating with Thomas Cranmer’s 1549 text. We can give thanks that the 1928 BCP is alive and well and, according to a Gallup Poll and informal polls, preferred by 85 percent of church members.

    Mr. Mead’s “difference between excellence and mediocrity” is best illustrated by comparing the traditional liturgy in the classic 1928 Book of Common Prayer with the trendy revisions of the 1979 Prayer Book and the verbose, impulsive, emotional, and largely uninformed rites cobbled together since.

    When the 1979 General Convention supplanted the 1928 BCP with Rite I and Rite II, it effectively changed the religion. Altered text in The Consecrating of Bishops eased the way for today’s inclusiveness.

    Other examples include changes in the Creeds and Holy Baptism. Compare the Nicene Creed in the 1928 BCP with the 1979 version to see how Christ has been neatly excised from the Holy Trinity. Words have meaning; the 1979 and later versions imply that He was not necessarily the Son of God. This is the key revision. If we can’t believe that Christ is truly the Son of God, it follows that we can’t believe anything else in Christian doctrine. Take a look at the “Baptismal Covenant,” which didn’t exist until the social justice crowd came along and pasted it into the service of Holy Baptism.

    These are just a few of the verbal manipulations that have shifted the focus of our religion away from Christianity toward a diminished unbelief system where “all things are permissible.”

    Jan Mahood
    Executive Vice-President
    Episcopalians for Traditional Faith (ETF)

  • Nathan

    This article finally helped me crystallize how I feel about the state of things in our church. I am totally for gay people being ordained and made bishops I just don’t like the way the church went about it. These things should take a while to iron out, be thoughtfully constructed over the period of a decade of more in a scholarly manner. This all seems so rushed.

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  • esther

    This is for Byron, although late in coming. Byron, we who are speaking up about official sanctions of the institutional church, love you and all gay members, in the same way that we love one another in spite of all of our several sins, major and minor! As Paul taught truthfully: “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

    But ask yourself: If a church teaches that premarital sex is a sin, does that mean that it “hates” teens who engage in it and/or become pregnant? If the Church teaches that to [commit crimes] is against the commandments, does that make the church intolerant? Why do we “confess our sins to Almighty God” prior to receiving the Eucharist? Is the Church being judgemental by including this practice in the BCP?

    You (and several others) are confusing the obligations that we as individual Christians have towards one another vs. the institutional responsibility that the Church has to call its members to become more like Christ, and to show us the roadmap to do that. Jesus showed people unconditional love, but that did not stop him from calling them to repentence, which is also an act of love. This is what the Episcopal leadership has lost sight of, and we, its parishioners, are the poorer in spiritual strength and personal growth because of it.

    Love comes in many forms, some of them are tougher to practice than others. As a parent, it would be much easier in the short run for me to just allow my kids to behave any way they wish, and not teach them right from wrong, just tell them I love and accept them. Or say to myself, “Well, I did that [wrong act], so I’m being hypocritical if I try to teach them otherwise.” But that’s a cheap, easy kind of love, and it robs them of a structure for developing their own internal compass. This is what I feel the EC has done to its people, and it’s why I and many others are leaving.

    If we truly believe that “God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow”, then why would we believe that His will and his plan for us would change according to our human cultural norms?

    Contrary to liberal popular belief, those of us who discuss these issues do not believe that we are without sin. Au contraire, perhaps it is our awareness of our sinful nature that causes us to yearn for a church that helps us and our families to apply Christ’s teachings in our daily lives. We want to overcome our weaknesses, to understand the scriptures, to be better spouses, parents, neighbors, children, citizens; to grow as people and as children of God; and to be a part of community that has the same aspirations.

    God be with you in your journey.

  • SmumeBusmig

    Hello. And Bye.

  • If only the bishops and the Presiding Bishop and those with power and influence would listen to Esther and Jan Mahood. Esther and Jan nailed many nails hard into some very necessary planks. We, I think, most Episcopalians, miss worship that was transendant, reverent and beautiful. Read Bishop John Charles Ryle, Bishop of Liverpool, on the necessity of private judgment and you will see we are lossing lots of steam on issues on which Scripture has very little to say and on which most of us could make up our own minds with a little help from a vicar or a friend. Let the Church get back to important business, not being trendy and leading sexual revolutions. Give us the 1928 or 1662 BCP and the Authorized King James Bible, expository preaching and reverence in worship again. So much of Sunday worship now is pedestrian and long. Remember Cranmer’s brief epistle and gospel selections that were right to the point. Last Sunday in an Episcopal Church there were three long lessons and a psalter selection that were so pedestrian that I would have welcomed an essay by a 5th grader. We lost our way, our good taste and sound judgment. Can we be saved? Has our candlestick been removed?

  • Thank you for helping out, superb info. “The health of nations is more important than the wealth of nations.” by Will Durant.

  • Boy

    I suscept the Episcopal youth are being honest because this looks like a true reflection of what has been taught in our parish. I call it “unhealthy doubt.” It doesn’t sell the Good News.

  • It strikes me that there is much tarring with the same brush. Jesus simply taught “Follow Me” The complex circumstances that drives a person to be gay should always be kept in mind and it is for the Holy Spirit to convict of sin. The church has become judgmental over the century’s and it was never the function as intended by Christ. If the Church were as Holy as it should be then the sinner could find repentance.

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