Generous Orthodoxy  

Sunday, August 02, 2009

The state of the Episcopal Church

Here are some verbatim excerpts from an email recently sent to me by a non-schismatic friend--the rector of a church that thrives for reasons that can be deduced from what he says:

It seems to me so sad that so many cannot see the crisis that the church is in. Right now we are in Newport, RI and have just learned that [St George's church] has now closed. Another grand church started and built by the Brown family is down to nothing and probably can't continue much more, and of all things the great historic Trinity Church in Newport, has just been told by their interim Rector that they must suspend their search for a new Rector and organist until they figure out how to pay for them both. He told them that everything is "on the table" including closing down and giving the property to the Preservation Society, to merging with another church. Some of this is a radical shift in demographics and the total secularization of society [in New England].

But interestingly enough, an "evangelical" church has bought the [St George's] building... and the congregation seems to be thriving. Somehow there is a whole level of leadership in the [Episcopal] church that refuses to see the crisis we are in. There is a huge theological crisis of course (it is not primarily, in my view, a crisis of about sexuality but a crisis of theology).

In a second email he continues, as follows:

The problem, as I have described it to many, is that so many leaders of the Episcopal church sound like Unitarian Universalists. They may not be, but that's how they sound when they argue for inclusivity, etc. It often sounds as if they are saying, "we need to be inclusive in spite of the Gospel," when what they should be saying is, "we need to be inclusive because of the the Gospel." And then to "flesh that out." It seems that they just don't know how to say that, or (as is my suspicion) they do not believe the Gospel is sufficiently inclusive.

The UU analogy has been helpful to me. To be able to say, "Yes, the church is called to inclusivity, called to openness, called to justice. But I am not a Unitarian Universalist and I don't want to be a part of a church that is." Of course I have deep respect for UU fellowships and the mighty work that they do. I'm just not one and I don't want my church to be one. I've recently had a number of young people come to [our church] who have been "lightly" attending the big (very conservative) Baptist church in town. They are comfortable with much that is said at the Baptist church but they are not comfortable with the constant railing, and demonizing of homosexuals, and the side-lining of women, etc. So they have come to [our church]. But they would not stick around if the Gospel was not proclaimed here.

He concludes:

My point: The Episcopal Church would be on fire if we faithfully proclaimed the Gospel in this new age. The Gospel is timeless.