Judge Gorsuch’s Episcopalianism a concern to conservatives

As we reported previously, Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court, Judge Neal Gorsuch has been attending Episcopal churches for much of his adult life. This has been the source of some concern for conservative Christian leaders, given the Episcopal Church’s more liberal stance on issues such as abortion and equal marriage rights. Gorsuch himself has remained adamant that his personal feelings and beliefs should not be relevant. He feels that judges should interpret the law on the basis of the text, not on their own personal morality. “My personal views, as I hope I have made clear, have nothing to do with the case before me in any case,” he said. “The litigants deserve better than that, the law demands more than that.” Gorsuch was raised Roman Catholic, but has attended Episcopal churches since he married his wife, a member of the Church of England, whom he met while studying at Oxford. As a result, some conservative pundits suspect Gorsuch of being a secret liberal. Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Radio Network, tweeted, “Be advised, Gorsuch attends a church that is rabidly pro-gay, pro-Muslim, pro-green, and anti-Trump.”

While Gorsuch has not expressed an opinion on abortion publically, he is strongly opposed to assisted suicide, having written a book against it in 2006. In it, he said, “all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.” Some conservatives see this as an indication that Gorsuch is a “pro-life” candidate. He has a more straightforward record on religious freedom; he is a staunch advocate for the freedom of members of all religions to practice, having ruled in favor not only of Christian employers wishing to withhold coverage of contraception, but also, for example, in favor of a Muslim prisoner who was being denied Halal food by an Oklahoma prison.

Gorsuch and his family currently attend St. John’s Episcopal Church in Boulder, Colorado. As is to be expected from its location, St John’s seems fairly liberal, although hardly an extreme on the spectrum of Episcopal churches. Both the rector, Rev. Susan Springer, and the congregation speak highly of Gorsuch. “We know Neil as a man of great humility and integrity, one eager to listen and thoughtful in speaking. These qualities are ones we pray all public servants in any leadership role in our country might possess,” said the congregation in a statement they released.

CNN has more details on the mystery of Neil Gorsuch’s religious affiliation and how it may or may not affect his decisions as a Supreme Court justice, should he successfully be confirmed.

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  1. Michael Hartney

    Episcopalianism? Is it really a word that The Episcopal Church would use? I doubt it.

    • Thom Forde

      It may sound awkward but it is acceptable.

  2. Margaret Smist

    Gorsuch was raised Roman Catholic – I read an article where ‘some were surprised that he was described as an Episcopalian.’ Not sure why they would be surprised since he attends an Episcopal Church.

  3. Michael Chase

    Episcopalians can disagree but still stay committed to the faith. This nominee is one who could be open minded.

  4. Shelby Kinkead, Jr.

    There are many conservatives in the Episcopal Church, even though the Clergy is largely liberal. A curious anomaly.

    • David Thompson

      There are people of all political stripes in the Episcopal church, and I’ve met several conservative members of the Episcopal clergy. Really not such an anomaly.

    • Bill Ghrist

      I don’t know of any statistics on this, but here in the Diocese of Pittsburgh the general impression is that the clergy tend to be more conservative than the laity. Of course we have our own unfortunate history (2008) that may have a lot to do with that.

  5. Jay Croft

    “Attendance” and “membership” are not the same thing. Assuming that he was confirmed in the Roman Catholic church, was he formally received into the Episcopal Church?

    • John Coombs

      In response to Jay Croft.
      There is no conversion process for Roman Catholics who wish to be Anglicans. If we was baptized and confirmed as a Roman Catholic all he has to do is start taking communion at his local Anglican church. I think most Roman Catholics who do so probably don’t regard themselves as converts, merely moving to a different part of the Catholic Church.

      • Jay Croft

        I never said “convert.” The bishop uses the words in the last paragraph of BCP p. 418 for reception into the Episcopal Church.

  6. Pat Selwood

    Interesting until I got to the last paragraph. Simple grammatical errors make my hair stand on end when found in respected sources. “How it may or may not AFFECT his”

    • Jay Croft

      The use of “affect” is correct in this paragraph.

  7. Kathy Rooney

    I am an Episcopalian. We run from extremely liberal to extremely conservative, both theologically and socially. Just because a person attends a parish that tends to be more left that doesn’t make them liberal. the converse is true also. While I would probably not support Judge Gorsuch for other reasons, don’t let the fact he attends an Episcopal church be a deciding factor in his qualifications for the Supreme Court. I seem to remember something about “no religious test”. This should go both ways.

  8. ChubbyHuff

    For the approval of future comments, please follow the posted comment policy of using your real first & last names. – ed

    His wife is Anglican. She follows the anti-gay faction of the Episcopalian church so he does also. His views are more tolerant of the rights of the LGBTQs, Muslims, and other minorities that the USA expounds. His views in combination of the rest of SCOTUS will be a good rudder or navigator for the future.

  9. Michael Dyches

    It’s about Time we have a Protestant on the Supreme Court of America. Why are all the other justices either Jewish or Catholic?

    • Jay Croft

      Because that’s whom the various presidents nominated.

  10. leslie marshall

    I admit I was surprised that Judge Gorsuch attended the Episcopal Church, because he is so conservative. But, I know his wife is British, I’m sure they thought it would be a good fit for their family. To me, it just kind of added an interesting twist to him being picked by Trump.

    [I’m very conservative politically, & a very conservative Christian,] –I don’t have any issue about him attending TEC. Why would I?!

    I think it just shows that Conservatives attend TEC, and that TEC welcomes Conservatives. Win/win. I’m very much looking forward to Gorsuch’s time on the Supreme Court, he will be an outstanding Judge.

  11. Debra Maggart

    There are more conservative Episcopalians left in our church than people realize.

    I’m one of them and I’m delighted he is the nominee.

    We should all be proud one of our own has been nominated. He may be very open minded because he is an Episcopalian.

    It is unfortunate these “conservative radio personalities” and evangelicals would make assumptions about his faith – but people these days form opinions from headlines.

  12. John Harte

    The hierarchy of the Episcopal Church is out of touch with the members and with the traditions of the Church itself. Indeed, many of the views expressed from the pulpits and in other settings conflict with both the Bible and long accepted teachings of the church itself.

    I remain a member, but as globalism has replaced belief in American exceptionalism and the teachings of Christ. ( “I am the way, the truth and the light, no one comes to the Father except through me.” ) with a Biblically unsupportable theory that any religion will suffice.

    What has been the result? The Anglican Church of America was formed and thousands followed the 1928 Prayer Book to that haven. Now attendance is described as “bleeding at an alarming rate” (Google attendance at Episcopal Churches).

    My mother used to say “God does not like ugly.” If we were misbehaving. It’s a lesson the Clerics of the American Episcopal Church would do well to consider

    • Jay Croft

      “American exceptionalism?” Do you mean “America first, and the hell with the rest of the world?”

      That’s neither in the Bible nor in the Book of Common Prayer.

      • Norman Hutchinson

        When John Hart, or anyone, puts the words “American Exceptionalism” and “the teachings of Christ” in the same sentence to tie them together it smacks of idoltary. This is a constant danger in this country. Like the early Christians we should learn not to burn a pinch of incense to Caesar.

      • leslie marshall

        No, that’s not what he meant. [Too bad people jumped on that, because he had other important points.]

        …. that TEC has dropped Jesus’ teaching, ‘I am The way, The life, and The truth, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” And he tied the change in teaching to the fact that TEC is closing churches at a rate of 1 per week.

        Even though we’ve moved on to other churches, we’re still sad about it.

      • David Allen

        Of course, there is no evidence that TEC has dropped such teaching, at least not in the parishes in TEC that I have attended. Nor that the strawman that TEC has stopped teaching that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, is connected to why TEC is shrinking. Along with the fact that the Presbyterians, the Southern Baptists, the Lutherans, etc. are also shrinking.

        I find most of what John H wrote to be bizarre.

    • Gregory Orloff

      Mr. Harte, with all due respect, if you are going to quote John 14:6, at least get it right. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” — not “light.” And in the past 2,000 years of Christian history, there have been many different interpretations of just what he meant by that.

    • Patricia Templeton

      American exceptionalism seems to me to be the antithesis of the teachings of Christ.

  13. Kendalle Stock

    I got a kick out of Brian Fischer’s summary of the Episcopal Church in general. Thank you American Family Radio Network. We really need more diviseness in America…. Especially in the church.

  14. Kathleen Walker

    This is an interesting article.

  15. Chris Beukman

    The Church is Episcopal, he is an Episcopalian. He has been attending an Episcopal Church

    • David Allen

      Actually, we have no idea if he considers himself an Episcopalian. But he has been attending an Episcopal parish in Denver. We shall see what transpires if he is confirmed, sworn in and the family moves to the environs of DC.

  16. John Harte

    Let’s put it this way. If being a patriotic American is seen as inconsistent with the teachings of Christ whose hand has led this nation since the days of the Pilgrims, then someone needs to re-read history and the Bible – and it’s not me.

    From my earliest memories, we celebrated America in our Episcopal Sunday Schools and we sang Patriotic songs in Church and talked openly about this being a Christian Nation. We tolerated every religion, but we understood that Christ is the way, the truth and the light. No one comes to the Father except through Him. That precludes the globalist theory that
    any religion, social club or extreme sect will do and we need to stop pretending that it will because we aren’t doing those people who might have enough sense to listen to His words any favors.

    I respectfully decline to believe that the Priests who taught me, sang with me, went to war under our Flag and loved America were wrong.

    The reason the Episcopal Church in this country is dying, and it is dying, is that it is ignoring American values. I’ve been an Episcopalian for 71 years and I’ve never before been ashamed of my church, but their rejection of America in favor of globalism is just plain wrong and it is killing the church I love.

    • Gregory Orloff

      Mr. Harte, there’s nothing inconsistent with loving your country and the values of Christ Jesus — provided you don’t love your country over and above loving God, loving your neighbors, loving your enemies and treating others the same way you want to be treated, as Jesus commanded his followers to do in his gospel message.

      And loving your country does not preclude being honest about its frailties, faults and failings, and pretending that nothing is wrong with it — indeed, true love demands being honest about them and working to heal them.

      To place your country above God or equate it with God is idolatry — worshiping something that is not God.

      Once again, please re-read John 14:6 in your Bible, so you can quote it correctly.

  17. Give me a break. Of the 112 justices of the Supreme Court, 33 have been Episcopalians, the largest percentage of any religion or denomination. Of these, one of the most distinguished was Thurgood Marshall who the Episcopal Church now includes for observance in its liturgical calendar.

    While Gorsuch seems quite conservative for my taste, and his nomination is tainted by Republican politics and nomination by Trump, I suspect, like his Episcopal predecessors on the court and that he transitioned from Roman Catholic to Episcopalian, he might become a good justice.

  18. Jay Croft

    There’s also Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman on SCOTUS.

  19. Mac Hanna

    Attended Presbyterian Church as a pre-teen, baptized Baptist and married into the Episcopal Church. I have found that there are stances of the church with which I disagree. But not to the extent that I will leave my church. I have served as a lay person with both conservative and progressive priests. I found no lack of intellectual stimulus within my church as our congregation is made up of a cross section of political and social views. As for Judge Gorsuch on the SCOTUS, I have neither read, heard or seen anything that indicates that he should not be on the Supreme Court. Were I in the U.S. Senate, I would vote to confirm him. One thing about most Episcopal churches of which I know, their congregants will listen attentively, with all fairness to the various factions before rendering any verdict that might impact the overall decision. I believe most of us believe that this nation should be governed by law rather than men. and that service to mankind is the best work of life. Besides, I believe most of us would prefer mercy for ourselves and justice for others, blessed by grace relying on faith and salvation in Christ. Often times we harbor anger, revenge and resentment which will in the end destroy ourselves, rather than remember the second greatest commandment to love our neighbor as ourselves. May God grant our nation peace and bring us to Him in this silly season that distracts us all.

  20. Paul Powers

    As I recall, Justice Thomas was a Roman Catholic attending an Episcopal Church when he was nominated to SCOTUS.

  21. Robert Button

    I hope he is a legitimate concern to conservatives but I fear in reality he will not disappoint them.

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