Episcopalians and Jesus

John Ohmer, Uapologetic Theology writes on how Episcopalians claim "Christian" (or don't).

...One evening during the General Convention in Anaheim, there were five or six of us at the dinner table, enjoying our pre-dinner drinks, and the waiter -- who recognized us as customers the past three or four evenings in a row -- asked, “What convention are you with?”....

One of us said, “The Episcopal Church.”

He said, “Oh, that’s great! We love having you all here… last month there were a bunch of Christians here…”


I know what he was saying: we were fun, we enjoyed our cocktails, we seemed open-minded... heck, almost like regular people.

How sad that in his mind -- as in the minds of many of those in their 20s and 30s -- “fun, regular, expansive, open-minded, joyful” is a contradiction with “Christian.”

His comment touched a nerve with me. Something I’ve noticed over the years is that in many Episcopalians’ reaction against the dour, aggressive, judgmental “religionist” attitudes that we don’t like, we’ve become reluctant to claim the name “Christian” as our own, or to say the name “Jesus” very often, for fear of being tagged as “one of them.”

But as I said in my sermon this past Sunday, the Episcopal Church is just that: a Church.

It’s a community which has Jesus at its center -- it is not a political movement (of the right or of the left) with a specific cause (or enemy) at its center.

Yes, Jesus at our center. I heard someone say at a recent gathering of young clergy: “How could I have gone to church my whole life and not heard about this man Jesus?”

Comments (6)

I will state without hesitancy that deepening my Anglo-Catholic practice with Eucharistic devotion, devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, praying for the Divine Mercy and all the rest has really helped my relationship with Jesus and my fidelity to Him. This and the sheer joy and- if I may-jollity of Anglo-Catholic culture has deepened my faith. It also softens one's heart to pray with images of the Source of Compassion, to unite ones own heart to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, (and for me, the Longing Heart of the Magdalene).

What does this have to do with Episcopal identity? Well, actually, a lot, because Catholic faith and order are our inheritance too. Images touch us on levels beyond the words, but coupled with such verbal gorgeousness as the Prayer Book, the Caroline Divines and all the rest, one can't help but be moved to continual growth in the love and service of the Lord. We must not be afraid to be our unique kind of Christian.

My hometown, Lawton, Oklahoma, had a large pillared building on the main drag called The Christian Church -- an outpost of the Disciples of Christ, as distinguished from the Church of Christ, a very fundamentalist Campbellite offshoot. We also had a small but prominent Congregational Church that staged an annual Easter Sunrise Pageant in the Wichita Mountains. Disciples and Congregational are now part of the United Church of Christ.

We don't know much about Jesus -- twenty or so probably authentic sayings, a biography constructed from references in the Hebrew scriptures. John and Paul's Christ has overshadowed the human Jesus. We seem to be starting fresh nowadays.

'we’ve become reluctant to claim the name “Christian” as our own, or to say the name “Jesus” very often, for fear of being tagged as “one of them.”'

Appropriate the label. Don't let others tell us what "Christian" means. Let us live it proudly, love it, show it.

I don't know what church these people went to, but I was taught all about Jesus from the age of 4, when I went to Sunday School. I was in the Nursery class, and one of the first songs I learned was "Jesus Loves Me". Every Sunday from then on, I learned more and more about Jesus. And way back then, we didn't get Confirmed unless we knew everything the rector felt we should know. We had to go to Sunday School on Sunday, Confirmation class on Wednesday, and be at the church every Saturday morning to do service.

And at the age of 61, with an M.A. in Theology, I'm still learning :)

One little correction to Murdoch Matthew's statement. The Disciples of Christ are not a part of the United Church of Christ but are in full communion. As a graduate of a Disciple Seminary (Brite Divinity School (Go Horned Frogs)) I think they will take back my diploma or something if I did not correct.

Thanks, Rob. The things we know that ain't so . . .

My dad was baptized in the Christian church in Randlett, Oklahoma, at about age 18. He spent his adulthood excoriating the Baptist deacons of my mother's church as hypocrites and exploiters of the poor. We lived next door to Ft. Sill and the civic industry was separating the soldiers from their pay checks every month. Sell them furniture, cars, repossess, sell again. Dad was a very moral man and never attended church.

Randlett is now a tract of houses suburban to Burkburnet, Texas, across the river, but nothing is left of the town where my grandmother lived next door to the Methodist church. Buildings on main street were falling down when I knew it. The Matthew family farm five miles north of town, where my dad and his eight siblings were raised, is no longer occupied. The pond is dry. Most of the folk who gathered there over the years are in Walters Cemetery.

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