Bishop Stacy Sauls, Chief Operating Officer of the Episcopal Church, wrote to the Wall Street Journal in response to an op-ed that appeared in that paper called "What Ails the Episcopalians?"
Space does not permit a correction of the numerous factual points I could dispute in Jay Akasie's "What Ails the Episcopalians" (Houses of Worship, July 13). Instead, I offer a spiritual correction.
The church has been captive to the dominant culture, which has rewarded it with power, privilege and prestige for a long, long time. The Episcopal Church is now liberating itself from that, and as the author correctly notes, paying the price. I hardly see paying the price as what ails us. I see it as what it means to be a follower of Jesus.
Many years ago when I was a parish priest in Savannah, a local politician and disaffected Episcopalian began a conversation with me. In that case the subject was homosexuality. It could have been any of the things mentioned last week as our ailments. "I just think the church should not be governed by the culture," he said. I replied that I agreed with him, but that "I just hadn't noticed that the culture was all that hospitable toward gay people." He stammered. "Well, maybe not here in Georgia."
The Episcopal Church is on record as standing by those the culture marginalizes whether that be nonwhite people, female people or gay people. The author calls that political correctness hostile to tradition.
I call it profoundly countercultural but hardly untraditional. In fact, it is deeply true to the tradition of Jesus, Jesus who offended the "traditionalists" of his own day, Jesus who was known to associate with the less than desirable, Jesus who told his followers to seek him among the poor. It is deeply true to the tradition of the Apostle Paul who decried human barriers of race, sex, or status (Galatians 3:28).
What ails the Episcopalians is that this once most-established class of American Christianity is taking the risk to be radically true to its tradition. There is a price to be paid for that. There is also a promise of abundant life in it.
Bishop Stacy F. Sauls
Chief Operating Officer
The Episcopal Church