Writing for the On Faith section of The Washington Post’s website, Bishop Marianne Budde of the Diocese of Washington says it is time for The Episcopal Church to rediscover the reason for its existence:
I’ve lived with the reality of decline all 25 years of my ordained life. I’ve heard all the reasons why those who disagree with recent positions we’ve taken cite for our demise, and I simply don’t see it. And even if it were true, it wasn’t as if we decided to make these changes on our own. Hard as it is for some to believe, we felt led by God to change, much the same way that others before us felt led by God to change their views on slavery or the subjugation of women, and more recently, on the prohibition of divorce, all of which have biblical justification.
I’ve also listened to our own excuses and rationalizations. “At least we’re not like those other Christians,” we tell ourselves with no small amount of prejudice. And we are quick to point to forces beyond our control. “If only kids weren’t so busy these days,” we lament. “Those Sunday morning soccer games are killing us.”
True enough. But as in our personal lives when we’re faced with challenging situations, what matters isn’t how well we explain the forces beyond our control, but rather how we choose to address the things that we have the power to change.
Contrary to the conservative critique, it isn’t what we’ve changed that is weakening our congregations, but rather what we’ve been unwilling to change. For all our liberal theology and progressive politics, we’ve remained rather stodgy in worship, wedded to unwieldy structures, and resistant to growth. When I ask young people what keeps them from attending church, the answer, predictably, is that it’s boring. And they’re right! But we’re committed to changing that, both in the Diocese of Washington and across the country, so that all our congregations will be vital centers of Christian worship, learning, community, and service.