Dan Edwards, the bishop of Nevada, has written a blog post exploring the relationship between the Episcopal Church, and romantic individualism, especially as it relates to the perennial question of the church’s future.
Bp. Edwards examines the history of the church. He contends that, in many ways, the structures of the church ask us to give up some of our own ego to participate and learn from a greater whole, whereas the secular world of romantic individualism does not ask us to suppress the ego at all.
So here is the question: are we willing to be part of a community if that means bending our will so we can accomplish things together? Does bending our will diminish us, make us less – or are we something larger than our will, so that giving up our will might be a way to grow. Might submission to the God’s Church, the Body of Christ, be an exercise in submitting to God? And might submitting to God be how we most genuinely pray, “Thy kingdom come”?
I am not sure the Episcopal Church is possible in an era of Romantic Individualism. But it may well be that Romantic Individualism makes the Episcopal Church necessary. Romantic Individualism may be the disease for which the Church is the cure. Christianity along with Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and most of the name brand world religions, regards our ego, our self-will, as the problem to be overcome through religious practice. “I have become a great problem to myself,” St. Augustine said, explaining his decision to embrace Christianity. To choose Christ was to give himself away. Paul said, “Have the same mind in you that was in Christ Jesus, who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant . . . . . Do nothing from ambition or conceit but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians) “Be filled with the Spirit . . . submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5: 18-21)
The whole in-depth article is here and is well worth a read.