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Episcopalians have it easy?

Episcopalians have it easy?

In her blog, Theology on the Ground, the Reverend Janine Schenone, priest at All Saints Church in Pasadena, California, takes on the assertion that “liberal mainline churches like the Episcopal Church” are losing membership because they have taken the easy road, theologically. Schenone, who left the Catholic Church for the Episcopal Church, makes the argument against “Christianity Lite”:

I have never found Christianity more demanding of me than in the Episcopal Church. And it’s precisely because the Episcopal Church does not embrace many absolutist statements, but rather requires me and other followers of Jesus to pray, worship, study, and serve to figure out what the heck God requires of us in a given moment.

…In the Episcopal Church, I completed the four-year Education for Ministry course (a seminary-like curriculum of Bible, history, and theology for laypeople). In the Episcopal Church, I have routinely worshipped alongside people who did not all agree with one another, and this has required me to practice deep listening, peacemaking and conflict resolution and has reminded me to remain humble about my own positions on matters…

The governance of my church demands that I discern frequently about who our leaders should be and what we should permit or not permit. As a result, I have had impassioned discussions with fellow Christians about whether anyone should be allowed to take Communion at our Eucharist services, or whether only baptized Christians should be allowed. I’ve debated others about bishop candidates, same-sex marriage, and divestment from fossil fuels.  In other denominations, I would have no say in these matters…

We do have existing standards and practices in the Episcopal Church, and we say our faith and practice rest upon the Creeds and the confluence of Scripture, tradition, and reason. Still, those are three mighty rivers to navigate, and they often are turbulent.

Schenone stresses the importance of reverence and love in the Episcopal faith: not only to the sacraments and the liturgy and the scripture, but “toward those who oppose me and to defend the rights of the marginalized.”

What are your thoughts? Have you been in her place, defending the “non-liteness” of the Episcopal Church? What aspects of the Episcopal faith are difficult? Is there a connection between “lite” religion and the decline in Protestant churches?

Posted by Cara Ellen Modisett


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Harry M. Merryman

Reading much of the commentary here makes me wonder why folks would want to be members of a Church that is arrogant, rudderless, embraces privilege and self-satisfaction, is insufficiently devoted to promoting knowledge and learning, is ineffective at serving the poor and marginalized, and is “. . . not . . . robust . . . [in] addressing the major injustices of our day.” Perhaps there is another denomination that is doing a better job.

One suspects that the expressed frustrations reflect an unexamined projection on the institution of perceived personal powerlessness and guilt in the face of widespread ignorance, injustice, privilege, and oppression.

I suggest another way of construing the Church’s role, contrary to what has been implied: it is the Church’s primary task and function to develop Christ-consciousness among the faithful. IMO, the commentary suggests that TEC has actually done a reasonable job in promoting Christ-consciousness, since the commentary seems to reflect a set of sensibilities that were nurtured by the very institution being criticized. To hold the Church responsible for addressing arrogance, rudderlessness, injustice, etc., seems a bit of a cop out to me. It is each of us, in our daily lives, who are called to confront these evils based on what we have discerned to be God’s call to us—what I am calling Christ-consciousness.

I do not contend that the Church is without problems or error. But the Jesus in whom I believe did no look to the Church, qua church, to transform the world. He looked to create disciples who would live out the vision of God’s peace, justice, and love in their daily lives. In fact, he sacrificed his life for this vision. AFTER each of us has looked in the mirror and can say that we have done as much, perhaps we can then blame the Church for the persistence of evil. Until then, all the righteous opprobrium seems hollow to me.

Geoff McLarney

Thank you! for countering the “Catholic Lite” meme. We’re full-bodied in the Episcopal Church.

Elaine McDaniel

Fear is why people choose a conservative church; fear of a world that is changing too quickly. Though everything that was mentioned about the Episcopal church is true to a certain extent.
In the world of today we seem to want to force people to become open- minded and accepting instantaneously with no allowances for differences in life experience and upbringing.

Alice Withrow

I think two things have contributed to people’s leaving main stream churches.
1. Jerry Falwell and the moral majority making churches so politically active.
2. Even more, all the emphasis on belief instead of faith is deadly. God is not in your head. The great “I am”. Is in your heart.

JC Fisher

“What aspects of the Episcopal faith are difficult?”

When Christianists spread their bigoted hatred (especially of LGBT people) I frequently here, “Why are you silent?” meaning “Why don’t you STOP them? Why can’t you SILENCE them???” When Christians have as long a history of using FORCE w/ those they disagree with, it becomes difficult to explain that, following Jesus, we CANNOT force anyone to keep silent, no matter how much they foment hate. We can pray, and preach, and protest. But we can’t force anyone to not act hatefully—not and follow Jesus.

JC Fisher

I frequently hear (have I mentioned how much I miss not having a Preview button lately?)

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