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Get those girls off the altar

Get those girls off the altar

This just in from The Arizona Republic:

Girls no longer will be allowed as altar servers during Mass at the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix, SS. Simon and Jude.

The Rev. John Lankeit, rector of the cathedral, said he made the decision in hopes of promoting the priesthood for males and other religious vocations, such as becoming a nun, for females.

Made up primarily of fifth- through eighth-graders the altar-server corps in American churches has included girls since 1983 in many places. Girls and boys regularly serve together at churches throughout the Phoenix Catholic Diocese.

Rather than discuss the merits of this decision, let’s consider these questions instead: How aggressive should the Episcopal Church be in promoting itself–explicitly–as an alternative to what some of us see as the discriminatory, authoritarian aspects of Roman Catholicism? Do you see many disaffected Catholics in your newcomer programs? What is the best way to reach out to these folks?


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I agree with Eric Funston in the prior comment. When I “crossed the Thames” it wasn’t because I was angry with or disaffected by the Roman Church (don’t get me wrong: That all came later). I left because my husband and I had relocated and couldn’t find another Roman parish in which we felt comfortable and welcome as a gay couple. After learning more about the Episcopal Church I came to the conclusion that I would probably never return to Rome…even if I had the opportunity to do so in an affirming parish like our first one. I discovered that I was more Anglican in my beliefs, especially concerning church structure and governance, than I previously thought.

People’s reasons for swimming the river in either direction vary greatly. If one were able to get an accurate count it would probably be found that there are just as many conservative Anglicans doing the breast stroke in the opposite direction.

Thanks for commenting. Please sign your name next time. ~ed.

Eric Funston

We have seen quite a few disaffected RCs join our congregation in north-central Ohio. However, there is no one common reason for them doing so – their reasons are as personal and varied as those of any new member of this (or any other) tradition. — We have also seen a continuation of a trend I’ve seen in over thirty years of church leadership – that it is easier for Roman Catholics to become inactive than it is for them to completely leave the RC tradition and join a new Christian expression. I’m not sure why this is, but we’ve seen many who explore joining the Episcopal Church (or some other Christian body) only to fall away after a time of testing, not to return to the RC Church but to inactivity. — In any event, I don’t believe that aggressively marketing ourselves as an alternative for disaffected RCs is any sort of “answer”. What we should be concentrate on doing is assertively and actively proclaiming the Gospel (in word and action) as we understand it. If we are authentic in that, we will grow and thrive.


About a third of our congregation is ex-Roman Catholic. However, I’m ambivalent about an aggressive approach to recruiting Roman Catholics. Only if a person is seeking another church do I invite them to our church. Perhaps, I’m too timid, but there it is. The RCs are coming anyway.

June Butler

Cynthia Katsarelis

Adam, our Episcopal parish is growing and the number 1 reason that people are coming is because of our fabulous music program of very traditional music done well. English anthems, 1982 Hymnal. I love LEVAS and wouldn’t mind if we included it, but it’s not in the bones of our current parish, as it was in my last.

The point is that the Episcopal church is not the RC church, we have no “one-size-fits-all” in music. If your parish thrives on contemporary music, great, but if it would drive our parishioners away, then obviously it isn’t right for us.

Frankly, speaking as professional classical musician, not a church musician, Vatican II threw out the baby with the bath water when they unilaterally dumped their excellent musical tradition for guitars and drums.

We’ll keep our Bach, and use their Vittoria and Palestrina, and keep those English anthems, thank you very much. The theology in that music is far better than most of the contemporary stuff (there are exceptions, I just spent a week in Iona where we sang some pretty good, new, stuff). But tastes will vary. Some people want dense theology and quality music, some will connect to music that’s more like the pop music they listen to. Fine, it’s all good until someone claims that “traditional music is keeping people away,” because it isn’t true from where I stand.

Adam Wood

Many liberal Roman Catholics are not going to join an Episcopal church where music is hymns from the 1982 and performance-oriented choral anthems.

I tried to become Episcopalian a couple times before finding an “affirming Anglo-Catholic” parish… which hired me as the Music Director. Since then we’ve had at least one Catholic family join us that I know wouldn’t have if we were doing typical Episcopalian drabbery.

Every Episcopal parish and diocese needs to look at it’s membership and find people who have left other churches for the Episcopal Church. And they need to ask:

Why did you come? How can we get more people like you?

And most importantly: this shouldn’t be about “How do we get more Episcopalians?” (Although that would naturally happen). The point should be: How do we keep these disaffected people from leaving Christianity altogether?

If our marketing/outreach/classes/whatever gets them to stay in their tradition, move to another tradition, or join our own- those things are all to the good.

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