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Not interested in leading a boutique church

Not interested in leading a boutique church

The Washington Post interviews The Rt. Rev. Mariann Budde in the first few days of her episcopacy.

…Bright-eyed, string-bean skinny, 52 years old, Budde (pronounced Bud-EE) has the athletic bearing and viselike handshake of your high school lacrosse coach. She is unapologetically liberal, and the way she answers hot-button questions — “I’m in favor of gay marriage, always have been. At this point it’s a no-brainer” — is bracing after decades of public squabbling and tepid rhetoric on such matters from church leaders.

Washington, D.C., one of the largest and most visible dioceses in the country, has not suffered the same radical attrition as elsewhere; still, membership has stagnated for the past 10 years at about 40,000 members in 88 congregations.

“We got so fascinated with ourselves that the world just sped by us,” says Budde. “We’re like a boutique. We’re the most inclusive church in the world that’s the tiniest church in Christendom. .?.?. I’m not interested in being the leader of a boutique church.”

Budde has a reputation for straight talk, but a cradle Episcopalian might wish she were a little less transparent. For at the end of an hour-long conversation in her office, I finally posed the question I’d come to ask. In the last analysis, who really cares if the Episcopal church is headed for extinction? There are all kinds of vital and vibrant religious movements at work in America today. Why does the Episcopal church matter? Budde answered earnestly.

“The complete answer,” she said, “is I don’t know if it matters. Does God really care? But then I realize that I really care. And I think of all the people in my world who also really care. I wouldn’t be a Christian without them.”


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Weiwen Ng

I’m going to answer the Bishop’s last question: I don’t think God cares specifically if the Episcopal Church lives or dies. I don’t think God cares if the Episcopal Church is the smallest or largest Christian denomination in the US. I think that denominational identities are becoming less and less important to younger Christians in general.

If people aren’t sitting in the pews in Episcopal churches, but they are worshiping God in other ways – have we necessarily failed? Maybe we’ve failed to adapt to the ‘marketplace’, maybe we’ve failed to update our music and worship, maybe we’ve failed to adapt our financing models. But have we failed at living God’s word?

Like I said, I don’t think God necessarily cares about the Episcopal church in particular. At least, I think God could easily get along without the Episcopal church, or even without all the mainline Protestant churches. But clearly God cares if God’s work is getting done: feeding the poor, protecting the vulnerable, spreading the good news. Bishop Buddle seems to realize that. That gives me confidence that while the Episcopal Church’s future might look quite different from the present, God’s work is going to get done.


The interview with Bishop Budde and the Houston Chronicle article (featured here a few days ago) about churches and social media should be read by everyone interested in seeing the Episcopal Church survive. We need to step up our game. Being the tiniest church in Christendom is no great honor. If people aren’t sitting in the pews, then we’re failing.

Morris Post


Good for her! And may God bless her work….


I love this quote and couldn’t agree more:

“We got so fascinated with ourselves that the world just sped by us.”

I feel like if many people redirected half as much energy to mission, congregational life, and evangelism as they do debating the minutiae of TEC internal workings on blogs and the HoB/D listserv, the church would reclaim many good leaders and grow.

Of course, it’s not that simple, but it’s a start!

Great choice, Washington!

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