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.”