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Why should there be an Episcopal Church?

Why should there be an Episcopal Church?

Another comment from a previous post piqued our interest: the writer asks why there should be an Episcopal Church, what defines us, and what would be missing if we were gone?

Mark Preece wrote:

A question that needs to be asked at some point along the way is, “why should there be an Episcopal Church at all? What does it bring to the table?”

For at least part of its history, TEC has been defined by its commitment to liturgy and liturgical reform. I’m not suggesting this has to continue, but if it’s really all about figuring out what works (perhaps on a local level) and doing that, then what makes us different from any other mainline


This isn’t a rhetorical argument, it’s an honest question. Obviously, I have some sort of answer to this question in my own heart, or else I wouldn’t still be an Episcopalian. But it’s hard to say exactly what that answer is. Some sort of “sensibility,” I suppose.

At the last church I served as rector, a suburban parish with a ministry to families, I’d say at least half our new members at some point asked me, “so what’s the Episcopal Church?” They hadn’t come into our doors because they were Episcopalians looking for a church, but because they were mainline protestants or former Roman Catholics, and our church looked inviting and was convenient. If they moved to a new town, they might look at the Episcopal church first because they had a good experience with us, but if they didn’t like it they’d try the Lutherans or the Methodists or somebody convenient and inviting. I really wonder whether many denominations need to survive in the long term.

Now, many of us would say we’re Episcopalians because of its sacramental teaching (but I grew up in a church where one Communion a month was the national norm), or its openness to intellectual inquiry (but are we really so different from others in this nowadays?), or some other facet of the church’s current self identification that appeals to us. When I was growing up, the most honest (if brutal) truth might have been that we served the ruling/wealthy class in town, or were the “Republican Party at prayer.” We’ve made the transition from there to where we are now following the common thread of a BCP (not without struggle and loss, of course). If not the BCP, though, what? And, before we can answer that, why?

So what makes us different? What is the place and role of the Episcopal Church in this wider world we call The Church?


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Josh Magda


Not at all, that wasn’t what I was implying. I was relaying the experience a friend of mine has had with an Anglican tradition that is more conservative than TEC. I think we are all different and need different things, and I think everyone has a right to be happy and experience God in a way that is meaningful for them.

Chris Arnold

Josh Magda wrote, “As an aside, I have a conservative evangelical friend who is very happy in one of the new continuing Anglican churches, in a very dynamic parish. Just something to consider.”

The Episcopal Church: love it or leave it?


given (a) the many people I know who have…

I’m sure we all wish that, like a math problem, we could just could count up the largest number, and that would be that.

But beyond the fact that some COME for the SAME reasons that others LEAVE, we ultimately inherit a Tradition where all but a few fled the cross “when the going got tough” (and the leaders of the Faith were those that DID flee!). In other words, it’s not a numbers game. [To, I suppose, question the premise of this thread. MY Episcopal Church will last as long as I do…but I hope “God gives the growth” to my poor efforts at gardening! ;-/]

JC Fisher

C. Wingate

I’m not going to brag about inclusion, given (a) the many people I know who have fled to other churches because ECUSA has rejected various elements of its old theology, and (b) people I know who did not stay in our parish because they felt uncomfortable due to their relative poverty.

Anyway, it seems to me that the biggest reason for there to be an Episcopal Church is the same reason why I am still an Episcopalian. It would seem to me that the question is, “what else are you going to do?” If you cannot come up with a justification for continuing the church, then what do you propose to do instead? Merge it with another church organization? Dissolve it?

As far as which church I belong to, the most important determining factor for me is my history of being confirmed in this one. Church membership is not merely a matter of intellectual alignment, with my allegiance changing according to the winds of my opinion: it is a sacramental bond. Going from church to church is of deeper import than choosing between Burger King and Pizza Hut. Likewise, the church is more than an association of the like-minded, and even more than an instrument of evangelization or any other Christian mission. Paul lays out its ontology: it is both body and bride of Christ, and exists as such no matter how badly it does what it is supposed to do.


This perhaps touches on C Wingate’s comments, but much of what I value about the church is the fact that we are inclusive. Truly inclusive, which means that persons of all perspectives are welcome. The beauty of TEC is that it provides a framework and support system in which each person can work out her or his own faith.

I for one couldn’t care less if someone is traditionalist, wears a funny hat, has purple skin or anything else of the sort. I am just happy for that they are seeking to grow in faith.

Eric Bonetti

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