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?