To Defend My Episcopal Church

I am not a professional truth sayer. I have not studied theology and divinity in any formal sense (my Bachelor’s Degree is in musical theatre). I have never been invited to speak publicly or write for someone and this blog makes very little impact on the world. But I have something to say and I feel moved so strongly that I put the words of my heart to pen, so to speak.

I am a member of The Episcopal Church (TEC) and I am so proud of my church, I can hardly describe it with words. Mere words aren’t good enough to fully capture the love I feel for the church of my forbears. If you are one of my few subscribers, I think you already know that I am intensely devoted to my church. I love to learn our history and why we do the things we do. My family can trace a long line of Episcopalians on our tree but I was given a choice to continue that line. My mother never once said to me, “You MUST be an Episcopalian, Lauren.” She asked me without any pressure one day, “Would you like to be confirmed?” I was the one that said to her that I wanted to be in the choir when I was 8 years old and she probably spent half of the next decade driving me back and forth to choir rehearsals. My point is that I never felt pressure to remain an Episcopalian after I left the household of my parents. I chose to. The more I learn about my church, the more compelled I am to remain an active member. My church formed me into the woman I am today.

It is important that you understand that I am also not the type of person to stand idly by when a friend is being insulted and attacked. So how can I sit back and read the insults hurled at my beloved church, which is closer to my heart than almost anything else? (It may be a tie with my dear husband.)

Recently, this article was posted. It got my attention when someone close to me posted it to their social media page. If they were not so close to me, perhaps I’d have scrolled by without reading it at all. But I read it and got about halfway through and had to pause before finishing. I agreed with some of the author’s points, but not all of them. He was a little cruel in his introduction but he made other points in a respectful manner. I agreed with some things and disagreed with others but then got to his rant about The Episcopal Church and I felt hurt by his words, as if he had been ranting about me personally. If I am a part of my church, I share responsibility in our actions, right? So his words were directed at the whole Episcopal Church, but I claim a portion of his ire.

I invite you to read his words, directly lifted from his article, without any edits, I even left his own links to his sources. I took the paragraph before it as well:

Here’s the thing: this brand of Christianity is only popular in the abstract. People, particularly non-Christians, like to share YouTube videos about it and maybe go so far as leaving a supportive, self-aggrandizing comment. “I’m not homophobic either! Yay us!!!” But nobody will give their lives over to this nonsense. They won’t even give their Sunday mornings to it, so liberal churches die rapidly by their own hand.

The Episcopalians, for instance, have been very good at keeping up with the times, sacrificing Christian ethics and moral law at the exact rate with which they fall out of popularity in our culture, and for their troubles they’ll be mercifully extinct in a few decades. Fortunately, they can ordain all the transsexual lesbian bishops they want, but while the culture applauds them, nobody will actually show up on Sunday to hear their homilies promoting sodomy and abortion. They can just stay home, watch some MTV or Internet porn, and receive the exact same message.

But even if all Christian churches aren’t achieving Episcopal-Level Blasphemy (ELB) – hosting Planned Parenthood banquets and literally celebrating the murder of children and so forth — still, we see more and more embracing a belief system drained of its moral substance. It is a belief system not only heretical, but utterly arbitrary and boring. After all, who needs Christianity if all it offers could be just as easily summarized on the inspirational poster your kid’s guidance counselor hangs on her wall? No reason for church or the Bible when you can just pop on by Mrs. Gunderson’s office and see insightful slogans like “smile” and “positivity is key.” Throw in a few vague bits about some generic hippy named Jesus, and you’ve got the sum total of the entire faith, as told by liberal Christians.

Again, words fail to acutely describe the hurt and offense I felt on reading this passage. I feel moved to defend my church because if I won’t, who will?

I have never heard an Episcopal priest give a homily advocating sodomy and abortion. I will admit to not having heard every homily given by every Episcopal priest ever in the history of my church, but I will hazard a guess that they’re few and far between. But I also will insist that man is not perfect and my church is simply made up of imperfect individuals trying to make a better world. To compare our mistakes to such a high standard is to do a disservice to those of us who are trying our best to live how Jesus called us to, and we find that the true nature of God is love, and through baptism, we share in his victory over sin and death.

The official slogan or tagline of my Episcopal Church is “The Episcopal Church welcomes you.” It doesn’t say you have to do anything to earn that welcome. It is given freely. I’ve never seen an individual Episcopal church throw anyone out who needed help. The governing body of my Church doesn’t even set down an official dogma as such. One of my favourite metaphors to describe us is the three-legged stool. The stool stands on three things: Scripture, Reason, and Tradition. The stool won’t stand up without even one of the legs. Everything we do can be boiled down to those three things and I think that is the most informed and efficient (read: best) way to go about worship and faith. We don’t “pick and choose” what to believe. We temper our interpretation of scripture with reason and consideration of the personal experiences and traditions that have been handed down. We don’t just worship certain ways for tradition’s sake; it comes down to what makes sense and what does the Bible say? And we are incredible human beings with the amazing ability to use our logic and sense, but isn’t it miraculous that we’ve been given the gift of this discernment from our Maker?

Why does this man think my church is so bad? Is it because our profession of our faith is different from his? He believes we are going to rapidly decline in membership numbers in a few decades, but then says that “more and more” are coming to profess their faith in a similar way to my church. Does being different from him make us incorrect? And why is he our judge? What if he worried about his own imperfections and let us worry about ours? It seems to me that it was his intention to be spiteful and vindictive and what good does that do him?

Recently, I had a social media debate about the Kim Davis controversy. In the words of J. Russell Lloyd, hers is not a case of “religious persecution. In the United States, we do not examine the sincerity or reasonableness of your religious beliefs in the public arena. You can believe any and everything in the name of your faith. However, the government may not deny you services based upon the religious belief of the government, its agents or employees. When that happens, then a clear violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment occurs, which is precisely what happened when Ms. Davis refused to issue marriage licenses under ‘God’s Authority.'” 

In professing my support of the gay community, that they are loved by God as his children and as such, they deserve our care and concern, I am immediately telling some Christians that I am, by their estimation, not really a Christian at all. But to them I say that above all else, Jesus said to love God and to love my neighbour. (But then the question arises, “Just who is my neighbour?” My interpretation is that my neighbour is everyone.) So in doing that, I am upholding his teachings. If you hate anyone (or any group of people) because of your religion, you’re doing it wrong. Once upon a terrible time in this country, “religious liberty” was the term used to justify racism. We do not allow businesses to refuse service to others based on the colour of their skin, so why is it OK when it is the person’s sexuality? I’m not saying our society is perfect but we’ve come a long way and so the fact that this hatred still exists is not exemplary of a people who profess to know and share God’s love. I think it was put best on the Integrity website, here.

For Episcopalians, the four gospels are the most important part of the Bible. It is significant that Jesus never addressed homosexuality. However, Jesus spent a great of time ministering to those considered outcasts by the society and religious leaders of his day.

Episcopalians have historically looked to three sources of spiritual authority–scripture, tradition, and reason. Using scientific knowledge and personal experience, we employ our God-given intellect to interpret the Bible. In the past, the Bible has been used to justify slavery and the domination of women. Even so, the Holy Spirit is leading the church into a greater understanding of the truth about homosexuality.

I also invite you to listen to one of my favourite people, Bishop Katharine, the head of TEC.

What if I told you that not every Episcopalian supports gay marriage? Can they still call themselves Episcopalians? Yes. The Episcopal Church welcomes you. All of you. And so do I.


4 thoughts on “To Defend My Episcopal Church

  1. Well said. I’m with you. The Bible says “Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself.’ It doesn’t add a clarifier “But Only If Thy Neighbor Is Just Like You.” That neighbor doesn’t need to look like you or have the same beliefs as you to love that person and want what is best for that person. Using ones personal religious or other beliefs to selectively support racist or other hurtful or harmful positions isn’t what the Bible is all about, although we certainly know of many instances in history and still today when the Bible has been held up and has been misused for these purposes. I stand respectfully and prayerfully behind my Episcopal faith and The Episcopal Church in supporting equality for all.

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