The Episcopal Church

Journalists may want to ask: When will United Methodist left decide that enough is enough?

Journalists may want to ask: When will United Methodist left decide that enough is enough?

Way back in the 1980s, as the sex wars in the Episcopal Church really began to heat up, I heard a conservative priest tell a joke that gently mocked many of his Anglo-Catholic colleagues on the doctrinal right.

The whole point of the joke is that it is really hard to cut the ties that bind, when people have invested decades of their lives in religious institutions and traditions. And then there are the all-too human, practical details that come into play. In the end, it may be easier to edit the Apostles Creed and modernize the prayer book than it is to split the clergy pension play or divide a denomination’s trust funds.

Which brings us back to that joke that I have shared once or twice in the past. I have left the time-element in the first line intact. Like I said, it’s an old joke.

The year is 2012 … and two Anglo-Catholic priests in the back of National Cathedral are watching the Episcopal presiding bishop and her incense-bearing lover process down the aisle behind a statue of the Buddha, while the faithful sing a hymn to Mother Earth.

"You know," one traditionalist whispers, "ONE more thing and I'm out the door."

Right now, in the multi-decade United Methodist Church civil war, things may be close to reaching that point for LGBTQ clergy and their supporters on the denomination’s doctrinal left. What will it take for these believers — who are sincerely convinced that 2,000 years of Christian doctrines on marriage and sex should be changed — to decide that enough is enough?

That’s the key question that I asked during this week’s “Crossroads” podcast. (Click here to tune that in, or head over the iTunes.) What would this old “ONE more thing” joke look like today, if you turned it around — doctrinally speaking — and looked at it from the point of view of United Methodists on the left?

Maybe you would have two United Methodist pastors from the Iliff School of Theology in Denver — long a safe haven for the left — standing at the back of a global General Conference that is being held in a United Methodist stronghold in Africa. They are watching an African bishop walk down the aisle with his wife with his hands in the air singing an evangelical praise song. The service ends with the Rev. Franklin Graham giving an altar call.

One more thing and I’m out the door?

Then what? That was the other half of the equation in this podcast. Follow me through a few “ifs” here.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

When covering the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, theology and church history matter

When covering the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, theology and church history matter

I used to cover the Episcopal Church’s triennial meetings with some trepidation, as they were lengthy affairs with zillions of pieces of legislation floating between House of Deputies and the House of Bishops. One wore out at least one set of shoes racing back and forth to cover them.

I earned a master’s degree from an Episcopal seminary, so going to the General Convention was old home week, as I had lots of friends at these gatherings. There always seemed to be a huge Sexual Revolution issue at stake: Like whether whether women should be bishops or non-celibate gay men ordained as priests. The Episcopalians were usually years ahead of other denominations in the radicality of what they were willing to vote in.

Thus, the Episcopal Church’s current convention in Austin has also attracted some news coverage. The big issue: Whether to declare God a He, She or It. The question has been under discussion for awhile, a press release says, but now the matter is up to vote.

I have no doubt the denomination will vote to create a new prayer book and de-gender God as much as possible. Some clergy have been doing this for years, such as the clergywoman at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle who’d replace the “He” pronouns for the Holy Spirit in the fourth-century Nicene Creed to a “She.” The fact that one just doesn’t change the Christian church’s most recognized creed didn’t occur to her.

For those of you used to praying to “Our Father who art in heaven,” it seems curious the matter is being debated, but apparently Jesus’ references to God, as reported in scripture, no longer settle this issue.

What will be voted on is whether to revamp the denomination’s seminal piece of literature that guides every liturgy. Says the Washington Post: 

The terms for God, in the poetic language of the prayers written for centuries, have almost always been male: Father. King. Lord. And in the Episcopal Church, the language of prayer matters. The Book of Common Prayer, the text used in every Episcopal congregation, is cherished as a core element of Episcopal identity.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Major news events among Episcopalians and American Anglicans: Still worth covering?

Major news events among Episcopalians and American Anglicans: Still worth covering?

It’s been more than 10 years since the conservative portions of various Episcopal dioceses began the Great Split-Off. That is, they left dioceses -- some of which had been around since the 18th century -- to form a new entity, the Anglican Church in North America, that billed itself as the truest representation of Anglicanism on the North American continent.

This didn’t go over too well with The Episcopal Church (TEC), as you may imagine, and many were the lawsuits filed by TEC leaders to keep their property, most of which they won. I covered churches in northern Virginia that lost everything in this battle. One church lost property they had already bought on which to build a new sanctuary. Another church lost millions of dollars in property that dated back to colonial times.

This was a big, big story year after year -- receiving major coverage from many major newspapers and wire services.

Take, 2007 for example. I was able to cover one of the ACNA’s formative sessions in Pittsburgh in 2008 and their inaugural assembly in 2009 in Bedford, Texas. As the two sides have drifted further apart and the Episcopal Church has continued losing membership, the secular media has almost stopped covering this story. Religion News Service is the one exception.

This is a shame, in that there’s still news going on.

The conservative Anglican journalist David Virtue, who has followed this story since the beginning, chronicled what happened at a recent gathering at Wheaton College near Chicago.

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) is planting one new church a week, Archbishop Foley Beach told delegates to the triennial gathering of some 1400 Anglicans, at Wheaton College, in the heartland of America's Bible belt. The ACNA also officially received The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina as the newest diocese with some 9,000 members -- the largest of 31 dioceses in the orthodox Anglican body. The diocese broke away from the Episcopal Church over the authority of Scripture and TEC's embrace of homosexuality and gay marriage in defiance of Lambeth resolution 1.10. ...

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Gorsuch and the big scare-quote religion stuff? So far, little light shed on Supreme Court pick

Gorsuch and the big scare-quote religion stuff? So far, little light shed on Supreme Court pick

What reporters have missed about Judge Neil Gorsuch, the President’s nominee for the Supreme Court, is that the Episcopal parish he attends in downtown Boulder is headed by a female priest.

Think about that for a moment. If this man is the frightening conservative that some on the Left are already alleging him to be, there’s no way he’d be Episcopalian, much less at a woman-priested church. It will be interesting to see if the Episcopal hierarchy issues any kind of formal reaction to this nomination. Watch this space: The Episcopal News Service.

The Episcopal Church, for anyone who’s not been following religion trends in recent decades, has been careening to the theological and cultural left for years and its membership statistics show it. Thousands have left TEC and joined alternative Anglican churches.

Not so this judge. A church in bluest of blue Boulder is not going to be a conservative hideout and this article notes that Gorsuch’s parish is pretty liberal. The place is St. John's, Boulder and for you trivia experts out there, it's the same church that JonBenét Ramsey's family attended. A Google search shows there’s an Anglican church in Boulder that the Gorsuch family could be attending if they so desired.

So, the fact that the judge and his family has remained at St. John’s says something.

So far, the mainstream press has missed all that and concentrated on his court rulings on hot-button topics, the kinds of subjects often framed in scare quotes. For example, while his precise views on abortion remain a mystery, he has written extensively on euthanasia -- producing a book on the topic ("The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia").

What the New York Times ran with is typical:

While he has not written extensively on several issues of importance to many conservatives, including gun control and gay rights, Judge Gorsuch has taken strong stands in favor of religious freedom, earning him admiration from the right.

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Media's curiously wrong-headed posession obsession

Last week I made fun of that Associated Press story that claimed Pope Francis was “obsessed” with Satan. In the comment to that piece, reader Martha Keefe remarked:

Please respect our Commenting Policy

WWROD: Why do Episcopalians get so much ink?

That “religion guy” — Richard Ostling, formerly of Time and AP — has a post up right now that will be of interest to anyone who has ever followed mainstream religion-news coverage in North America for, oh, more than a week. Here’s the link to the full post over at “Religion Q&A: The Ridgewood Religion Guy answers your questions.”

Please respect our Commenting Policy

Shocker! Liberal clergy back gay rites! (updated)

What we have here is a totally predictable story, to an almost stunning degree. It’s almost a non-story, from the get go.

Please respect our Commenting Policy