From Julia Duin of the Washington Times, reacting to George Will’s recent superior-sounding column in celebration of former Episcopal bishop Robert Duncan, who left our church to get away from the homosexuals, more news about dwindling TEC attendance in the wake of the ordination of an openly gay bishop in 2003. Instead, Duin notes, people are flooding to Pentecostal churches (where they can enjoy being ridiculed not by Will but the New York Times).
As a priest and a vicar of a congregation, I find it a manifold blessing when people come to church. If TEC is making the wrong choices about giving gay and lesbian people a full life in the church, then it would be a shame to lose membership for that reason. But if the choices are correct, and people leave because of them, what does that say about us and them?
Either way, the numbers aren’t the issue. The issue is the most high God’s love and will for his people. Often enough in human affairs, justice isn’t necessarily on the side of the majority. After all, political conservatives, counting the smaller number of pews they are expected to retain in the chamber of the U.S. Senate after Nov. 4, are unlikely to give in to discouragement. Nor should TEC, if it’s sure it’s right.
Says a thoughtful letter to the editor writer in Pennsylvania,
Is it necessarily “evidence of spiritual vigor” when a diocese leaves the Episcopal Church, sincere as a departing bishop may be? Doesn’t it also take “spiritual vigor” to rise above dissension?
Those 650 bishops at the Lambeth Conference differed, often widely, in their views. Yet from reports of their meetings it seems they were able to discuss, and then set aside, their differences, and focus on prayer, meditation, and all that unites them as Anglicans.
Mr. Will says “The Episcopal Church… today… is ‘progressive’ politics cloaked — very thinly — in piety.” No church is perfect, of course, and our leaders can be as flawed as any others, religious or secular. But in the pews I see believers of various backgrounds, drawn together by a desire to seek God and live as much as possible in the spirit of Jesus. While fostering tradition and keeping core Christian doctrines (we say the Nicene Creed weekly), the Episcopal Church has room for various understandings of what the Christian life means for us today.
Some, though not all, of these understandings are new; and who is to say the Holy Spirit isn’t prompting them, on occasion? Didn’t a new understanding lead, for example, to the abolition of slavery?