9/10/2008

Avoiding the name "Episcopal Church." (corrected)

At the beginning of this week there were reports that the Presiding Bishop was inviting some rectors of large parishes for a conversation and dinner. One of these, The Rev. Steve Wood, rector St. Andrew's Mt. Pleasant, S.C., wrote about this on his blog. He seemed pleased to be invited and just a bit puzzled.

So, who is the Rev. Steve Wood? Well, that at least was easy to discover. If you go to Steve’s personal website, or the website of the parish you can find out more. He announces himself as the senior pastor rather than the rector of St Andrews Church, denomination unspecified.

I got quite fascinated by the website and the church. The language of the Episcopal Church and more generally the Anglican parish is mostly absent. There are some few exceptions: There is a button titled “Vestry.” If you go to “Friends” a good number are Anglican bishops. But there is very little mention of anything Anglican, and no mention, as far as I can tell, that this is an Episcopal Church and that it is part of the Diocese of South Carolina, save for one connection I will mention shortly.


The membership of St. Andrews is described as “Baptists, Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Non-Denomers.” It references the “troubles” in the Episcopal Church only in a sidebar link by saying, (under “links” in resources) “The Episcopal Church is in Disarray”. There is a copy of the Episcopal Church shield upside down, the distress signal. The links are to Virtuosity and to Titus One Nine.


By wandering through the website I finally found the “link” between The Rev Steve Wood, St. Andrew’s and the Episcopal Church. In the “Happenings” section, under “current events and culture” there is a note that “The Diocese of South Carolina recently hosted the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church at St. Andrew's.” If you click on that you go to THIS PAGE: There at last there is a picture of Bishop Mark Lawrence and greater mention of the Episcopal Church.


Almost all of the few mentions of the Episcopal Church were far away from the presenting materials on the website. There is, as far as I can tell, one mention of the Book of Common Prayer, none to the Thirty Nine Articles ( a conservative favorite) , the Creeds, or the Lambeth Quadrilateral.

Now none of this is to detract from what seems to be a vibrant and active congregation. The website is inviting precisely to those people who are seeking a church home and have no interest in polity matters outside the congregation itself. The clergy are pictured as inviting people, not separated by collar or uniform or vestments. And I have every confidence that they are.

Still, if this is a beacon of Anglican worship that reaches out evangelically and in a contemporary way, it is not very Anglican at all? The church is almost entirely congregational in outlook. As far as the website is concerned, it is not in any way connected to The Episcopal Church.


What it means, I suspect, is that the website is meant for seekers who would either be turned off by the name “Episcopal,” or would find it simply strange and foreign. What actually happens there may include the Book of Common Prayer, concerns about the Episcopal Church, prayers for the Presiding Bishop and the Anglican Communion, etc. But you can’t tell it here.


I am given to understand that people in the Emerging Church movement argue that denominationalism is of little value to many folk these days. Mostly that is good news. A lot of poisoned water has flowed from the denominational streams, mostly from the higher houses upstream.


The problem is that without denominational identity some of the sharp divisions among Christian groups begin to disappear into the squishy mud of generic protestant mush. We Episcopalians, for example, can be pretty clear that we are open to people across the board who are willing with us to subscribe to the Scripture, Creeds, Sacraments and Episcopacy (the Lambeth Quadrilateral.) But what about the generic protestant community that does not buy into the need to use the creeds? or who see the Scripture as “plainly written” without need of the wisdom (or foolishness ) of the church? or who think that the Episcopacy is totally unnecessary and are therefore completely congregational?


I must agree that Christianity is not in any way bound by denominationalism and can be expressed in ways that have nothing to do with the past or even present quarrels. But I don’t agree that those differences make no difference.


You kind of have to come down on some questions: Is it right to baptize children or no? Can people receive communion who are not members of your church or faith group? Who can be blessed? Is shunning by a Church right action? It goes on and on.


Who is the Rev. Steve Wood? Quite a pastor, clearly. I gather Steve Wood was at one time considered a possible candidate for Bishop and I suspect he is a stakeholder in Episcopal Church matters, even if his church does not seem to be.


I am less sure that St. Andrew’s Church is a stakeholder in the Episcopal Church. This in the long run should concern the diocese.


But meanwhile, The Rev. Steve Wood has been invited to a conversation because it is a large and vibrant church in the Episcopal Church anyway, and it returns the favor. The PB came to his church, he gets invited to a conversation. He is strangely pleased. It must be a meeting of Episcopalians with good manners.

19 comments:

  1. "The church is almost entirely congregational in outlook." -- Why should that bother you? After all, we in TEC have been acting as congregationalists for many years now. The rest of the church asks us not to do something, and we act like typical Americans and do whatever we want.

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  2. "...no mention of the Book of Common Prayer, the Thirty Nine Articles, the Creeds, or the Lambeth Quadrilateral".

    Aren't there notably loud leaders in TEC that are working hard to deconstruct each of these? Especially the 39 Articles? Are you advocating for inclusion of link buttons for each of these items on the Episcopal Church's main website? Somehow I missed the link to the Articles. I'll keep looking in layers of layers of layers. Maybe I'll find them.

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  3. "Before I bid this ever-shrinking circle an adieu..." Allen, 8/31.

    Still around, then?

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  4. The trend to dissociate from the word "Episcopal" especially as it refers to The Episcopal Church seems to be growing in that diocese and others.Their reasons of course are quite different from those in the emergent church (at least imho).

    While I understand the emergent notion that denominations aren't that important, I do wonder if we don't do ourselves disservice by failing to claim in every way that we can the identity that is ours. We are Episcopalians, and that means something--it means the Book of Common Prayer first and foremost, our Anglican heritage and traditions, our via media way of being church. We can teach people what it all means, and invite them in. I hope we don't throw the baby out with the bathwater in our efforts to reach out.

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  5. mark as for
    "I got quite fascinated by the website and the church. The language of the Episcopal Church and more generally the Anglican parish is mostly absent. There are some few exceptions: There is a button titled “Vestry.” If you go to “Friends” a good number are Anglican bishops. But there is very little mention of anything Anglican, and no mention, as far as I can tell, that this is an Episcopal Church and that it is part of the Diocese of South Carolina, save for one connection I will mention shortly"

    you missed this page

    http://www.samp.cc/view-category?&groupis=171

    St. Andrew's celebrates the diversity of worship styles found within the Anglican Communion and afforded by our Book of Common Prayer. In keeping with the heritage of St. Andrew's, we offer two traditional language services each Sunday morning. The first is a contemplative service of Holy Communion at 7:45 a.m. in the church. In this service there is an atmosphere of worshipful reverence and an opportunity for individual and corporate prayer. The service is conducted without music and with faithful adherence to liturgical form. The second traditional service on Sundays is held at 10:45 also in the church. This service alternates between Morning Prayer and Holy Communion. The great hymns and canticles of our Anglican heritage are duly incorporated into the fabric of worship. These are accompanied by our organist/choirmaster on a recently revitalized Schantz pipe organ. The vested chancel choir offers offertory anthems and service music changing with and reflective of the liturgical calendar.

    Leonel

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  6. Agreeing with the above... one of the most common problems we had at 815 was pressing home the idea that ECUSA is not congregationalist. Liberals, conservatives, whatever. And more: we're not just local, but global. After my decade of work in the "national church" (before I changed my name...), over and over again, the most common question I'm asked is "Why should I care what (XYZ) think because they're not a part of our church..."

    I find it painful, at times, to not be in communion with my brothers and sisters in Christ - regardless of the reason. I find it more painful, at times, to be in communion with my brothers and sisters in Christ, because we all act so dense.

    Increasingly the idea of structure and denomination needs to give way to the idea of submission to one another in love. And, the hard part, is "going first" in this regard is only in the first person.

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  7. allen wrote: "Aren't there notably loud leaders in TEC that are working hard to deconstruct each of these?"

    First, I think you should look up the word "deconstruct." I don't think it means what you think it means.

    Secondly, questions of the 40 Lashes Less One aside, where did you get the idea that the BCP or the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral had fallen out of favor?

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  8. Mark:

    You wrote, "Now none of this is to distract from what seems to be a vibrant and active congregation." I wonder if you mean instead "to detract?" It does appear, after all, that they in fact want to distract from most things identifiably Episcopal.

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  9. Allen, after having made at least two dramatic exits in as many weeks, is still here? Why?

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  10. Leonel...thanks for the correction. I'll be correcting the post. Somehow that one got by me. Because I sometimes play in a praise band I gravitated to that. (Sigh.)

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  11. marshall...got it. Thanks. distract and detract both.

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  12. Ninh,

    I exited from two pointess conversations, but not the blog. Surely open-minded people, perhaps some of TEC's brightest, can stand contrarians. If not, TEC is doomed as ineffectual and pointless itself, like petty despots who like mirrors and monologues.

    Do you have a comment about why TEC's OWN website doesn't contain hot and easily visible links to: BCP on-line, the 39 Articles, the Nicene Creed, the Bible on-line,...or how about a basic: at least a PICTURE of Jesus Christ? The official portal to our beloved Church is a web-meister's dream, but a seeker's nightmare and cannot be commended to the average person on the street to know the Lord and this ...sorry..HIS Church.

    There are those of us who are convinced by a LACK of evidence to the contrary that there is less and less that separates this beloved Church from the United Way....good people doing good things, but the rest is often left to assumption, whim, and chance.

    I happen to be proud of the Episcopal and Anglican ways and think that this expression of Christianity is hidden and sometimes smothered under a bushel. More angst goes into things that don't matter, when more passion for the Lord and the souls and needs of our nieghbors would be better spent. (Did I say SOULS? Forgive me. I had delusions of the 20/20 Vision, and
    something the Lord said about "making" disciples.

    I AM in the right Church, I hope.

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  13. Ah! A "contrarian" - another of the interesting word-usements Allen makes.

    So, someone who just sticks around to make others miserable? Yes. "Go agitate the world, detract, revile and show no love and make disciples that way!" The Grating Commission! Of course.

    Or, maybe just one of those who yells "Doom 'n' gloooooom!" at every step - what's the other word for that? A something's advocate? Seems appropriate.

    Yes, Allen, we can stand contrarians. Why, our nursery in our parish cares for quite a few spoiled children on any given Sunday!

    (Oh, pssst! - nobody's buying the "I-didn't-mean-I-was-leaving-here!," story, but the sheer clumsiness of the attempt is endearing!)

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  14. Christopher (P.)12/9/08 10:22 AM

    Re: Allen on September 9 @ 4:11 p.m. I checked out the TEC website: Cross, dove, and creation on the home page. Two clicks away from the "Outline of the Faith" with creeds, sacraments, scripture, church, ministry (no 39 articles though). Short essays addressing non-churched "spiritual" people. True work is at the parish level (oh, yeah, there's a find-a-church link also), and my parish's webpage links to all the things that you want. What's so bad about this?
    Christopher (P.)

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  15. rev dr mom,

    At the risk of seeming like a whining child for mark's nursery, you certainly could NOT have meant,
    "We are Episcopalians, and that means something--it means the Book of Common Prayer first and foremost.."

    First and foremost? Isn't there something else that identifies Episcopalians "first and foremost" other than its literature?

    mark,

    Your last comment serves to reveal how you will certainly move to the front of the line to be appointed to a major committee in this Church.

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  16. Check out this church's website from the Dallas diocese:

    http://www.goodshepherdcedarhill.org/

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  17. First and foremost? Isn't there something else that identifies Episcopalians "first and foremost" other than its literature?

    Allen, War and Peace is literature. The Book of Common Prayer is liturgy. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

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  18. Do you have a comment about why TEC's OWN website doesn't contain hot and easily visible links to: BCP on-line, the 39 Articles, the Nicene Creed, the Bible on-line,...or how about a basic: at least a PICTURE of Jesus Christ?

    Yes, I have a comment: you're full of hot air. Easy to use links to the Daily Office (including, you may be surprised to learn, actual readings from the real Bible) and even multiple pictures of Our Lord are found in the part of the website called the Visitor's Center.

    I'm just as happy that it does not have a link to the 39 Articles. YMMV.

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  19. Allen,

    Thank you, but I have no interest in committees. I serve God, and his court's enough for me.

    Still, nobody's buying your "contrarian" argument as an excuse for verbal sniping.

    ReplyDelete

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