Mr. Bill explained that he is just another regular paid up Episcopal lay person, kind of expansive in a proper Episcopalian sort of way. You know, he spreads his arms wide in welcome and said there is room for us all. Sometimes when he does that it looks like he is telling a fish story, or worse. You know, "It was that big!"
But as he began to talk about his sense of things in Anglican Land it became clear that he was confused as to just what was going on and how it would effect him. Mr. Bill knows what an Anglican is - it's a Christian who thinks the way of being church that came from the English experience was pretty good, since it was broad enough to include all sorts of people. Anglicans believe mostly that God will sort us out in the end, but that right now we ought to go fishing, and try not to tell to many tall tales about the size of the fish we catch. Mr. Bill thinks of himself as an Anglican and an Episcopalian. This confuses his Methodist friends no end.
Mr Bill prayes from the Book of Common Prayer, although he has never used the BCP of 1662, since it has never been used in the Episcopal Church. He saw one in a museum once. It looked pretty good for a book 300 years old. The thing is, some are saying that the BCP he is using is inadequate and not really Anglican. He thinks this is too bad, since he has really gotten into saying the Daily Office and he'd hate to have to give it up for something else. He sometimes gets to read the Bible in church. He really likes that. It's an honor to do that, he says, because the Bible is the witness of God to everybody.
Mr. Bill also likes to Praise the Lord, and not only when they sing "And I will raise them up" in "I am the bread of life" but in lots of songs, and sometimes in prayers. Mr. Bill is a bit pentecostal. It's okay, 'cause it's a wide church and he feels welcome. Sometimes he thinks standing in the back of the church when he does this is better, otherwise people who don't know what is going on with him wonder what he is signaling. Mr. Bill is not practicing being arrested or trying to tell the ushers that he really has to go to the bathroom and can he be excused.
He often crosses himself in the Eucharist, usually when the Priest does, but Mr. Bill is dyslectic and sometimes just can't seem to remember which hand to use or which way to cross himself. He was surprised to find out that it made a difference to some people which way you did this and that if they didn't like the way you did it you could find yourself not invited to the table. Mr. Bill was sad to learn this because in Anglican Land, as far as he knew, it was alright either way, and the fact that he got confused was alright too. Mr. Bill could just muddle along.
Mr. Bill says back home his priest is a woman. Some people think that's a big deal, and he remembers when he was a kid that there weren't any women priests. But now he just wonders why there ever was any issue about women as priests.
Mr. Bill is not the world's greatest theologian, but he tries. Still, sometimes he has trouble with the words of the creed and kind of wishes that he didn't have to say them without really getting the point of it all. So sometimes when it comes to a phrase like "very God of very God" he sighs, and sometimes when he gets to "proceeds from the Father and the Son" he tries to cross his fingers behind his back. He has trouble doing that because Mr. Bill really wants to say it right. He understands that this part has been a difficult thing ecumenically and that the BCP will drop "the Son" the next time the BCP is up for a rewrite. If it makes others happy that we do that he thinks its probably OK, but he's not sure. He may continue to cross his fingers. Still, he figures the Episcopal Church is up for the change if it will help.
Mr. Bill was really sad to hear that things were difficult in the Episcopal Church these days. Remember, he says, he is not a bishop nor does he play one on TV. He is not a theologian either (although Dr. Thompsett says we are all theologians). But when he heard yesterday that Bishop Duncan was deposed, his first reaction was, "oooooooh nooooooo!" And then he turned kind of neon blue. He wished it had not had to happen.
Mr. Blue got to thinking about the fact that he likes the prayer book in the Episcopal Church and is glad he can cross himself badly, and raise his hands in prayer, and be part of a church that can change something like the Creed to an earlier version and the prayers to something like a new version. He wonders just why some bishops don't like the Episcopal Church the way it is and either leave or get told to leave.
He remembered that there were all sorts of things that he did that were a little different from some other Episcopalians and some other Anglicans, but he wondered if any of the problem was because people had different Christian practice and other people thought those practices weren't really proper for Christians at all. Maybe he needed to practice how to make the sign of the cross, or stop raising his hands (except when they sang that song). Maybe he needed to study the creed more so he didn't cross his fingers EVER. Maybe he'd better get a copy of the 1662 BCP. He had thought the church was broad enough to include him, but maybe not. Maybe he needed to change.
So he got to thinking: Maybe there are two churches here -
The one Church says, "Stick to the basics - the Bible, the 1662 BCP, with no women priests (although everyone in this church is not sure about that) - with a church that is not as wide as it has become and as broad as some have allowed it to become."
People in this church say they are the future of Anglicanism, the carriers of the faith once delivered. They say the Episcopal Church is so filled with error that, "You can hold anything you want as long as it is not the faith once delivered." Mr. Bill couldn't believe anyone part of the Episcopal Church would say that, but he heard Bishop Duncan say exactly that in an Anglican TV interview on Tuesday. It made him really sad. Maybe that's why Bishop Duncan felt he had to leave, and maybe that's why he was told to leave. Mr. Bill doesn't know.
The other Church says, "We pray together, read the bible together, sing together, some of us make the sign of the cross and others don't, some raise their hands in praise, others don't, some of our priests are women, some are men, we work at believing and say the creed, and we try to be as wide in our welcome as we possibly can, knowing that the Church might turn out different than we supposed.
This Church does not know if it is the future of Anglicanism, but it believes it has the spirit of Anglicanism in being as broad and inclusive as possible. This church thinks that maybe being an Episcopalian is not the be all and end all of Christian livinging anyway but is glad to be a church with bishops for the people of this land. It wonders why the other Anglican church seems to feel that it doesn't hold the faith. This Church knows that all have fallen short, but that Christ is present anyway.
Mr Bill knows that sometimes this kind of wide breadth of thinking leads to some confusion and that sometimes odd things get said, but he thinks there are ways to stay together in all this. He figures that it is kind of like his own problems with not knowing how to make the sign of the Cross or exactly what the creeds mean. In the whole body of the Church, he thinks, it will all come out in the wash. This Church is glad to say it is The Episcopal Church, and thinks maybe the faith once delivered is delivered still in the community that comes together for eucharist and life. But, Mr. Bill says, "What do I know? I'm just a regular church person."
I'm glad Mr. Bill came to visit. If there are two churches, I'm with the second. Mr. Bill thinks he is too. I can't help noticing that throwing his arms out wide he may not look much like a bishop, but he kind of looks like a candidate for a cross. Let us hope his yoke is easy and his burden light.
I hope yours is too.
(Apologies to Mr. Bill the cartoon guy.)