3/27/2009

I'm Episcopalian: the witness of young people.

The "I'm Episcopalian" witness over on the Episcopal Church site is a wonderful idea, but it is only as good as its users make it. So it seems to me more of us need to be sending on material for the site to consider using. More, we need to be working at the possibilities of using the 9o second time frame to try to do something involving more than single person interviews.

So here is an attempt. One parishioner (a father of a person in the video) said, awesome, but get a tripod. I will. But meanwhile, here it is. I'm sending it on hoping that ENS will use it, wiggles and all.

Those on this video clip are young people in the youth group at St. Peter's Episcopal Church, Lewes. They were unrehearsed as to content, although we did do a dry run with some to get a feel as to how it would be to try to speak for 20 seconds or less about their participation in the Episcopal Church. I was struck with how few "uhs" there were and how most looked directly into the camera. But mostly I was struck with their comments. I'm so proud of them I could bust! Here they are:





37 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  3. Wow - excellent! Thank you for sharing this, Mark.

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  4. Oh how lucky you all are! We have NO children or young adults in out tiny, small town church. Your young people make me proud to be an Episcopalian!
    amyj

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  5. Very cool.
    Youth like these kids are a blessing to the Church.

    This is, as a friend of mine put's it: "fierce."

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  6. Mark - I too was struck by their comments - it seems the overwhelming theme is membership of the church because that's where they were baptised and where they live, and it's a warm and welcoming place to be. But are these kids Christians or churchians? Not one of them mentioned anything about Jesus Christ, or having a relationship with him, or trusting in him, or trying to follow him. I seriously wonder if you will continue to see these kids in an Episcopal church in a decade's time, or if you will see their kids at all? Perhaps worse would be if they were still in an Episcopal church in a decade's time and still made the same comments as to why they are.

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  7. Inspiring, hopeful, simple, heartfelt. Well done!

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  8. Brian F.... I don't know quite what to do with your comments. They are either absolutely untrusting or really cruel or perhaps simply without feeling.

    The young people were not asked to answer the question, "Why are you a Christian?" They were asked, "Why are you an Episcopalian?" In most cases what you see is the sum total of what they said. Their responses were not rehearsed although we talked a bit about what "episcopal" meant and whether or not they ever talked to any of their classmates (all at least nominally Christian) about what church they went to or why.

    So they talked about why the Episcopal Church, not why Christian.

    And, all of these young people take active part in the worship of the Church on Sundays, they say the creed, they say the Lords Prayer, they take part in the Eucharist, they repeat along with the rest of us the Baptismal Covenant when new Christians are baptized. They have plenty of occasions in which to affirm being Christians or followers of Jesus Christ. These are the children in our youth group, Sunday School and mission trips.

    I think they did just fine. I am proud to be part of a Christian community with them.

    Where in the world did you get the phrase "churchians?" And how dare you question their Christian credentials on the basis of these responses.

    Seriously wonder what you want of me, of what I write, but you are mistaken about these young people.

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  9. Jack...what are you trying to say?

    Preludium is open and free for anyone to find. If you type "anglican, episcopal" on any search engine lots of links come up, Preludium among them. There are Anglicans and Episcopalians almost everywhere.

    What are you trying to say?

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  10. Why does it concern you, Brian Fyffe of Australia?

    The dispiriting whisper of the Darkness, but Light is here.

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  11. Mark, just what I said. It has taken me three or four years to find an Episcopal/Anglican blog. I found one and sent my 'stepson'to it. Everyone I see recommends MadPriest. Yes, he got in there, but I never saw such cruel, demeaning, sarcastic insulting rematks made to him. The commenters there may ugly innuendos about his body parts. He is older than the kids in your great video so I can't tell you what he asked and the mean replies he got.This step son of mine is 23, an excellent college student, and a Catholic. My wife and I are Catholic (I was Episcopalian for over 60 years). We gave this young man a condo; he shares it with his brother and a young friend. The brother and young friend (20)have no religion. All three come from a very small town and you know what that means in a football state. Yes, they were the school big shots and had girls all around. So they are too experienced by far for their age. All three have some questions. The one who wrote MP is going to be married next April. All three are fine but not sophicated religiously . The boy who wrote has his life story on my blog. He is hiding nothing.
    But, to my question. Many Episcopal sites and bloggers praise and recommend MP.This scares me. If they ask questions about girls will they be snered at, be subject to salacious remarks, on the Episcopal sites that recommend Madpriest.

    I knowp people say "go to your local priest" for answers. But guys this age are not that bold about face to face talks about attitudes toward girls, marriage etc.

    As catholics my wife and I advise them. Put we have and will not push them to our Church. They were Baptist and Methodist before they came to live with us.

    I've gone too long. Say anything to me or throw me off. We lost our son at 35, now have two great grandkids, and want to do the best for these guys. Jack

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  12. Mark, it's a great idea and it's real. What a message of hope for the Church! Hope many other clergy/parishes will follow suit.

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  13. Mark:

    I don't mean to be cruel or mean in my comments, but simply making an observation about the nature of these kids' responses. Can we not as ministers of God's word and pastors of His flock usually gauge the level of a person's faith maturity from the reponses we receive to the question of why they go to church or what kind of church they are looking for?

    "Churchian" is a term I use to describe those who regularly attend church but have little knowledge of Jesus Christ, no lively faith in him and no evidence of repentance, but have a high loyalty to the institution of the church. Such people make me wonder if they are trusting in Jesus Christ and his death and resurrection for their salvation or in their loyalty to the church and their good works.

    I know these kids were unrehearsed, but I would hope that the kids in my youth group would include at least some reference to Christ in their response to questions about why they were part of a particular church or youth group. Otherwise is Christ really central in their discipleship? If he was, then you would expect him to be mentioned in their unrehearsed answers.

    In what manner are these kids being instructed? Maybe that's why amyj (anonymous: 27/3 @ 4:22pm) laments there are no children or young adults in her(?) small town church, unless her town is bereft of people in that age group.

    I think this reflects a vastly different idea of what constitutes evangelism and Christian discipleship, which comes from a very different concept of what constitutes the good news of Christ, even though we are both Anglicans.

    It concerns me, MarkBrunson, because we are meant to be of the same mind, united in the one body by the one gospel of Jesus Christ, even though separated by 1,000's of kms.

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  14. BrianF your comments are offensive, judgemental, pharisaical, and self-righteous.

    You speak as if anyone who might see this has never heard of Jesus Christ or would have no knowledge of Christian churches. That is so far beyond reality in the United States (or most of the world) in the 21st century as to be ludicrous.

    Here in the US, where nearly every corner of nearly every block has at least one type of church or another, it is impossible to escape the kind of overly-pious triumphal declarations that you seem to prefer and that drive most far away from any church.

    The children were answering a question about why they are Episcopalian (as opposed to one of the other 10,000 denominations in the US)
    -- and why they continue to attend church and remain faithful to it and they answered honestly and with conviction.

    Not every word that comes out of Christian's mouth needs to be a confession or an attempt at converting others to their personal beliefs. The witness of being a Christian is far more powerful than the personally declared piety that is heard thousands upon thousands of times and rarely lived as it is proclaimed.

    Mark, I think it is a beautiful witness and a testimony that shines light on the dark hearts of some commenters here. God has blessed your community with these children and I am thankful for them.

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  15. I Am An Episcopalian28/3/09 11:59 AM

    Brian F said: "Churchian" is a term I use to describe those who regularly attend church but have little knowledge of Jesus Christ, no lively faith in him and no evidence of repentance, but have a high loyalty to the institution of the church."
    Hmmmm,Brian, would you want humans to describe the air they breathe, the water they drink, the love-pain-joy-sorrow they share as "knowledge" of their humanness??? These kids would NOT be loyal to anything there if they were not feeling Jesus' love, in community and fellowship.
    That would be the very air they breathe there. Maybe you are not an Episcopalian??? And thus cannot understand these expressions? Implicit in being one, for me, is the belief we proclaimed in our Baptismal vows, and we don't often feel the necessity of repeating that, because they (the vows) are also part of the air we breathe. Do you think fish are aware of the water they swim in???
    Fr. Mark, thank you for giving us these lovely witnesses. But, yeah, ya gotta get a tripod!!

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  16. Brian: I don't know that I would share your concern. I think we might have done differently and asked, "What does it mean to be a Christian in the Episcopal Church;" but I don't think I'm disturbed that these answered the question they were asked. I don't think I'd be disturbed, either, if they were asked, "What does it mean to [say, to reference my own high school] to be a Bearden Bulldog," and didn't go into detail about those things common to the experiences of all high school students. There might be a better question to ask; but I can't question the quality of the faith of either the kids or their Christian educators simply because they stuck to the question asked. (And I realize you aren't questioning the sincerity of their faith; but you are raising a question about the quality and content.)

    Jack, from this note you can link to my blog; and from my profile page you can email me. Mine is an Episcopal blog, with perhaps some limited interest; but I know of others, and would be willing to entertain questions. I'm sorry your son had such an experience at MadPriest's site. I'm willing to discuss privately other sites, whether I agree with them or not, because some of them are indeed thoughtful and reflective.

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  17. Perhaps it could be worse, Bryan. In the small town I'm from the kids go to whichever youth group has the best outings. Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, (sorry, no Episcopal church for 60 miles) everyone goes to the "coolest" youth group--with the ski trips, etc. In different years this changes and the kids just troop to the other building down the street.
    Teaching, etc, not so much, just hang out with friends doing "good stuff" and attend enough times to earn your lift ticket.

    Chris H.

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  18. "I seriously wonder if you will continue to see these kids in an Episcopal church in a decade's time, or if you will see their kids at all? Perhaps worse would be if they were still in an Episcopal church in a decade's time and still made the same comments as to why they are."

    You could ask the same question to any confessional church. Most of them -- Southern Baptists and Missouri Synod Lutherans in particular -- are having a terrible time retaining their younger generations.
    Perhaps what kids (and everyone else for that matter) want from their religious institutions is a welcoming community rather than a credal inquisition. God the Great Exam Proctor in the Sky is a hard god to like, let alone love.

    Being of one mind and one Body means something much more complex than being ideological and doctrinal clones. It means solidarity and keeping faith with one another as we keep faith with God.

    The kids are alright. It's the adults who are the problem.

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  19. Dear Brian F.,

    Many (most?) children raised in U.S. East Coast Episcopalian churches are not "reformed evangelical" Christians. I'd say many are mid-Church, though you might think of us as Anglo-Catholic. We are raised with a deep, gentle faith, a love of liturgy and music, and a commitment to serving our communities in the Lord's name.

    Brian, I'm a 51-year old woman of life-long faith, not "born again" or "saved." I don't and talk about my personal relationship with Jesus - or the Father, or the Holy Spirit, for that matter. As some here know, I attended Bible study classes at local evangelical church as a teen, and spent my young adulthood as a Methodist. Those churches are a part me and shaped my faith, but I'm an Episcopalian. These kids remind me of of who I was - but it sounds like you want them to talk like mid-Atlantic Baptists. Well, they won't. "Warm and welcoming" you can translate into teen-speak of "I know God and His love are in this place."

    Because these kids aren't like those in your church, think they care more about the institution than personal faith. I suspect you are wrong, and life has taught me that they are no more (or less) likely to be faithful adults than the adolescents in your church.

    I am not saying your way is wrong, though it may not be right for me. You, too, must not judge those who feel differently - or assume anything about their faith, children or adults.

    Criticizing Mark's kids is like taking on all the kids I have known and loved in church - don't go there.

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  20. Yes, he got in there, but I never saw such cruel, demeaning, sarcastic insulting rematks made to him. The commenters there may ugly innuendos about his body parts. He is older than the kids in your great video so I can't tell you what he asked and the mean replies he got.

    In my experience Jack, this is not true. Hugomar/Frank posted a comment asking if masturbation was wrong in a thread about a completely unrelated subject. Most folks ignored the question and continued the topic. One person gave him an honest, but frank answer. I never saw any comments like you describe.

    The entire situation made MP uncomfortable and he removed the comments, he stated that he would remove any further comments from you or Hugomar/Frank and asked the community not to respond if either of you made comments while he was away from his blog.

    It is his blog. I support his right to manage it the way he sees fit and proper to do so. Including removing commentary from folks which makes him feel uncomfortable.

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  21. Brian F, your response reeks of judgement and disdain. Behavior with which we are all too familiar from conservative, evangelical Christians, even of the Anglican flavor.

    Not all Anglicans share your culture of uttering the name of Jesus as every other word. Nor do we wallow in the concept of substitutionary blood atonement.

    If your whole purpose was not to point out the motes in our eyes I do not believe that you would enjoy your visits here.

    It has always intrigued me that folks can read the same scriptures and come away with such diametrically opposed viewpoints regarding the Good News. Most of us here see the good in folks, in life and in Christ's message of the in breaking of God's Reign. And yet others come away with the idea that they are not living the Christian life if they are not finding fault with others.

    You might look for a blog where that is the aim. I am well aware of a few where they would happily welcome you to sit around with them and grouse!

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  22. Mark, I must say that I loved the responses of the beautiful children in your parish, who are so trusting and spoke so honestly of their connection to the Episcopal Church. It is quite apparent that they feel very connected to the Episcopal Church and that they are being nurtured into a life of faith.

    We all know that there are many places for Christians to go to church. Christian worship has developed into many forms over time. In my way of thinking, the Episcopal Church has it all. We have the beautiful prayer book and the creeds and the Lord's Prayer that unite us all. We have our deep and profound understanding of the presence of our Lord in the sacraments. And, we are allowed to question and think. I wonder sometimes why everyone in America isn't seeking out the Episcopal Church.

    It is beyond my understanding, however, that an adult would look at the statements of children and pass judgement on them. It is reaching a new level in the unnecessary hostility among "Christians." Although I love the Episcopal Church, and believe it is the best place possible for me to continue to grow in the Christian faith, I do not choose to judge other Christians, adults or children. We are many, and God seeks us all in many ways. I am glad there are Christian churches out there for those who understand the Christian faith in another form.

    There are many battles in this world. There is a lot of evil and hurt that needs the attention of Christians. A lot of time and energy is wasted when we judge one another.

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  23. Mark+, I don't think that it is unfair to question the difference between Christian and Episcopalian. We all know people who are part of the club. It is necessary to ask whether the youth are being brought up in the faith or merely part of a church related social group.

    Our parish had a celebration of the life of our former choir director. Part of that, we had reunion of choir members over a twenty year time span. One of the participants remarked to me that the topic of children came up during the get together. They all said that none of their children were Episcopalian, but also very few were even attending any church at all. Now, this wasn't a scientific poll, but there isn't any. I think the powers that be simply do not want to know the bleak reality.

    Kirk Hadaway discusses youth services in Episcopal parishes:

    "A slight majority of Episcopal congregations (51%) have an organized youth group and almost half (47%) indicate that they have a youth minister or youth ministry coordinator. These percentages may seem high since 11% of Episcopal congregations report that they have no youth in the church and 58% have 10 or fewer youth among their active members or regular participants. Only 20% of Episcopal congregations have 20 or more youth actively involved."

    It is bad when the church statistician casts doubts on the reported numbers (bold type). Regardless, 11% have no youth and almost 60% have less than 10 youths. Those parishes are simply waiting to die. Very sobering indeed.

    P.S. to Jack: Mark Harris+ runs this blog on the liberal side. Kendall Harmon+ runs a blog on the conservative side (google "kendall harmon titusonenine"). Both gentlemen are...gentlemen. Both blogs should be required reading for all Episcopalians!

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  24. Jack,

    I'm not going to repeat the mess that was made at MadPriest's.

    I'm just going to say to you one word: email.

    Email your questions to the blog host, and they can decide whether to reply in private, or open it up for blog discussion (wandering into someone's comment thread, and euphemistically introducing the topic of masturbation---as happened at MP's---ain't so wise, capice?). Not every subject is suitable for a public forum (and don't USE someone else's blog, for your own agenda: lurk there, and stay on topic, FIRST)

    If sending an email seems like too much work to you, I gotta ask: just HOW MUCH do you want to help those young men? (Mark's email is on the frontpage---can't miss it!)

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  25. Jack...If you want, email me. If not know that your remarks here have been deleted as the matters you seem to be interested in are essentially private matters and pastoral in nature.

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  26. Robroy, dear brother in Christ, once again I must disagree with you and point out the facts that directly negate your allusions.

    Firstly, Brian F was attacking Mark and his ministry to these children in a very underhanded way. Mark, as you say, is always a gentleman, and he didn't deserve that kind of underhanded snark.

    Secondly, there are many reasons that Episcopal parishes (and mainline churches in general) may have no youth, the most obvious being that in the US upper middle class white members (our major demographic, like it or not) are not having as many children today as in the past, if they choose to have children at all.

    Actually, there IS a scientific study and many in the Episcopal church (and other churches) have been talking about it a lot.

    The recent Pew Forum's U.S. Religious Landscape Survey shows that 70% of mainline church members have no children. Interestingly, 65% of Evangelical and 61% of Roman Catholic church members have no children either.

    If one wanted to make an inference one might say that the Church is losing its relevance to young people in general and it seems to have little to do with whether the kids talk a lot about Jesus and their personal relationship with Him.

    http://pewforum.org/social-welfare/

    Several surveys, statistical studies, and theories have been put forth about why today's youth (and many adults) in America find the Church to be irrelevant to their lives. Making them more evangelical, orthodox, or judgmental doesn't seem to be one of the problems.

    The Southern Baptist Convention released a study a few years ago that found 88% of their youth leave their churches after high school.

    http://mondaymorninginsight.com/index.php/site/comments/88_of_evangelical_children_leave_the_church_after_high_school/

    This article also points to the fact that ”Estimates of 15 to 20 million people now in America have said they are Christians but they simply don’t want to be a part of the church,”

    The reasons are varied but frequently mention the fact that the Church is too focused on judgment, hostility to gays, abortion, and other social issues and not focused enough on helping the poor, protecting the environment, and living like Christ.

    Brian F's not-so-subtle criticism and implication that Mark's church doesn't teach the kids about Jesus or focus on a relationship with Jesus but rather the kids are part of some social club that has little to do with God or faith is uncalled for and vicious and it is certainly not something you can surmisel from an experimental video that lasted a few minutes and had an entirely different purpose.

    The Pew study says this about the Episcopal Church membership changes:

    Anglican/Episcopal:
    Childhood Religion 1.8
    Current Religion 1.5
    Net Change -0.3

    Hardly the mass exodus over "innovation" and moving away from the "faith once delivered." There is no "there" there when it comes to the rumors of the impending demise of Episcopal churches. They are dwindling at roughly the same rate as all churches in the U.S.

    Perhaps the problem isn't innovation and women priests and sex and gays but the loss of true, Christian purpose that our internal fighting and focusing on innovation and women priests and sex and gays has caused?

    I

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  27. Jack said: "guys this age are not that bold about face to face talks about attitudes toward girls, marriage etc."

    Maybe not, but as long as they were safely hidden behind a keyboard, at least one of them was more than bold enough to make some really rude and deeply insulting comments towards Doxy and Sue.

    Feel free to publish this comment, Mark+. I want people to know the truth.

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  28. It is a petty thing--but for the record: I belong to a church with 7 "active" members. We can only pay a supply priest for two Sundays a month. We never have Easter services at our church, nor do we have Christmas Eve, Christmas Day(it never is a 3rd Sunday!), or Thanksgiving Day services. It has nothing to do with what we "teach". We are an historically African-American parish in a small town. The fact that we are still here is a testimony as to why I am an Episcopalian.
    amyj

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  29. For what it is worth, I am the Rector of Saint Peter's and the father of one of the youth in that video. I am priveledged to serve this community with Mark Harris and he is a superb priest. My daughter had a choice as to what church she wanted to belong to and she has studied both the Episcopal Church and the Church of her mother. She actively choose to be an Episcopalian. She has always been "hardwired" spiritually...I remember at the age of three she spontaneously prayed to God for the victems of an auto accident we had witnessed as family. The youth of this congregation take their faith in Jesus Christ VERY seriously--each year they do a mission trip to serve others in Jesus name; right now they are preparing to tell the story of the passion of our Lord by acting out the stations of the cross and offering meditations on each of the 14 steps along they way; they will be involved in leading the worship for a contemporary service on Easter Day; they have studied the Bible in many different ways. yes, they do the social trips that other groups do, but they also actively put their faith into action by the way they choose to live their lives. Intrestingly, I do not know that any of them visit a blog regularly to see if their faith lives measure up to some other person's standards, neither do they seek to pass judgement on other Christians, around the corner or around the world. They are seeking to live out their faith consistent with the Gospels and the words of Saint Paul in Phillipians 2. Say what you will about your faith and the superiority of your perspective--but leave the kids alone! They get it, they follow "the way" and could probably teach us all a thing or two!

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  30. Oh, amyj: may you MORE than survive---may you grow and thrive!

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  31. From Perren, who has met or seen many of these kids:
    When I was the age of some of these kids, I was taught to say that I am a Christian who loves the Lord Jesus in a catholic manner through the Episcopal Church. While the institution of TEC may be important, it is only so as a means to the end of loving and living Jesus.

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  32. "The youth of this congregation take their faith in Jesus Christ VERY seriously"

    I suspected as much.

    Nice kids. Y'all are very fortunate there in Lewes.

    Once again, the kids are alright.

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  33. It concerns me, MarkBrunson, because we are meant to be of the same mind, united in the one body by the one gospel of Jesus Christ, even though separated by 1,000's of kms.

    No. It doesn't.

    It simply doesn't.

    This is a ridiculous justification for being both cruel and unkind to Mark Harris, and making a very obvious effort to use the children of his congregation as both a shield and weapon against him. I've seen too much of you on the blogs to believe that your "justification" is any other than poisoned honey. If you wish to be of one mind, then change it to reflect ours because we are not so weak in our faith that we need to remind ourselves constantly that Christ is Our Lord.

    As for mentioning Christ, those who have to constantly speak of Christ don't live Him. Your children would undoubtedly mention Christ, growing into adults that hate Him or find Him irrelevant because of your actual witness.

    You take care of Western Australia. This is not your parish, your church, or your diocese, and family bonds only count for so much.

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  34. I have noticed before this judgement of anyone, including our Presiding Bishop, when making public statements, that Jesus was not mentioned must be either heretical or ill informed. One such statement was made about +Katharine's sermon/speech made to the Missionaries of the Episcopal Church, when she didn't encourage them to go out and tell folks about Jesus. Of course it is obvious to me and possibly others, that she was 'preaching to the converted/choir,' who already knew what the mission is. So particular mention of 'Jesus as our Lord and Saviour' may not have been needed. What she actually _did_s say was completely ignored because of the one thing she didn't say.

    Your kids are great Mark, Episcopalians all, and in good company with the PB!

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  35. I agree, the kids are great. Just because they don't act like Southern Baptists....! I'm amazed at the rudeness of attacking these kids for being Christians of The Wrong Sort. The nerve!

    As for Jack, what....? First, Episcopal blogs are easily found ALL OVER. Second, Your boy posts a comment about sex in an unrelated thread and you are offended that people don't answer?

    As JCF said, private conversations about sensitive subjects do not need to be carried on in public (and often attempts to initiate them are due to trolls, not honest inquiry). Thus generally it's considered good manners to figure out hte flow of the blog and post on topic. There are lots of people who will be happy to help your kids, but they need to take it seriously enough to build some sort of a relationship first.

    MadPriest's site has a great great heart, but it does have a fast and sharp humor over the top of it. Not everyone's cup of tea.

    IT

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  36. Susan,

    I think you make a good point and I agree with you. My frustration here is that the integrity of the youth is called into question and made into some kind of "shibboleth" of authenticy. It is interesting to note that none of the critics who have commented include the word Jesus, Christ or Christian in their own blogger profile (at the time of this posting). By their own standards, they come up short and yet they question what the youth had to share. Somehow we have to all get to the point of just accepting that God loves each us and that there can be a place for each of us in the Body of Christ. We dont get to vote anyone out.

    peace!

    peace!

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  37. From Perren: It is wonderful to see kids who respond to the church. My concern (with adults as well) is that so often they become worshippers of the institution. After all, they are products of an education system that glorifies institutions: school, family, nation, church, team, MONEY and money acquisition/management. This is an excellent way to maintain a status quo. As the Gospel is presented, however, the status quo is the enemy, and the purpose of the Gospel is to facilitate and initiate change.

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OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with comment moderation but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.
Rule: PLEASE DO NOT SIGN OFF AS ANONYMOUS: BEGIN OR END THE MESSAGE WITH A NAME - ANY NAME. ANONYMOUS commentary will be cut.