Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Yes, Virginia, There Are Evangelical Episcopalians

Among the many places where I'm connected is LinkedIn. If you're not familiar with it, it's much like Facebook, but with an entirely professional focus.  Like other social networking sites, there are topical groups, including one for folks interested in the Episcopal Church. This week one member posted this question: "Are there any fellow evangelical Episcopalians out there?" This was my answer.

I think there are evangelical Episcopalians - by which I mean folks who experience Scripture as central to their faith, and who experience joy in living before Christ and sharing that with others, both within and without the congregation. Few of them are thorough-going Biblical literalists; but most believe the Gospels faithfully relate the experiences of the Evangelists with Christ, and that at least most of the events described, including the miraculous events, are historical.

By and large, they are not tied to a particular style of worship, although they enjoy some "praise" music. As the Prayer Book since 1979 has emphasized the Eucharist as normative Sunday worship, they have the Eucharist on Sundays, and not Morning Prayer. At the same time, most don't attend congregations where the liturgy is chanted most Sundays, or where incense is used, unless for Easter or certain special occasions.

Some of them are uncomfortable about decisions that the General Convention has made. However, they feel established in and supported in their individual congregations, and pastorally supported by clergy even when they disagree with them; and so they continue in the Episcopal Church. They see things changing around them, and regret some of the changes; but they have enough hope in Christ that they don't feel they have to fight things they can't control.

I spend half of my Sundays supplying in one church or another in two adjacent dioceses, and I meet these folks all the time. I'm happy they're with me in worship. 
 I know that the word "evangelical" when applied to an Episcopalian or other Anglican has meant something a little different: a literal use of more of Scripture, especially on social issues; a more exclusivist understanding of salvation; and, unfortunately, anti-Episcopal Church sentiments at home, and that plus anti-American culture sentiments abroad. However, I will stand by this as more accurate to the evangelical Christian tradition as folks live it out in the Episcopal Church; and I'm happy to have them with me in worship, and in my diocese, and in the Episcopal Church.

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