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January 5th, 2007

When Is An Episcopalian Not An Episcopalian…

If the vehement prejudices toward gay people in some Episcopalian churches here in America seems surprising to the majority of American Episcopalians…there may be a reason for that…

Episcopal Churches’ Breakaway in Va. Evolved Over 30 Years

Parishioners say it happens quietly, unobtrusively: As the sick make their way to the altar, some worshipers begin speaking in tongues. Occasionally, one is "arrested in the spirit," falling unconscious into the arms of a fellow congregant.

The special faith-healing services, held one Sunday night a month at The Falls Church in Fairfax, are a rarity in the Episcopal Church. But members of The Falls Church have long felt at odds with fellow Episcopalians, who they believe have been drifting theologically in an ever more liberal direction.

Speaking in tongues…!?  I hear you ask.  Didn’t know that Episcopalians did that, did you?  I sure didn’t.  But they do at The Falls Church in Virginia.  On the other hand, it’s probably not actually Episcopalians that are doing that…

At least two-thirds of the worshipers are Methodists, Presbyterians or Baptists, and there is no pressure on them to be confirmed as Episcopalians, said the Rev. Rick Wright, associate rector.

Now that’s really interesting.  Go read the article.  The schisming churches in Virginia have all the sense and sensibilities of your typical southern charismatic megachurch.  So much so that they’ve lost many of their Episcopalians to other area churches.  Now two-thirds of the people in that sanctuary don’t even bother calling themselves Episcopalians.  And yet they’ve decided to take that Episcopalian church out of the American Episcopalian community, in favor of the church of a man who thinks gays should be arrested simply for sitting down together for lunch in public.  Why is that not surprising?  Ask the faithful at Six Flags Over Jesus and you’ll probably hear the same sentiment.   But they’re in their own church, not living like digger wasps inside someone else’s.

So I guess while its technically true that the Episcopalians in northern Virginia are schisming, the reality seems to be that it’s really just the usual suspects.   Ah, well…how else could a bunch of Baptists stage a schism, unless they did it in someone else’s church…

One Response to “When Is An Episcopalian Not An Episcopalian…”

  1. Steve Boese Says:

    In the Episcopal parishes I grew up in, it wasn’t unusual that a third to a half of the folks from other backgrounds. It wasn’t a surprise to run into clergy, as well, who had been ordained and pastored elsewhere before finding a home in the Episcopal church.

    And, while confirmation was a meaningful process for some adults I knew there, Episcopalians have a long history of welcoming folks who speak to their faith using their own conscience as a guide. Education and awareness of the church are highly valued, but without requiring legalistic allegiance to doctrine or litmus tests.

    As a result, there tended to be rich diversity of belief and practice, whether on the conservative/progressive spectrum, or the high church vs. contemporary worship spectrum. Folks who leaned toward formality and centuries-old traditions often gravitated to attending different services than those who came in jeans looking for folk music, but the deepest value was given to collegiality and respect between thinking people of faith.

    Sure, tension broke the surface at times. Twenty years after the 1928 prayer book was replaced by the 1979 version, some still missed it and wondered why it couldn’t be brought back out at occasionally… but there tended to be pretty heavy overlap between that minority and the minority who mourned the days when only men could be ordained.

    As you track developments in the Episcopal Church, keep an eye out for women clergy in the parishes which are looking to Akinola for leadership, keeping in mind that a good share of Episcopal clergy as a whole are women.

    Or dig into not-so-distant history of conservative parishes resisting the authority of women bishops.

    These are folks who didn’t want the 1950s to end, and still don’t.

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