Friday, January 05, 2007

Many are Members, but Few are Episcopalians

The Washington Post today has posted a most intriguing story with more information about the two leading breakaway parishes in Virginia that voted last month (along with several of their missions) to leave the Episcopal Church.

As the Post observes, one reason the parishes' vote received such attention is that they "are two of the Washington area's most wealthy, historic and prestigious congregations. Their pews are studded on Sunday mornings with such regulars as Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and former CIA director Porter J. Goss." The story explains that the two parishes are charismatic and have been drifting away from the Episcopal mainstream for some 30 years. Episcopalian bloggers have also observed that many of the leaders of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and American Anglican Council also call these parishes home.

Most amazing is this section of the article:

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.
I am shocked, but not surprised, by this revelation. I am, however, incensed that these people who are not even Episcopalians are daring to tell faithful, committed, and confirmed Episcopalians what it means to be Anglican. What a travesty!

Several bloggers have weighed-in on this revelation.

Jim Naughton (at the Daily Episcopalian) says: "[M]any of the folks in these congregations are not Episcopalians. I don't have a problem with that, but it seems to me that it relieves us of the responsibility of listening to these folks when they start lecturing us about what it means to be truly Anglican."

Over at Father Jake's, "Dennis" gave voice to the view that surely most regular Episcopalians share:

I am deeply troubled by the thought that a congregation could hold a vote to leave (even though congregations can't leave - only individuals) where the majority of voters were not Episcopalians. There has been wide play given in the press that these were breakaway Episcopalians - now it turns out that they weren't Episcopalians, just people who regularly attended these parishes. This really and truly bothers me.
On a related note, several people have asked whether the votes in the dissident Virginia parishes were canonical. That is, were the votes cast by actual Episcopalians? Or were they cast by Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians who like to dress up in brightly colored vestments?

The Admiral of Morality has a couple of snappy comments, too.

The Post also reports:
As Truro and The Falls Church adopted a conservative approach, dissenting members retreated to more liberal Episcopal churches in the area, such as Christ Church Alexandria. New worshipers, many of them born-again Christians who had grown disillusioned with their denominations, streamed in.
This helps to explain why these parishes' vote to leave the Episcopal Church was so lop-sided. They had already chased out mainstream Episcopalians.

The Post article continues:

"I tend to feel very comfortable rubbing shoulders with folks at McLean Bible or Columbia Baptist . . . that are real orthodox, evangelical, biblical churches," said Truro's chief warden, or lay leader, Jim Oakes, referring to two Northern Virginia megachurches. "We share core beliefs. I think I would be more comfortable with them than with anyone I might run into at an Episcopal Diocesan Council meeting."

I find it difficult to respond. The senior warden of a nominally Episcopal parish is more comfortable with the fundamentalist megachurches in his area than with other Episcopalians? I would humbly suggest he should have gone and joined one of those churches rather than seeking to steal the assets of a venerable old Episcopal parish.

Do read the entire article. Here are a few other snippets worth noting:
Unlike many Episcopal churches nationally, neither Truro nor The Falls Church was active in supporting the civil rights movement or in protesting the Vietnam War.

Beginning in the 1970s, though, Truro embraced the antiabortion movement. It also started a program to help those who wanted to leave what it calls the "homosexual lifestyle."


Blogger Grace said...


I can't ever agree with schism in the church. And, you know where I'm at in the whole sexuality issue.

But, there's part of me that can also easily understand where some of these folks are at. People that are orthodox and evangelical will always totally agree concerning the gospel, and have a traditional understanding relating to the creeds and confessions of the church.

So really their differences are generally very minor around matters such as things like church govt., the order of service, casual or litugical. There is a different view relating to the sacraments, etc.

But, among progressives, the difference could be huge. There are those in the church such as Spong or Borg or would deny the divinity of the Lord or the physical resurrection. Others would argue that there are other vehicles or means of "salvation" outside the work of the cross.

Not that all progressives think in this way by any means, but the difference is much greater and more significant to someone who is very evangelical.

Also the orthodox and evangelical will also have a very high view relating to the absolute inspiration and authority of Scripture for the faith and life of the church. They may disagree relating to the correct interpretation of a passage, but will always agree concerning the truth of the word of God. This is another point of unity.

Among the progressives, there are just much greater differences.

1/05/2007 6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Borg does not deny the divinity of Christ. You need to read his books or hear him speak.

1/06/2007 12:20 AM  
Blogger Grace said...

Hi Ann,

I've read his books. He is a fellow of the Jesus Seminar. These scholars draw a distinction between the Jesus of history, and the Christ of faith. As far as I can tell, they feel that the actual Jesus of history was a wise sage and a great teacher. They might personally feel that Jesus was the embodiment of truth or somehow shows us what God is like.

But, they basically feel that it was the early church who over time divinized Jesus. Unless I'm totally misreading his books, I think this is where Borg is coming from. Of course, I've never met this man personally. But, I also know that he's had discussion and debate with the Anglican Bishop Wright concerning this very issue.

1/06/2007 7:07 AM  
Anonymous dennis said...

Oh, wow. I have never had a comment I made on one blog get quoted elsewhere. How strange.

As to Borg, those who are looking for a chance to get wound up over his writings (and those by John Dominic Crossan, etc) can find plenty to get wound up over.

On the other had, those who go looking for a thoughtful writer who will help them in their efforts to build their faith and to grow in the faith will find it in these authors' books, too.

Every part of the current difficulties lie in our interpretations of the matter at hand.

Now how am I going to celebrate being quoted like this? Hmmm... there is chocolate in the kitchen...

1/08/2007 5:44 PM  

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