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Editorial: A Time for Talking

 

From the June 2007 PEPtalk. We welcome the current discussion about the future of the diocese. (See “Diocese asks: What next?”) For too long, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has followed its leaders and avoided discussion of the course that they have set.

With few exceptions, people do not go to church to fight. Indeed, laypeople often view controversies outside their parishes as distractions. Some clergy have deliberately kept information from parishioners, however, and have discouraged discussion of wider church issues, whether to stifle dissent, to avoid controversy, to protect their parishes from perceived threats, or to keep people’s focus on mission.

The time for ignorance, blissful or otherwise, is now past. Indifference to the future of our diocese could lead to loss of friendships, loss of our buildings, loss of our common assets, and loss of our place in The Episcopal Church.

But hasn’t The Episcopal Church abandoned the Christian faith, substituting a gospel of inclusiveness for one of biblical faithfulness? Most Episcopalians don’t think so. To be sure, some Episcopalians question parts of the creeds, but our church is also the spiritual home of people who seem to fit Roman Catholic, Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, or Pentecostal stereotypes. The vast middle of the church embraces the creeds but refuses to be to bound to a single explanation of their meaning.

From its beginnings in sixteenth-century England, Anglicanism has always been a Christian movement divided, not united, by doctrine. It has been the prayer book and a willingness to approach the Lord’s table without the need to judge the worthiness of communicants on one’s left or one’s right that has been the glue holding Anglicanism—and The Episcopal Church—together.

Is The Episcopal Church the right spiritual home for all Christian people, or even all Christian Americans? Surely not. Those who reject virtually all Christian dogma do not belong in what is decidedly a Christian church. Those who cannot associate with anyone whose theological views differ from their own would be happier in an exclusive Christian tradition. Those who dislike the prayer book liturgies but come to church for the preacher or for the potluck suppers might be happier elsewhere.

What The Episcopal Church provides is a structure that gives us a voice in how we order our common life together and that furnishes us with our prayer book, hymnals, and other worship materials. It helps us set goals for how we will use God’s creation and minister to our neighbors. Within broad limits, it does not tell individuals what to believe, how to worship, or how to spend their funds. If you are looking for a church to support and nourish you on your spiritual journey, then The Episcopal Church welcomes you.