The real reason why Episcopalians have lost the interest of most Americans is quite simple. We don’t like them. We can adopt their cause as a mass, as a class, or a group of classes, but when it comes to them -you know, real people, a few of whom, or perhaps more than a few perch in our pews on Sunday, it’s quite a different matter.

I accuse our leadership of this sin, but dear conservative, I accuse you too. Well yes, the ‘masses’ probably espouse  most conservative policies and seem to enjoy being trickled down upon. It’s rather like a free lottery. There’s always a slim possibility one may strike it rich. That’s why they try Publisher’s Clearing House and buy plastic gnomes, or get a lottery ticket when buying gas.

The main blame lies with progressives. After all the main task of a progressive is to champion the under dog, as long as he or she is under. The thought that such people might actually come to church, or be represented in our synods makes the skin crawl. Just consider these people for a moment. Most have never been to college -community colleges don’t count – and many may not have graduated from High School. They read little that is worthwhile and eat at McDonalds. They wear dreadful clothes, their English aint good, they have never been to the symphony, have no interest in the arts and grow potatoes in the front yard next to the gnomes and flamingos. And yes, they wrap themselves in the flag, hate immigrants unless they are white and wealthy, and wear baseball caps to dinner.

Of course, there are exceptions. We feel good about the really hungry who come to our soup kitchens, about African Americans if they are shot by the police of bullied at school, about Latin American refugees struggling across the border, or gays beaten up outside a bar. But the good thing is that we usually don’t have to meet these people, eat with them, talk with them, actually love them enough to share our faith with them. After all, they are probably members of an evangelical sect or, just as bad, are bigoted Roman Catholics.

Those of the “under classes” who still come to church with us, perhaps form majorities in some congregations, or who actually turn out to be the back bone of most of our smaller congregations know just how condescending our leadership has become. Why do they turn off what General Convention will do? They are not represented, their views are not heeded and they know that if they actually read the doings in Utah they’d get mad, maybe mad enough to stop coming to church very often even though they love their local parish.

The truth is that most of this silent majority, the workers, don’t see how the Jesus we talk about has anything to say about keeping a job, losing a job, paying the rent, bringing up children, dealing with divorce, or marriage, or paying medical expenses, or even understand the complexities of modern living. The last thing they want to encounter is preachy snobs, wrapped up in their latest Cause, be it conservative or liberal. The church is irrelevant. To make matters worse, most of us think the workers are irrelevant. We don’t care. We pass resolutions, write checks, attend meetings, maybe help serve meals for the needy, but in all this we are a bit like a Russian Grand Duchess throwing rubles to the peasants. So dear fellow Episcopalians, fess up. We don’t like the workers,employed or not, Black or White, Asian or Hispanic. We do love our impersonal orthodoxies.

6 Responses

  1. What is this “we”, Tonto ?

  2. Tony, I am the interim at a fairly small joint Episcopal/Lutheran Church in Las Vegas, New Mexico. My experience with them has been a real taste of the Kingdom. When I arrived over a quarter of the congregation were schizophrenics – and they were as much a part of everything as anyone else, with responsibilities and parts to play in every parish activity. That has continued, as well as a growth in membership of homeless members – who, again, are as honored and loved just as much as the pillars of this church. No one is “tolerated” here: they are welcomed and enfolded.

  3. Father Tony, I have two thoughts about this.

    The first is to echo Carol Gardner’s comment: “What’s this ‘we,’ Tonto?” I might recommend that you consider the parishes in which our Episcopal Church truly lives and moves and has its being. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that my parish and its parishioners engage very directly with the poor, the smelly, and sometimes the deranged. Some of them worship with us most Sundays. Friends who have visited tell me that our parish is the most racially diverse they’ve seen in town, as we have a large number of African and African American members. I’ll acknowledge that our parish membership skews above the community median in education, income, and other demographics. But if you visited here on any given Sunday, I think you would see all sorts and conditions of people in our little 120’ish ASA parish.

    I’ve written about this a couple of times in my blog. At http://tinyurl.com/nwl7z36 and http://tinyurl.com/mebeutm, I talked about aspiring to be the worst–dressed member of the congregation, so that the “down and out” would find someone who looks like them.

    Second, I welcome your comments about all those gazillion do–gooder resolutions we pass each triennium at General Convention. You wrote: “Why do they turn off what General Convention will do? They are not represented, their views are not heeded ….” This is a discussion I’ve had for a long time with my progressive friends. Frankly, I wish we would not pass resolutions on secular affairs, but restrict ourselves to matters of canons, liturgy, “church business,” and direct actions of the Church and her mission. I agree with you that many of those resolutions create division … or at least they would, if anyone in the pews paid attention to them. I doubt I’ll get my wish in 2015, but one can hope.

  4. I’m glad to receive evidence that there are parishes that include ordinary folk, and indeed I said there were in my essay. I hope their witness catches.

    I’ve also received abusive responses I’ve deleted. My point was aimed rather higher than parish level. I believe we need serious financing of church plants, church renewals in blue collar and also areas of poverty. We need to recruit and train and sustain clergy and lay leadership to work there.9

  5. But Father Tony, you seemed to be excoriating individual Episcopalians and our parishes for disdaining “the least of these.” Forgive us if we took you seriously.

    I’m sorry you’ve received abusive responses.

    Now, in your comment, you seem to be introducing a whole different issue than you outlined in your blogpost. I’m trying to keep up with you.

  6. Nothing new. I merely suggest some practical ways we can move from being a boutique church to one that demonstrates a love for all those loved by God. I’m not saying anything I didn’t write in the Witness fourteen or so years ago.

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