I watched too much of the Episcopal Church’s 78th General Convention on line than was good for my soul. I found myself thinking that I was watching the assembly of a denomination with which I had no connection. These people -for that is how I thought of them- worshipped differently, prayed differently, and on the whole, proposed a different religion than anything I connected with. Then, last Sunday, taking part of a Sunday off, I worshipped in perhaps the largest parish in the Diocese of Missouri. The service was Rite 1, the music traditional sung by an extraordinarily good choir accompanied by an amazing organist, and the celebrant and deacon were both under 35. For a summer Sunday, the church was comfortably full. During the service a group of young people were commissioned as Missioners.

I was comforted by worshipping in a community in which Anglicanism flourishes. I was given courage to soldier on, safe as I am, here in Southern Illinois, far from the madding crowd.  But then I think, this is all about me? LAm I free to adopt my own religion, or base my faith on what I want, or desire, or that affords me comfort? And if so, how really different am I from those Baby Boomers, who went wild by the evangelical preaching of the Presiding Bishop-elect, but then went back to their respective Houses, to adopt resolutions based primarily, not on Scripture, Tradition, the Fathers and Councils, but on contemporary social and political ideology, and choice-liturgy?

I didn’t choose the Church, it chose me when my mother took me to the parish church to be baptized. As I grew up, the Church provided me the building blocks of faith in Prayer Book worship, by learning the Catechism, and by being given access to the faith of the Early Christians. I learned to study Scripture, for then, in England, one studied a Gospel, Acts and an Epistle in depth for the state examination, taken at sixteen years of age. True, within the comprehension of the English Church I was exposed to Anglo Catholicism, Evangelicalism and a mild form of Liberalism, then in recovery from being almost battered to death by the reality of the Second World War and the evil shockingly present in their brave new world. Beneath these strands within Anglicanism, a belief in Jesus, the Christ, his saving work, his presence among us in Word and Sacrament, constituted the rock on which I tottered, stood, and occasionally fell off.

But now, nearly sixty years on, in a church much more resembling that reflected in General Convention than the Church of St. Michael and St. George, St. Louis, or my own two small mission churches, has the rock of my faith become a personal opinion, in a church where personal opinion trumps orthodoxy?  I don’t know the answer to that question.

5 Responses

  1. Thank you. This is a powerful witness that leaves us with a disturbing question ….

  2. The Rock of your faith, Fr. Tony, is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. It does seem that personal opinion has trumped orthodoxy in TEC. However if your personal opinion *is* orthodox Anglican belief, well I wonder how much longer such an opinion will be *tolerated*. Whether that is a true statement of the wider Episcopal Church or not is open to debate…. although I think the answer is known. Don’t look to The Episcopal Church but the wider and more faithful Anglican Communion for a future as an Anglican. There is Biblical and faithful Anglicanism out there. I just don’t see TEC playing its part except in a destructive sense. Very sad musings indeed….

  3. For now, I trust in “my grace is sufficient” and wait patiently for “pressed down and overflowing.” And, having been to many General Conventions, I know that it only vaguely resembles the life of the Church as a whole.

  4. I’m struggling with the same questions. It matters to me that I trust my bishop to be a godly man, that I am in a Diocese of godly people, that the parish I am serving lives a formed Christian life-and expects to hear the Gospel of our Lord preached! “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them!”

  5. We are extremely fortunate in our bishop and to be part of an almost united diocese. We can be the last hope for lovers of lost causes, or we can be the candle that lights the church.

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