Posts Tagged ‘Episcopal Church’

A Limit to Diversity?

Monday, January 14th, 2019

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael Curry has recently restricted part of the ministry of the Bishop of Albany, the Rt. Rev. William Love.

Bishop Love is the sole bishop in the Episcopal Church who will neither allow his priests to perform same-sex marriages nor permit another bishop to ordain such priests and allow such marriages.

Following last year’s General Convention resolution to make such weddings available throughout the Episcopal Church, including in dioceses such as the Diocese of Albany that had forbidden them, the Presiding Bishop’s inhibiting of Bishop Love is perhaps not surprising.

But it is a severe stricture on a godly and humane man (I know this from personal experience) who has the sole failing of believing what the universal church taught for two thousand years: that homosexual relations are sinful.

I myself disagree with Bishop Love and have encouraged gay rights from the beginning of my ministry. But surely the Episcopal Church can allow a little remaining dissent–one bishop in a tiny diocese. (If any same-sex couples in the Diocese of Albany want to get on a train to New York, I will be happy to marry them.)

We should avoid becoming as dogmatic as other Christian groups that we accuse of being authoritarian. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Richness of Faith

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

The Anglican Communion has inherited what we call the “Catholic” tradition of liturgy and sacraments. I was particularly struck by the depths of this tradition last week, when I was involved in a funeral, an ordination to the priesthood, several celebrations of the holy eucharist, and a wedding.

Our Episcopal Church offers all these forms of worship and more. And the Prayer Book also includes many forms of individual prayer, as well as personal sacraments such as private confession and anointing of the sick.

We also permit a wide variety of understandings of these liturgies. At the wedding, perhaps 100 out of the 150 persons present elected to receive communion. We invite all baptized persons to communicate because we have a broad definition of the meaning of holy communion, and we hope that as many people as possible will feel included.

The Catholic tradition. The richness of faith. The gifts of God for the people of God. —J. Douglas Ousley


Time for a Little Diversity

Monday, November 19th, 2018

The Bishop of Albany, the Rt. Rev. William Love has issued a pastoral letter that is receiving much comment in the church and secular press. In the letter, Bishop Love forbids same-sex marriage in his diocese, even though these rites are legal in New York State. Bishop Love seems to be the only Episcopal bishop in the entire United States to make this ruling.

I myself don’t agree with his reasoning from very traditional grounds–including invoking Satan, which doesn’t do much to promote dialogue.

However, Bishop Love’s position in itself was the position of the entire Christian community a century ago, and it remains the majority view of Christians worldwide. So while I am sorry gays and lesbians will need to travel outside the Diocese of Albany for religious marriage, I hope Bishop Love will not be drummed out of the Church. I know him personally to be a kind and generous man–more generous than his written statement suggests. Surely there is enough room in our Episcopal Church to include him. —J. Douglas Ousley


Churchman

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

At the funeral of our Treasurer, last Saturday, I described Michael Linburn as “a good churchman.”

The term, “churchman” used to be common in Episcopal Church parlance; it referred to the way a person lived out his faith in the church community. So, for example, one would speak of an Episcopalian’s “churchmanship” in saying whether he preferred “high” or “low” ritual worship.

It’s too bad the word has gone out of fashion; it might have been made more acceptable by adding the variant, “churchwomanship.”

In any case, whatever word we use, we should be grateful for the churchmen and churchwomen who support the Body of Christ by their presence and their gifts. Especially those who support the Church through difficult times–who don’t give up when things don’t go their way, who prove to be the Church’s men and women. —J. Douglas Ousley


A Great Episcopalian

Monday, August 27th, 2018

While John McCain attended a Baptist church with his wife, he never officially left the Episcopal Church in which he was raised. He often spoke of his faith in God, especially as it helped him to endure the long years in the brutal Hanoi prison.

Moreover, McCain’s funeral will be held in the National Cathedral, which is of course Episcopalian.

So I am going to claim him for our church–as an example of courage, generosity, openness, unselfishness, and just plain niceness. All Christians and other people of faith can be encouraged by his example.

A great Episcopalian. While he was only tangentially an Episcopalian, he was unquestionably great. —J. Douglas Ousley


Privacy and Illness

Tuesday, July 31st, 2018

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church recently announced that he was about to undergo surgery for prostate cancer. This news was an example of a general trend of public figures being open about their health issues. The Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael Curry didn’t give many details of his illness, but the fact that he was undergoing the most radical treatment for this form of cancer–removal of the prostate–suggests that the sickness was serious.

We might contrast this announcement with the late Pope John Paul II’s reluctance to share any information about an illness that was increasingly apparent to all who saw him. Only after his death was it revealed that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, even though many observers suspected as much. In any event, his suffering without complaint was heroic.

I don’t think there is a hard and fast rule whether celebrities should reveal their problems or not. In their shoes, I think that I would be reticent to say anything but I can’t be sure of that.

One advantage of going public, though, is that you will be sure to get more people praying for you. And that, surely, would be a blessing. —J. Douglas Ousley


Rebranding Jesus

Wednesday, July 25th, 2018

The recent General Convention of the Episcopal Church enthusiastically endorsed the Presiding Bishop’s priorities of evangelism, racial reconciliation, and care for the earth.

While these priorities are uncontroversial, they are very different. Dealing with racism and the environment will take years of effort and are social issues for non-Christians as well as Christians. Evangelism, on the other hand, is a pressing need specifically for Episcopalians whose ranks have been declining for decades. And if our evangelism isn’t successful, there won’t be any church to care for the environment or work for racial harmony.

Episcopalians have always found it easier to start a social program than to convince people to join their church. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is pushing the idea that we are members of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. Whether that rebranding will help us to add to our rolls remains to be seen. —J. Douglas Ousley


Top Heavy

Monday, July 9th, 2018

Apparently it was a priority, since it was one of the first resolutions passed. The General Convention of the Episcopal Church (#GC79) meeting  last week in Austin, Texas, agreed to pay the President of the House of Deputies for her work for the church. One estimate was a total cost to the church (in addition to money already being spent for staff and travel) of $300,000 a year.

The fact that she, like all other Presidents, had been working for free–the additional fact that the church was searching for money to plant churches and staunch its precipitous decline–the additional fact that the church already has a charismatic leader, the Presiding Bishop: all these facts were not enough to counter the “justice” argument that the chief representative of the priests and laypeople should get paid.

No doubt, there is much to be said for this move. But it seems to send a poor message to the church–especially to give the humble servant a $200K+ salary while churches are closing and many priests can’t be paid a full-time minimum stipend. —J. Douglas Ousley


In the World

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018

Christians are taught to recognize that while they are “in the world” in the sense that they inhabit the material world, they are not “of the world” because they are part of the spiritual body of Christ.

The ambivalence of our human straddling of two worlds has been particularly stressful as we attempt to deal with the current political situation. It seems like almost every day I get agitated messages from people on one or the other side of the political divide: anti-President and pro-President. The immigrant crisis of the moment has of course made this conflict even worse, with children and their parents suffering the consequences.

When do we “speak out”–we who are in the world but not of it? And if we speak out, what difference does it make? Both political camps have been doing lots of talking without much effect, it seems to me. Vocal Christians have been on both sides, though the immigrant situation has drawn many to the side of the children–one would think, inevitably.

In our parish, we will be looking for new ways to promote dialogue. Perhaps the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church will pass resolutions that can provide a focus for discussion.

In the meantime, we remain in the world, whether we like it or not. —J. Douglas Ousley


Near-Terminal Decline?

Monday, June 11th, 2018

In a recent interview, New York Times’ columnist Ross Douthat discussed liberalizing trends in the Roman Catholic Church. (A Catholic himself, Douthat has just published a book on Pope Francis.)

Douthat remarked that, “…a big part of the case for liberalization…is historicist; we’re constantly being told that these changes are what the Holy Spirit wants now, what this age demands, what the signs of the times are pointing toward. And so long as that rhetorical argument is being deployed, it seems pretty reasonable to ask, if this is all the will of the Holy Spirit, etc., why an all but fully liberalized body such as the Episcopal Church isn’t showing all the fruits of the Spirit right now and instead appears to be in near-terminal decline.”

Now I don’t agree that our church is in near-terminal decline. But I would agree that it has been declining in membership for decades, even though it has many gifted clergy and laypeople, and it continues to draw numerous adult converts from diverse backgrounds. The church also faces headwinds that are hard to resist, such as a very low birthrate.

That said, is it too much to ask that the upcoming General Convention of the Episcopal Church make evangelism and church-planting priorities in its work and in its budgetary decisions? —J. Douglas Ousley