Saturday, October 18, 2008

George Will on the Episcopal Church in Sunday's Washington Post

George Will comments on the Episcopal Church (but do read the essay!):

“The Episcopal Church once was America’s upper crust at prayer. Today it is ‘progressive’ politics cloaked — very thinly — in piety. Episcopalians’ discontents tell a cautionary tale for political as well as religious associations. As the church’s doctrines have become more elastic, the church has contracted. It celebrates an ‘inclusiveness’ that includes fewer and fewer members.”

– George Will, “A Faith’s Dwindling Following,” The Washington Post, October 19, 2008.

What do we say to that?


bls said...

First of all: it's my understanding that George Will does not attend church at all, so I wonder what his credentials are to know and judge what's going on in the Episcopal Church.

Second of all: if he actually believes that Robert Duncan et al. are "pushing back against the culture," I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell him. The Duncanites are merely another group with a dislike for homosexuals and a stake in the culture war based on it; Nigerians openly state that their dislike of homosexuality is based in "African culture." In any case: in church culture, there's absolutely nothing worse than homosexuality, as we've seen again and again. "Conservatives" in the Episcopal Church (and in other churches) have been deeply implicated in the culture - and, as we know, in right-wing politics - for the past 30-40 years.

Third of all: the Episcopal Church is indeed small and getting smaller. The Catholic Church, however, has lost more members than any other in America - and the fastest-growing group of all is the unchurched.

IOW, the Episcopal Church is hardly alone in loss of membership - and is not the worst case at all.

That said, theology in our church seems to me to be very poor and very shallow (on all sides, BTW). Our catechism is a joke, for instance. And it's truly shocking that our leaders have managed to turn the most revolutionary and exciting story in the world into middle-and-upper-middle-class tedium. There is very little fire, and no communication of what the struggle of the Christian life - both interior and exterior - consists of.

That said, I would say that we are in the middle of a sort of (I'm sorry to use the phrase) "paradigm shift" in religion, and I think many people don't quite know where it's going. But I'm frankly sick of platitudes and would like to hear some real scholarship and intellect. But of course, there wasn't much of that when “The Episcopal Church once was America’s upper crust at prayer," either, I bet. I'm actually not too worried, in fact, because things are changing now, and a new generation is coming on that's more interested in intellect and scholarship.

(I bet you're sorry you asked now!)

Lauralew said...

Interesting, his comments about inclusiveness. I came to TEC as I wanted to go to church, but as a professional female USAF officer as well as a twice divorced person, I was not welcome in any church I attended until I came to TEC. My son suffered more than I in that scenario.

George Will assumes that those who attend church must have a concrete credo. Those who need unbending rules do not understand TEC's embrace of messiness. And numbers do not equate victory or anything, really. All I know is that I am most welcome in the Episcopal churches I know, when I was not before.