What one thing would you change?

Current Affairs / Religion

I was a speaker in an ecumenical round-table presentation over the weekend on the “State of the Church in 2043”. There were six presenters from six different denominations (one of whom was a Morman) who talked about what they saw in the future for their respective churches and for the Church as a whole.

My focus was mostly on the repercussions that Peak Oil and Climate Change are going to have on the life of the local congregation – and coupled that with the way that seminary costs are rising and clergy wellness is declining.

If I get a chance I’ll try to write up my remarks and post them if you’re interested.

But it’s the Q and A session afterwards that made the biggest impression on me. One of the folks in the audience asked each one of us “If there was one thing about the public perception of your church that would could change, that’s been a bar to inviting new people to your congregations, what would it be?”

I was the last one to speak so I had some time to really thing through the question. It was interesting that the Roman Catholic speaker, the Morman speaker and I all responded about the “Sex thing” in various guises that our churches were all dealing with – though my answer was different than theirs. I didn’t say that I wished we could stop talking about “sex”, I actually said that reductionist attitudes aside, I was comfortable with the fact that the Episcopal Church is seen to be publicly struggling with how to balance the commonly held understanding of the biblical teaching about sexual orientation and expression with our experience of the ministry of LBGT Christians.

What I did wish for would be that there might be some recognition that our decision not to turn the other cheek when the Episcopal Church is called “lawless”, “apostate” or heretical, could be understood as a gospel based response to an attacker rather than a tacit admission that we agree with the charges. (Which seems to be the meme that is being setup in popular culture.)

But I’m curious about your response, o’ gentle reader. What one thing would you like to be changed in the public perception of the Episcopal Church? (Or if you’re not Episcopalian, feel free to kibitz and tell us what we ought to do anyhow.)

The Author

Episcopal bishop, dad, astronomer, erstwhile dancer...


  1. David Casey says

    Like you, I would love to change the perception that the Episcopal Church is apostate and heretical. While we do have our loonies on the far right and left, and whose faith could be called into question, the facts on the ground is that we have a church full of faithful Christians.
    It is a pity that such loonies are taken to be representative of what we believe.

  2. Nobody except the Virtuosos thinks or says that the Episcopal Church is apostate and heretical.
    It’s just a tactic in the attempt to get TEC thrown out of the Communion, anyway. The “leaders” of the separatist movement are not being sincere when they say it; they know full well what TEC is about.

  3. I don’t know bls. I hear that meme an awful lot on evangelical sites – even Christianity Today comes close to words that are effectively the same. The reason I think these sites outside the Episcopal Church do this is because we’re not challenging the attacks when they occur.
    Whether and how to challenge is the $64,000 question… and I wish I knew the answer.

  4. pete says

    I have this innate feeling that science will discover that among other things, there is a gene in our DNA that shows us that some of us are gay by basic construction. At this point, the argument that its unnatural falls away.
    I guess my point is that in 2043 we will learn alot more about ourselves as humans, and that our ability to listen will be very critical.
    I think the sex thing is the least of our issues.

  5. WmPaulIV says

    Is Spong any of these: “lawless”, “apostate” or “heretical?” Or is he just a diverse voice?

  6. Matt Gunter says

    I would like to see the public perception that we are the church of the well-to-do and sophisticated elite changed. But, I guess that means I would like that perception to be less acurate than it is.

  7. Fr. Nick, I really think it’s just that homosexuality makes evangelicals totally crazy; it threatens them very deeply because of the “sola scriptura” thing. Catholics don’t call us “heretics,” for instance, and the Orthodox think that Spong is much worse than Gene Robinson.
    Anyway, that’s what I’ve observed. They don’t call us “heretics” or “apostates” for any reason other than homosexuality – and when they do, they are not using either word correctly, in fact.
    To answer your question: I agree somewhat with Matt Gunter, I think. I would like more people to see the Episcopal Church as a “church for everybody” – I guess more like the Catholic Church in that way.

  8. I think this post asks the wrong question in some ways, because I don’t think the public by and large has a perception one way or the other about the Episcopal Church. People just aren’t paying attention.
    I have occasion to meet a lot of people and talk to them in casual conversation about my faith perspective. Probably 90% of people that I introduce myself to haven’t heard of the Episcopal Church at all. So, that’s what needs to change.
    If they have heard about, they used to ask, “Aren’t you the guys with the gay bishop?” Now, I hear things like, “They’re just like the Catholics, right?” (This may have to do with the circle of people I meet.)
    Now, don’t misunderstand by thinking that I’m making an argument that all publicity is good publicity, but the Episcopal Church needs to be in the public eye more, so I’d like the public to actually have a perception of the Episcopal Church.
    This probably doesn’t give you the answer you’re looking for when you were asking the question, so if I had to venture to say something more satisfactory, I’d say that I’d like most members of the general public to be able to quickly articulate one accurate and positive distinctive about the Episcopal Church. I think that would be a good start.

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