Monday, January 12, 2009


Fr. Mark Harris, in a recent post writes in part,

 "The cost of church life in a church both reasonably inclusive and democratic is that we have to put up with people who are not like us, don't believe as we do, and don't necessarily like us, or we them. That's the way it is. It is what reasonable people do - put up with one another. We have to model in our own lives the civic virtue of breadth. The gamble is, of course, that if we gather at the Table and share in the sacramental life of Christ and practice Incarnation it will all come out well in the end. It will. You can bet on it.""Preludium"

This is indeed true.  When one lives in a democracy there is always the chance that Saddam Hussein or Adolph Hitler may be elected.  What then is the strongest counterbalance to that inevitability?  Education, of course.  I believe that we (individually and collectively) failed in our evangelization process in two fundamental ways.  First, we went after the fast buck.  Many of our parishes, suffering from a lack of funds looked around and figured out that one of two things had to happen.  Either everyone gave a bunch more OR we grabbed more people and brought them into the church. Since stewardship for many is nothing more than filling the budget bucket not many wanted the first, since we were already giving as much as we could, so most decided to bring more people into the church.  Increasing the base is almost like increasing the amount, right?  Well, not exactly.  When we built the base we failed to perform the basic functions of educating those newcomers so that they understood the breadth, depth, history and liturgy of the Episcopal Church.  I realize that baptism/confirmation/reception into the Episcopal church is a sacramental event, a gift freely given.  However, we are unique in the Anglican Communion.  If any one has any doubts talk with a bishop from Africa.  (no booing, please.)  On a few occasions I had the privilege of speaking with the retired bishop of Uganda, Bishop Shalita.  His explanation of how the Anglican Communion works in Uganda is WAAAYYYY different than how it works here.  Our Episcopal Church is far more democratic, born out of the American Revolution and laicized by Bishop White.  Education, as Jefferson pointed out for democracy, is critical for each and every person.  We missed the boat.  We failed miserably in at least four diocese.  We sought the buck and not the soul.  We planted the seed but failed to nurture it.  If I am going to gamble, I want to do so with the odds in my favor.  It is time to consider, or at least reconsider education in a number of areas.  First, evangelization, and Father Terry is plowing new ground at"Father T Listens to the World".   

It is time to consider or at least reconsider two other areas of education.  Next is educating all our parishes on the issues of the Episcopal Church and how and why it functions the way it does. Democracy doesn't just happen.  The writings, the readings, the philosophy, the experience, the living and the dying all must incorporate the feelings, the spirit, the philosophy of democracy.  Dropping a bunch of authoritarian people into a society that is solidly democratic is a recipe for disaster, just ask anyone in the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin.  Everyone needs to know and understand the principles upon which we operate and ending with Roberts Rules of Order.   This would, I hope, prevent the debacle we are now suffering.  Case in point:

Finally, we need a renewed educational effort across the board in stewardship.  Stewardship is no more giving money to build a budget then putting someone's butt in a pew is evangelization.  Both fail, IMHO, to meet the most basic of gospel messages.  

While I like to gamble as much as the next person I think in this area I would like to begin to more closely follow the Episcopal Church messages of inclusivity, evangelization,  and stewardship and democracy.  The way to begin is through education.  

1 comment:

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