Wednesday, December 06, 2006

A Useful and Wise Description of the Episcopal Church

Today church historian Diane Butler Bass had a very interesting on-line chat on the Washington Post's web site called "State of the Episcopal Church." She answers some questions very well, and most important offers wise and very useful description of the multiple dimensions of the Church beyond simplistic liberal-conservative lines most typically used.

She says: "If the centrists, the progressive pilgrims, and emergent conservatives can come together and offer their distinctive spiritual gifts in the midst of this conflict, I think the Episcopal Church may be able to move forward."

She identifies five possible groupings: old line liberals and radicalized conservatives, who get the most press because they generate the most conflict and rhetoric; centrists, who try to hold these two groups together and in tension. She goes on to say:

"...There are two additional groups, and these two are far less noticed. I refer to these groups (they don't have a clear "party" identity) as "progressive pilgrims" and "emergent conservatives." These two groups tend to see "issues" like this one as secondary concerns to the practice of Christian faith and are more concerned with things like the practice of hospitality, living forgiveness, practicing reconciliation, learning to pray, feeding the hungry, caring for the environment, and maintaining the Anglican practice of comprehensiveness (being a church of the "middle way"). They may lean slightly left or slightly right on "issues," but reject partisan solutions to theological problems. Both progressive pilgrims and emergent conservatives are far more interested in unity than uniformity; and they appreciate diversity in their congregations as a sign of God's dream for humanity to live in peace."

I think that movements such as the emerging churches and the work of folks like Bruce McLaren in talking about a "generous orthodoxy" and Scott Bader-Sayes work on the "dance of evangelism" (a movement of going out in the world and inviting into community) are expressions of what Diane Butler Bass is talking about. Even Tony Compolo's notion of "red-letter Christians" is an indicator of a movement within the wider church that wants to link traditional modes used in creative ways, a global consciousness and a comprehensive, generous attitude into the everyday life of the church.

This is the way out of the endless mire of internal polity debates that causes to fight over crusts and crumbs and to turn to the world with a sense of both joy and mission.

Thanks to the Daily Episcopalian for pointing us here. atg+

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