Episcopalians care more about worshiping than controversies
The Rev. Torey Lightcap
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
When English settlers arrived on this land hundreds of years ago, they brought with them the faith of their Anglican heritage. At that time, their faith was the expression of a desire to worship God in spirit and in truth, the Church of England being one of the original articulations of the Protestant Reformation.
In this country, that form of faith would eventually come to be called the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society, or, later, The Episcopal Church in the USA (or, for my purposes today, “TEC”).
Connected as it was to many of the founders of our nation and to certain pockets of vast wealth, TEC enjoyed pride-of-place for generations, and has come to be the butt of many stereotypes in the meantime about those connections. (One old joke features a special room in Hades reserved for those Episcopalians who can’t tell a dinner fork from a dessert fork.)
As a member of the clergy within this enterprise, I often encounter these stereotypes. And while interesting, they’re stories that quite often offer little in the way of substance or fact. People want to talk about the money that all Episcopalians seem to have ready to burn (really? where? how much?); the connections we have to the Vatican and the Pope (I had no idea!); and the fact that we are often referred to, sometimes with great affection, as the “chosen frozen” (depends …). It’s always kind of fun to see how we’re skewered for these various niceties, and to help politely dismiss fact from fantasy.
Lately, though, it’s been a bit of a slog. The controversies swirling around TEC as a national member of an international fraternity of faith have hobbled some of its member-base and caused some to depart in the unkindest of ways, while others have left as well as they knew how to do.
Those details have been well-rehearsed lately in the pages (both real and electronic) of the major news publishers, including a shockingly ignorant and lopsided column by George F. Will that ran in this very newspaper several weeks ago.
Ask any parish priest in TEC about the current ruckus, and the response you will hear will likely begin with a long sigh. We in the clergy are bone-weary of it.
Meanwhile, the spirit of the moment from those of us soldiering on is to not get sucked into the bottomless vacuum of unchristian argumentation. We talk about mission; we pray for the spirit to show the way; we love and support one another; we read the prophets at Advent and meditate on the mystery of the incarnation of God in Christ. In short, we do what a lot of Christians do this time of year. But to glance at the headlines, you’d think Episcopalians everywhere are having to pull on boxing gloves before they can take communion.
Don’t believe the hype. The ugly truth is that a matter that would formerly have been the sole province of concern between Anglicans and their God and the Bible has become a media-age darling. It has all the elements of a good news story and supports the idea that traditional religion in this country is busily crumbling under its own weight. Headline writers have jumped on this conflict and begun winnowing it with their longest knives. It’s becoming easier for Anglicans on either side to imagine that they’re taking a hard right on the chin for an awful lot of people of faith around the world who are learning to keep their controversies to themselves.
All of which is why I am so proud of the many good and faithful Anglicans I know ’round these parts, from Aspen to Basalt to Glenwood to New Castle to Battlement Mesa. Ask them what’s going on in their respective Episcopal congregations, and they’re likely to tell you about opportunities for worship, service, prayer, education and fellowship. They’re not going to rattle off facts about the current unpleasantness we face, but are much more likely to tell you why, even after more than five years of controversy, they are more committed to one another and to their God than ever before.
Don’t just take my word for it, though. Ask someone.
Because finally, and quite frankly, it’s easier to be committed to someone when you can see and touch and talk with him or her; when he or she is not just a proposition or a project or a headline, but a real and living thing whose eyes reflect the presence and grace of the Lord we all seek to serve.
The Rev. Torey Lightcap is priest-in-charge of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Glenwood Springs (www.saint-barnabas.info). Torey and his wife have two children and live in New Castle.
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Jonathan Godes will serve another term as the mayor of Glenwood Springs.