A People Called Episcopalians: A Brief Introduction To Our Peculiar Way Of Life

A People Called Episcopalians: A Brief Introduction To Our Peculiar Way Of Life

Who are we as Episcopalians? What is the Anglican Communion? This concise booklet answers these questions and more. Scholar and priest John Westerhoff explores five main areas of Episcopal life: identity, authority, spirituality, temperament, and Episcopal political structure.

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A Yearning for and Renewed Commitment to Mission by Missouri Episcopalians

Saint Louis, MO (PRWEB) November 25, 2009

In his address to the 170th yearly meeting of the Diocese of Missouri, the Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith detailed the series of conversations held this past year, with clergy and with laity. Meeting twenty at a time, each conversation over a shared meal and with a scribe to record the exchange, these were times to share the dreams and possibilities for the diocesan community. The three topics of deeper spirituality and formation, yearning for authentic community, and engagement in mission kept being voiced. Bishop Smith said, “Many of you have told me about your dreams for this Church, and it is precisely where the seeds lie for the very life that will sustain us. More. Community. Mission.”

“The work of mission becomes all the more crucial for a Church like the Episcopal Church, which continues its numerical decline,” reported Smith. Over the last decade the Episcopal Church has lost 16% in Sunday worshipers. In the one year from 2007-8 average Sunday attendance declined 3.1% among domestic dioceses. In that same one-year period the Diocese of Missouri showed a .4% increase in Sunday worship, which continues the same pattern of radical stability this Diocese has seen for the past decade.

“For a Church in decline mission is not a option. It becomes all the more important to know that the heartbeat of the Episcopal Church is ‘mission, mission, mission,’ to use the Presiding Bishop’s metaphor,” continued Smith. The temptation is to turn inward, but it is in the counter-intuitive turning outward through mission where Christians find life. “It is where we have always found life,” said Smith, “Mission is life-giving. Mission is our joy and our duty.”

The Rev. Dr. Dwight Zscheile, assistant professor at Luther Seminary, delivered the keynote on topics of mission and radical hospitality and included stories from the parish he serves as associate, St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in St. Paul, MN. “I recall one exchange between an American born man and a Kenyan about how disconnected and fragmented life is here, ” Zscheile said, “The church was seen as the one communal space in which significant ties of belonging and relationship could be developed across lines of social class and culture. What would it mean for our churches to be the villages in that African proverb? That means that church is a public space—not a voluntary society of individuals who associate to meet their private spiritual needs, but a truly public space belonging to God and open to the stranger.”

“We are trying to rediscover Christian identity in a post-Christian society. That is our challenge. I suspect many of our institutional structures may not make it intact into the future. The corporate, bureaucratic forms of denominational life that we’ve inherited from the mid-20th century must be transformed for a post-Christendom, network age,” continued Zscheile. “But that isn’t the real issue. The real issue is for us to relearn what it means to be the church as the people of God sent in mission wherever we are.”

This year’s annual convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri was held November 20-21, 2009 in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Order of Business included the receiving of Church of the Transfiguration from mission to parish status, the welcoming of new church plant Columbia Hope, legislation and passing the diocesan budget for 2010. Multimedia vignette celebrating the work of diocesan Youth Ministry, the diocesan Commission on Dismantling Racism, Waters of Hope, the bicycle ride around Missouri to raise awareness and funds for clean water project in the Sudan, and the newly received parish and host parish, Transfiguration and Christ Church Cape Girardeau, respectively.

Nine missioners were commissioned; they left the day after convention for a two week trip to the Diocese of Lui in southern Sudan. The companion relationship sponsors missioners traveling to Lui and supports students from Lui coming to Missouri to study at Eden Seminary in St. Louis, in addition to infrastructure projects including deep water wells, a grinding mill, current medical texts and hospital supplies, and workshops on topics chosen by Lui diocese. This trip includes workshops on ministry led by Bishop Smith and the Rev. Dan Handschy, office management, adult literacy, agriculture, public health, and a very special art project shared between the children of Lui and Missouri facilitated by the Rev. Anne Kelsey.

Complete text of the Rt. Rev. George Wayne Smith’s address:


Complete text of the Rev. Dr. Dwight Zscheile Keynote:


More information about the children’s art project with the Diocese of Lui, Sudan



An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A User-Friendly Reference for Episcopalians

An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church: A User-Friendly Reference for Episcopalians

With more than 3,000 written entries, this book is a reference for Episcopalians, both lay and ordained. It includes material specific to the Episcopal Church and its history and polity, liturgy and theology, as well as subjects relevant to the whole church.

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Mortal Follies: Episcopalians and the Crisis of Mainline Christianity

Mortal Follies: Episcopalians and the Crisis of Mainline Christianity

It’s not that the dignified and rarefied old Episcopal Church quit believing in God. It’s that the God you increasingly hear spoken of in Episcopal circles is infinitely tolerant and given to sudden changes of mind–not quite the divinity you thought you were reading about in the scriptures.

Episcopalians of the twenty-first century, like their counterparts in other churches of the so-called American mainline–such as Methodists and Presbyterians–seem to prefer a God that the culture would be proud of, as against a culture that God would be proud of. While they work to rebrand and reshelve orthodox Christianity for the modern market, exponents of the new thinking are busy reducing mainstream Christian witness to a shadow of its former self.

Mortal Follies is the story of the Episcopal Church’s mad dash to catch up with a secular culture fond of self-expression and blissfully relaxed as to norms and truths. An Episcopal layman, William Murchison details how leaders of his church, starting in the late 1960s, looked over the culture of liberation, liked what they saw, and went skipping along with the shifting cultural mood–especially when the culture demanded that the church account for its sins of “heterosexism” and “racism.” Episcopalians have blended so deeply into the cultural woodwork that it’s hard sometimes to remember that it all began as a divine calling to the normative and the eternal.

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Methodists Look Towards Communion In England, Lutherans In America With Methodists And Episcopalians By Peter Menkin

Methodists Look Towards Communion In England, Lutherans In America With Methodists And Episcopalians By Peter Menkin

by Peter Menkin

In an historic move, the Methodist Church in Great Britain “is on its way to rejoining the Church of England…” The “Telegraph” newspaper report from the United Kingdom by Martin Beckford goes on to say, “The head of the non-conformist denomination said it was ready to come back to the national church after 200 years apart, if it would help spread the word of God.”

The paper’s report continues:

The Rev David Gamble, president of the Methodist Conference, told General Synod, the Church of England’s governing body on Thursday: “We are prepared to go out of existence not because we are declining or failing in mission, but for the sake of mission.

“In other words, we are prepared to be changed and even to cease having a separate existence as a Church if that will serve the needs of the Kingdom.”

In the United States, and specifically as well in California’s San Francisco Bay Area, The Episcopal Church USA is in Communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. This means Lutherans may take Communion at Episcopal churches, as may Episcopalians freely take Communion in Lutheran churches.

At the Church this writer attends, who may take Communion is a controversial topic. Church of Our Saviour (Episcopal), Mill Valley, California, located north of San Francisco debated the subject and decided they would publish a statement in their Sunday bulletin, every Sunday. It says, “everybody…” is welcome at God’s table, but reminds the visitor that instruction for Baptism is readily available and freely offered. Controversial a statement as this may be, no one at most Churches finds themselves “carded” when coming for Communion.

(Carded means asked for proof of Church membership, or of Baptism. The Episcopal rule is one must be Baptized to receive Communion, by the way.)

Roman Catholic Communion services require a visitor be a Roman Catholic to receive Communion, which annoys many people as many resent the “closed” and what some call exclusive and special nature of the Roman Catholic Church and its membership—even in this post Vatican II era it is so. Of course, a blessing is offered by Roman Catholics to those visitors who attend Mass and are not Roman Catholic. This is a good thing. Other Churches, like the Episcopalians, do so, too. They offer a blessing to the unbaptized, the real Church policy of The Episcopal Church USA, and of course within the Anglican Communion.

Apparently, British Methodists will be in Communion with the Anglican Church in England, and this significantly also means there is a special and Church recognized bond in Christ between the two Churches, just as that special bond occurs between the Lutherans and Episcopalians in the United States and specifically San Francisco’s Bay Area. Parishioners at the Mill Valley Church of Our Saviour like this situation, as it makes Christians closer in Christ.

Though this planned merger of the Methodists with The Church of England is not completed, the intention is real. The “Telegraph” continues:

 It is believed Methodists have now recovered from (a) hurt…caused (in 1972 over women priests), there are fewer grounds on which traditionalists in the Church of England can object to unity as it introduced female priests in 1994 and is likely to have women bishops by 2014.

Thursday’s address by Mr Gamble was the first by a Methodist President to Synod since 1993. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is due to address the Methodist Conference in June, while reports on the Covenant process will be made to both national assemblies next year.

But formal progress between merging the denominations is unlikely to take place until women bishops are introduced to the Church of England, in 2014 at the earliest.

The English Anglican Church hopes to continue the process with success. One Bishop is quoted: “We need to be very cautious with the institutional process. It’s vital that we don’t fail because we can’t afford to fail again.”

 He said the Methodist church’s decision was consistent with its “radical commitment” to the Christian mission.

Interestingly, the Episcopalians believe, as an Episcopal Priest says, “…in ‘con-substantiation,’ the presence of Christ with the elements. Very close to, if not aligned with the Lutheran teaching.” They remain in Communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who defines Communion and its ceremony of Eucharist in this manner:

Lutherans use the term “sacrament” to describe two parts of Christian life and worship where an earthly element or sign is linked with God’s promise and Christ’s directive. The New Testament tells us that Jesus Christ commanded Baptism and Holy Communion. For Lutherans, these are rituals of worship but each also shapes broader understanding and daily living.

In the Sacrament of Holy Communion, after hearing and experiencing the good news of Jesus Christ in word, prayer and song, the community receives bread and wine. They experience the tangible presence of Christ by eating and drinking these elements.

The outward signs of the sacrament are simple earthly elements: bread and wine. Yet, together with the spoken promise of God these elements convey the presence of Jesus Christ to the assembly of believers. Martin Luther said that Jesus is present “in, with, and under” the bread and wine. We believe this because Jesus says it is so (Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20) even when we cannot fully explain how it happens.

The “Christian Post” (Lillian Kwon) reports Methodists in the United States are now in full Communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America: “The new relationship between the two major Protestant denominations is not a merger but a recognition of each other’s ministry and mission. Full communion recognizes that each church has “the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith” expressed in the Scriptures and confessed in historic creeds and the core teachings of each denomination.”

 Christianity in America is changing.





Images: (1) Church of Our Saviour (Episcopal), Mill Valley, California—San Francisco Bay Area. Photo: Rick White. (2) Communion table, Anglican. (3) Sculpture by Jonathan Clarke of “Christ Blessing the Children”. (4) Bishop Mark Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (left) and United Methodist Bishop William Oden sing a hymn during April 29 morning worship at the 2008 United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo: UMNS / Mike DuBose.

Peter Menkin, an aspiring poet, lives in Mill Valley, CA USA (north of San Francisco). My blog: http://www.petermenkin.blogspot.com