Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Gloom or Gospel?

As I troll the various blogs (including the always informative Fr. Jake) whose authors opine about the state of the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion, and as I keep up with the various news stories (via the episCope blog), I am hardly encouraged. Yet, I find myself wondering if the current state of dis-ease and anxiety is simply a symptom of a larger problem: We have forgotten the good news! Unlike more evangelical churches, a sizable majority of the Episcopal Church does not subscribe to the idea that folks that do not declare faith in Christ are "lost", much less destined for hell. Because of this, we do not have the evangelistic fervor of people on a divine rescue mission. Rather, we seem often to be more like a server at a buffet or, at most, a street vendor hawking our wares. Our favorite quote is the one widely attributed to St. Francis: "Preach the Gospel at all times and, if necessary, use words." The caveat to this is that, at least in the Episcopalians I've met, the necessity for using words is rare!

My point in this is that I have for a long time felt that the greatest threat to the health and wellbeing of the Episcopal Church is not schism or even heresy, but silence. Most people I know are not even able to begin to articulate their own faith story, have little concept of God's ongoing work in their lives, and often come to church "because that's what you do on Sunday morning!" Even if they do have a healthy, vibrant faith and story, they are reluctant to share it, as if doing so would somehow be rude, gauche, or intrusive.

The question I have posed, and which I have never really received a satisfactory answer, is "What is our motivation for evangelism?" If we do not see ourselves on a divine rescue mission, if the concept of Jesus as Savior, much less Lord, is not something with which we are entirely comfortable, then what is the driving force behind Episcopal evangelism? Regardless of what happens in the Episcopal Church or the Anglican Communion, if we cannot answer that question with something compelling, then we risk sliding into moving from being the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society (the legal name of the Episcopal Church) to the Society for the Preservation of Nice Buildings.

1 comment:

The Ranter said...

So many people become Episcopalians to get away from beng rabid evangelicals or Roman zealots. They would sooner fart in public than lay themselves bear and talk about their faith story. Preaching is what the clergy do.