The Common Good

In Praise of Episcopalians

The most amazing thing happened this week.

Maybe you missed it.

The Episcopal Church held their General Convention in Indianapolis, Indiana. They gathered. They prayed. They sang. I'm told there were a few sermons, too! And you know they offered the Eucharist. They can't do anything without someone bringing bread, wine, and a blessing. God love 'em.

This week they voted, too. They held up in their bicameral way of doing things and worked out some key issues. Among the issues at hand were whether or not to sell their offices in New York City and to find ways of investing their income in the future of the denomination. They did both. If you followed them on Twitter (Many did. #GC77 trended right up there!), then you know that there was hope and joy in their rooms. This is not why they made the news, of course. They made the news when they voted to formally allow for same-sex blessings within their communion.

A commission had been appointed (of course) that had researched, educated, and collected various liturgies, and, after much wrangling, presented suggested liturgies with all the rubrics and theology to the Body gathered. The decision was overwhelmingly in favor of adopting these liturgies for use where desired. They are "provisional." No one has to use them. But there they are...all official like. The Church is blessing same-sex unions.

Yes, there was opposition. No, the decision was not unanimous. Of course some people are very disappointed. But even those who feel this is the wrong direction for the denomination were for the most part measured and wise in their responses.

I'm proud of The Episcopal Church. I'm proud of how they conducted themselves. I'm proud that they disagreed, deliberated, explored, preached, and prayed their way through this. We Baptists aren't always so gentle, you know. We love hellfire and brimstone. We especially like to aim it at one another. Call it a gift. We're good at it. No, The Episcopal Church is not immune to the temptation either, but they had a good week.

I'm proud of The Episcopal Church for the conclusion at which they arrived as well. As far as I'm concerned in all matters theological, when in doubt err on the side of generosity. When in certainty, do the same. Generosity, humility, full inclusion of all God's Creation...If there's a "come to Jesus" moment one day I'd rather be told I was too generous than too stingy with the love of God.

Jim Somerville recently wrote that "the Baptist Church will never sanction the blessing of same-sex unions." He's right. There is no "Baptist Church." We're all on our own. There's no national body to present a binding anything. We're on our own. We like it that way...but if we weren't I would hope that we would proclaim the Gospel with the same hopeful grace as The Episcopal Church did this week.

That would be Good News.

Related Links:

  • Here is a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that it critical of TEC. It's troublesome. 
  • Get Religion attempts to deal with the troublesome reporting from the WSJ here.
  • The bishop of Arizona offers this response. Oh, and he cancelled his WSJ subscription. 
  • Lastly, there's this rebuttal from The Lead.

Tripp Hudgins is a doctoral student in liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, Calif., and associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, Calif., (where this sermon originatec.) You can read more of his writings on his longtime blog, "Conjectural Navel Gazing; Jesus in Lint Form" at AngloBaptist.org. Follow Tripp on Twitter @AngloBaptist.

Image: Interior of the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C. Photo by David Bolin/Shutterstock.

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