Eight years ago, I launched a Facebook page called "Unapologetically Episcopalian." My motivation was to provide a safe place where people could share good things about The Episcopal Church during a time when our Church was experiencing quite a bit of conflict. As of today, almost 61,000 people have "liked" this page and shared their love of this Church. Our covenant of conduct there is simple. It comes from St. Paul's letter to the Church at Philippi. "Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (Phil. 4:8).
Recently, when I was discussing Unapologetically Episcopalian with someone, I was asked what aspects of the Episcopal Church I value and find life-giving and what about it calls me deeper into my relationship with God. I'd like to share my answer with you.
The Episcopal Church fosters communities of followers of Jesus Christ where “all sorts and conditions of people” are welcome and no one is an outcast. Those communities encourage each person to be transformed by openness to the wonder and mystery of God’s hand at work in the universe in which we live. Our corporate worship and sacramental life give us sustenance for the spiritual journey and for service to the world. By promoting the dynamic relationship of scripture, tradition, and reason, the Episcopal Church provides a broad “middle way” that allows diversity, resists dogmatic certainty, and encourages thoughtful conversation about what God is calling us to be and do. Our oneness and our mission are not grounded in uniformity of belief, but in gathering for a feast at the invitation of the One who is the Way, Truth, and Life we seek.
Because of our roots in The Church of England, The Episcopal Church is also an Anglican Church. As Anglicans, our descent from the Early Church is as direct as that of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. At the same time, we share a common heritage with Reformed churches. There are many desirable aspects of this “middle way” and three of them are especially important in my own journey to find and be found by God.
The Book of Common Prayer – The Book of Common Prayer is unique to our Anglican heritage and central to our structure and practice. The Book of Common Prayer provides a framework for our common life by providing central instructions in the Christian faith, requirements for our liturgical and sacramental life, and guidance for living as Anglican Christians. Certainly, we have canons that govern many aspects of our corporate life. But our unity is grounded not in polity but in common prayer. The Church forms and shapes us individually as Christians and the prayer book provides the necessary cohesiveness that preserves corporate faith and order.
Our approach to reading and interpreting the Holy Bible – Avoiding biblical literalism and affirming the necessity of looking at scripture through the lenses of reason and tradition are hallmarks of our Anglican heritage. We read and interpret the Bible for ourselves, but within the context of a gracious and redemptive community where our interpretations are tested and refined using this approach. This helps us avoid not only error but also the narrow judgmentalism and pharisaism that has driven many away from life in Christ. Our approach to scripture helps us explore both ancient truth and God’s unfolding self-disclosure in our own place and time.
The possibility of following a spiritual path within an organized church – I find myself in company with many souls in this emerging era who are seeking to be a part of a diverse, inclusive, authentic community of believers with whom they can approach spiritual concerns, wrestle with doubt, live with mystery, and cope with ambiguity. People are not looking so much for answers as for other souls with whom they can explore their own stories at the intersection with the story of humanity and with the ancient story of faith in God. The openness of the Episcopal Church to questions, fresh revelations, and ancient teachings is inviting to me and will be inviting to the emerging generation of people on their spiritual journeys.
It's not a perfect Church. But it has a lot to commend it for anyone seeking an open minded, inclusive, non-dogmatic approach to being a Follower of Jesus Christ.
I'll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
St. Andrew’s Cathedral