Preachers ponder their task in divided nation and, perhaps, divided congregations

Scripture, relationships and common ground seen as sermons’ anchors

Sermons grounded in Scripture, especially the lectionary readings of the day, can be a faith community’s touchstone in times of division, say many preachers.

[Episcopal News Service] The 2016 presidential election and the Trump administration have, depending on which pundits you listen to, exposed divides not so keenly seen in the United States since the Civil War or at least since protests wracked the country during the civil rights era and the Vietnam War.

People who generally agree with the direction of the current administration frequently encounter others who decry that direction. The relentless pace of the news cycle with its one scandal or debatable decision after another can feel like a bombardment no matter one’s stance.

Living a faithful life in the midst of such divisions is not easy. On Sunday morning, members of the same congregation come to church for different reasons. Some might seek respite from the debates raging around the country. Others might be seeking guidance or inspiration for their roles in the public square. Others might be bringing more intimate worries and joys to the nave.  What is a preacher to do?

Preachers alone with their Bibles and textbooks have pondered the question and it has been the subject of small clergy gatherings, Facebook discussions and diocesan clergy gatherings, including recently in Maryland and Minnesota.

“The gospel is inherently political but not American-partisan political,” says the Rev. Gary Manning, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. Photo: David Paulsen/Episcopal News Service

The Rev. Gary Manning, rector of Trinity Episcopal Church in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, told Episcopal News Service, that knowing the congregation he faces is filled with all of those sorts of worshippers “tends to help me be a little more gentle,” Gentle, he said, but “not necessarily pulling punches.”

Admitting to a tension most preachers feel at one time or another, Manning said, “Quite frankly sometimes I just want to get up and wail away, and I think for whose benefit is that? Is that just because I’ve got the pulpit and I can do that? Well, that’s not what I am called to do; get up and give voice to my own frustration.”

The Rev. Bernard J. Owens, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, agreed. “The most pastoral and prophetic thing we can do is speak honestly and truthfully,” he said in an interview with ENS. “And I don’t entirely mean we need to be the prophet Amos every Sunday but rather to be authentic” and grounded in the truth of Scripture.

Owens recently tried to debunk the notion that a sermon is “the moment in which a designated holy person tells us everything we need to know.” In “The Light of the World: Writing my first sermon for the age of Trump,” an opinion piece he wrote for the online magazine Slate, Owens wrote that preaching must be rooted in study, prayer and relationships.

“A sermon is only one piece of the many-layered, lifelong process of building a community,” he wrote. “Even the most challenging events can also serve as opportunities to strengthen that community, but that requires equal measures of courage and humility.”

The Rev. Bernard J. Owens, rector of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, Greensboro, North Carolina, says that simply preaching about discord in politics is not what is called for. Photo courtesy of Bernard J. Owens

Owens feels called to “build up a more sacred and loving community that really does include everyone within the congregation.” At the same time, he knows that “if we aren’t honoring that there’s some really upsetting things happening then we’re just ignoring it” and being inauthentic.

Yet, it is a balancing act, he said. To preach only about current events can degrade the relationships a preacher has forged in a congregation. It also contributes to the sense of exhaustion many people on both sides of the communion rail feel about keeping track of all the issues and their responses. Moreover, such preaching can simply affirm the fact that people are divided.

Besides, Manning said, it can backfire. “I think it’s important to tell the truth but I think it’s important to tell the truth in a way that people can hear it,” he said. “If you just use slogans, if you just use stuff that sounds like you’re recycling some political manifesto, people block up their ears pretty quickly to that.”

Manning said it is one thing to show how the gospel critiques the latest political decision or policy. “It’s another thing to ask how are we as gospel people to embody our lives now. How are we to enact gospel witness?”

Two preachers who teach the art of homiletics in Episcopal seminaries would agree.

In the face of what she called “a huge energy asking us to be reactive,” the Rev. Linda Clader said, “my advice to preachers, and to myself, is to take a big breath and back up a step and really remember that our job is to preach the gospel.”

The Rev. Linda Clader, professor emerita of homiletics at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, says preachers needs to be faithful to the day’s readings and the call to build Christian community in the face of a divided culture. Photo: Church Divinity School of the Pacific

Clader, who is professor emerita of homiletics at Church Divinity School of the Pacific, told ENS that preachers must be diligent about starting with the readings for the day. “That doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to respond to something that is crazy enough but our job is to build community, to build a Christian community and it’s a community that’s grounded in the gospel,” she said.

However, Clader said, preachers should not fall into the trap of pitting in their sermons what Donald Trump says against what Jesus says. Instead, preachers have to cast a larger vision of “justice, forgiveness and God’s love.”

Grounding their sermons in that gospel message gives preachers authority, she said. “That’s the platform of authority that you can stand on because you have studied it and studied it, and you do know something about what it says and what it means,” she said.

The Rev. Ruthanna Hooke, associate professor of homiletics at Virginia Theological Seminary, said it is easy for preachers to misuse the pulpit as their personal platforms. “So, Scripture becomes a kind of grounding that you have to keep submitting yourself to – to the claims of the text – so that you are staying in contact with God as the source of preaching.”

Clader and Hooke both said that the text, in Hooke’s words, is a crucial touchstone. “But, having said that, the text pushes us into some pretty uncomfortable places,” Hooke added.

The difference, in Manning’s words, it that “the gospel is inherently political but not American-partisan political.”

Manning said he believes what he is called to do is to remind people that “it is our theology and our baptismal convent that forms our understanding of the world and not the other way around, and that’s hard for people because they’re exposed to the American story all week and maybe the gospel story for an hour.”

The gospel, Hooke said, is indeed political in its implications and its applications, and the preacher’s challenge is to explicate it in a way that is “universally hear-able while at the same the time is really the gospel.”

The Rev. Ruthanna Hooke, associate professor of homiletics at Virginia Theological Seminary, says Scripture must be the touchstone from which preachers humbly approach their task. Photo: Shawn Evelyn/Virginia Theological Seminary

Hooke teaches her students that if they are going to preach a “political sermon,” they “really have to implicate themselves.” Preachers have to ask if they would do what they are asking of their listeners. “That’s an important measure of humility on the part of the preacher and helps with these very divisive questions,” she said, adding that outrage not followed by action does not lend itself to helping the community find solutions.

It helps, she said, to remember that any given sermon is part of the preacher’s relationship with the community. “If people really know that you care about them, they’ll be much more likely to listen to you say things that are challenging,” she said.

Diocese of Maryland Bishop Eugene Sutton harkened to that care in a February pastoral letter. He urged preachers, among other things, to witness to the gospel and acknowledge that there are other witnesses. Remind your listeners, he said, that you want to keep talking with them, and then show a willingness to listen, change your mind and repent if needed.

“Show some courage,” Sutton said. “It’s easier in the long run for your pastoral ministry than cowardice.”

The bishop asked listeners to show the same willingness to listen, change one’s mind and repent, but also to study the Sunday readings and acknowledge Jesus as “both a spiritual and a political teacher.”

“Cut your preachers some slack,” Sutton said. “They really are trying to say and do the right thing.”

And, Manning noted, they are doing it during the 12 or so minutes that most Episcopal preachers devote to the sermon.

Hooke reminded preachers that the pulpit might not always be the best place from which to dive deeply into the issues of the day because the sermon is a monologue, not truly a conversation. It might be better, she said, to open up an issue while preaching and then host conversations at other times. The church, Manning and Hooke said, can be hospitable to difficult conversations among people with opposing viewpoints. Churches might be becoming one of the few places where non-like-minded people can gather for conversation, Hooke said.

Being Christian in times like these means finding common ground and core values, says Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. Photo: Mary Frances Schjonberg/Episcopal News Service

Whether it is in the pulpit or during an adult education forum, the first step ought to be acknowledging that the divisions in the wider world exist within in a congregation. “It can be pastorally helpful to actually talk about something that everybody’s thinking about but afraid to voice,” Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said during a recent news conference when a reporter asked him about the challenges of preaching to and leading congregations during this season of division.

The next question, Curry said, is “how do you move forward and offer a word and help people navigate a context that is complex – morally complex?”

As a parish priest and then as bishop of North Carolina, Curry said, he learned that calling people to stand on common ground helped give everyone some navigational tools.

“I approached that by trying to first attempt to identify and articulate what are the core values reflected in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, that we as followers of Jesus, as Christians, believe,” he said.

“Claiming the space of the values and teachings of Jesus does not mean that we have all the answers to how to solve either the problem or the issue,” he warned. Rather, it means claiming the common ground at least for Christians and looking for people of other religious traditions and people with no religious traditions who nevertheless hold the same values.

That approach allows for the fact that “everybody’s got something to contribute and we’ll come out with something better when we do that.”

Curry gave some examples. How, he asked, might a study of the parable of the Good Samaritan inform the health-care debate? Christians know of Jesus’ so-called Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12 in which he tells his followers to do to others as they would have others do to them. “Now, if you are a legislator, you have to ask yourself the social policy question of is this decision something I would want somebody else to do to me,” Curry said.

“To love your neighbor as yourself means not only to love the person whom the legislation was trying to help but it’s also about loving the person who disagrees with you,” he said. Republicans and Democrats must see each as neighbors, as defined by Jesus, “if you want to be a Christian,” he said.

“The truth is we are not the Republican Party at prayer and we are not the Democratic Party at prayer,” Curry said. “We are the Jesus Movement and that makes a difference.”

(Episcopalians can engage in policy discussions and advocacy at the federal level, and in some cases state level, by joining the Episcopal Public Policy Network.)

– The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is Episcopal News Service’s senior reporter/editor.

Comments

  1. Pjcabbiness says:

    This is a thoughtful, well written piece, in my opinion. I hope we all can pause for a moment and then reach out to one another to establish a true, respectful dialogue on these difficult and often contentious issues.

  2. Dr. William A. Flint, MDiv, PhD says:

    When I was in seminary, we were taught to preach Jesus. Very good advice to today’s clergy who are tempted to stray off message. We are part of the Jesus Movement, which has been effectively going on for over 2,000 years. Most of the 2,000 years was without our preaching. If we preach Jesus, then the Holy Spirit has more room to work in a human heart. When a “preacher” starts down the political road in a sermon, I turn off my ears because I know strife and hurt feelings are just a word away. If we believe Jesus and we preach Jesus all is well with our souls and God’s Holy Spirit can change hearts.

    • Dan Tootle says:

      Then you are ignoring the Jesus who spoke and acted against the political and religious authorities of his time (and who also subsequently killed him). To preach Jesus is not just to love your God with all your heart, mind, and soul and to love your neighbor as you love yourself. It is also the recognize, speak against, and to act to eliminate injustice. Your comment alludes to such action as being “political”. What it is is to preach Jesus as a matter of speaking truth to power, no matter whether that applies to political or religious power.

      • Warren Eckels says:

        Actually, sometimes obeying God, loving God with heart, mind and soul and loving your neighbor as yourself means putting yourself in opposition to injustice. If we allow ourselves to be vexed by wrath, to be first to judge and condemn, to hold ourselves inherently better than our political opponents, then even if we triumph politically, the triumph will be hollow and simply plant the seeds for the next Trump.

        • Paul A Fessenden says:

          Mr. Eckels, You obviously did not get the message being presented by Bishop Curry… By using a phrase such as, …”simply plant the seeds for the next Trump.”, you alienate any Trump supporters that are reading your message and set up conflict that leads to hurt feelings and discord.

          “Republicans and Democrats must see each as neighbors, as defined by Jesus, “if you want to be a Christian,… The truth is we are not the Republican Party at prayer and we are not the Democratic Party at prayer,” Curry said. “We are the Jesus Movement and that makes a difference.”

  3. Kilty Maoris says:

    Those who wish to speak political speech in the pulpit need first to realized they are there through the generosity of the American taxpayer. We don’t pay excessive taxes so churches get by without paying taxes to support the nation, state or county. Preach all the religion you want but don’t cross the line. If you want to do that then start paying the taxes we all have to pay for any business. After all, when you come right down to it, a church is nothing more than a business in vestments.
    The episcopal church seems to be “hell bent” on causing as much dissent as possible and that church has little desire to bring two differing sides together. You find “them” at the drop of a miter yelling and screaming in the streets. Along with their so-called clergy. Sane and reasonable people don’t take to the streets and disrupt traffic, business, and all commerce in an attempt to force their opinions on others. This clearly obvious move on their part should have shown them this is not the way to effect change. When interviewed on TV most of these protestors can’t answer the simple question, “What are you Protesting?” They don’t have a clue and have nothing more than the desire to join a mob and in many cases they are paid for this.

  4. ron davin says:

    How did you ever get passed the last 8 years ?

  5. Robert Browning says:

    There are at least 2 kinds of churches. Pulpit centered and Altar centered.
    Pulpit centered, you come to hear what preacher has to say. If it is not what you anticipate or buy into, you may go away with less than you came with.
    In Altar centered church you come to offer up all your sins and the preacher is one of the ones there to do the same, along with usher, acolyte, Lay Reader, etc.
    At birth we are like a tabla rossa with a clean slate. Our sins get tacked up onto this. We put these sins and thumb tacks into the offering plate and Confession. Thumb tack holes remain. Holy Communion fills up the holes on our tabla rossa and we again are off to a new start – Go Forth!
    You are part of the Body of Christ; not the leader of a Bible Study or politician running for office.

  6. Susan Salisbury says:

    Different people have different ideas of what it means to act in a Christian way. the members of my parish tend toward the conservative, though we have many liberals. We are a parish that has a tradition of doing. We sponsor a youth center with after school programs in a low income city a few miles from our church, a well child clinic, three sober living houses for recovering addicts and a food bank among other ministries. We are also gone to an Asian Outreach ministry and a prison ministry. I am told the more liberal parish has lots of committees that write letters. We have had stormy controversies but it is by emphasizing what we have in
    Common that we have survived. The evil of going down the political road is this: we begin to see each other as Republicans or Democrats rather than as Christians. Shortly after the election one of our deacons preached a very political sermon in which she implied, To a parish full of people who voted for Trump, that people who voted for Trump posed an actual physical danger to those right minded people who didn’t. She was actually shocked to learn that she had offended people who came to church regularly, who participated in and donated to the ministries we have to the poor, who had always been kind and generous to her. I was one of those offended. The problem is that, as others have observed, we conservatives tend to think that liberals are mistaken and misguided. Too many liberals think that conservatives are just evil and selfish and full of hate. It’s hard to have a meaningful dialog when the other side thinks you are evil. And, as a lawyer, I know full well that Justice is too often in the eye of the beholder. There are at least two sides to every contentious issue. You may think the U S was evil in dropping the atomic bomb. Those of your parishioners who were once soldiers who were being shipped to the Pacific for the invasion of Japan, and their descendants may beg to differ. They are alive today because that bomb was dropped. At least that’s how they see it. In fact that exact scenario happened in my parish when our then priest had the custom of preaching against the atom bomb every August. He stopped after I pointed out how many of his parishioners had served in WWII or were the children or grandchildren of those who did. I have already made this comment too long but that’s really the point. These are complex issues that don’t lend themselves to 12 minute sermons

    • James Saunders says:

      I am delighted to read your comments. While I thought this article was well written and well balanced, I have lately come to believe that I am the only Episcopalian conservative in the pews, and the only lawyer that supports President Trump. (I fully acknowledge that he and his administration have rough edges, but judging from the knee-jerk reactions I regularly hear from my more liberal colleagues and fellow parishioners, let alone some of the sermons I have heard since last November, I had begun to despair that in contemporary Episcopal interpretation of my Baptismal vow, being a Christian and a member of the Body of Christ necessarily means being socially liberal in civil politics.) To be sure, my faith informs my politics, and I am quick to criticize the President or any other Republican or any other conservative if his position is antithetical to my understanding of the Gospel; and I would want any preacher to explain why any government action is or is not consistent with Jesus’s teaching. But I am glad to understand, from what you say here, that there still is diversity of political opinion in our church. Thank you!

  7. Angustia Hamasaki says:

    Thanks be to God, that I’m Christian Episcopalian hope worthy to be called Christian. God bless us all. Don’t look to our sins Lord but your love and mercy to help us grow with humility, goodness, kindness as worthy servants and children of yours, that we may all respect all your creations. Through Jesus our loving savior name we pray. Amen

  8. The Rev. Fred Fenton says:

    “If people really know that you care about them, they’ll be much more likely to listen to you say things that are challenging,” she said.” That was my experience during 40 years in the pulpit. During the Vietnam War, which I opposed in and out of the pulpit, you could hear cars starting while I was still preaching! It was a congregation with many Navy officers and their families who did not agree with my anti-war stand. However, I would often be told at the church door, “Father Fred, I don’t believe a word of what you are saying, but I know you will take care of my family when I am overseas. That’s what matters to me.” I was always an activist but also a caring pastor. Some of those who opposed my stand on the war took the trouble, years later, to write and say that I had been right, the war was a disaster.

  9. Gretchen Lipp says:

    Thank-you for this very relevant article. I am studying to be a Lay Preacher in the Diocese of Central New York and have too felt the pull between my personal convictions overshadowing my sermons. As preachers, we dive into scripture with our whole being, hoping that when we emerge, the Holy Spirit has given us the best exegesis of the reading possible. And that’s the point. The scriptures don’t require anything other than themselves to be revealed. They have stood on their own for 2000 years. The Word will, and has survived the best of times and the worst of times. Remember the two disciples on the road home to Emmaus on Resurrection Day? They heard the words spoken by the, “stranger,” and their, “hearts stirred.” May our words, preached at the pulpit, in sync with the Holy Spirit, stir hearts and transform lives. God is still God; and God changes hearts for God’s purpose no matter which side of of the political spectrum we find ourselves. And that is all good. Peace to All

  10. The Rev. Gwin Hanahan says:

    Entering most Episcopal Churches, one is aware most keenly that the center of our worship is the altar, not the pulpit. Seven to twelve minute-sermons come from prayer, attention to the Holy Spirit, study, and they shed light on the day’s Readings, most often the Gospel. Condensing many hours of preparation into those 7-12 minutes is a discipline that provides the hearers with an historical, literary, etc. criticism in a space so that the hearers may be informed by the Holy Spirit, not by a preacher’s opinion. Preach Jesus; let the Spirit work; respect the parishioners’ ability to think within the via media. Allow space in our sermons for all of this to happen. Trust God who gave us all intelligence. All of this in 7-12 minutes. Then comes the central part of our service, the center of our worship: not the pulpit and the priest but God’s Table and the Holy Spirit.

  11. F William Thewalt says:

    James Saunders speaks well for the many of us Episcopalians of long standing who feel marginalized by the “contemporary Episcopalian interpretation of Baptismal vows.” I am not a pariah because I voted against Hillary Clinton. What ever happened to the third leg of the Episcopal stool called “reason?” Reason is the last thing on the mind of those who self-assuredly “know” they are right. Sermons with a good dose of reason are always well received.

  12. mike geibel says:

    A thoughtful article on the predicament now facing pastors—but I get the impression that the real question the article tries to address, is: “How to give a sermon denouncing Trump without offending and losing conservative parishioners.” My advice is: Don’t do it. Joining the chorus of nightly media pundits who hate Trump more than they love America will alienate those members who disagree with you.

    I agree with the comments of Robert Browning and Rev. Hanahan distinguishing between a “pulpit” and an “altar” church. Ministering to the spiritual needs of church members in their daily lives is a full time job without the politics. I don’t go to Church to hear a lecture on some controversial issue or to listen to others engage in political debates. I seek guidance on how I should live my life and be a better person, and not on who or what I should vote for. The implicit message of any sermon advocating a political position or indirectly endorsing a political candidate is that if you don’t agree with the pastor, “you are a bad person.”

    I doubt the theories offered on the “art” of giving homilies with political messages will actually work in practice. Parishioners are not stupid. They will recognize a political message advocating universal health care even if disguised as the story of the Good Samaritan. And the story doesn’t answer the question: “How much does it cost and who is going to pay for it?”

    Missing from the article are interviews with pastors who have personally witnessed the resulting friction between members, empty pews, and declining pledge monies. Also missing from the article is an honest disclosure of the negative statistical and fiscal impact of Episcopal political activism following the election of President Trump. I therefore find the comments posted by actual front-line pastors to be more persuasive. I left the Episcopal Church because of the political posturing by the Leadership and not because of my Pastor— we may have disagreed on politics but I respected her as a compassionate and spiritual leader.

    The ENS has published many post-election articles on bishops signing opposition statements to Executive Orders, amicus curie legal briefs on transgender rights, declarations of a sanctuary diocese, and participation in protest marches on everything from oil pipelines to abortion rights. I wish the article had disclosed the number of pastors who have reported loss of members, declining attendance and that their church must largely pay its mission share not from pledges, but by renting church property to private businesses and holding fundraisers open to non-members. Examples of real life consequences are a better measure of what not to do than rhetorical theory.

    My perception is that the leadership has aligned itself with the same politics that have eliminated God from school, and members of the clergy have walked arm in arm with anarchists advocating violence and atheist college professors who indoctrinate students on political correctness, label those who disagree as deplorable, hillbilly racists, decry capitalism as evil, and consider Jesus Christ to be a fairy tale for the weak-minded. For me, the Church leadership has made the term “Jesus Movement” a synonym for activist preachers advocating leftist ideology.

    There are many members who are quite orthodox in their Christian faith, who are fiscally conservative, who respect our Nation’s laws, and yet support some (but not all) liberal causes. I was such a cradle Episcopalian. The Episcopal Church is now in my rear-view mirror.

  13. Pjcabbiness says:

    I thought that I was possibly the last conservative Episcopalian. I am pleased to see that there are others. I will not give up on the Episcopal Church. I guess I am either a glutton for punishment or a modern day Don Quixote type.

  14. Joseph Pagano says:

    The whole discussion is confused. To articulate a coherent position one would need to (at a minimum) answer the following questions:

    1. What do you mean by politics? Are you drawing on a tradition of political discourse that flows from Aristotle, Hobbes, Locke, Rouseau, Habermas or some other political theorist?
    2. What do you mean when you say “Jesus was political?” How so? In what ways? Is there a political theory to be found in the Gospels? Or are you teasing out hints and tendencies?
    3. Which “Jesus” are you referring to? The so-called historical Jesus? If so, then you have to engage all the questions that go into that contested area of discourse? If not, is it the Jesus we meet in Matthew’s version of the Sermon on the Mount? In the final form of Mark? Luke? John?
    4. What is a sermon? What is the meaning and purpose of a sermon in the context of worship?

    One can answer these questions in a variety of ways (there are volumes written on these subjects), but one needs to answer them. Without answers to these questions the discussion is confused and the assertions made by the participants lack clarity and coherence.

  15. Robert Browning says:

    I meant to add that I am a Korean war vet, went back to university with Gi Bill and went to Nashotah House Seminary because in between High school, 4 yrs. military and during college years I apprenticed as a carpenter/builder. My bishop, Hart, Diocese of PA, even though Diocese was historically “Low Church”, as Pres. of CPF, he was able to get me into Nashotah, if I could finish building needed 25 student housing units. Which I did. There I served as Deputy Sheriff, carpenter and other construction during those 3 years. I then rebuilt a parish in down trodden section of Phila. I then built a parish in Florida staying there over 30 years. I am a life long conservative Republican, BUT I vote on issues and what I believe in the candidate. I try to separate people and issues into: CAN’T and WON’T. The Can’t’s I help with all my being. It is tough to sometimes distinguish. I am an optimist and Hope springs eternal.
    Bless us all as we believe that church is a hospital for sinners and not a museum for saints. Evangelism is: one Beggar telling another Beggar where the BREAD is! Come to the Table!

  16. Ted Foley says:

    I picked up this article a few days late. I found the tone of the comments to be very telling.
    I wonder if it would be helpful, in any discussion such as this, to avoid labels such as “conservative”, or “liberal” or the many other labels used to sub-divide us? Quite frankly, I sometimes wonder if we all mean the same thing when we are using the same labels.
    Would it be helpful instead to talk about specific issues and look at them through the lens of scripture?

  17. Tony Oberdorfer says:

    Mike Geibel makes many excellent points with which I am in full agreement. If the Episcopal Church is not yet in my own “rear-view mirror” it is simply because I do not like the idea of being driven out of the church by the growing mob of left-wing dissenters and their increasingly bizarre views.

    Of the many increasingly acceptable opinions within the Episcopal Church, perhaps the most grotesque is the notion that so-called transgendered people should have the right to “change” themselves even to the point of mutilating their own bodies. What this amounts to is telling our divine creator that he made some kind of a “gender assignment” mistake which we human beings have a (God-given?) right to correct. Surely this amounts to plain lunacy and I feel sympathy for those priests and bishops who remain loyal to historic religious common sense but are forced to get along with those of their non-traditionalist brethren who in reality are the true dissenters.

  18. Bill Louis says:

    If you don’t like what’s going on with your church then stop putting your contributions into the general fund. The diocese feeds off every church under its jurisdiction with what is called an accessment. Choke off the dollars that flow to up them and they will start to listen. Give your donations to local outreach or a designated fund that improves your church building. Get creative but keep it out of the General fund. It’s not an easy thing to do. When your church leadership discovers what you are trying to do you will get some diapproving looks and plenty of pushback depending where they stand with the issues you don’t agree with. For a real view of what is going on with the higher Episcopal Church search out the last budget approved by the convention.

  19. mike geibel says:

    I have no training in political science, and I am not a Biblical scholar, but I am not persuaded that Jesus was political. Others more qualified say Jesus was political, and probably they know better than I do, but I wonder if they say this merely to justify their political activism as “God’s work.”

    I do, however, believe that the execution of Jesus Christ by the Roman state was politically motivated. I also attribute the demise of the Episcopal Church to its political activism, at least in part. The difference is that the demise of the Church is largely self-inflicted.

    My exit from the Church is of no consequence. I read an article on the declining membership of the TEC which commented that liberal-minded millennials are not flocking to the Episcopal Church as predicted by the former Bishop, and that most of the members still attending services are “geezers” like myself who do so “out of habit” and a desire to preserve their funeral in the church of their birth. We “geezers” are hardly a reliable stream of revenue into the future, and political activism is a thirsty beast.

    Rumors that the TEC and ACLU are engaged in merger negotiations are sarcastic punch-lines by those who are angry and gloat over the continuing nose-dive in membership, but concerns of fiscal sustainability are a reality and seem to be forcing a shift from “ministry” for an aging membership, to sales of church property and investments in business ventures. The ENS published trial reports of Bishop Bruno closing St. James in Newport Beach so he could sell the sanctuary for $15 million to a real estate developer to pay legal fees and invest the money in revenue producing property. The ashes of former members interned at the church would be respectfully relocated. The LA Diocese has declared itself a “sanctuary diocese” and approved a budget that includes $1.5 million for immigrants and refugees, this at the same time that the loyal members were locked out of the sanctuary at St. James so it could be destroyed and replaced with luxury condominiums. It is ironic that many of the Churches owned by the diocese are similarly located on very valuable property and could be quickly converted to cash under Trump’s agenda designed to spur private development.

    With the current political vitriol spewed nightly by media hacks (on both sides) and the controversial and divisive actions advocated by the Leadership, local pastors who are honestly and faithfully trying to “Preach the Word” as engraved on the pulpit featured below the title of the article are faced with a difficult task.

  20. Jess Jaffe says:

    Nowhere in the article did I hear the very large truth, We need the Trumpers’ pledge dollars. I would have a whole lot more respect for this branch of the Church if I saw an acknowledgement of this fact of life. As for the many, many people in the church who feel as I do, that this is not rocket science; when you re trying to throw 24 million off healthcare, when you empower a police force to rip people from their beds and their schools, when you label the free press an enemy and make statements not based in fact or reality, when you try to destroy many departments of government you have been entrusted to uphold, when you fuel and stoke the flames of white supremacy — this is Evil. To those clear-sighted people, I ask a question, if your national leadership refuses to call out Evil, are you not being “complicit” giving your time treasure and talents to something that tries to swing both ways? Yes, there are Blue State dioceses that have called out Trump, but from the Red States, the silence has been deafening — just as with the national leadership. Do you really want to be a support to such a group? I personally voted with my feet.

  21. mike geibel says:

    Finally, we have someone willing to stand up against evil and walk out of the EC for its hypocrisy in accepting pledge money from Trump supporters. I think you should persuade all your friends who think just like you do to follow your lead and vow never to return until every Episcopal Church adopts a “zero tolerance” policy against anyone who refuses to pledge allegiance to “resistance” rather than to “peace” and reconciliation. To regain its soul, the TEC must publically denounce Trump and stop accepting this tainted blood money from Trump supporters and expel them from the pews. After all, this is war—the evil empire verses the dark side.

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