After a couple of blood-pressure raising looks at life in The Episcopal Church today, I was called back to sanity by Evening Prayer. The daily rhythm of the Book of Common Prayer, with its heavy reliance of the Word of God for both worship and reflection, reminds me of just how much God has given me through the Episcopal Church and, yes, Episcopalians. This denomination and its people have been the hands by which Christ presented me with an entire way of life.
For twenty years, I've given back. Each church I served for TEC was more abundant by the time I moved on to the next. More prayer, more people, more funds, more ministry to the community, more facilities. I have to believe that God used me as a vessel to pour blessings into the church that had given me so much.
Things today are painful. All of a sudden, the gifts I present don't mean anything to the church.
I would go so far as to say that the TEC powers-that-be detest people like me. Oh, they express it with prim little voices and p.c. slogans, but the contempt is hard to miss.
But with all that said, they are not the enemy.
A wise person (I can't say for sure but I think it was a Civil Rights activist named James Lawson) once told me, "Remember that human opponents are not our enemy, but victims of our common enemy, the devil."
I believe that a critical mass of Episcopalians, especially those charged with leadership, are victims of the evil one and his spectacular ability to deceive. They see themselves as "missional" (yeah, church people talk like that), but their numbers decline and their social influence is all but nil. They claim to be "inclusive," but what few members they have are more and more monochrome. They sue for buildings "for future generations of Episcopalians," when their own figures show member deaths exceeding births by about 19,000 every year. They say they've received a "new thing of the Spirit," but less than 20% of their congregations report sharing any message with non-members.
Back to that Prayer Book they gave me: one of the Friday Morning readings was Acts 9:1-9. A zealous man, convinced that he was all about God's work, was ravaging the church and "persecuting Jesus." That is, until Jesus spoke to him and turned his life inside out. And that man became Paul, whose words still turn the world inside out for Jesus.
I pray for Episcopalians. I pray that Jesus will speak to one or more leaders, and show them how they are harming themselves by fighting against him. And I pray that those leaders will become voices of great renewal and mission in the church.
They are not my enemy. The devil, who would destroy us all, is the enemy. But as Martin Luther put it, "the right man is on our side... Christ Jesus, it is he..." I pray that Jesus will speak to us and make us all able to offer glorious rhythms of prayer, now and forever.