The Ignorance of Episcopalians
By Sherry Shinogle
Special to Virtueonline
December 30, 2014
It would seem that a great many Episcopalians are woefully ignorant about their church, not their individual churches, but about The Episcopal Church or TEC as it goes by. I make this statement based on years of sitting in pews in various Episcopal parishes and personal experiences. Let me give you some examples.
First, there is the lady who loudly and indignantly proclaims that she is an Episcopalian, not an Anglican. That had me in stitches.
Next is my friend whom I recently learned is an Episcopalian. In an effort to start a conversation on that topic, I told him that I am an Anglican. I may as well have told him I was from another planet. It meant zip, zero, zilch, nothing, to him at all.
Lastly, my parents' parish. As Episcopal parishes go, it is fairly prosperous, as well as having a nice mix, age wise. Of all the times I have attended, the only thing that raised my eyebrows was when the bishop visited. He spoke on "God's Agenda." That just about launched me out of my pew in the direction of the door. I managed to stay put, as my parents would never have understood. Like so many in "healthy" churches, they think all is well and good because it is so with their church.
The roots of the Episcopal Church lay with the Church of England, which was the predominant faith at the time of the Revolutionary War. The Church became The Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States. Episcopal means: "of bishops". This is important in demonstrating that there was a continuance of the Apostolic Succession i.e. "the method whereby the ministry of the Christian Church is held to be derived from the apostles by a continuous succession."
English Bishops are required to swear allegiance to the British monarch, an unpopular concept at the time. Samuel Seabury was the first elected bishop in the new republic. Since swearing allegiance to the British crown was repugnant, he sought consecration in Scotland. Scottish Bishops consecrated him securing the line of succession from the Apostles.
The American church never parted ways with the Church of England.
Although it is now known as the Worldwide Anglican Communion -- from whence as the British Empire the sun never sets -- it is still the Church of England. That being the case, I must inform the indignant lady that she is, indeed, an Anglican.
This brings me to my friend who, in his defense, is a recent convert. He started attending the local Episcopal Church when he and his wife moved here because his daughter attended an Episcopal Church. The problem here, as I see it, is that he obviously has not been educated on what the church is about. It is not really his fault, but it points out a glaring flaw of a lot of parishes. There isn't a whole lot of orientation for "newbees". The kids get a dose of something (I am hardly qualified to say what as we studied the Acts of the Apostles and memorized The Apostles' Creed for confirmation. No history of TEC or illustration of its place in the Anglican Communion -- I don't even recall the term even being used.) New hires at companies/corporations are given an orientation wherein they are presented, to some degree or another, with the history and organization of the entity for which they will be working. Seems a similar program would be presented to all new parish members even if they are already Episcopalians. As I said earlier, I have attended several Episcopal Churches. I have never seen anything remotely approaching something like that. There are churches, I am sure who may do something like that. I just haven't seen it.
Most Episcopal Churches, I am convinced, operate in vacuums with no idea what goes on outside the walls of their individual edifices. They function as separate entities having little or no relation with other Episcopal parishes or with what goes on at 815 the Church's national headquarters in New York City, nor for what passes as "God's mission" by Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori.
This leads to the warm, smug conclusion that since all is right with our church, there is nothing to be concerned about. I know that is how my parents view their church. Can't even have a discussion about it.
I do not make my case as a universal state in the Episcopal Church, however it does seem to be prevalent. If Episcopalians were more knowledgeable about their church outside of their building walls, perhaps more of them would be looking for better leadership or, like me, becoming Anglican.
Sherry Shinogle lives in Littleton, CO. She is Virtueonline's Copy Editor