Give me that upscale religion

A Methodist is a Baptist who can read.
A Presbyterian is a Methodist with money.
An Episcopalian is a Presbyterian with manners.

While there are many problems with my own church in the US (The Episcopal Church), the reason it has been unable to be indigenous like other Anglican bodies around the world, is primarily because it is the church of gin and lace.  It was once the ‘Republican party at prayer’ and now it is the ‘Green party at prayer.’

With all of its claim to progressiveness you would think it was the religion of the masses.  Not so.  It is the religion of the elite.  We never learned (with some notable exceptions) how to be accessible to people of all hues and economic backgrounds.  In fact we have persecuted those who have tried to do just that (Wesley, as an example).

How do we get away from the wine and cheese culture?

7 thoughts on “Give me that upscale religion

  1. Bishop Gesner pointed out that…many (from the Lakota/Dakota reservations) who have moved into towns and cities have not been absorbed in the life of the existing church… He also pointed out that we need the strength of new members. We should appeal more to the plain people; we should not be guilty of a select clientele.
    Convocation Highlights, Missionary District of South Dakota, April 20-22, 1956

  2. That’s the question, isn’t it? The only answer I’ve ever seen even remotely work is to focus on the core of our Faith. But way too many of us, including myself, have an inner core of snobbishness.

  3. The Anglo-Catholics (if any of them have remained in the ECUSA fold) were always (and ironically) the least of the snobbish out of the whole lot. No, that’s not right… Small town Episcopal parishes and even big city ones that have been long established in working class neighborhoods, even though rather “broad church” were never snobbish. I have attended a few regularly. Even a generation of female pastors hasn’t really changed little St Andrew’s parish in North Portland.

    When I went there, I easily rubbed shoulders at the communion rail with an Indian princess and her British knighted husband, and a well-to-do British missionary couple who were retired but had served in Nigeria (the husband was a Latvian nobleman) during their younger days. Those two couples lived one in a Victorian mansion on the overlook of Willamette Blvd, and the other in a fairly decent sized Cape Cod a little further down, in a pocket of upper middle class homes on the edge of the East Portland working class ghetto. The most of us at St Andrews were just plain folks, with a good many of us coming from Canada. (There’s always been a lot of Canadians in Portland.)

    Again, later when I lived for less than a year in Vancouver, BC, we attended the famous parish of St James, the original parish of British Columbia, whose parish boundaries once went from the US border to the Alaska-Yukon frontier. This was the most austere yet fully Anglo-Catholic traditionalist parish I have ever gone to, and yet they had more compassion, both practical and theoretical, than ANY church I’ve ever belonged to. As far as I know, they’re doing their good work still. The members, middle class, the recipients of their charitable works, the poor and homeless at the junction of Skid Row and Chinatown. When we were back in Portland, I tried on a much smaller scale to minister to the same sort of people, but with less success because at St Mark’s parish, the highness of High Church Anglo-Catholicism had gotten the better of the clergy and the patrons (I should say members, but I fear, alas, most of the members WERE in fact misplaced or failed intelligentsia members who came for the art and flair more than for discipleship to Jesus Christ). By the way, St Mark’s is no longer ECUSA, but belongs to one of the continuing Anglican jurisdictions, and the wealthy patrons have fled to Episcopal safety at Trinity Cathedral, leaving the working class fundamentalist Catholic types to do their best.

    Sorry for rambling, but what IS the Episcopal Church to do, to get back to its apostolic and evangelical roots? Being “catholic” is the easy part, because that can be manipulated to mean whatever you want it to mean, but not the other two.

  4. Yeah, that was quite a ramble, Brother Romanos.

    It seems to me that the thrivng churches are those who believe they are the body of Christ in the world, charged with doing the work of the kingdom. If the intention is to be active in ministry to the world, not to the church, there is a chance that discipleship will become more important, that worship will be more meaningful, that evangelism is more likely to thrive. If the purpose of the congregation is to take care of themselves, they are doomed to attrition. In short, Christianity is a movement which belongs to those who actuallly move.

    Omphaloskepsis (look it up) is for Buddhists. God’s work in God’s kingdom is for Christians. Let’s get about doing it.

  5. Duh… Brother Morpheus, quite to the point! But navel-gazing? That’s the keyword used in the West’s attack on the East’s mystical approach to Theosis. (I don’t have to look it up!) I don’t know what to make of hesychasm in Orthodox practice, as I tried it and gave it up years ago as not suited to my embodiment. I mean, I am the type that finds peace and union with God in loving and serving the people, and that’s where I get my batteries charged. Yet, I don’t fault the mystics for their practices. And I don’t compare them with Buddhists. The Body of Christ has many parts, and some of them are hidden and what they do is hidden. I just happen to be the hands and feet sort, but sometimes I’m the heart too.

    You are quite right in stating that any church that takes care of themselves is doomed to attrition. No disagreements there. But the unhappy situation is this—can you show me a church that doesn’t do this? In their institutional form, it seems like almost all churches, denominations as well as local congregations, are into serving Christ in THEMSELVES first, giving only token attention to those OUTSIDE. As I have found this to be the case where I live, it’s devolved upon me to do the outreach that I can, one-to-one usually, and not with money, but with my time and talent first, adding money to the mixture where it is truly needed, and not just sitting on my tush smugly because I’ve paid my tithe or sent off my “love gift” to some ministry.

    This is the bane of modern Christianity—that we think that money, not grace, is the answer to everything. A few years ago in my local Orthodox parish (which by the way has been “elevated” to a “cathedral”), the wealthiest member was invited (actually it was a setup) to tell the congregation how much he was giving to the new building program, how much it helped him spiritually, how everyone should avail themselves of this “opportunity,” and how we should “give until it feels good.” I was livid! Give until it feels good? What came immediately to mind was Mother Theresa of Calcutta’s saying, “Give until it hurts,” only she didn’t mean that we should stop when it hurts, but that when it hurts, it’s a signal that we have finally arrived at the beginnings of philanthropy, and that we should proceed from there. She said, “God values our gift as much as we do.” That’s something I never forgot, and I heard that saying of hers when I was just a young man trying to do street ministry out of St Mark’s Episcopal church in Portland, with the toleration but not the support of the clergy.

    In church today our Fr Paul preached a very long, highly eloquent sermon on ministering to others, especially outside the church, etc. All true words, very, very true. Meant to inspire no doubt. But I for one don’t need inspiration, especially coming from a stuffed cassock who talks true things but makes excuses when asked to do them himself. He just turned 40, poor man, and hasn’t realised yet that much of what he dreams of doing has been going on unnoticed right under his nose by the laity unasked, both before he came and now, and will continue after he has left us. I do hope Fr Neo, whoever he is in real life, is not a priest like Fr Paul, but one who, like the holy apostles, neither fears the sheep nor wishes to rule them, but rather looks among them for those who can shepherd the flock with him, and willingly bears the image of the Good Shepherd in himself.

  6. I appreciate the dialog, Romanos.

    It is necessary for the flock to tend to the needs of the flock. We all have lives and responsibilities that go with our householding role. That’s life in every age. The Celtic orientation of banking the fire and milking the cow to the recitation of the Trinity shows this. To have the orientation to attempt it expresses the power of the community behind the practice. The body must move as a body, the flock as a flock. Lone sheep attract lone wolves. The shepherd is the focal point. Father Neo knows this and preaches the gospel. He has a little bit of flock fear, but he overcomes it with ambition to serve the Lord. His passion is palpable.

    ECUSA got hit by a brickbat thrown from GAFCON this weekend. Couldn’t have happened at a better time. I’m so sick of Anglican weenihood. Jesus, the gentle Jesus, knew how and when to kick a little Pharisee ass. He treated men like men, no coddling or mothering. It would be nice if we had a little more of that in Anglicanism. The Romans got JP II and now Ben XVI. We get gentle, please everyone Rowan Williams. He is known for his highly lauded feminine qualities. I think he should resign.

    News from the closet: I, too, have experimented with anchorite practice and hesychastic prayer. So far, I like it. It needs to be followed by the Book of James, of course. But it quiets the soul and opens the silence and peace up nicely, a charism I think.

  7. “Jesus, the gentle Jesus, knew how and when to kick a little Pharisee ass. He treated men like men, no coddling or mothering.”

    Amen, brother! I like it!
    I never really believed any of this rot about “gentle Jesus” in the abstract. That kind of idealism leads to Christian “green and vegan” woosehood, which is where my local paster, Fr Paul, is heading, along with his wife and two children, Pugsley and…oops, I’ve forgotten her name… she wants to be a priest when she grows up. Poor child, she’s in the wrong church. Maybe, if ECUSA is still around…

    Jesus was gentle in those situations just as any man would be gentle, and pushy and “in your face” just as any man would be if it warranted it. Why? because He was 100% Man. He didn’t call the kind of men to follow Him that He did, if He wasn’t one of us.

    Anyway, hang in there, brothers! The Master knows whose are His, irrespective of the externals of church affiliations. We all have our burdens to bear, but it makes it easier just knowing that He’s willing to share the load with all of us.

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