There has been quite a bit of discussion in the last two weeks online about an excellent post from our friend Rev. Clint West over at Living Church. If you haven’t read his post yet, check it out on their blog, Covenant (and browse their other thoughtful pieces). As part of our kick off to the 2017-2018 year, The Vital crew thought it might be fun to share our staff reactions to the blog. Without further ado, here are our responses:
I am encouraged by our good friend Rev. Clint and his thoughts around the Top 10 Reasons to be Episcopalian, mainly because he reminds us in a subtle way that Jesus is Lord and the work of the Church is much bigger than creating list about ‘why join us’. When the real list should sound like, ‘why join Jesus in his reconciling work in the world?’ then that is a list that I get behind and a list that speaks to our missional nature as Christians and Anglicans. Missional work is hard and the more ‘creative’ ways we create divisions in the Church (sometimes in the name of humor) the harder we make the work that we have all been called to. As I begin these last few weeks of preparation for my seventh year in College Missions I am reminded of the importance of not using antidotes and cheeky responses with students as ways to explain the nature of the Anglican Church.
Clint’s article creates a weird split in me. On the one hand this is an overly serious response to a humor; but on the other, as the post points out, humor has a way of seeping into our beliefs and this list has some weak ideas to believe in. On the one hand celebrating denominational identity rightly highlights the rich beauty and insight of our different churches; but on the other strong denominational identity leads to unneeded division (and at times animosity) among a group of people who are supposed to be known by their love and unity (Ephesians anyone?). On the one hand this list makes Episcopalians feel comfortable in their church and good fruit comes from residing in community; but on the other Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all nations, not just those in our home church. Like Clint, I cringe slightly every time I see this list. Partly because it’s not unique to the Episcopal church, there are plenty of denominations that fit half of the reasons on the list (by my count, 7 apply to my home Catholic Church). But also partly because this list does the same thing as apologetics, builds up the people that are already there while doing little to nothing to reach outsiders (with a decent likelihood of being off-putting). Our churches have favored denominational growth over kingdom growth for long enough, and I for two am ready to become more missional. Regardless of denomination, Clint’s revised Top 10 List is a good place to start.
I have a deep, long standing, distrust of fans. No matter who I root for I am always super suspicious of other fans who like my teams. I am sure this is a problem in my own character, but the first time I ever saw this top ten list my distrusting radar went off. I knee jerk vowed to myself to never wear one of these shirts, but I never bothered to do the work that Rev. Clint did. Reading his work was hopeful for me. When I read the New Testament, I am struck repeatedly by Paul’s call to unity in the Church, and the way in which that unity will serve as a witness to the Kingdom of God for the outside world. The Church in the West is so fractured by our denominational structures that it gets in the way of our ability to witness to God’s love. It’s only through relationships and partnering across denominational lines that we can ever hope to be the people God has called us to be. As an Episcopal, lay, minister I am so thankful for so many things in our tradition, but I am also acutely aware of the ways our tradition can be alienating for outsiders. I am also thankful for Rev. Clint’s hopeful challenge to be the Church united.
Greg and Clint got to sit down and chat about this article and other important work the church is doing as part of our Vital Conversations podcast series. Take a listen:
VITAL CONVERSATIONS//Greg and our friend Clint Wilson talk Christian unity, ecumenism, and the Top Ten Reasons not to Boast in Episcopalianism.