I guess that's not surprising in this Season of the Incarnation.
We've heard so much about what it means to be an Anglican that I think we've forgotten what it means to be an Episcopalian who is a part - one part of many gloriously different parts - of the Anglican Communion.
I think we once knew - with great certainty - what it meant to be an Episcopalian. And, some of us don't want to be 'that kind' of Episcopalian. Indeed, some of us haven't been 'that kind' of Episcopalian for quite a long while.
Which may be part of the problem.
I remember, years ago, seeing a cartoon in The New Yorker. The image was a close up of Father What-A-Waste - handsome, trim, full head of hair with a slight touch of gray at the temples, in proper cassock, surplice, tippet and hood, probably just completed a proper Service of Morning Prayer - standing at the church door, talking with several 'blue haired' ladies in fur coats.
Behind him was the church sign with the sermon topic of the day: Evangelism.
One of the blue haireds says to the cleric, "But, Father, everyone who needs to be an Episcopalian already is."
THAT kind of Episcopalian.
You know exactly what I mean.
The other day, as I was going through some of my books, I found the following quote. It's from John Updike's novel, "Bech is Back"
One of the characters describes his wife's WASPish Episcopalianism this way:
"Many of her crowd went to church as faithfully as they played tennis and golf and attended rallies to keep out developers. Yet, their God, for all his colorful history and spangled attributes, lay above the earth like a layer of icy cirrus, a tenacious and diffident other whose tendrils failed to entwine with fibrous blood and muscle.".I have certainly known Episcopalians who could be described in this way. And, I'm thinking, so do you.
I know other Episcopalians who defy this definition.
Yes, defy. I chose that word intentionally.
I have known many Episcopalians in the more than 34 years I have been privileged to have been received into this great church.
If I start to mention them, I'll get myself in trouble because I'll leave many of the great - but lesser known ones - out.
There are other Episcopalians who work faithfully in the vineyards of the inner city or rural areas of this country, holding onto outposts of traditional Anglo-Catholicism, attempting new forms of Evangelical praise worship, pushing the envelope on services of inclusive/expansive languages and images for God and humankind, experimenting with 'total ministry' of all the baptized, and all the while, all of them serving the poor and the needy in their midst.
There are even other Episcopalians, some not closely affiliated with the institutional church, who work in community-based organizations that are deeply committed to The Great Commission to feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless and clothing to the naked, care for those with HIV/AIDS, provide for the widowed and orphaned, give dignity and hope to those in prison.
Not any one of them is, in any way, like Updike's WASPish Episcopalian.
Contrary to "popular" opinion, in great numbers.
Not everyone has left to join, as they say in DC, "the Africans."
And there are lots - lots and lots and lots - of clergy who would give their left foot - and the right chamber of their heart - to be rector.
And, many of them already have.
But, that is not - they are not - the future of The Episcopal Church.
The future was never gained by holding onto the past.
The future belongs to those who are willing to risk. To dare. To dream a dream of God for the Realm of God where all . . .all . . .all. . . are welcome. All are fed. All are clothed. All are equal. All are free.
And that, I have come to believe, is what it means to be The Episcopal Church.
To be bold enough, brave enough, courageous enough, to face the future. To be the future. Despite the strong impulse imposed upon us from afar to gather ourselves around rules and regulations that ensure we do not "offend" one another, lest there be "relational consequences" imposed upon us in the name of "unity" and "communion".
Rather, we need to embrace and give thanks for what we have been and what we are become - a faith incarnate in an Incarnate God who loves all that S/he has created unconditionally.
An Anglican Covenant will not give us that future.
Only incarnate, embodied faith that is alive in Christ can do that.
"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
Not a "tenacious, diffident other whose tendrils failed to entwine with fibrous blood and muscle", but One who knows us because S/he was once us. And, we better know who God is because of the mystery of The Incarnation.
Jesus is the only covenant I need. And, that covenant, in part, is to "seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving my neighbor as myself" and "strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being."
It's about the Incarnation - often messy, occasionally offensive, perhaps sometimes even scandalous, with relational consequences for trying - and failing, more often than not - to love others and ourselves as God loves us.
That, to me, is what it means to be Episcopalian. It's about Divine Love that is incarnate in each of us and strives to serve others sacrificially in the Name of Christ.
Indeed, I think it's also what is at the heart of the Spirit of Anglicanism.
I think we just need to remind ourselves, from time to time, who we are and whose we are so we can be and do what God intends.
This is a grand time in the history of Western Christianity to be an Episcopalian.
As for me, I intend to celebrate that identity more often - even if and when it occasionally proves "offensive" to some.
I hope you'll join me.