A New Kind of Christian: Notes on Church Leadership from One Certified Nobody to Another

Elysia Gemora
by Elysia Gemora

This summer, EPIC students have blogged, chapter by chapter, about the book A New Kind of Christian by Brian McLaren. Here, Elysia discusses the final chapter while simultaneously welcoming YOU, new students, to get to know EPIC.

Last Sunday, the members of EPIC met and discussed talking points for Western’s Info Fair. What is our group and our church about? What are our “selling points”? What makes us us, and why should anyone be interested to join in? It was surprisingly difficult to answer these questions.

On Monday, I read A New Kind of Christian, which, lo and behold, was about the aim and direction of the church. As I read, I found many of the answers that we had struggled to put to words begin to straighten out.

So, as we approach the beginning of the school year and prepare to usher in new students, here it is, notes on EPIC from one certified nobody to another.

EPIC is a part of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (a point that to me is inextricable. Fr. Josh often asks me when I’m making ads if it’s for EPIC or the church and to me there is no difference. EPIC is a limb of St. Paul’s).

The Episcopal Church (and EPIC through connection to it) is at once very old and very modern. We tend to exist in the middle ground. As such, we struggle with defining ourselves, and we sometimes end up resorting to jokes that are exclusionary and degrading to our diverse members and to other Christians we claim to respect. If we say that we’re Catholic Lite, liberal, intellectuals, and “don’t believe in that crap,” this implies that Catholics are stuffy, other Christians believe in crap, and we won’t accept you if you’re conservative or not super smart. We imply all this while also toting the tag line, “The Episcopal Church welcomes you.”

How do we have all this existing under one roof? Well, I think being welcome is our intent and our aim. The rest is us falling shamefully short. It’s embarrassing, and yet, it is in our falling short where I (as a new-ish Episcopalian) have fallen in love with this community. More so than any other church I’ve experienced, Episcopalians welcome getting called out for mis-stepping and seek out critiques.

This is where we connect to what Neo talks about in the chapter. “Churches that ‘missed’ the traditional-to-contemporary transition might have a better chance of transitioning to postmodern ministry.” I don’t think Neo is completely correct in his belief that traditional churches are less happy and popular and thus will be forced to change. Instead, I think we have more freedom to change because our community is heavily built on and unified by the liturgy. Even if some of us believe in transubstantiation while others believe it’s just a symbol, we’re all still going to pray the Post-Communion Prayer. Maybe you wear a tie every Sunday and I wear grimy shorts, but we’re saying the Creed together. Our faith makes us family, our liturgy connects us, and with that taken care of, we’re free to believe and express our faith differently. We welcome you. The only necessity is that you put up with our pageantry.

Now, that’s not a quick and easy tagline to express what we are (we’re much too messy for that), but I’ll make an attempt. We’re uncertain Catholics. We’ve got a number of liberals. We’re curious. And to be honest, some of us believe in that crap while others believe in this crap and a few of us even believe in those craps.

Best summed up in the words of other people, “we welcome you” and we “worship the same, believe differently.”

We’d love for you to try us out. We’d love to get into a heated debate with you. We’d love for you to join our family. We welcome the unique perspective you would bring to our community.

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