“I had no idea there were Christians like you guys.”
As an Episcopal priest who hangs out on the campus of WWU, I’ve heard this a lot.
Mostly I’ve heard it from people who grew up in some form of Christianity but found they couldn’t continue to accept it. They outgrew a childish understanding of God but were never given an adult understanding that made any sense to them.
I’ve also heard it from people who have been hurt by Christians, either through abuse, manipulation, or betrayal. Sometimes I find myself apologizing on behalf of the Church at large, even if that pain had no origin in the Episcopal Church.
And then, sometimes I hear this from people who grew up with no religion at all, who were taught from a young age that all religious belief is infantile or abusive.
If any of these descriptions fits you, know this: we honor your pain or disconnection. You’ve come by it honestly. And we would love to meet you. The Episcopal Church is not out to “fix you” or change you into something you’re not. We love the great variety of people who explore faith among us. It’s not that we don’t have solid beliefs. It’s just that one of those beliefs is that everybody already has a relationship with God, but some people call it something else. “Spiritual but not religious” comes to mind. Also “in love with nature and science.” Also “secular humanism.”
All these schools of thought are about people asking the big questions. We love the big questions, and we don’t demand unyielding answers. Many people take comfort in a solid faith, and good for them. But our faith is more like liquid. We expect it to change. We expect not to be in control all the time. We expect to have to leave some questions unanswered all our lives. We expect that God, the creator and originator of all things, is Love, and Love does not force or coerce.
In the Episcopal Church, we are spiritual and religious. We also are in love with nature and science. Yes, evolution probably happens pretty much that way. Yes, women can serve as priests, bishops … any leadership position at all. No, LGBTQ people are not any more inherently flawed than the rest of us; they simply have other, beautiful ways of being and of loving, and yes, we welcome them into membership and leadership on all levels. Yes, the Bible is our book. No, we don’t believe it dropped out of the sky in complete form; people wrote it by the inspiration of God, and people always work within a context. Yes, God is very, very patient with us!
We’re not secular, and we don’t expect to achieve a utopia of human origin. But we do believe that humans are created good and have the power to do good in the world. And we believe that all the good things we do happen with God’s help, because God holds our very souls in life.
We are followers of Jesus. We know that most people who are leery of Christians still love the teachings of Jesus: “Love your neighbor as yourself” in particular. The Bible introduces us to this unique strand of belief, of a people who came to understand that it was their job to show the world what God is really like, and of Jesus of Nazareth who stood solidly in that Jewish tradition and yet demonstrated himself to be the very incarnation of God.
I’ve never heard an Episcopalian say, “Our church is the only right church.” We just don’t think that way. Try, instead, “We all have an incomplete understanding of the wonders of God’s world. Awe and humility are the best responses to these wonders. And inspired by those feelings of awe and humility, we believe that our mission in the church is to reconcile the world to God and all people to each other.”
That’s the long-range goal of Christianity, which has done so much good and so much harm. We are people, and we succeed, and we fail. As Christians, we are part of this project. As Episcopalians, we take on this project with love, joy, and a deep appreciation for beauty. As EPIC, we gather college students to find our own ways to take on this mission.
If any of this resonates with you, will you take a chance and come hang out with us? No strings attached. We don’t set out to change you—though we are all changing all the time anyway! We expect to be changed by you, to discover, in our relationships with you, yet another way that God is at work in the world.
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