Whose blog I just visited for the first time (ht: Kyle Potter) has a great post about the fact that the mainline is having a moment–an opportunity. And we are squandering it. Especially you fellow Episcopalians/Anglicans.
This post really resonated with me, coming from a Southern Baptist Background, I know about the opportunity he’s talking about. I also know, first hand, how the Episcopal Church just isn’t equipped to deal with evangelistic opportunity. I went to a University at the heart of our Diocese. No Episcopal campus ministry. None. They said there was one, but it was never visible, never did anything, never reached out, and I, a churchgoing Episcopalian at the time, never saw or heard one peep from it. The only thing that our Diocese did, was to a) rent the campus for a leadership conference and b)co-sponsor a lecture by John Spong. Ouch. Talk about missing the boat.
I’m in a Diocese now that I feel is much more concerned about mission and evangelism, yet we too still have the institutional inertia that afflicts the Episcopal Church elsewhere, underneath all the public conflict. At any rate, enjoy the post, and think about ways that we might reach out to the people he’s talking about.
Yes, my mainline friends, we’re having a moment here. You can see it all around the edges of evangelicalism. It’s there and it’s real. It isn’t easy or automatic, but it’s there. And it is sad to realize that at the very time so many are looking for what you have, you’re mostly squandering the moment entirely.
Your churches could be taking in thousands of evangelicals. That’s right. Those recognizably “churchy” churches of yours, with the Christian year, the Biblically rich liturgy, the choir robes, the still-occasionally used hymnals and the multi-generational, slightly blended worship services, could be taking in thousands of evangelicals.
Of course, you’d have to want them. You’d have to, in many ways, meet them halfway or more. You’d need to talk to them as younger evangelicals, not dangerous fundamentalists. You’d have to reconsider how important it is to you to keep homosexual grievances constantly on the front burner. You’d have to start acting like Biblical morality meant something. You’d have to stop acting as if being mainline is a game where you wait to see how fast the membership dies off.
It’s a moment when you need to speak the language of people who want to hear the Bible; a moment when preachers need to preach mature, Biblical evangelical messages.
Those younger evangelicals are ready for your appreciation of tradition, your more balanced theological method, your commitment to multi-generational churches and your more substantial appreciation of justice issues.
But they aren’t ready for the things that have emptied so many of your churches. They will never come if things remain the same. Much needs to change and should change.