Faith at Altitude

Religion and spirituality in the shadow of Pikes Peak

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Congregants at Grace Church and St. Stephen's Parish are going through 40 days of discernment, involving prayer, fasting and Bible study. It also incorporates a booklet called, appropriately, "40 Days of Discernment," designed to help Episcopal congregations decide whether or not to leave the national Episcopal Church denomination.

The booklet was produced by The Falls Church and Truro Church, two parishes that apparently discerned to leave, so the book carries some bias. The six-week study seems as much geared toward helping parishioners come to peace with leaving the Episcopal Church as helping them decide whether or not to do so.

But just the fact such a book was written helps illustrate what a painful process this is for many Episcopalians.

It can be hard for many religious Americans to understand what it means to be Episcopal. Evangelical Christians sometimes hop to a different church because they don't like the color of the carpet. Episcopalians, on the other hand, tend to hold strong allegiance to their denomination. Many I've talked with refer to themselves as "cradle Episcopalians," and many can trace their denominational ancestory through their parents, grandparents and beyond. The Rev. Michael O'Donnell, a priest serving at Grace Episcopal Church (now worshipping at Shove Chapel), says his Episcopal roots go back 400 years.

The Episcopal way, which encompasses things both Catholic and Protestant and is united through the Bible and Book of Common Prayer, is a hard thing to shake. Many who are ready to leave the denomination say the Episcopal Church has already done the shaking -- shrugging off orthodox Christianity for a new doctrine. But even for many Episcopalians who don't like the denomination's turn to the left, the idea of severing ties with the denomination is a painful, nearly unthinkable thing.

The booklet dedicates a full week of study to the process of grieving (week five -- around the middle of May for those at Grace), and never makes light of a decision to leave. It says any decision to leave is a serious one, and if the parish connects itself with an overseas province (Grace has, for now, linked itself with an Anglican province in Nigeria), it'll likely involve some cultural change. It admonishes parishioners to never make decisions in anger and be "truly open to God's call."

"While many -- perhaps most -- of us come into this process with an opinion, we cannot merely define discernment as 'waiting until everyone else agrees with me,'" Jim Oakes writes in the booklet. "We can be certain that God has something greater in store for us than we can even imagine -- and we need to make sure that we hear him when he speaks to us!"

4 Comments:

Anonymous ES said...

I have been attending what I consider the REAL Grace Episcopal church, currently in exile (this Sunday services will be at 1245, at First Christian, corner or Platte and Cascade.) I actually began attending after the split.
It seems to me that the reason for splitting off for part of the congregation (there are MANY who have joined in the ranks of the exiles) is inadequate. What, the church will split off because they don't like gays? How is that consistent in any way with Christ's love?
It is far more likely that the congregation was talked into splitting off by Armstrong, who was caught with his hands in the church till.
Shame on them, either way.

4:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why have the basic questions not been asked here?

How much, exactly, were the "scholarships" for the Armstrong children? Over how many years? How old were these "children"? What were they studying?

In all justice to Armstrong, he should have a chance to answer these questions. If--as I understand to be the case--the Armstrong "kids" were were in their mid-twenties, with no intention to study divinity, and whose eligibility for any corporate or academic instition's (such as the Colorado College tuition remission plan, which offers $1K/year for four years only unless a college's family's kid goes to a recipocating institution--and which plan Jon Wroblewskis letter to the editor alleged was the model for the Grace plan) scholarship would have been cut off long before, didn't the people of Grace Church who paid for this need to know where their money was going? Armstrong has admitted that hundreds of thousands of dollars went to his kids.

Wow. What is that about?

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I was a contributing member of Grace. I would like to know why the church (who already pays him a decent salary)would bankroll his kids education, whilst the rest of us had to do it the hard way?

10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

May the Grace and prace of the Lord be with YOU all. May HE truly give you all the peace which passes all understanding. May He faithfully hold you all "graven" (firmly carved) in the Palm of HIS hand. May YOU ALL come to know the first century church government model of at least five active equally elevated senior church elders governing with Agreeing Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge and Discernment in the Practical Application of the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit. May God's Mercy, Grace, Forgiveness, Understanding and Resignate to God be both compound and manifest in all your doings. May you all Love God with your WHOLE mind, heart, soul and spirit. The elders of the First Century Living Faith, Interdependent, Self sustaining, Underground Remnant Agrarian Church / Community. May blessings abound for YOU and YOURS. may God be the God of all and the mark of Mammon (manner of thinking) on the forehead, and the mark of Mammon (manner of doing) be banished from all we think, say and do. Warmly, IH HIS LOVE, the Elders, Brethren and Adherents of the First Century Church / Community.

6:14 PM  

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