The Gift of Candor
I am not telling tales out of school - the sermon in question at the latest House of Bishops has been reported in the press or blogosphere several times. The Bishop of Washington, Mariann Budde, though of a more progressive theological stripe than I, is thoughtful, creative, and gracious. People listen to what she has to say. She spoke of the struggle to help parishes to grow, in spite of which many continue to decline (with one notable exception in her diocese, which I believe is a large evangelical parish). The bishop also observed that other churches, of the kind for which Episcopalians often feel scorn, are growing on every side of her. What can be learned and gained by listening to them? Others expressed appreciation that she had pointed out a sizeable elephant in the room, and to his credit the Presiding Bishop took note as well.
What are we to make of all this? Candor is itself a gift we ought to appreciate. At the same time, we cannot simply borrow some program or technique - practices, beliefs, and culture are knit together closely. Nor are the reasons for decline simple, since demographics and sociology are on there too. Still, the bishop was clearly on to something.
Receiving the evangelical contribution is related to having real-live evangelicals in your church! Their traditional emphases on proclamation, Scripture (especially the atonement), and conversion remain crucial. Furthermore we need to note the diverse, global nature of our cities. Growth is related to access to these groups, and this too is related to evangelicalism.
By now you probably have figured out where I am going. Dioceses like Dallas which are more traditional doctrinally share more with the evangelical perspective. They have strong ties to global Anglicanism. We believe that this is one reason we have an important witness and vocation in the Episcopal Church, and that our church benefits from making room in a comprehensive church.