The answer is both yes and no. I firmly believe that ecumenical and interfaith collaboration is vital to the future of the Church, but I also feel very strongly that denominational identity is still worth building and nurturing. This belief is not the result of some abstract, intellectual exercise, but rather, the experience of my own formation as an Episcopalian. Below are five reasons why I think Episcopal identity still matters.
|In Washington National Cathedral.|
|Let my prayer be set forth in thy sight as incense.|
4. A democratic polity. The governance of the Episcopal Church was deeply influenced by the democratic, representative ethos of the United States, which was born in the same era. The Episcopal Church may be organized around the leadership of bishops, but these bishops are elected democratically by the clergy and lay leadership of each diocese. At the national level, moreover, the Episcopal Church establishes official policy on a wide range of issues through discussion and shared decision-making that includes bishops and elected representatives of both the clergy and laity of each diocese.
|Neighborhood peace vigil.|
The attributes I have just described are not all unique to the Episcopal Church, but in the aggregate, they shape and define our shared identity as Episcopalians. In order for an individual or a congregation to understand who it is, it needs to be steeped in the larger tradition to which it belongs, to identify where there are shared connections, and whether there is divergence. Next week: Part II.