Rachel Held Evans’ new book, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church (http://www.amazon.com/Searching-Sunday-Loving-Leaving-Finding/dp/0718022122) has apparently stirred up a minor firestorm in the evangelical circles she is viewed as having abandoned.

Evans describes the turmoil here: http://rachelheldevans.com/blog/going-episcopal. She also offers quotes from friends and fellow evangelicals who have made the journey to worship in an Episcopal church. Here are some of the quotes she shares and my brief comments:

Jonathan Martin with “On Going to (an Episcopal) Church” 

“I believe this is the great hope for the unity of the Church: that though we may hold almost nothing else in common we, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, know that somehow Christ is revealed to us around the table, and have burning hearts afterward to prove it. The experience of God in and through this meal gives us the resources to transcend the temporal boundaries that might otherwise divide us.”

It breaks my heart that so many people who once were able to gather with me “around the table” suddenly found themselves a few years ago unable to share Christ’s meal in my company. This shift took place largely because, having hinted that the “wrong answer” on same-gender relationships might be acceptable, the Anglican Church was deemed to have abandoned the authority of Scripture.

This charge is addressed by Amy Peterson:

Amy Peterson with “Woman, why are you weeping? [when your kid becomes Episcopalian]”

“[Going to an Episcopal church] doesn’t mean that I’ve rejected the authority of Scripture. This is how we used to say it, growing up: ‘That church has female preachers- clearly, they don’t believe the Bible!”’While it’s true that I’ve changed my mind about the place of women in church ministry, that hasn’t happened because I chose cultural relevance over Scripture.  That change came slowly, and it came through careful study of Scripture. You may have heard that the Episcopal church’s position on gay marriage or evolution or Iraq or any number of things shows that we don’t respect the Bible.  But don’t believe that until you talk to us about it. We read aloud from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the New Testament, and a Gospel every Sunday.  I’m guessing that’s more Scripture than is listened to in most non-denominational churches on most Sunday mornings. We have a high view of Scripture.” 

Every priest ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada is called upon before being ordained to stand before the community and say, “I solemnly declare that I do believe the holy scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation” (BAS, p. 645). I may interpret certain passages of the Bible differently from some people but a difference of interpretation is not an abandonment of belief.

The depth of my reading of Scripture is profoundly enhanced by being in conversation with people who see things from a point of view that differs from my own. I do not ever want to belong to a community in which everyone has to agree with my understanding of Scripture in order to belong. The Anglican Church has been impoverished by the loss of a more conservative voice in our community. As one end of the theological spectrum has forsaken Anglicanism in its quest to maintain purity, those of us who remain are less able to embody “the middle way” that Ben Irwin cherishes in his Episcopal Church.

Ben Irwin with “11 Things I Love About the Episcopal Church” 

“Anglicanism has long been known as the via media, the “middle way” between two traditions. The Episcopal Church has also helped me navigate the middle way between unbelief and dogmatism. Ours is a faith handed down from the apostles, but not one so fragile that it cannot cope with science, with new findings about the origins of the universe, ourselves, or whatever else we might discover.” 

Anglican tradition embraces the validity of serious questions. We do not require all people to line up on the same side of every dogmatic formulation. We understand that people are on a journey. We are all in different places in our relationship to the presence and action of God in our lives. We move forward as we stay together respecting each person wherever they find themselves on their journey.

This is beautifully articulated by Lindsey Harts who brings us back to our gathering at the table:

Lindsey Harts with “Why I’ve Been Going to an Episcopal Church” 

“I believe that in most cases, the elements (of the Eucharist) speak louder than any sermon or hymn or prayer. Something mysterious and unfathomably beautiful happens at the table. It’s a place where any person, no matter what belief system or background they come from can come and receive the God of peace.”

The table at which we gather is the meeting place of grace. The simple act of coming forward and extending hands for the gift of bread and receiving a sip of wine, embodies all the faith that is required.

This is a table that has room for me in all my brokenness. It is a community that has the capacity to express in my life the love and mercy of Christ that heals my broken heart.


thank you Bob for bringing this to my attention

see also: https://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/rachel-heald-evans-ponders-church/