Touchy subjects: more on the broken places

After my “broken places” post last week, the Episcopal Café posted a couple of interesting follow-ups—both re-posted comments, actually. The first one, “The prayer book is the first thing that can and must be negotiated,” a comment from Josh Magda, calls for a change in the prayer book. His reason? He doesn’t like the theology he sees in the language, and he thinks books are no longer an appropriate medium for “[his] generation” (i.e., my generation—I’m not supposed to tend toward wordiness anymore. Shoot. I am a bad Millennial).

As I write this, there are 121 comments on this reposted comment! That is incredible at the Café. I don’t know if I’ve ever slogged through a comment stream quite this long. It was a worthwhile slog—there’s an interesting conversation happening in (many of) the comments. I won’t even attempt to try summarizing it here. If you have a spare hour, you can have at them yourself. What especially interested me is that it seems some of my fellow Millennials felt compelled to respond to a post that implicates them.

Some of the commenters agree with Josh. Many want to push back. One of the comments, Mark Preece’s “Why should there be an Episcopal Church?” was reposted and garnered 19 comments of its own. When I shared the progression of these various broken-or-not high-emotion Café pieces with a friend (you remember Peter?), he commented, “I think it’s interesting how these authors seem to be fish with no concept of the water. As someone who ‘jumped in’ after growing up elsewhere, I feel like I could articulate exactly why TEC, and precisely what is singularly important about the BCP and its attendant rituals… Wild guess you might be able to, as well.”

Now I don’t think there’s much of anything I can “articulate exactly,” but I am pretty fired up about my fondness for TEC and the BCP (aren’t acronyms fun?). My affection doesn’t mean I don’t have problems with both TEC and BCP. Maybe if Josh and I sat down and talked, we’d find we have some solid common ground. I do think there’s a lot more to TEC than our book (in Book of Common Prayer, “book” is undeniably the least important word). I do value and appreciate inclusive language—I sometimes change the words I say (and sing—don’t tell the music director!) in the Eucharistic liturgy. But I think there’s so much worth keeping, and that running wild through the prayer book, the liturgy, the denomination, will cause unnecessary violence. Baby, bathwater.

I guess, when it comes down to it, I like denominations. I like their personalities, their foibles, their grumpy-old-person way of changing at a snail’s pace. I like the great scaffolding that tradition offers.

In a completely different conversation, Landon Whitsitt offers his thoughts. The titles are pretty self-explanatory: “Dear Young(ish) Mainline Pastor Type People: Please Plant a Church,” and “Further thoughts on my ‘plant a church’ post.” As I understand it, his gist is that young radicals are entering mainline churches expecting a stable job and wanting to do radical things, and that this doesn’t match up because “the system does not pay you to buck it.”

These posts, too have gained some interesting comments, including a really thoughtful post by Emily Morgan, a Princeton seminarian, on her own blog. She conveniently puts really awesome quotables in bold, so even if you don’t have time to read the whole thing, you should check it out.

What I like, and why I agree with Emily, is her emphasis on the importance of working within community. The “progressive,” system-bucking parishioners (and they’re not all young folk) don’t usually want to leave—and they aren’t sticking around for the awesome paycheck. Rather, they’re Spirit-led to challenge their communities in faith and love.

Like languages, I think most things that depend on human involvement only cease changing when they’re dead. Since I believe the Church is anything but, I don’t think we should be surprised by calls for change, and I think we ought to be willing to explore and graciously live into the acceptance of change. This needn’t be done carelessly; in fact I think it must be done with great care an intention. More importantly, though, I think it must be done in community, all the parts of the body working together.


What do you think about these “touchy subjects”? Has TEC closed its fists too tightly on tradition, or is “traditioned innovation” a really viable option? Is there still value in denominational affiliation?


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