Archive for September, 2014

Religion and Politics on Madison Avenue

Monday, September 29th, 2014

“More Americans Back a Voice for Religion in Politics” proclaimed the headline of a recent article in the Wall Street Journal.

The results of the poll the Journal was reporting indicate that, in fact, 49% of Americans think that churches should express views on political issues and 48% think the churches should keep out of politics. The real interest of the poll was that there are now “more” Americans on the positive side than there used to be.

Of course, both sides of the political spectrum are themselves divided: some conservatives and liberals favor intervention in issues they feel passionate about; others believe in strict separation of church and state.

My own view is that in all except the most extreme and important issues, politics should stay out of the pulpit. I recently expressed concern about the rise of anti-Semitism in a sermon, for example. But I have confined my views on gay marriage to this blog and to other forums where debate is possible. I believe Christians must oppose anti-semitism, while they might hold different positions on homosexuality.

All in all, I think the churches should be very careful about making pronouncements on controversial secular topics. —J. Douglas Ousley

How Am I Doing?

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

When he was mayor of New York City, the late Ed Koch used to begin his press conferences by asking, “How am I doing?” Being a feisty New Yorker, he expected honest answers and he was more than willing to parry criticisms.

Today, there are few politicians with the courage to ask for face-to-face comments on their performance. Yet Koch asked a question of himself that they should ask–and we should ask, too. How are we doing–as Christians, as citizens, as neighbors, as family members? It’s also a good question to pose as members of church communities–how are our parishes doing? What are we doing well? Not so well? What means are we using to evaluate our work for God’s Kingdom?

In our parish, we are beginning a process of self-examination and planning called, “Incarnation 2020.” At the beginning of the school year and the autumn uptick in activity, this seems like the right thing to be doing. In this regard, at least, we can answer Ed Koch’s question, “OK.” —J. Douglas Ousley

A New Trec

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

The Task Force for Reimagining the Church (TREC) has just issued a report. The report summarizes what TREC considers to be the changes the Episcopal Church has to make in order to stop its decline and expand its mission.

While there is a lot of predictable jargon and ious talk, there’s also some substance to the Task Force’s views. The bureaucracy of the National Church is still weighty, even after years of cuts. The structure of General Convention permits too many resolutions to allow for serious discussion of anything, and the whole meeting is too big and too long and too expensive.

In addition, TREC recognizes that only real cultural change will jolt the Episcopal Church out of its lethargy. This view is often expressed by the Bishop of New York and while I am skeptical that our church will be able to reform its corporate structure soon, the report is a step in the right direction. —J. Douglas Ousley