Archive for February, 2016

Was George Washington a Christian?

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

Many of the Founding Fathers were influenced by the Enlightenment and the attendant philosophy of Deism. According to Deists, God created the world and then let the world go on, making no further interventions in the course of events.

Washington may or may not have been a Deist. He was however an Episcopalian and Vestryman; I will be giving evidence of this commitment in my sermon this Sunday.

And whatever his personal religious beliefs, George Washington seems to have had a high sense of divine providence. At the same time, he seems to have had little inclination to mix politics and sectarian religion. In the current American political scene, where there are arguments as to which candidate is the most “Christian,” Washington’s approach would seem much more likely to promote peace in our republic. —J. Douglas Ousley


Ashes Galore

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

Ash Wednesday has come and gone. Once again, hundreds of New Yorkers have entered our church to receive a smudge of ash on their foreheads and to hear the ancient words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.”

A recent sermon by a former priest at Incarnation offered an explanation for the crowds that seek ashes. The Rev. Ginger Strickland suggested that they came because they wanted reassurance that it was OK to be less than perfect. That life could have serious drawbacks, that they could be sinners–and it was not an unexpected occurrence that they would need to seek repentance. That the world was fallen–that mortality was part of the nature of things.

Perhaps these folks were also aware of these words from the Ash Wednesday liturgy, the reminder that “it is only by God’s grace that we inherit eternal life.” —J. Douglas Ousley


What’s A Moderate to Do?

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

The Church of England and its Anglican offshoots traditionally have been held to present a via media. That is, a “middle way” between the extremes of Roman Catholicism on the one hand and Protestantism on the other.

One hears this phrase less often today, when some branches of our Anglican Communion are now decidedly liberal-Protestant and others are conservative-Anglo-Catholic, with very little room for compromise. As in American politics, there seem to be few old-fashioned “moderates” left in the field.

What then is the role for those of us who consider ourselves less extreme to play? Well, we can try to moderate between the factions, when we can get them to speak to each other. Or in our own thoughts and speech, we can try to lower the temperature of the debate.

I know–easier said than done. But what’s a moderate to do? —J. Douglas Ousley


Spiritual Pressure Cooker

Friday, February 5th, 2016

In a recent email, a parishioner referred to the church in New York City as a “spiritual pressure cooker.”

This is accurate on several levels. The workplace makes increasingly intense demands on people. The temptations for afterwork overindulgence are numerous. And there is little peer or social encouragement to seek religious nourishment for the soul.

To be viable, the church has to offer spiritual relief from the pressure. It will do no good to add to people’s guilt by making demands of them unless people can see how service to God is, as the Prayer Book says, “perfect freedom.” —J. Douglas Ousley