Posts Tagged ‘Episcopal Church’

Waxing and Waning

Monday, July 29th, 2019

In both the Episcopal Church and the Church of England, there has been much concern about decline in membership. The Episcopal Church has lost half its members since the 1950’s, despite a growing U.S. population. A recent survey in England indicated only 1% of persons aged 16-24 attend church.

But church attendance waxes and wanes through the ages. I have been reading in the journal, Anglican and Episcopal History about a period in Maryland before the American Revolution when atheism was rampant and even churchgoers doubted that God could in any way intervene in his creation. Needless to say, there was little discussion of “spirituality” and other topics that are so popular in the church today.

One could point to other signs of hope in our contemporary church. The newer, younger clergy, for example, are much more committed to traditional Christian beliefs and a personal God than the generation of the 1960’s.

It doesn’t pay to be too pessimistic. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Joys of Camping

Monday, July 22nd, 2019

Summer camp. Just the phrase seems old-fashioned. Living in tents. Splashing in the water. Singing by the campfire. Sunday in the chapel.

That’s life at Incarnation Camp in Ivoryton, CT–a camp founded by the Church of the Incarnation in 1886. No cell phones or computers, just fresh air fun pretty much like a century ago.

And yet the camp remains incredibly popular, with two overnight camps and two day camps running simultaneously and accommodating hundred of children. Spots at the teen-age camp, where the kids cook all their own meals, are filled by March.

I was just in Ivoryton for a Board of Directors meeting and I marveled at the success of the place. The oldest church camp in the country–what a great ministry of our church.–J. Douglas Ousley


Pride Universe

Monday, June 24th, 2019

As everyone in New York City knows, the annual Gay Pride March takes place this coming Sunday, at the end of what has been called, Pride Month.

The Episcopal Church has been on the winning side of this issue for quite a while, and we might be tempted to ask why Episcopalians and LGBT people need to bother to march in this day and age. They have virtually all the rights of straight people. Isn’t the battle over?

But we need to remember that homosexual behavior is still against the law in many, many countries throughout the world–and it is often proscribed in the name of religion. Even in this country, the largest Christian body, the Roman Catholic Church terms gay sex sinful.

Unfortunately, there is still much to march for. —J. Douglas Ousley


Expecting to Dance

Monday, June 10th, 2019

As I mentioned in my sermon yesterday, there are many churches, particularly in Africa, where Anglicans come to worship on Sunday expecting to dance.

This is not the case in most American Episcopal parishes. Yet that doesn’t mean that our faith has to be, in the old phrase, “high and dry.” We can still look for an emotional element in our religion; in fact, we need to find such an element. We need at least on some occasions to feel the Spirit within us.

These experiences can range from enjoyment of a favorite hymn to a walk on a sunny day to a dinner out with friends. In the season of Pentecost, we can be grateful that the Holy Spirit is always reaching out to us. In that Spirit, we can, as the Twelve Step movement says, let go and let God. —J. Douglas Ousley


Sinking or Swimming

Monday, April 8th, 2019

At his meeting with our Vestry yesterday, the Bishop of New York was asked what his personal priorities were in his work in the diocese. He replied that he was particularly concerned about churches that were in serious decline.

Bishop Andrew Dietsche told a hopeful story of a parish upstate that was down to 12 members and weren’t able to support a full-time rector. He warned the remaining parishioners that they were at the point where they could either sink or swim. They decided to swim.

That meant that each of the members gave sacrificially of their time and money. They found a new part-time rector, and following a fortuitous influx of weekend residents from Manhattan, the church now has a full-time rector and plenty of members.

Most Episcopal parishes need to make this choice at one time or another. May we resolve to swim! —J. Douglas Ousley


Confirming the Faith

Tuesday, March 26th, 2019

As our latest Confirmation/Inquirers’ Class draws to a conclusion, I happily notice that once again we have a highly diverse group of adults eager to be confirmed at Episcopalians, to be received from the Roman Catholic Church, or to reaffirm their baptismal vows.

They range in age from the thirties to near-seventy. We have a psychiatrist and an architect and a martial arts instructor among other occupations. They come from very different religious backgrounds and from unique spiritual journeys.

But it is the latter quality that they have in common. For their spiritual journeys have led them to the Church of the Incarnation. They have all come to profess their decision to follow the same Savior.

Together, by the grace of God, they are taking their first steps on a new journey in Christ. —J. Douglas Ousley


A Limit to Diversity?

Monday, January 14th, 2019

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Michael Curry has recently restricted part of the ministry of the Bishop of Albany, the Rt. Rev. William Love.

Bishop Love is the sole bishop in the Episcopal Church who will neither allow his priests to perform same-sex marriages nor permit another bishop to ordain such priests and allow such marriages.

Following last year’s General Convention resolution to make such weddings available throughout the Episcopal Church, including in dioceses such as the Diocese of Albany that had forbidden them, the Presiding Bishop’s inhibiting of Bishop Love is perhaps not surprising.

But it is a severe stricture on a godly and humane man (I know this from personal experience) who has the sole failing of believing what the universal church taught for two thousand years: that homosexual relations are sinful.

I myself disagree with Bishop Love and have encouraged gay rights from the beginning of my ministry. But surely the Episcopal Church can allow a little remaining dissent–one bishop in a tiny diocese. (If any same-sex couples in the Diocese of Albany want to get on a train to New York, I will be happy to marry them.)

We should avoid becoming as dogmatic as other Christian groups that we accuse of being authoritarian. —J. Douglas Ousley


The Richness of Faith

Wednesday, December 5th, 2018

The Anglican Communion has inherited what we call the “Catholic” tradition of liturgy and sacraments. I was particularly struck by the depths of this tradition last week, when I was involved in a funeral, an ordination to the priesthood, several celebrations of the holy eucharist, and a wedding.

Our Episcopal Church offers all these forms of worship and more. And the Prayer Book also includes many forms of individual prayer, as well as personal sacraments such as private confession and anointing of the sick.

We also permit a wide variety of understandings of these liturgies. At the wedding, perhaps 100 out of the 150 persons present elected to receive communion. We invite all baptized persons to communicate because we have a broad definition of the meaning of holy communion, and we hope that as many people as possible will feel included.

The Catholic tradition. The richness of faith. The gifts of God for the people of God. —J. Douglas Ousley


Time for a Little Diversity

Monday, November 19th, 2018

The Bishop of Albany, the Rt. Rev. William Love has issued a pastoral letter that is receiving much comment in the church and secular press. In the letter, Bishop Love forbids same-sex marriage in his diocese, even though these rites are legal in New York State. Bishop Love seems to be the only Episcopal bishop in the entire United States to make this ruling.

I myself don’t agree with his reasoning from very traditional grounds–including invoking Satan, which doesn’t do much to promote dialogue.

However, Bishop Love’s position in itself was the position of the entire Christian community a century ago, and it remains the majority view of Christians worldwide. So while I am sorry gays and lesbians will need to travel outside the Diocese of Albany for religious marriage, I hope Bishop Love will not be drummed out of the Church. I know him personally to be a kind and generous man–more generous than his written statement suggests. Surely there is enough room in our Episcopal Church to include him. —J. Douglas Ousley


Churchman

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

At the funeral of our Treasurer, last Saturday, I described Michael Linburn as “a good churchman.”

The term, “churchman” used to be common in Episcopal Church parlance; it referred to the way a person lived out his faith in the church community. So, for example, one would speak of an Episcopalian’s “churchmanship” in saying whether he preferred “high” or “low” ritual worship.

It’s too bad the word has gone out of fashion; it might have been made more acceptable by adding the variant, “churchwomanship.”

In any case, whatever word we use, we should be grateful for the churchmen and churchwomen who support the Body of Christ by their presence and their gifts. Especially those who support the Church through difficult times–who don’t give up when things don’t go their way, who prove to be the Church’s men and women. —J. Douglas Ousley