A few words about what Episcopalians actually believe

The Rev. Leo Joseph knows that the opponents of women’s ordination and the blessing of same-sex relationships have portrayed the Episcopal Church as unduly experimental. In the column excerpted below, he argues that is not not the case, leaning on an essay by our friend Bishop Pierre Whalon:

The media coverage of our General Convention this past July was, of course, no exception. If you happened to miss the screeching headline, “Episcopal Church unanimously passes orthodox statement of belief in Jesus Christ,” it was because it never appeared, but none the less the convention did pass such a statement!

The Rt. Rev. Pierre Welte Whalon D.D., the bishop of the Convocation of American Episcopal Churches in Europe (who I had the privilege of meeting at a theological conference in Germany three years ago), noted this in a reflection on the wrap up of General Convention. I’d like to share his words with you all:

“Finally, a very significant theological statement on interreligious dialogue passed the bishops unanimously, and by a large majority in the House of Deputies (with 888 voting deputies, unanimity is extremely rare). For those who wonder about the orthodoxy of our church, here are some excerpts:

“We affirm the foundational Gospel proclamation that ‘Jesus is Lord’ (I Corinthians 12:3 NRSV here and hereafter), and therefore Jesus’ Summary of God’s Law: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your hearts, with all your souls, and with all your minds, and to love your neighbor as yourself’ (Mark 12:29-31; BCP, Catechism, page 851).

For this reason we reach out in love and genuine openness to know and to understand those of other religion traditions.” (Introduction)

And these paragraphs from Section V are worth quoting in full:

“24. The Christian scriptures proclaim that Jesus is ‘the Word made flesh’ (John 1:14) and as such he is ‘the Way and the Truth and the Life’ (John 14:6). As stated in our creeds (Apostles’, and Nicene) and liturgy, Jesus Christ is the full revelation of God. Since God has chosen to share our life, we affirm that God is intensely concerned about every human life.

Among Christians, Episcopalians have a particular appreciation of this teaching, in that we believe that the coming of God in Christ has already begun to transform all of creation.

“25. The human response to God’s incarnate love was ‘to crucify the Lord of Glory’ (1 Corinthians 2:8). The cross is the Christian symbol and act of self-emptying, humility, redemptive suffering, sacrificial self-giving and unvanquished love. We believe that we have been reconciled to God through the cross.

“26. In the resurrection we believe ‘Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death, and giving life to those in the tomb’ (BCP, p. 483). By our baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection we enjoy new life as members of the Body of Christ, called therefore to become ourselves ambassadors of reconciliation (Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:14-20).

“27. Professing salvation in Christ is not a matter of competing with other religious traditions with the imperative of converting one another. Each tradition brings its own understanding of the goal of human life to the interreligious conversation. Christians bring their particular profession of confidence in God’s intentions as they are seen in and through the incarnation, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

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