It’s actually rather pleasant

Giles Fraser is having a good time in the USA:

The morning brings a fine smoke over the mountain lake. The forest trees of North Carolina rise majest­ically from the surface of the water. This is all the church you could ever want for.

We wade through the lilies, chest-deep in muddy water. “Will, I baptise you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Back on the bank, the congregation strikes up the magnificent spiritual: “O sin­ners, let’s go down, down in the river to pray.”

All the news is being made by the nonsense secession of the diocese of Pittsburgh from the Episcopal Church in the United States (News, 26 September). So the impression is given that this Church is a snake-pit of acrimony. Yet, on the ground, in the parishes, things are so different.

The liturgy is prayerful and ima­ginative, the preaching orthodox and lively, the congregations wel­coming and alive. At least, that is my experi­ence. “Has Rowan Williams actually been to a service in an Episcopal church since he became Arch­bishop?” a friend asked me re­cently. Perhaps he has, but I could not think of an occasion.

And, no, I do not admire the Episcopal Church just because it has made a costly prophetic witness to the truth of the gospel over homo­sexuality. Media coverage has given the impression that it is a one-trick pony. That is nonsense. Churches here are vibrant and genu­inely diverse.

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