The strange evangelism of conflict

Lionel Deimel notes that one Pittsburgh area former-Episcopal parish has started their own post-card war with a neighboring Episcopal parish.

The breakaway church appears defines themselves as much as who they are not as who and whose they are. Perhaps they believe that people outside of the Episcopal-Anglican world cares about the nuances of the conflict and will pick a church accordingly. Maybe they think that postcards will change the minds of Episcopalians who have been living with the talk of schism for years.

He writes:

I attend St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the Pittsburgh suburb of Mt. Lebanon. St. Paul’s is one of the largest parishes in the diocese. It is also a parish strongly committed to The Episcopal Church. The nearest Episcopal church of any consequence is—or, perhaps, has been—St. David’s, in nearby Peters Township. For the past several decades, St. David’s has been out of the mainstream of Episcopal Church practice, and, increasingly, has been openly hostile to The Episcopal Church. These attitudes have been among several factors that have brought many former parishioners of the Peters Township church to St. Paul’s. Not long before the annual convention, Wilson, whose pastoral practices had made him unwelcome in his former parish, became, according to the church’s Web site, “senior pastor” of St. David’s.

Approximately a year ago, St. Paul’s installed a new rector, the Rev. Lou Hays. This fall, St. Paul’s changed its Sunday schedule, replacing a single principal service with two. Although a similar service schedule had been in use several years earlier, the new plan called for a traditional service at 10:30 and a “contemporary” service described as “family-friendly” at 8:30. This was a significant departure from the past, and the program year was advertised in an aggressive publicity campaign. A special logo and slogan was created, and, in addition to the usual promotion in the weekly bulletin and monthly newsletter, advertising was placed in the township magazine. Also, postcards announcing the St. Paul’s initiative were mailed to thousands of nearby households….

It was quite a surprise when, last Sunday, a parishioner showed me a postcard he had received in the mail from St. David’s. The front and back of that postcard (say):

Anglicans and Episcopalians in the South Hills now have an option!

St. David’s Church, in conjunction with the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, has separated itself from the apostasy of the national Episcopal Church based in New York and is now aligned with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone (South America). The Southern Cone is a Province of the Anglican Communion, in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and is unabashedly biblical in faith, & practice and is mission oriented –and so are we! So guess what? — You no longer need to apologize for being an Episcopalian. Is this the kind of Anglican Christianity you want to be a part of? Then check us out.

…While dioceses, parachurch organizations, Anglican provinces, bishops, and primates fight the air war for Anglican supremacy, an equally ugly ground war seems to have broken out in Pittsburgh. Whereas we might have thought that separation would free each side to pursue its Christian mission according to its own lights, one side seems unable to resist lobbing mortars at the forces of the retreating “enemy.” Of course, this may be how the likes of David Wilson construe their Christian mission—as a God-given commission to destroy anyone daring to claim the appellation “Christian” who does not believe as they do.

Read the rest here.

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