The Episcopal Church in the United States (EC), like other denominations, has been in crisis over human sexuality. What is different for the EC is that it faces, in its debates, the question of whether or not its vocation is to be an American Protestant denomination or to be part of the worldwide Anglican Communion in which national particularity is submerged for the sake of common witness.
In June 2010 EC Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori issued a pastoral letter that was a direct challenge to the archbishop of Canterbury and by extension to the Anglican Communion, of which Archbishop Rowan Williams is at least titular head. At stake is whether or not his headship can, or ought, to be more than titular; and if so, what would that mean?…
In truth, some EC leaders (some bishops, cathedral deans and theology professors) have in recent years largely eschewed the heavy lifting of systematic and moral theology, preferring the more applied genres in which the key matters turn toward the psychological, therapeutic and pastoral, as well as toward calls for social justice. A few years ago a book was published with the title The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, which said that the evangelical movement in the U.S. had not so much forgotten how to think, but that it was intended to do without deep thinking. If there were a new book, “The Scandal of the Episcopal Mind,” the conclusions might be disarmingly similar. The rise to prominence of liberal theology in the EC came along with disinclination toward theological depth, as well as a desire to ally the denomination with the more “progressive” American denominations. As one senior bishop told me, in choosing “justice” as the talisman for all actions and featuring inclusiveness as the badge of this new orthodoxy, the EC had taken a thin slice of theology””and of justice.
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