Many view the Episcopal Church as an archaic, fading institution of Christianity… an organization that does not keep up with the modern times. It most certainly can seem this way from first glance. With our ancient traditions and older language in play, and in the case of many churches, a population that is not quite in their younger years anymore, it is easy to see why people might see Episcopalians this way.
Then a closer glance is taken. The words in the Book of Common Prayer are very much modern and currently used words. Rite 2 of the Holy Eucharist is written in the modern English language, for the benefit of those put off by the more older language used in Rite 1. Our 1982 Hymnal is much modern than that off the previous 1940 Hymnal, and more so than many still used by other traditional churches. Some churches are even using Contemporary Christian music in their youth and adult services. One church in Texas played ‘You Are my King’ by the Newsboys as the opening song for Sunday Eucharist.
And even the views of the church are more in tune with the 21st century than many of their fellow Christian churches. Women take a very active role in the church, many being ordained to the Priesthood and to Bishop. Our current Presiding Bishop of the ECUSA, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, is a woman who been involved in the church for most of her life. Homosexuality, a subject that has long been taboo in most churches, has had the veil lifted from over it in the Episcopal church. In 2003, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay man, was consecrated as the Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire. While many Episcopal churches are uncomfortable with this, and some even with hostile feelings against it, most here in our Diocese of San Diego are quite comfortable and encourage the inclusiveness of all peoples into their churches.
Some churches are hesitant to welcome in the new millennium. Others take it with a bit of salt, but still hold back from participation. In the Episcopal Church, the general consensus is to reach forward embrace the times and those in it, and to continue to spread the message in new and exciting ways to all, and to live the Great Commission that Christ commanded us: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you…” Matthew 28:19-20. And the Episcopal Church has lived up to this verse very well for over 300 years and continues to do so today.