Friday, June 09, 2006

Faith Works 6-10-06
Jeff Gill

When Does It Matter To You?

Whew! Doing seven short pieces summing up 2000 years of Christian denominational history certainly leaves out more than it includes.
I meant to mention Jenny Geddes and Smith Wigglesworth and Walter Scott and Aimee Semple McPherson, but you just can’t get everything in with a 750 word limit, even times seven. The Hicksites and Joseph Smith and Bishop Purcell will all find their way into columns soon, and I appreciate that I’ve gotten so few notes and e-mails complaining about who got left out, and am delighted that so many adult study groups were able to use this as a guide.
Smacking back into the here and now, our prayers and interest turn just to the west these next few days, and the General Convention of the Episcopal Church of the United States. This is an every three years’ gathering for our American branch of the Anglican Communion, and the Episcopal Diocese of Southern Ohio is the host body, which includes Licking County and our friends at Trinity Episcopal in Newark and St. Luke’s Episcopal in Granville.
So, you might say, what? I ain’t Episcopal, so have a good gathering y’all, and don’t speed through Alexandria if you’re visiting the giant basket building over here.
Which is part of why I wanted to spend the time tracing the linkages and common history between the Christian bodies that make up our prevailing cultural heritage today. The Church of England is the step just back from many, if not most of our modern denominations in the US, and their influence still rolls forward for many of us still.
Actually, in their own way, the Episcopal Church rebelled from the Church of England as much as the Methodist Church did, just in slightly different directions. The Anglican Communion includes the Episcopal Church, and both groups are looking at new possibilities for mutual recognition of ministries with their Methodist cousins.
Baptists of many sorts, Quakers, and certainly Congregationalists (now UCCers) are direct descendants from the Pilgrims, Separatists, and Puritans who walked out of the state church of England.
Many of us left the Anglican Communion years ago, but the closeness of the liturgical history (how we organize worship) meant we took the order of worship and many of the pieces of governance structure with us. The most obvious example is something called "The Book of Common Prayer," the standard of worship for Episcopal/Anglicans which goes back to Thomas Cranmer, Queen Elizabeth, George Herbert, and Samuel Seabury. Many Protestant clergy of all sorts have a copy of this book, because for most Americans, their idea of a "traditional" wedding or funeral or church dedication is, whether they know it or not, "The Book of Common Prayer."
Even conservative groups who are sure they don’t have any need or place for structured prayer or ritual are still tied, if only through the Anglican Communion’s greatest gift to the English speaking world, the 1611 King James "Authorized Version" of the Bible (authorized by the English crown, head of the church for Anglicans).
So I would maintain that there are good reasons for all sorts of us, even not Episcopal, to take note and show interest in what will be happening in Columbus next week. For aspects of their tradition that are totally different from our own, even looking at how they do things can give us a basis for reflecting on why we do what we do.
One question that came up for the ECUSA three years back, in Minneapolis, is how their polity, or "church structure," requires that area leaders, or bishops of each diocese, be affirmed by the general church body. For most Protestants, local democracy reigns supreme, and no one in South Dakota has a voice in who leads the regional body in Ohio. What does it mean for your polity when they do? How does it effect us when they don’t?
And at any rate, many of us will have friends and neighbors and colleagues who will be working as hosts, which is reason enough to keep track of what they’re tied up in: rectors and members of local Episcopal parishes will be doing the hard work of welcoming up to 10,000 guests.
A good friend of Licking County, the Rev. Vicki Zust, was once rector at Trinity and now serves on the bishop’s staff, which means major work for her during General Convention. If she works as hard for GC 2006 as she did for the Licking County Coalition for Housing and other area projects when she served here, they’re gonna have a great assembly!

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; share a story with him to

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