Who are we?
Quoting from the 2006 report to General Convention from the Committee on the State of the Church, “As a Committee, we are convinced that when we heed closely Christ’s call to us in the Great Commandment and Great Commission, the church is at its best, and we all become ‘bringers of hope and proclaimers of joy.’ ” While this statement brings some clarity to the identity issue, the present Committee on the State of the Church continued to struggle with the same issue and concluded that it has no unified answer, but raised a most significant question: “Has the time come for The Episcopal Church to make a definitive statement to the world about our identity as Episcopalians?”
It was interesting that our own parish had a similar emphasis to that stated by the national church. We all talked about bringing families with children that we could school and bring up in the Episcopal tradition and "build our community".
Who did we really bring in? We brought in those who were broken and tired and hurt and angry and feeling unloved. Our parish is a safe haven for those who are divorced, those who have been vilified, those who are struggling, those who are handicapped physically, emotionally, spiritually. Our parish is a place where love abides. Our parish is a place where if you miss a Sunday or two someone calls you or goes looking for you. Our parish is a place that cares deeply about it's commitment to our neighbor because of our commitment to God.
Some will say, how is that possible in a diocese that was "bishoped" by one of the great pointy heads of our time? It is because we never lost sight of what it meant to be an Episcopalian in the 21st century. Our parish never was overcome by the need to take care of ourselves before we took care of our neighbor. I watched over the last few years as we evangelised looking for those "ideal families" that we could bring into the Episcopal church and was absolutely amazed at who we actually received into our church. We said one thing and actively sought this one group while all along we got this other group. It is an incredible outreach. And we continue today.
Now, I do not want to sound to terribly pollyannish about this evangelism thing because we have not gone about this business in a straight-forward way, i.e., we have not intentionally altered our evangelism statement to reflect that which we do versus that which we say we do. Think about those possibilities.
I would, however, encourage the National Church to begin to look at this "group" as well. We already talk about the "big tent". We should be about those sinners and "tax collectors" that Jesus lived with. In fact,do we need to talk about bringing everyone under the big tent or should we "just" evangelise those who are broken, hurt, lost, tired, angry, thrown-away, marginalized, handicapped, and estranged from God's love and let the big tent take care of itself?