This is what I wrote for our church newsletter this month:

 

Many churches try to tell you not only what you have to believe, but also how you have to believe it.  The Episcopal Church is not like that.  It goes back to our roots in England.  Protestants and Roman Catholics had been alternating in seizing political and church power.  They celebrated by trying to kill off the other side when it was their turn in power.  When Elizabeth took the throne, she imposed a different kind of settlement.  Everyone would worship out of the same book.  Everyone would believe a few basic things.  But so long as you could believe these things in good faith, no one would inquire about how you believed them.  It’s never gone entirely smoothly.  But on the whole, it has worked for us.

 

And it has made us a different kind of church.  Most churches seem to look for ways to exclude people from their ranks.  If you don’t believe certain things in particular ways, you are not one of us.  But the Episcopal Church looks for ways to include people.  If you can hold certain basic creedal beliefs in good faith, you’re in.  We happily include liberals and conservatives, of both the political and theological kinds.  We talk about ourselves as holding the broad middle ground.  The Episcopal Church welcomes you.

 

St. George’s has taken this a step further.  We are explicitly about welcoming different kinds of people.  This has been shown in our choosing to be known as a welcoming congregation, explicitly welcoming members of the “gay” community to participate fully in the life of St. George’s.  This has been shown in our choosing to be a congregation with an open communion policy, explicitly welcoming everyone present to participate in Holy Communion with us.  This has been shown in the way we go out of our way, regularly, to welcome all kinds of people into the life of the congregation.

 

We’ve been intentional about this.  And we’ve been intentional in saying we aim to be a community that doesn’t expect its members to agree with one another, even on important questions.  What we expect is that all our members will love and care for one another, and all our members will pray with and for one another, and all our members will work and pray and worship with one another.  Our unity comes, not from agreement with one another, or being like one another, but from being part of the Body of Christ with one another.

 

Jesus is our head.  That’s what unites us:  the love of Christ.  We share it together with one another.  And we reach out with it to serve the world he created and all the children of God, each and every one of whom he loves.  It is in caring for them, and for one another, that we show and live out our love of Jesus.  Living in this love, and living out this love, have always been more important to us that the particulars of what people might believe.

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