June 17, 2010 by Bishop Chris Epting
While it is sad to see the unraveling of the Anglican Communion we are witnessing today, it is really part
of a larger reality. In “The Great Emergence” Phyllis Tickle speaks of
(roughly) 500 years cycles in the life of the Church when enormous reformation
occurs. We are in the birth pangs of such a reformation today.
For example, younger/emergent Christians are not interested in our church wars over human sexuality or
worship or women’s roles or hierarchical, usually patriarchal, structures which
operate top-down to control the masses. What they are interested in is Jesus Christ,
his message about the Kingdom of God, and God’s mission of justice, peace, and
the new creation. They are interested in radical equality and “flattened”
leadership and communication structures which allow everyone to have a voice. A
“theology of hope” informs their every prayer.
I have spent my entire life and ministry trying to help lead The Episcopal Church toward some of those same
ends. From the renewal of worship and spirituality, to the empowerment of
women, to work for justice and peace, to dismantling hierarchical forms
of leadership by the ministry of all the baptized, to fuller inclusion of gay
and lesbian persons in the life of the Church, to ecumenical and interfaith
I had hoped that The Episcopal Church might provide some leadership in these areas to the rest of the Anglican
Communion of which we are a part and indeed to the wider oikoumene, the Body of
Christ, whether Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal
just as we have learned from and incorporated elements from them. However,
today we are widely misunderstood, caricatured, and criticized in many circles.
So, it appears to me that our role today is to be simultaneously one of humility, boldness, and patience. We
need to have the humility to recognize that we probably do not have all this
right, and it is not necessary that everyone agree with us anyway. But we also
need to have the boldness to follow where we believe the Holy Spirit is leading
us and be prepared always to “give a reason for the hope that is within us.”
Finally, we need patience. We are only at the beginning stages of this new reformation. God’s future is in fact
rushing in upon us. We can lean into it. But we cannot force it to come any
faster by our actions or our anxiety. What we do know is that God’s Kingdom is
coming and that, one day, God’s will will indeed be done on earth as it is in
May we be faithful until that day.