Unabashedly Episcopalian: An Interview with Bishop Andrew Doyle
I know from our previous conversations that you feel that the brokenness of the Church is one of the great hindrances to inviting people to be a part of it. We've had big fights over human sexuality in recent years, and you sought a compromise in relation to recognizing gay unions that was written up by TIME magazine and I talked about one Sunday on BBC Radio. Could you describe that idea, and how you came to the point of deciding it was the right thing for the Diocese of Texas?
This is probably too small a space to fully convey my thinking on this so I want to recommend to those interested the following text: www.epicenter.org/unity. There is a great sermon on grace, a paper on my thinking, and a study guide to help you think about the issue.
But here is my deal: I believe the "right thing" for the church is to be focused on spreading the Good News of Salvation and the uniqueness of God in Christ Jesus to the world through evangelism and mission. That's it. It is the right thing, it is the only thing, it is the primary thing. Everything else comes after that. Moreover, every priest and every congregation are serving and ministering within a local context of church and culture and need tools to respond to their own mission fields. Some need to be able to bless relationships, others need the freedom and safety to not have to bless same-sex partners. My responsibility as a Bishop and as a leader is to focus on the main thing, to keep the main thing the main thing, and help people live together doing the main thing—evangelism and mission.
When you were ordained, you were one of the youngest bishops in the Episcopal Church, and you've become known for employing social media and other generationally-significant approaches to forming community. In Unabashedly Episcopalian, you argue that we need to get out of our churches, take our act on the road, and you talked about doing that a second ago. What are some other ways that Jesus people can do that in ways that feel to you authentically Christian?
I believe that God is out there in the world right now doing miraculous things, and that television, art, film, poetry, music, and theater all are revealing God. So, I think Jesus people need to use social media, in all of its various forms, to tell the story of God as it is intersecting and being revealed in the images of our day. Twitter, Facebook, blogs, podcasts, and websites are all places were others are now safely congregating from the safety of their own home, the privacy of their laptop. Jesus people and Episcopalians are challenged to be unabashedly who we are and to translate, interpret, and reveal God's hand at work in the world about us. This is our work.
I would add this, though. We need to be authentically Christian, but more than that, we need to be authentically Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, or whatever brand you happen to be. People are not interested in Bob's Christian Idea for the Day. We have to return to the rootedness of our traditions. We must tie ourselves onto a great rope as if we are entering the holy of holies, and wrestle with and tell others about our unique Christian witness from whatever limb of the family tree we come. We are a more credible, more authentic voice when we are linked to the ancient faith of our ancestors. Moreover, when it comes time for us to stand together against evil and oppression, the Christian voice has strength and power when the very best Episcopalian, the most rooted Roman Catholic, the audacious Methodist, the Jew, the Muslim stand together with our traditions behind us and say, "No, no more."
So be who you are! Claim it! Mix it up, and share the love.
Greg Garrett is (according to BBC Radio) one of America's leading voices on religion and culture. He is the author or co-author of over twenty books of fiction, theology, cultural criticism, and spiritual autobiography. His most recent books are The Prodigal, written with the legendary Brennan Manning, Entertaining Judgment: The Afterlife in Popular Imagination, and My Church Is Not Dying: Episcopalians in the 21st Century. A contributor to Patheos since 2010, Greg also writes for the Huffington Post, Salon.com, OnFaith, The Tablet, Reform, and other web and print publications in the US and UK.