A case for separating church and pop

5neat 01An item from Episcopal News Service begins:

Picture this: an altar; an earth-shattering sound system; people of all ages “jamming to the groove”; and an Episcopal bishop rapping and feeling the beat.

“My sistas and brothas, all my homies and peeps, stay up — keep your head up, holla back, and go forth and tell like it is.” With this proclamation, Bishop Suffragan Cathy Roskam of New York sent people on their way at the Bronx’s third Hip Hop Mass, held Friday, July 2 at Trinity Church of Morrisania. . . .

OK, now we all know the agony of bishops who are down with the peeps. Now imagine If some musicians had only pursued the episcopacy:

Top 10 High-Church Hits

1. Purple Reign, the Rt. Rev. Prince Rogers Nelson (Diocese of Minnesota)

2. You Picked the Wrong Bishop to F— With, the Rt. Rev. Ice Cube (Diocese of Los Angeles)

3. That Ain’t No Rag, it’s the Constitution & Canons, the Rt. Rev. Charlie Daniels (Diocese of Tennessee)

4. High on the Jesus Seminar, the Rt. Rev. Kinky Friedman (Diocese of Texas)

5. My Sweet Lord (theme song of the United Religions Initiative), the Rt. Rev. George Harrison (Diocese of California)

6. Goin’ to the (Civil but Obviously Nonsacramental) Chapel, the Rt. Rev. Phil Spector (Diocese of Massachusetts)

7. Imagine, the Rt. Rev. John Lennon (Diocese of Newark)

8. Obviously Five Believers (in the Hermeneutic of Oppression), the Rt. Rev. Bob Dylan (Diocese of New York)

9. Mennonite Surf Party, by the Rt. Rev. Billy C. Wirtz (Diocese of North Carolina)

10. Pass the Peace, the Rt. Rev. Maceo Parker (Diocese of West Tennessee [Memphis])

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  • http://u2sermons.blogspot.com Beth

    This made me laugh so hard my husband came downstairs to see if I were OK.

  • http://www.neepeople.com Jim N.

    ditto on the laughter… too funny!

  • Mark

    Another embarrassing and shameful episode in the walking heresy called the Episcopal Church.

  • http://www.ecben.net Wm. Linden

    I am glad that they made it clear that she is “an Episcopal bishop”. And not one of those diaconal bishops. Whether or not she is being “disriminate”.

  • Christine

    With all due respect to you Beth I don’t feel like laughing … I feel sick.

    When will these people read some scripture? Peter I,I right off the bat. Perhaps Romans I,I, would also be a good start, then moving on to Rev XXII.

    Perhaps a little more scripture and a lot less humanism might be a start.

    I feel sick.

  • Rach

    Wow, Mark.

    “Another embarrassing and shameful episode in the walking heresy called the Episcopal Church.”

    I’ll grant embarrassment, mostly because I’m so midwestern white this would be absolutely inauthentic coming out of my mouth, but shameful and heresy? I’d like to read more about your opinions on the content vs. delivery.

    Doug, fabulous graphic.

  • http://glenrosefarm.blogspot.com John S. Bell

    Loved the SCTV picture, but what the story really brought to mind was an old Saturday Night Live skit set in the early sixties with Ray Charles being introduced to a group, “The Young Caucasians.” They sing him their cover of “That’s What I Say,” off their new album, “The Young Caucasians’ Salute to the Negro.” During my years as an Episcopalian I sat with embarrasment through many a “Young Causcasians” moment as we smugly butchered gospel songs and patronized black folk to establish our anti-racist credentials. Looks like that’s one part of the Church that hasn’t changed since I moved on to Orthodoxy.

  • Patrick Rothwell

    Where, oh where is Cartman from “South Park” when we need him?

  • John

    If I’m not mistaken, George Harrison was received into the faith shortly before his tragic and untimely death. I think, therefore, it would be proper to remove him from your otherwise insightful and extraordinarily entertaining list.

  • Marion R.

    re 1.) above (“Purple Reign”), the copy should instead read “The Rt. Rev *formerly known* as Prince Rogers Nelson”

  • Chris Hawley

    Bishop Gene. Simmons. The first Bishop in the communion to wear makeup (although, many are saying Bishops have been wearing makeup for years, it’s just that Bishop Gene is the first to be honest about it).

  • Mark

    To Rach:

    I’m sorry if my comments offended you, but I think this episode is indeed very shameful. The Episcopalians here in New York seem to embrace anything other than the historical tradition of the church, form New Age liturgies to Jazz Vespers. I think it’s very racist to think that only a hip hop liturgy can motivate youth in the Bronx. Being a Midwesterner, you are not familiar with that neighborhood. It’s even more shameful that a bishop would resort to using criminal slang. The Lord warned us not to be of the world when we are in this life. The leaders of the church should uphold the historical tradition, teach the Scriptures, and be role models for the youth.

    As for heresy, I alluded to the overall situation in the denomination, not this particular episode. When you have so-called bishops like Spong denying the Resurrection and Robinson getting a divorce to live with another man, what else can one think? I don’t say this out of spite, but out of pity for many Episcopalian friends and associates, both clery and laity, that are suffering because their leaders are trampling on God’s truth in the gutter.

  • Rach


    Thanks for the explanation. I wasn’t offended by your earlier comments, just surprised by the strength of feeling. It helped to hear about your desire for the scripures to be taught and the perception the mass as a condecending act without substance or integrity.

    I find the churches attempts and garnering members at any cost disgusting. Especially when they are just becoming members of the club, not renewed by Christ. However I am excited when I hear people trying to preach the Gospel in a language that will be heard. (I understand that doesn’t seem to be the case in the case of the hip hop mass.) Our church recently heard from a missionary to the native population in South Dakota. It brought tears to my eyes to hear him describe the power of the drum in drawing people to hear him preach the Gospel.

    1 Corinthians 9:16-23

    Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! If I preach voluntarily, I have a reward; if not voluntarily, I am simply discharging the trust committed to me. What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it.

    Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

  • Mark


    You have stated some very important points that are often forgotten. The Church must never forget the Great Commission to bring the Gospel to the entire world. All other goals are secondary. However, we must not become so overzealous that we dilute the message, as in the terrible hip hop mass discussed here. Remember St. Paul’s admonitions: Col. 2:8 “See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ” and 2 Thess. 2:15 “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter”. With his words in mind, we will able to proclaim the Good News in a sober, pure, and Apostolic fashion, and not in a “warm and fuzzy” way that the world wants to hear.