One of the most striking things I noticed about mainline denominations when I started exploring them is how opposed they are to proselytizing. Religion often seems to be an almost tribal reality for many of them. Wanting other people to be a part of your faith is okay, but actually going out there and asking others to be part of your denomination? Distasteful.
This attitude has crippled many a Church in the secular age we now live in. Not least the Episcopal Church. I sometimes feel like I’m jumping onto a sinking ship with captain and crew not sure whether to jump ship, fix the damage, or proceed as if nothing is wrong.
But I dream of the day when the Holy Spirit will fill our hearts with fire, and we’ll gladly join him in harvesting in the fields of hurting humanity. I long for the day that the best of who we are as the Episcopal Church will become known.
Right now, I would like to see, in my lifetime, the Episcopal Church become 1 percent of the population in the territory covered by every one of it’s diocese. Now this might not seem like an ambitious dream. After all, that’s only 4.6 million members out of a population of roughly 460 million in the territories covered by the Episcopal Church. But the Episcopal Church today is only 2 million members total. Only 1.8 million and shrinking in the US.
Staunching the flow of souls out of the Episcopal Church and energizing it in the next 25 years to double in size everywhere seems to be an almost impossible task. But it is not a hopeless one, it’s not even an unfamiliar one.
When the Episcopal Church was founded in 1789, it was seen by some as a pipe dream. The end of British rule seemed to mean and end to Anglican religion in the nascent US. Throughout its history, Anglicanism in the 13 colonies had been living on life support, with no bishops, a paucity of well trained clergy, and inherited hostility from people who were previously or currently being persecuted by the Church of England.
The years before and during the Revolution also brought with them great cultural change, notably the evangelical Great awakening which drew many nominal Anglicans into Methodist and Baptist churches and a moralist and skepticism that echoes the attitudes of our current age.
Into this maelstrom comes our Church, already considered to be dying and discredited by most who observed it. But as more and more Episcopalians committed themselves to evangelism in the ensuing decades, the Episcopal Church grew. By 1839, most would have been shocked by how close they had come to not existing.
In light of this history, I know that what seems impossible to mankind is never impossible to God. So I’m going to keep on dreaming big dreams for the Episcopal Church. And with his help, they’ll come true.
–Eternal God, giver of love and power, your Son Jesus Christ has sent us into all the world to preach the gospel of his kingdom: confirm us in this mission, and help us to live the good news we proclaim; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.