I've been fussing about the need to cook something for the potluck that will follow the annual parish meeting tomorrow at St. Andrew's (at which I expect my sentence as junior warden to be renewed for another year). After some deliberation this morning, I've decided on Green Magic Salad. You will find the link to that recipe, published earlier on the occasion of another Episcopal potluck, under the sidebar heading, "Food Channel."
Episcopalians share the universal fondness for Jello found among all Christians in the Americas. But we do try to match it to the appropriate liturgical color of the season, in this case post-Epiphany green. This way it will match the altar frontal and the stole around the lectern eagle's neck --- although we will be eating some distance away in the parish hall.
I've been trying to express my love-hate relationship with institutional Christanity lately, coming down for the most part on the negative side. What in the world is there to like then in this most elaborate of protestant expressions of faith?
I found a commentary by Theo Hobson in The Guardian the other day that goes a long way toward explaining it. He is English, a disgruntled refugee from the Church of England --- so emaciated by its position as a government-established church it's been relegated to a shelf where its bishops sputter ineffectually about dreaded women clergy and bishops, awful homosexuals and persecution in an increasingly secular state that will not allow it to discriminate.
One thing often forgot here by American Christians eager to blend church and state is that in the end you will end up doing what the state tells you to do --- and may not like the outcome as much as the anticipation.
Here's part of what Hobson had to say:
"It was a catch-22. Organised religion was intolerably illiberal, but only organised religion seemed able to organise Christian ritual – without which Christianity is just a bunch of vague ideas. My desire was for ritual to be liberated from the institutions but, frankly, I didn't know how this could happen. After a few years staring at this question, I was no nearer to answering it.
"Then, last year, I moved to New York. I wanted to see if there was a stronger post-institutional Christian culture here, a more substantial "emerging church" movement. There is, but I'm not yet sure what I make of it. I was also curious to see what I would make of the Episcopal church, the American branch of Anglicanism. It is proudly disestablished, and has broken with the homophobic legalism of the rest of the communion, so would I find it a model of liberalism, or still complicit in the various ills of organised religion? I was assuming the latter. But, to my surprise, a taste of Episcopalian worship got me asking: "What's not to like?"
"Looking back at the crisis in the Anglican communion, I find that I am impressed by the boldness of the Americans. Instead of backing down over Gene Robinson's consecration, they insisted that a basic Christian principle was at stake: the need to oppose moral legalism, and spread the good news to everyone. This was Paul's project – which is why it is so ironic that Paul also supplies the conservatives with their main ammunition. You could say that the crisis is an argument within the mind of Paul...
...The air is fresher here. The American branch of Anglicanism has emerged in the past decade as the global pioneer of liberal Christianity. It has persuaded me not to give up on the church just yet."
That fairly well says it, although it does need to be pointed out that The Episcopal Church still is shaking out communicants who prefer illiberalism, many of whom have bailed out to align themselves with draconian African and other bishops still mad at women and queers and progressive causes in general.
You'll find a good number of those in parts of Texas, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Illinois as well as scattered pockets elsewhere. Rarely in Iowa, however.