“We make fun of Episcopalians for their blandness, their excessive calm, their fear of giving offense, their lack of speed and also for their secret fondness for macaroni and cheese,” says Garrison Keillor, affectionately. And, I’m happy to report, they might be returning to giving us just what they expect of them.
The Episcopal Diocese of Florida met this past weekend in Jacksonville for their annual convention, themed, “One Body,” which began with a service led by presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori calling for unity. In recent years the convention has been tense with debates over the future of the diocese and even the Church itself. But this year, “nothing much happened,” according to a friend of mine who was a delegate. “The most contentious issue voted on had to do with something about priests’ retirement,” and he abstained on that one.
This same friend told me a couple of years ago, at what seemed like the height of the battling, that it was all not such a big deal, that the number of dissidents was actually quite small and that he thought his church would be better off once they were gone.
Indeed, according to Wikipedia there are over 7,000 Episcopal congregations in the US with over 2 million members, though the significance of that number is unclear since, as the priest in the church where I was baptized once teased me: “when you’re baptized we have you; you’re ours and you don’t have much to say about it.”
Recent reports indicate that about 350 congregations have departed to affiliate with more conservative Anglican Bishops outside the US. Whether the remaining congregations are better off or not will be decided in the coming years by members.
At least we can return to all the fun Episcopalian jokes (of which they themselves are most fond):
One day, after a Rite II service, an older female parishioner walks up to a friend and asks, “Did you hear about the new priest over at St. Bart’s?”
Friend: “No. What about him?”
Parishioner: “He’s gay.”
Friend: “Thanks be to God! They’ve been needing to remodel that place for years!!!”
How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb? At least ten, since they first need to hold a debate on whether or not the light bulb exists. Then, even if they can agree upon the existence of the light bulb, they still might not change it, to keep from alienating those who might use other forms of light.
If you’re smiling as loudly as you can, you might just be an Episcopalian.