Tuesday, January 02, 2007

So Much in a Few Words
By James B. Simons

Q. How many members of The Episcopal Church are there in this country?

A. About 2.2 million. It used to be larger percentagewise (sic), but Episcopalians tend to be better educated and tend to reproduce at lower rates than other denominations.New York Times Magazine. Sunday Nov. 19, 2006

The New York Times was lobbing soft balls to the new Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, when this exchange took place. The more I have thought about her answer to this simple question, the more I am convinced that in a single sentence the Presiding Bishop illustrates rather dramatically the crisis that faces The Episcopal Church. She does so in three ways.

First, she confirms our sense of cultural elitism. In an essay reflecting on his short sojourn into The Episcopal Church, Garrison Keillor described us as the “church in wing-tips, the church of the scotch and soda, worshipping God in extremely good taste.”

Apparently in this case, caricature is reality. We see ourselves as better than other Christians, more privileged, more enlightened. What’s even more amazing is that we are apparently willing to announce this publicly. “We’re better educated than other denominations” would seem to me to be in the class of statements such as “You look pregnant.” Even if it were true, why would you say it out loud, let alone to The New York Times? I think the answer has to do with mistaking hubris for honesty.
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