This week, I got two tastes of a worship style very different from my norm. This past weekend, I attended an Episcopal church whose rector is one of my dearest friends. We're talking vestments, kneelers, and the full-on liturgy, including an infant baptism that day. (For those who don't know, my church is as "low service" as they come, and our most distinctive mark is an insistence on adult baptism by immersion.) Then later this week, my oldest son was inducted into the student vestry (the serious Christian students' group) at our (Episcopal) school. This ceremony involved the laying on of hands by the Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina. (Again, my fellowship has no hierchical structure, and autonomous congregations are governed by a plurality of elders.)
What is interesting to me is that a fight is going on for the very soul of the Episcopal Church (the American branch of the worldwide Anglican communion), and the Diocese of SC, their Bishop, and my friend are at the forefront of it. The newspapers will tell you that the dispute is about the consecration of an openly gay man as a Bishop a few years ago. That is not true. The real issue is whether or not the (national) Episcopal Church does or does not believe in the historical creed of Orthodox Christianity, including not just issues of sexuality, but also the inerrancy of scripture and the belief that Jesus is the only path to eternal life. As my priest buddy says, "the gays don't bother me nearly as much as the Unitarian Universalists" (although, just for clarity's sake, he is also rock-solid in his stand on Biblical sexuality, too.) The Bishop and my friend, as well as our current school chaplains, and most of the serious SC Episcopalians I know, are the heroes in this fight, bravely standing up to their national church, a hostile media, and a permissive culture that sees them as every bit the Bible-thumping fundamentalist as I am.
Of course, there are major theological differences between us. If I thought what the Anglicans were doing was the closest thing to the will of God for His church, I would be one. But at the same time, I can tell the good guys from the bad guys. I believe in one Lord, one faith, and one baptism. So do my Episcopal friends, and we define that faith and that baptism very differently. But I'm adding them to my prayer list on the basis of the "one Lord." Perhaps, in the fullness of time, God has even allowed the current schisms within Christendom for the purpose of pushing His divided disciples into common cause. Either way, I know what side I'm on.