Friday, June 03, 2005

your typical episcopalians

Originally uploaded by gwbrark.
The recent ARCIC document about the place of the Blessed Virgin in theology and devotion has been much touted lately, and I think for good reason. (For two interesting takes on it, try J-Tron and the Young Fogey.) I think, however, that it is a bit overzealous to identify many commonalities between Roman Catholic devotional practice and the devotional practice of Episcopalians. This is mainly because, in my experience, Episcoplians really don't have much of a devotional life. If there were a quantifiable average, I would wager it would be somewhere rather below that of the Roman Catholic. Episcopalians are encouraged to think that anything whatsoever counts as devotion, so long as you feel spiritual about it. Some examples (that I have actually heard) are: fishing, yoga, walking labyrinths, gay sex, communing with nature, and being quiet.

Fr. Kimel's analysis of the authority issue in ECUSA is spot-on, in this instance. There is no real Episcopal devotional practice. Insofar as there might be said to be an Episcopal teaching on devotional practices, it is probabably something like "whatever floats your boat."

Now, this attitude isn't always bad. Its the permissive element of Episcopalian authority that permits me to continue as not-a-Calvinist and not-an-insane-person --- that is, against the grain of ECUSA's past and current cultural vagaries. But when people begin to speak of "the devotional practice" of the ECUSA (or even of "theology" for that matter), I think they are more or less kidding themselves.

I'm still pleased with the ARCIC statement.


The Ranter said...

Now just settle down, you're doing far too much jumping (to conclusions) here. Episcopalians have devotions, its called tithing. Through tithing, they are able to let their clerics do the devotionals for them. They know its better to leave the praying to the professionals. Everyone knows that Episcopalians are the only ones God trusts enough to allow them to take summers off from church.

J-Tron said...

Yes, it sure is nice to be able to forget about God for a few months and sip margaritas by the beach.

There are Episcopalians who are very devotional. But yes, in general there is a malaise that leads us to believe that if we simply show up on Sunday and walk through the motions, we've gotten there. William Law is spinning in his grave.

I'd be careful not to over-compliment the Romans, however. While there are some very devotional Roman Catholics, there are also many follow the same slump of non-engagement with their faith.