Over the Easter weekend, my wife and I were out of town up at her folks house. With our afternoon arrival, we decided to go to a Good Friday service later that evening. Noticing that there were no Anglican churches in this city, I recommended that we attend the Episcopal service at 7 in their hometown. I mean, why not? How could a church mess that up, right? Boy, was that an interesting experience, to say the least.
In case you didn’t know, the Episcopal church recently underwent a large event where churches split off from the main denominational body. From what I have been told (and this is an oversimplification, so please chime in the comments if you want to further unpack or clarify it), it was a long time coming. The more conservative bodies took the name Anglican and aligned themselves with other Anglican churches throughout the world, placing themselves under the care of established dioceses of African churches. With few exceptions, the Episcopal churches are currently more left-leaning in their approach to Scripture and those who broke away to become Anglicans are more traditional.
Which leads me back to the Episcopal service.
Politics at the pulpit
I have sat in on services at a few churches that were overly political on the conservative end of the spectrum. I recall to my horror when a pastor denounced a state assemblyman from the pulpit for voting with the Democrats. Pastors can have political views, which can be said privately in conversation, but when it comes to speaking about a budget vote in Sacramento from the pulpit, well, that is a little too far.
At this Episcopal service, it was on the other end of the political spectrum. The meditations on the crucifixion of Christ were accompanied with a call to action about gun violence.
Listen, I’m all for the call for Christians to be agents of peace in a culture of violence, I get that. But when the pastor is reading a congressional testimonies from people for awhile, then it is veering into uneasy territory for me.
A call to action could be needed in an American Church that might not want to challenge the culture on the consumption of violence. Indeed, the “already, but not yet” tension between the Kingdom of God transforming the world will have political consequences. Whether it is in the abolition of slavery, the Civil Rights movement, or a call to the sanctity of life in every stage (not just in the womb), our union with Christ ought to overflow into action. Yes, political action could be a means to the end, but it is not the only means. To borrow from Paul, the same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead needs to give life to our mortal bodies and give us strength to be a witness in our communities and act when needed.
Have you had any awkward church experiences?