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One Man's Journey in the Episcopal Church

One Man's Journey in the Episcopal Church

By David W. Virtue, DD
March 25, 2020

This is the story of George. It is not his real name for obvious reasons. He is 89 years old and has spent his life in the Episcopal Church.

He wrote me the other day to thank me for my book, THE SEDUCTION OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH. I felt honored that he did so. I did not expect his letter.

George's story is like a lot of stories I get, but this one was especially poignant. George has been married for over 60 years, his wife has since died and he has two grown children. He's been a successful businessman, a lifelong Republican, and has sat on numerous church boards, and attended multiple general conventions in different capacities. He wanted me to know that he cares deeply for his Church and he wanted me to hear his story.

"After reading your book I see more clearly now how we come to the present state of affairs within the Episcopal Church. I had heard of Louie Crew many years ago, (I am 89) and I thought he was an aberration and not a driving force. How wrong I was."

He went on to say how much that pained him. "I didn't see it coming, or did I see it coming and just refused to believe what was happening?"

"I grew up in Christ Episcopal Church in upstate New York. I was a choir boy from 9 to 14 when my voice changed. I absolutely loved that experience. I came to love the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, singing Morning Prayer Canticles on Sundays, except for the first Sunday of the month and certain holy days. We had four rehearsals per week: Tuesday after school, Thursday evening, Saturday morning, and on Sunday an hour before church service! I loved it all.

"My theology mainly comes out of the 1940 Hymnal and many of the anthems we sang over the years. I really believed, "The church's One Foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord" and "Jesus lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly." I especially loved "Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war."

When the Church began to drift in the late 60s through the 70s, I was disappointed in various rectors for not preaching that salvation comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

"I went through a Cursillo weekend in the early 70s and membership on the National Episcopal Cursillo Committee in the early 80s. Those experiences led to a deepening of my faith in Christ as my Savior.

"In 1979 I was a delegate to the Triennial General Convention in Denver, CO where the 1979 prayer book was approved, and I voted in favor. I now regret my vote, although it would have made no difference if I had voted against it. I now see that prayer book was one more step in changing the theology of the Church to becoming a more inclusive, less focused biblical model for the future.

"I read Matthew 28 where it says we should MAKE DISCIPLES. That was not and did not happen. Inclusion destroyed discipleship. None of the priests I sat under believed in making disciples. Looking back, I think they were ashamed to talk about the uniqueness of Jesus and his death on the cross for us and for our sins. They wanted to be nice and inclusive and talk about the goodness in people and other religions. They did not care about the offense of the cross and what it cost God to send his Son to die for us."

"I weep when I think about it all now.

"I felt alone and isolated. Many of my friends just upped and left the Church, but I could not. Many have died. I felt loyal to my local parish but not to the institution which changed with every new presiding bishop."

"I am not an emotional man, my generation is not much into feelings, but I felt a deep pain in my soul at what was happening. It made me pray much more, it drove me to my knees.

"Over time the message simply got lost. The advent of homosexuality changed everything.

"The whole homosexual experience was foreign to me. I never really knew any homosexuals though I suppose I bumped into them, but they never made a fuss. Despite what some homosexuals say in the church, I am not a homophobe, even though I disagree with how they live. The Bible, it seems to me is pretty clear about that behavior. But I went along to get along. I did not want to rock the boat.

"Now I ask myself, should I have rocked the boat, should I have spoken up more forcefully than I did? Did I capitulate and let a small group of people walk all over me and the Church I loved? I accepted women priests, but then I saw how women bishops were brought into the church which violated canon law. I knew enough to know that. But I kept silent hoping somehow that we would muddle through, as Episcopalians do.

"But we didn't. I lost, as did most of my generation. We are all dying now, and I know from your book that there probably won't be another generation of Episcopalians. I hope to die before the Church finally does. I don't want to see the end; it is too painful for me.

"Today when I visit Florida, I attend an Episcopal parish that has a beautiful old wooden interior and an Anglican choir which does chant really well. I thank them every time I go. They bless my soul. God bless you, David, for the hard work you do for all of us."

I shed a tear as I read this. Perhaps my ministry has been worth something to some, and for that I thank God.


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