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Popular Christian author exits evangelicalism for The Episcopal Church. Why?

Popular Christian author exits evangelicalism for The Episcopal Church. Why?
Rachel Held Evans defends her exit and calls Christians to celebrate sacraments


By David W. Virtue
March 16, 2015

The wildly popular Christian writer Rachel Held Evans recently offered an exclusive sneak peek into her new book and its pointed message when she spoke with Jonathan Merritt of the Religion News Service (RNS) about her new found beliefs and what they mean for her and millions of unchurched millennials.

According to RNS, Rachel Held Evans has grown into a powerful voice in American Christianity. She is author of "Evolving in Monkey Town" and the New York Times bestseller "A Year of Biblical Womanhood." But those who have followed her writings often note that her thinking has become increasingly progressive--especially on hot button theological issues such as gender and sexuality. This shift culminated in her leaving evangelicalism for Episcopalianism.

VOL: Why? There is absolutely no contradiction between being an evangelical and an Episcopalian unless she is motivated by other considerations. There are still a number of evangelical parishes within the Episcopal Church that she could identify with. Now there is a whole new evangelical (and Anglo-Catholic) denomination called the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) that has tens of thousands of evangelical Anglicans that Ms. Evans could join and identify with.

Next month, Evans will release "Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church," a book that oscillates between stinging critiques of American Christianity and prescriptions for how she believes we can more faithfully participate in church-life.

She explains what she believes is the key to revitalizing the church and defends her exit from evangelicalism. She thinks that many church leaders make the mistake of thinking millennials are shallow consumers who are leaving church because they aren't being entertained. "I think our reasons for leaving church are more complicated, more related to social changes and deep questions of faith than worship style or image. If you try to woo us back with skinny jeans and coffee shops, it may actually backfire. Millennials have finely-tuned B.S. meters that can detect when someone's just trying to sell us something. We're not looking for a hipper Christianity. We're looking for a truer Christianity."

VOL: I have news for you, Ms. Evans. Across the country there are growing numbers of orthodox Anglican congregations that are faithful to Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer and they don't wear skinny jeans and walk into church with coffee cups. Let me introduce you to Christ Church Anglican on the Mainline in Philadelphia, a new church plant affiliated with the ACNA that has about 40 folk coming on a regular basis. More than two thirds are young millennials from surrounding colleges and universities who love our "ancient worship" because it is coupled with sound Biblical preaching. They love the liturgy, the reading of three portions of Scripture, general and private confession, the Eucharist, and great music, some contemporary, but old hymns are fused into the service. They stay for coffee hour and then sit in on a lecture about the Ten Commandments led by a walking brain who could match N.T. Wright in a debate on Justification. There are no fog machines in our worship. We are totally Christ centered with minimal genuflecting. Our priest, who is in his early 30s, graduated from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary. His wife has a doctorate in music.

There are plenty more churches like mine. If you live in Northern Virginia or South Carolina you could find a stack of evangelical Anglican churches that are faithful to Scripture and to the Church's received teaching on sexuality, who love the liturgy and hear gospel-centered sermons week by week, who evangelize their neighbors and who meet in schools (if they can't afford a church building).

Many of these Anglicans have gone to the mat for their properties because they won't buy into the pansexual shift by The Episcopal Church that bought into an array of unbiblical sexualities and is slowly sinking. Be careful where you worship, Ms. Evans, you may just be standing next to someone who has a serious drug and drinking problem like (bishop) Heather Cook, the theology of a Jefferts Schori, or the sexuality of a Fr. Bede Parry.

RNS: In the course of your story, you say you left evangelicalism for the Episcopal Church. Much of the Episcopal Church has failed to embrace the cosmetic changes you critique and they practice the things you say will draw millennials back. Yet Episcopalians in America have been in steady decline for sometime and are rapidly aging. How do you reconcile this with your thesis?

Evans responded by saying she feels drawn to the Episcopal church because it offers some practices she feels were missing in her evangelical experience, like space for silence and reflection, a focus on Christ's presence at the communion table as the climax and center of every worship service, opportunities for women in leadership, and the inclusion of LGBT people.

Ah, there's the nub of the issue, "inclusion of LGBT people". Authentic Anglicans have never denied the right of LGBT people to come to their churches; what they have said is that their behavior is inappropriate (intrinsically disordered as the RCC says) as is any sexual behavior outside of marriage between a man and a woman such as fornication and adultery. The fact that Ms. Evans and some mega church evangelicals are falling all over themselves to embrace pansexuality, doesn't make it right, it means they have abandoned 2,000 years of biblical ethics and morals for a misplaced compassion.

The reason the ACNA exists -- which now incorporates over 120,000 evangelicals -- is precisely because of the liberal/progressive/revisionist theology of the Episcopal Church, which they say is now way outside of orthodox Christianity and has bred the likes of a John Shelby Spong and a Gene Robinson. You really want to get into bed with the theological and moral likes of these two men and a Presiding Bishop who denies the bodily resurrection of Jesus and personal salvation? Think long and hard before you answer, Ms. Evans.

Understand this, both Episcopalians and Anglicans do say the same creed and affirm the death and resurrection of Jesus. The problem is that most Episcopal priests don't really believe it and say these things with their fingers crossed behind their backs. They had their theological brains removed in one of nine liberal Episcopal seminaries. Most Episcopal bishops would not affirm the bodily resurrection of Jesus, whereas all Anglican bishops must or they would be tossed out.

You rightly said that a church might produce thousands of attendees without producing any disciples.

The Episcopal Church hasn't produced a disciple of Jesus in decades. It likes people with money, often divorced Roman Catholics who can't take communion in their local RC church. They want gays and lesbians and the whole panoply of LGBTQI sexualities, but they are not coming. TEC is not drawing in Millennials. The action of consecrating an avowed sodomite to the episcopacy in 2003 saw the biggest exodus from TEC in its history.

If you want a truly authentic Anglican experience that is faithful to Scripture and the creeds, seek out an Anglican parish, otherwise you are wasting your time in an Episcopal parish where pray, pay and obey is the order of the day and the coffee hour (and the gossip) might be the most interesting time of the whole service.


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