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'She's Tickling Our Souls' Episcopalians Proclaim of Holy Spirit at Jesus Festival

'She's Tickling Our Souls' Episcopalians Proclaim of Holy Spirit at Jesus Festival

By Jeffrey Walton
Juicy Ecumenism
July 17, 2023

Top Episcopal Church officials are warning of increasing anxiety at climate change as well as the need for healing amidst mental health and wellness crises.

"Are we ready to use our healing to help with anxieties around the climate crisis?" House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris asked, referring to participants at the recent Episcopal Youth Event gathering held in College Park, Maryland. "I heard one young person bravely say, request, demand, that The Episcopal Church is perfectly positioned to have programs for religious healing, especially on those who identify as LGBTQIA2S+."

Harris, the church's top lay officer, presides over the upper house of the church's bicameral legislative body, General Convention. She spoke at "It's All About Love: A Festival for the Jesus Movement" held July 9-12 in Baltimore, Maryland.

"They spoke honestly about their struggles with mental health and wellness, especially coming out of this pandemic," Harris recounted of young Episcopalians she had met with.

A public policy component also characterized the Baltimore event, with emphasis on environmental and racial concerns.

'It's All About Love'

The gathering featured what organizers characterized as revival worship, in addition to teaching on themes of love for God, neighbor, and self.

"Part of the problem is that we have cheapened love," Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached in an opening sermon. "Dietrich Bonhoeffer talked about cheap grace. I think we need to pay attention also to cheap love. Because that's what's got people confused."

Curry noted that in biblical Greek, four different words nuance different kinds of love, whereas English reduces concepts of eros, agape, and philia into a single word. The Episcopal Church prelate recounted watching a soap opera with his wife during pandemic lockdowns, in which characters were using terms like "love" in a shallow way.

Sponsored by Virginia Theological Seminary, the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and the Episcopal News Service, the event's focus on teaching and worship contrasted with the denominational governance and legislative focus at the Episcopal Church's triennial General Convention. A series of workshops were offered on the environment, evangelism, and racial reconciliation.

"Can you feel that the Spirit--she is here with us this morning. You feel her? She's moving. She's tickling our souls," House of Deputies President Julia Ayala Harris preached during the closing communion service.

Despite the presence of charismatic renewal themes, including language of revival, healing prayer stations, and anointing with oil, (Harris exhorted participants to "be consumed by the fires of Pentecost") the event spotlighted proponents of revisionist theology emphasizing sexuality, gender identity, and race.

Festival speakers included author and Emergent Church guru Brian McLaren, feminist theologian Kwok Pui-lan of United Methodist-affiliated Candler School of Theology, and outgoing Episcopal Divinity School at Union Dean Kelly Brown Douglas.

The programmed event contrasted with the spontaneous student-led worship at what has become known as the Asbury Outpouring, described by some participants as an organic, unplanned revival that began at Kentucky's Asbury University in February and spread to several other schools.

Episcopalians have hosted prior events on the diocesan level that were similarly framed as revivals. Curry visited the tiny Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan in October 2019 for "a gathering for renewal and celebration of Love". More recently, Curry spoke at the Episcopal Diocese of San Diego's Good News Festival in December 2022.

In the Michigan event, Curry's fervent preaching style juxtaposed with the diocese's liturgy emphasizing Native American spirituality and theologically progressive themes for the event on the campus of Northern Michigan University in Marquette.

'We will work our way even out of our misery'

"We're being called into a new identity focused on justice, courage, freedom, and love," Harris preached. "I heard so much from our teenagers last week. I heard about their concerns about racial injustice in the world, but even more so in their churches back home."

Curry was less overtly political in his sermon, instead focusing on the love themes that characterized his 2018 homily delivered at the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle.

"If you're a Democrat, you've got to find a way to love a Republican. All right? And if you're Republican, you've got to find a way to love a Democrat," Curry declared. "Love God. Love your neighbor. Love yourself. This, Jesus says this in Holy Week, two days after he entered on the donkey. And while you're at it, love yourself."

The Episcopal Church's top bishop was insistent that "Christianity itself needs a revival."

"A revival to the teachings of this Jesus for whom love was at the very center of those teachings. And it dawned on me that maybe, maybe this Episcopal Church--don't you worry about the parochial statistics; don't you worry about all the facts and figures. If we love God and love our neighbor and love ourselves, we will work our way even out of our misery."

Jeff Walton writes on Anglican issues for Juicy Ecumenism. To read it click here https://juicyecumenism.com/2023/07/17/episcopalians-jesus-festival/

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