Turning the World Upside Down

In lieu of my own sermon, which I am accustomed to posting here on Sundays, I would like to offer instead this mighty moment that took place at the National Cathedral in Washington, DC today.

The event is the installation of Bishop Michael Curry as the 27th Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church. I got to experience it as it was broadcast over the livestream this afternoon. Bishop Michael had me cheering, shouting, and clapping, even though I was alone in my bedroom.

I love both traditional liturgy and progressive theology. There are some who say, “Those religious rituals are dry, joyless, and spiritually dead.” There are some who say, “Those liberals are biblically illiterate heretics who only preach about what they don’t believe and reduce Christian faith to political activism.” I have been told more than once that there is no way that Jesus Christ could be present by the power of the Holy Spirit in my church.

To those who would make the above accusations, I would invite them to take forty minutes or so to listen to Bishop Michael’s sermon. You may not agree with everything you hear, but I sincerely hope that you will see what I see here: Jesus Christ living and working through a progressive Christianity that is theologically grounded, biblically shaped, Spirit filled, and sold out in service to God and neighbor. Get ready, my friends, because it’s time for CHURCH!

The Call to High Adventure

Vida Dutton Scudder. Image is in the public domain.

Vida Dutton Scudder (1861-1954) was a professor at Wellesly College, a member of the Socialist party, and a prominent activist in the Episcopal Church.  She was involved in the Social Gospel movement, the campaign for labor rights, the equality of women, and (eventually) pacifism.  She helped to organize the Women’s Trade Union League, the Episcopal Church Socialist League, and joined the Society of the Companions of the Holy Cross.  Vida and her partner, Florence Converse, lived together for 35 years, from 1919 until Vida’s death in 1954.  She is celebrated in the Episcopal Church’s calendar of saints: her feast day is on October 10.

Earlier today, as I was reading Diana Butler Bass’s book A People’s History of Christianity, I came across an amazing prediction of Scudder’s that Butler Bass took from Scudder’s 1912 book Socialism and Character.  In this passage, Scudder prophesies the advent of mainline church decline, which eventually started to happen in the latter half of the 20th century.  I was amazed at how closely Scudder’s views resemble my own, except that she was writing a full century before I started thinking about it.  Listen to what Scudder has to say:

One certitude is forced on us : it is unlikely that Christianity will retain so nominally exclusive a sway as it has hitherto done in western Europe. In all probability, the day of its conventional social control is passing and will soon be forgotten. The time will come when the Christian faith will have to fight for right of way among crowding antagonists as vigorously as in the times of Athanasius and Augustine.

And in thoughts like these all genuine Christians must rejoice. Without the call to high adventure, the faith has never flourished.