Dearest Siblings in Christ Jesus,
Alison, the girls and I were blessed to attend a Young Life camp in Colorado during the first week of June. The goal of Young Life is to meet adolescents disconnected from Christ. Kids with troubled histories, who don’t fit the ‘church mold’, or seem lost, are the kinds of kids that Young Life seeks to engage.
Some time ago, I announced at our services that we were discussing a possible partnership opportunity with Young Life. It was our original hope that Emmanuel and Young Life could share the cost of a staff member, but the local Young Life board does not currently have a need for an additional staff person. Although disappointed that our original plan will not come to fruition in the immediate future, Emmanuel’s support of and engagement with Young Life remains important and fruitful.
Because Young Life is not a church, it stops short of directing them towards baptism and the experience of living out their Christian faith in a specific church community. Young Life does not prevent kids from joining churches; they simply don’t promote a church or denomination. Young Life is very dynamic and evangelical, tapping into the deep emotional well of young people. Young Life is highly successful in recruiting new Disciples of Christ among the young.
Where, then, does that leave us as traditional, sacramental, and liturgical Episcopalians? It leaves us in a prime position to openly and lovingly welcome these young people into our community. To do so successfully, however, we must not be viewed as (nor view ourselves as) the ‘Frozen Chosen’. That antique term used to describe Episcopalians of the mid-20th Century, hints at stoicism in theology, liturgy, and spirituality. Is it a fair characterization of us? Yes and no.
Let me be very clear: I am NOT promoting the changing of any theological, liturgical or spiritual practices, traditions or approaches. We are a church who joyfully retains traditions that date back to the time of the apostles and the early Church.
What I AM promoting is each of us taking a personal inventory of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Those within the Evangelistic tradition have a clear sense of their relationship with Christ and proudly proclaim that relationship in word and action. I believe that we can learn lots from our Christian brothers and sisters who are not shy, reserved or private about their faith!
What should be sought is a balance between Evangelism and Episcopalian-ism, another ‘Via Media’. Where ‘Via Media’ originally referred to the balance between Catholic and Protestant in the Church of England, today’s Episcopal Church needs to find a balance between ‘Traditional’ and ‘Evangelical’, between ‘intellectual’ and ‘emotional’. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is an excellent example of leadership in the Church who is providing this balance. But, it’s not enough for Bishop Curry (or for me) to preach with passion and zeal if Episcopalians refuse to be moved by the Holy Spirit.
Embracing a more evangelical spirituality does not mean that we become a carbon-copy of the non-denominational churches that have a more ‘casual’ worship style with rock bands, stage lights, or arena style seating. What it means is that as practicing Christians, we should examine our hearts, explore our faith, and exhume our emotions!
Evangelical spirituality is a blessing to the world. Evangelical Christians clearly declare how it is that Jesus has changed their lives for the better. Could we give such a testimony? Do we see, acknowledge, and proclaim how our lives are improved by our faith in Jesus as Lord? Do we dare share that with the world in word and action?
My dearest brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ, may the fire-breath of the Holy Spirit melt the ‘Frozen Chosen’ so that the baptismal waters may flow out of us into the world like a raging force of peace, joy, and love! Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia! Amen.
In the Risen Christ Jesus our Lord,