The Episcopal Church 101

The Office of Government Relations

The Episcopal Church occupies some pricey real estate. The “Church Center” of the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States of America (PECUSA is our official name) is located at 815 Second Avenue, NY just behind the United Nations. We own the eleven-story building. Some of the floors are looking for new tenants as the church has shrunk since the building was built in 1963 at the peak of Episcopal Church membership nationwide. This is where the Presiding Bishop’s office is located.


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Martyrs

The Greek root of the English word “martyr” is “martyrion” or “witness” in the legal sense. Most Protestants shy away from the concept of martyrs, believing it is some kind of Roman Catholic heresy – it isn’t. Jerome and Gregory wrote about it in the fourth century, and an early, Irish homily (the “Cambrai Homily[1]”) from the seventh century divides martyrs into three colors – Red, White and Green.


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Shield the Joyous

The Book of Common Prayer includes seven daily prayer “offices.”  They are not really services because you can say them by yourself. They are spaced out during the day from the wee, dark hours before sunrise until bedtime. The Roman Catholic and Orthodox traditions have similar cycles of daily prayer. Scholars have found that Jewish practice at the time of Jesus was like this as well. Interestingly, the Muslims are called to prayer five times each day.


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Angelology

What are angels? Angels according to the Hebrew bible and Christian scriptures, are messengers sent from God to humankind. The choirs of angels serve God and are considered higher in rank (like a military rank but more on that later) than humans whether on earth or in heaven.


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Technology

If Jesus had appeared in Palestine a few centuries earlier, there would be no Christianity today. Why do I say that? Because the infrastructure the Romans built for trade including roads, shipping, schools, military, and governance, all enabled the rapid spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire.


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Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi

Although this maxim had been in use more than a century, it was first explained in the early 400s. And, while it is not an official doctrine of the church, it is an observation and an understanding that is vital to a faithful life. In a nutshell, “Lex orandi …” means the “law” (lex) in which we pray shapes the law of what we believe. Or, “How we pray shapes what we believe.”


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Christ and Culture

I borrow the title for today’s article from H. Richard Niebuhr’s classic, 1975 book of the same title. We will not dive into Niebuhr’s five variations of Christ and culture. But on our church calendar today, we celebrate one of Oklahoma’s own, The Rev. David Pendleton Oakerhater, a Cheyenne warrior who was captured by the US Army, imprisoned in Florida and who converted to Christianity and ordained a deacon at age 34.


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My Hopes for the Church

After the 1917-1918 pandemic, the world was eager to get back to what it was before. The pandemic lasted two years or longer, and at the end, churches and schools and businesses continued to churn out the same old same old. At least until the stock market crashed in 1929. But this time, I suspect that we may have an opportunity. Yes, there are strong desires to go back to normal in every corner of life. At the same time, there is a growing suspicion that we won’t be able to go back to the cherished good old days.


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Anglican Metaphysical Poets

Two of my favorite poets belong to this group, George Herbert and John Donne. We will tackle Herbert today.
 

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The Three-Legged Stool

For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church was the only form of Christianity in Europe. The power of the church paralleled the political power of kings. Cathedrals were built throughout Europe paid for by selling “get out of hell” statements called “indulgences.” Men from miles around were forcibly impressed to toil on construction of these magnificent structures in a near slave-labor situation.
 

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