Sunday, July 24, 2011

Why Choose the Episcopal Church

Why Choose the Episcopal Church?
© 1976, 1984, John M. Krumm
184 pages

Though I am not religious, lately I have been attending services at the local Episcopal church, delighting in both the music and the company I find there (for I am familiar with more than a few of the parishioners). Last week the rector kindly lent me this book to aide in my research, for I know little about the Episcopal church or its Anglican origin, beyond the Church of England's role in English history. John M. Krumm was ordained as a Bishop in the Episcopal church, and wrote this to explain what drew him to it in the first place, and what has kept him loyal to it all these years even though it and he have differences of opinion in some areas.

The opening chapters is biographical, but Krumm devotes the bulk of the work to explaining various aspects of the Episcopalian church and the Anglican Communion in general. For those utterly unfamiliar, Henry VIII separated the Christian church in England from the rule of Rome in 1533, though his Church of England remained Catholic in everything but ultimate leadership -- placing himself, rather than Italian prince living in Rome, at the head. Later monarchs instituted reforms and counter-reforms that made the Anglican church a fascinating mixture of Catholicism and new Protestant thinking. At the start of the American Revolution, when Anglican leaders in the colonies were ordered to swear fealty to the king, they declined -- establishing the Episcopal (or bishop-led) Church of America.

The Anglican-Episcopal church's mixed heritage shows in Why Choose the Episcopal Church, for it seems to be a church which has maintained all the glorious pomp and ritual of Rome, but restrained its theology to the essentials of belief in the Trinity, the view of God as love, and the importance of baptism and Communion. It seems to me to be the most attractive mainline Christian organization in existence, upholding reason as a pillar and stressing democracy in leadership. At the same time, it maintains historic traditions (worship and dress) which are of interest to a history student like myself.  Krumm also devotes chapters to the attractions of liturgical worship,  as well as the Episcopal stress on ecumenism and social justice. Though Krumm's style is generally pleasing,  he switched back and forth between discussing Anglicanism in general and the Episcopal church specifically so often and so seamlessly that I'm still unsure as to where some distinctions lie between the two: is the Anglican church as democratic as the Episcopal church? This I don't know, but given that the American branch of Anglicanism was formed during the American Revolution, and that some of the founding fathers were members of it, it seems that the Episcopal church probably has more democratic influences than the English church.

I would say this is less a sweeping introduction to Anglicanism and more of a testimonial which may remind Episcopalians of their faith's merits or make it all the more attractive to someone considering the church. Krumm earns high marks for me in expressing his grievances with the church, none of which are trivial.  This gives the text a bit more objectivity than I had expected.

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