Under the headline “Forget the Church, Follow Jesus,” Catholic writer, Andrew Sullivan wrote the recent cover story for Newsweek magazine. In the article, Sullivan argues that American Christianity is in a crisis: it is too focused on politics and policy, and too little focused on spirituality. It was a clever and provocative marketing strategy for Newsweek to launch this cover story in Holy Week, when Christians around the world are reflecting on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and non-Christians are given one man’s opinion to read on the health of American Christianity. Cover stories sell magazines, but they can mislead consumers with statements such as,“Christianity has been destroyed by politics, priests, and get-rich evangelists. Ignore them and embrace Him (Jesus)”. Sullivan seems to be a man of deep faith in Jesus Christ, who is disappointed, even angry, with the institution of the Church and its policies, and suggests that those seeking deeper faith should turn to Jesus and not to the Church. Although he is not a religious authority, perhaps he speaks for disillusioned members of his own Catholic Church. But he does not speak for the Episcopal Church. Every Sunday is a little Easter when we celebrate the presence of Christ and follow his way, his truth and his life.
I invite him to come to an Episcopal Church, especially St. Alban’s, DC where “We welcome the faithful, the seeker and the doubter, for God’s embrace is wide and God’s Good News is for all” – a statement posted in large letters in the Narthex and on our coffee cups. In our church, we experience the presence of Jesus Christ in worship, in our community, and live it out in our efforts to help those in need of assistance – no religious test requested or expected by them, for that is what Jesus would do. Although I agree with many points in his article about the misuse of Christian doctrine over the centuries, I do not agree that Christianity has been destroyed by politics, priests and get-rich evangelists. What Sullivan is destroying are “those weak believers for whom Christ died” (1 Cor. 8:11).
The Church has been adapting and reforming since it was established, and I sense that we are in the midst of another major “reformation”, to be identified in the years ahead. Archeological, sociological and biblical studies of the first century are illuminating the words and ministry of Jesus in new ways. In America, where we have freedom of religion, speech, and assembly, we can prayerfully and collectively examine our Church and its practices and make changes that will assist us in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We do not worship the Church, we worship Christ, who is alive and cannot be destroyed. The Church and Jesus cannot be separated. “Jesus is the same yesterday and today and for ever”. (Letter to the Hebrews chapter 13:8).