A Discouraging Episcopal Church website (in the same town)

Posted by Kendall Harmon

From here:

While Randy believes that Jesus is “the Way” for him and most Westerners, he affirms the truths enshrined in the great religions and philosophies of the human race.

Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalEpiscopal Church (TEC)* Christian Life / Church LifeParish Ministry

Posted December 28, 2008 at 2:53 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. libraryjim wrote:

Affirming the ‘truths’ enshrined in many world religions does not negate THE TRUTH found only in Christ Jesus and His teaching passed on through His disciples.

December 28, 6:35 pm | [comment link]
2. MargaretG wrote:

Here are the church statistics:
ASA = c420 down from a peak of c510 in 2005 - bouncing around with no great trend from 1998 to present.

I couldn’t locate the other church in the statistics site—it only had Redeemer, Bethsaida and I wasn’t sure that was the same church

December 28, 7:40 pm | [comment link]
3. Dilbertnomore wrote:

Note the use of the phrase ‘re-education of Christians’ on the webpage highlighted as ‘From here’ above. Troubling to me. A red flag. Perhaps others will see it that way, as well.

December 28, 10:14 pm | [comment link]
4. robroy wrote:

Randy’s long term aspirations are to complete his Kripalu yoga teacher certification and play in a community orchestra.

Say no more.

December 28, 10:29 pm | [comment link]
5. Brian from T19 wrote:

six Sunday Eucharists and two complete Sunday Schools at 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m

420 ASA

Welcoming people.

Sounds terrible!

December 28, 10:38 pm | [comment link]
6. Milton wrote:

A closer read in the links semms to show me no definite red flags (and I perhaps am hyper-sensitive to them from my experience).  Yeahh, I wish Fr. Randy did not seem so enthusiastic about Eastern religions, and they can all-too-easily in most Episcopal churches lead to discarding Chrits and Christianity per his concerns with astrology in the lead article in their Dec. 2008 newsletter.  And yes, perhaps an over-emphasis on the (also necessary and Scripturally mandated) social gospel, but not to the discrediting and exclusion of the Gospel of salvation from sin in Jesus alone.

BUT…this also may be a church that has a name as being alive while really being dead, or a church that has forgotten its first love in its good works, or worse still,  a lukewarm church that nauseates Jesus.  Their mission statement buried near the end of the Dec. 2008 newsletter worries me most in that regard:

God knits us together in Christ to care for each other, nurture our children
and serve our community as apostles of Jesus Christ.

Nothing there that, say, the Mormons couldn’t fit right into their “family values” pitch, or any secular charity or community organization, if you leave out the God-talk.

One may hope this church’s members actually are “ready to give a reason for the hope that lives in our hearts”, and that the reasons are something like “He is not here, He is risen!”, and “I do not ask you, Father, to take them out of the world, but to keep (preserve) them in the world but not of the world”, and, “to as many as believed, He gave them the power to be called children of God” because “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin”.

December 28, 10:50 pm | [comment link]
7. A Senior Priest wrote:

Pretty liminal looking bunch on their staff.

December 29, 1:41 am | [comment link]
8. Irenaeus wrote:

Central to his theology of ministry is the Baptismal Covenant of the Book of Common Prayer

ECUSA revisionists love to hype the “baptismal covenant,” largely equated with “respect[ing] the dignity of every human being,” in asserting their theology of cheap grace.

Here the rector’s profile links the baptismal covenant to social action but without a broader theological spin.

December 29, 3:10 am | [comment link]
9. Ralph wrote:

While Randy believes that Jesus is “the Way” for him and most Westerners, he affirms the truths enshrined in the great religions and philosophies of the human race.

When he isn’t enjoying the company of his wife and two young daughters, Randy likes to practice (and teach) hatha yoga, and play a few bars on his ‘cello or a friend’s oboe.

Randy’s long term aspirations are to complete his Kripalu yoga teacher certification and play in a community orchestra.

Perhaps he is unaware that yoga is inherently a religious practice. “Kripalu” is a New Age version of hatha yoga. Each posture “means something.”

Fortunately, playing the oboe as an amateur is a time-honored way of going nuts. It’s just a matter of time.

December 29, 10:37 am | [comment link]
10. Doug Martin wrote:

There are a lot of ways to be “called to do God’s work”.  The Mission Statement of this church is one.  Another is assuming God’s job of judging others…on the basis solely of a website?  The later is rather widely prohibited in scripture, but often assumed by THIS website.  Shall we join in its condemnation?

December 29, 10:53 am | [comment link]
11. C. Wingate wrote:

Ascension G’burg has a classic old 1880s carpenter Gothic old church (the “chapel”) and a somewhat bigger building whose vintage I’m a little vague on—I think it might have been built in the late 1980s but that’s closer to a guess than anything. A friend of mine was married there decades ago. Gaithersburg itself was of some decades the growth center of the county (a huge dairy farm was developed a short ways south in the last fifteen years, courtesy of the IRS and some unwise probate), but things have slowed down if only because (a) they are running out of land and (b) transport towards DC is swamped. 410 for an ASA around these parts is huge; the only reason they can do it is two buildings and a lot of services.

The rector seems to be a syncretic ditz, but other material on the website reveals some of the old Anglican seriousness, particularly the page about the sacraments. One has to wonder, of course, how closely they hew to the BCP words; probably they have trouble bringing themselves to call God “Him”. For me it’s not a discouraging website, but neither encouraging. Perhaps a more salient point is that it’s a website that’s especially directed towards Anglicans trying to find a parish. For me, that’s a good thing, because I know that’s what I want. What it does for others is a good question.

December 29, 11:07 am | [comment link]
12. Kendall Harmon wrote:

#10 it is not often assumed by this website, if you mean the t19 main entries (and I note in passing that you thereby render a judgment, how interesting). If you are going to make that statement then back it up with an argument and with evidence. Some of the commenters is another matter and we try as best we can to monitor those.

Caricaturing inaccurately those you disagree with does nothing to move the argument/discussion forward.

What interests me in the two websites is the difference in Christological confidence. I think it matters.

December 29, 11:15 am | [comment link]
13. Harvey wrote:

Did not our Lord say that He had to minister to other sheepfolds??

December 29, 12:50 pm | [comment link]
14. Milton wrote:

#13, yes, Harvey, Jesus did say that He had other sheep not of this fold, Just as He told the Syro-Phoenecian woman that He was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.  Paul fleshes this out in his OT references stating clearly that the Messiah also would be the salvation for the Gentiles as well as for Jews.  Remember, the Messiah, Jesus alone, as He Himself said, would be the salvation,  not Buddah, not Mohammed, not Confucious, not Gandhi, not Hinduism, not any-ism, that He alone was and is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him.

December 29, 1:35 pm | [comment link]
15. C. Wingate wrote:

Kendall, one of the things I find most interesting about your response here is that most of the website doesn’t provide clues that there may be something wrong (until you get to the rector) to anyone who doesn’t know the lingo. The index page is actually pretty good by my standards: it has service times; it doesn’t say “community” too much; it gives some pictures of the place; and it has no web-stunt stuff for the impatient to wait/click through. The “About” page only has one sentence (“We value independent thinking, tolerance of others, and radical hospitality to all of God’s children”) which would trigger alarms, and only to people who know that “radical hospitality” is often a code-phrase.

It would be very nice indeed if the rector’s theological interests were a little more, well, Orthodox. But the picture I get is that perhaps the theological eccentricities of the rector do not impinge all that strongly on Sunday mornings. I find his biography eye-rolling too, and were I his parishioner, and he the sort who would permit theological engagement, I think he and I would have a lot of disputation on off-hours. But it’s not like the website of St. Mark’s Capitol Hill, which confirms everything I already knew about that prolapsarian place. Montgomery County, particularly out in its western end, is not well-supplied with parishes; and if you want off-putting, there’s always St. Anne’s Damascus, with its megachurch-like website that doggedly refuses to give out any much information about what actually happens there on a Sunday. If I lived in Germantown (the next big town west, which does not have a parish) I could at least tolerate Ascension, which is about the best I could expect in the Diocese of Gommo—, er, Washington. The thing is that I am an Anglican, so I’m looking for an Anglican parish; and I’m not unchurched, so I can’t read a website as someone who might be spiritual seeker. I look at church websites to decode them, not to find a church.

December 29, 1:48 pm | [comment link]
16. Choir Stall wrote:

This is the Diocese of Washington, D.C.  John Chane. Cathedral ministry going down in flames. Over a million spent to celebrate being one-hundred years old. No plan of survival except to cave into the odd cultural malaise (sorry, diversity) of the DC Metro area. The parish doesn’t fall far from the cathedral, does it?

December 29, 8:08 pm | [comment link]
17. Doug Martin wrote:

Kendal, Canon Harmon.  I have a name, as you do, and use it in my communications with your site.  Feel free to use it.  I am not #10.  “Discouraging” is a judgement, as in “a Discouraging website”.  The greater degree of judgement is inferred if not declared.  I do not begrudge your commentary but I do believe that doing so on the basis of an introductory website is pretty thin evidence.

December 29, 9:02 pm | [comment link]
18. C. Wingate wrote:

Mr. Stall, not to put to fine a point on it, but do you even live in the diocese? I do. Last I checked, the problems at the cathedral, at least as far as programs were concerned, had nothing to do with theology and everything to do with poor stewardship. And if you’re looking for a rock-ribbed statement of orthodoxy on the parish website, well, you aren’t going to find that on any of the other even vaguely nearby parish websites either, not even at St. Francis Potomac. The best I could find was a set of links on St. Nick’s Darnestown’s website to statements found on the ENS website. And those statements aren’t bad, actually, at least not the ones I checked out. But they aren’t presented as distinctives of that parish or even of ECUSA, but as things all Christians believe. In fact, bouncing around various parishes, I found a few places that pretty much promised to be socially liberal, but essentially nothing that looked like Church of the Redeemer’s doctrinal catalog, not even at such rock-hard traditionalists loci as St. Paul’s K Street or Christ Accokeek. If you can read the code you can figure some of their alignments out, but basically it seems to come down to Episcopalians not doing that sort of thing.

December 30, 1:53 am | [comment link]
19. Paul Melotte wrote:

#17, It’s Kendall, not Kendal.

December 30, 8:11 am | [comment link]
20. Sarah1 wrote:

RE: “I do not begrudge your commentary but I do believe that doing so on the basis of an introductory website is pretty thin evidence.”

Er . . . he didn’t call it a “discouraging church”—he called it a “discouraging Episcopal Church website.”



“Having an opinion” obviously equals “judgement”—and that’s cool, of course.

But Kendall “judged” [holy hands raised in horror] a website.

And of course—having a negative opinion about something is not at all “widely prohibited in scripture.”

December 30, 10:13 am | [comment link]
21. Ladytenor wrote:

Kendall may have intended to invite discussion about a church website, but I am struck by two things: 

1.  The “discouraging website” was characterized by one sentence in one section of the site.  A provocative sentence, for sure, but not characteristic of the site so much as it is characteristic of the rector.  I’m not clear as to Kendall’s original was intended to be criticism of the entire site, or of that one section of the site, or of the person who wrote that one section.  Several commenters have expanded the discussion to other aspects of the site, both positive and negative.  This seems to be a productive discussion.  What is the proper content of a parish website?  Is the absense of an affirmative “We believe that Jesus is Lord” to be taken of proof that the congregation does not believe this?  If the site says “Jesus is Lord” but does not follow that up with an affirmation of the virgin birth and the bodily ressurection, is that to be taken as proof that the congregation has discarded these beliefs?  Is a “doctrinal catalog” (as C. Wingate so cleverly coined the phrase) necessary? 

2.  Other commenters have taken this invitation to discuss the discouraging website as an opportunity to speculate enthusiastically about the parish, its members and even its staff.  (I’m still trying to figure out how the word “liminal” applies to them, or how A Senior Priest was able to diagnose the staff’s liminality simply by looking at their photograhs.)  This does not strike me as a productive discussion, although some might find it entertaining.  I do appreciate C. Wingate’s effort to speak at length and in detail, from personal knowledge of the parish in question.  C, to answer your spectulation, the brick church was built in 1982.

I had resolved to not respond to this thread, and now I am breaking my resolution.  I will probably regret this deeply very soon. 

I have been a member for 24 years of the parish you are all talking about so gleefully.  I am not going to get into a discussion of Fr. Randy’s interest in yoga, nor am I going to try to parse the sentence that Kendall selected to launch this discussion.  I don’t know Randy very well, as he has only been our rector for about a year; I will say that his preaching is bible-based and inspiring. 

I know that Ascension would not meet your standards of orthodoxy on women priests or on the welcoming of homosexual members and clergy.  For that matter, I wouldn’t meet your standards on those points either, which is why I lurk here and seldom post.  I can assure you, if you care, that we do call God “him” and we do teach, preach, and believe the tenents of the faith as written in the creeds.  We don’t play games with the liturgy or practice a faith that is dead inside. 

That’s all I have to say on the matter.  I probably should have stayed silent, but your gleeful trashing of my parish home has been somewhat painful.

December 30, 12:10 pm | [comment link]
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