You’ve probably heard the familiar grumble in your church or ministry setting “Where have all the young people gone?” Many of us are concerned about the declining interest in Christianity among young adults. In 2022, TryTank Experimental Laboratory and The FaithX Project partnered to test the Episcopal Pulse Pilot, a regular micro-survey. During that pilot, they learned that 8 in 10 Episcopalians surveyed said their congregation had anywhere between 1 and 20% of young adults (age 18-25) in their congregation, while 14% of Episcopalians surveyed said they had none at all.
What is it like to be in a multiethnic, multicultural marriage and raising multiethnic, multicultural children who may want to go to TEC.
The first time I visited an Episcopal parish, the sound of spirituals filled the nave, the sermon lifted up the healing ministry of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the occasion of his birthday, and a Black woman celebrated Eucharist with fierce tenderness. I was delighted. Here was a community that cared about professing and embodying racial justice, a church in which I could be in mutually supportive relationship as together we sought to live into shared values of spiritual transformation and social change. I felt hopeful and at home.
A couple years later, I was in my second year of seminary and just beginning the discernment process at that parish, when I met my husband. Unlike me, he was raised in liturgical churches, (Mar Thoma and Methodist) and has attended Episcopal parishes since college. While he is the more seasoned Episcopalian, he has, much more frequently than I, been made to feel like an outsider in this church. He has often been dealt the stereotype of the forever foreigner in Episcopal contexts. Upon meeting him, the first question many ask is, “Where are you from?” with, “So, were you raised Christian?” commonly following close behind.
For much of my life, Jewish High Holidays, a time of reflection and quest for redemption, have always included a visit to the local Episcopal church. I can explain.
Despite only living a few miles from my family’s synagogue (Shomrei Torah in Wayne, NJ), attending Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur services still proved to be a journey.
It started with the mad scramble to get my family of four all ready in time to depart for the synagogue in one car. In reality, coordinating “getting ready” rituals and requirements rarely made it possible to have fewer than two “departures”.
It was lunchtime on Wednesday, May 18, 2016, when I sat in cool red-brick nave of Trinity Episcopal Church in Baytown, Texas. It wasn’t my church, but I found myself desperately in need of a sanctuary—someplace quiet to grieve the United Methodist Church I loved and to pray for its leaders. At the time, I served on the board for Reconciling Ministries in the Texas Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, and we were facing an uphill battle. Again. It was General Conference—the every-four-year meeting to set the governance of the global Church, and we were in trouble. Conservative factions had managed to pass bills that took the Church back 70+ years to a time before women’s rights. It wasn’t just about the gays this time; the Church was after women. Only a few months into the discernment process, I felt something inside me break that day. I still felt called to ministry, but I knew it could no longer be in the UMC. I remember saying that, even if the Church did want me, I no longer wanted it back.
My name is Westley Art Hodges, my pronouns are he/they, and I am the Director of Music Ministries at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Evanston, IL. I am honored to be asked to share my experience as a queer person in our church.
I found the Episcopal Church when I was 22. I found the Episcopal Church out of desperation, which with queer folx, seems to be a common theme. My 22nd year of life was a big year for me and my identity, or should I say—owning my identity. In June of 2007, I had just been fired from my third position as Director of Music in a Baptist Church in South Mississippi. Now I have your attention!
Welcome to ECF’s curated collection of LGBTQ+ resources. At ECF, we are guided by a commitment to love and justice, seeking to create an inclusive space where all voices are heard and celebrated. Our hope is that these resources and the ideas they spark help us embark on a journey of understanding inclusion and acceptance through Christ’s eyes, honoring the sacred worth of every individual.
Note: We will update this list as new resources are made available. If you have a relevant resource to share, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
I. LGBTQ+ Resources at The Episcopal Church and Dioceses
LGBTQ+ and the Church: The Episcopal Church’s stance on LGBTQ+ inclusivity and resources, such as:
LGBTQ+ Pride Issue of Vestry Papers by the Episcopal Church Foundation:
ECF’s first celebration of Episcopal LGBTQ+ laity and ministry
The work of Racial Justice and Reconciliation is hard but necessary for us to, indeed, be a beloved community.
As Christians, we believe that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. Jesus came down to earth and reaffirmed that fact with his message of love. This message was so powerful that he even got in trouble with many of the leaders of his day. When asked what the greatest commandment is, he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22: 36-40)
Yet, we still have division and hatred in our world. So why is it so hard to love one another?
El trabajo de la Justicia Racial y la Reconciliación es arduo pero necesario para que realmente seamos una comunidad amada.
Como cristianos, creemos que todos hemos sido creados a imagen y semejanza de Dios. Jesús bajó a la tierra y reafirmó ese hecho con su mensaje de amor. Este mensaje era tan poderoso que incluso se metió en problemas con muchos de los líderes de su época. Cuando le preguntaron cuál era el mandamiento principal, respondió: "—“Ama al Señor tu Dios con todo tu corazón, con toda tu alma y con toda tu mente.” Éste es el más importante y el primero de los mandamientos. Pero hay un segundo, parecido a éste; dice: “Ama a tu prójimo como a ti mismo.” En estos dos mandamientos se basan toda la ley y los profetas". (Mateo 22: 36-40 DHH)
Sin embargo, todavía tenemos división y odio en nuestro mundo. Entonces, ¿por qué es tan difícil amarnos los unos a los otros?
I was recently asked, “Are you fully out in the church?” This prompted me to recall the series of church events, which thrust my coming-out experiences.
Coming out is an everyday experience in the world and in the church. I came out in my early 40s in response to a call for an LGBT (we didn’t have the “Q” yet) ministry in my first parish, Grace Church Van Vorst (GCVV) in Jersey City. It was 1998 and the Rector issued an invitation to the lay leaders of our congregation to initiate outreach to the LGBT community. He added, “it would be wonderful if that person is also a member of the LGBT community.” I got up and without missing a beat said, “I am, and I will do it.” All jaw bones dropped and the rest is history.
Hace poco me preguntaron: "¿Has salido tu totalmente del armario en la iglesia?". Esto me llevó a recordar la serie de acontecimientos en la iglesia que impulsaron mis experiencias de salida del armario.
Salir del armario es una experiencia cotidiana en el mundo y en la iglesia. Salí del armario a los 40 años de edad en respuesta a un llamado para desarrollar y establecer un ministerio LGBT (todavía no teníamos la "Q") en mi primera parroquia, Grace Church Van Vorst (GCVV) en Jersey City. En 1998 el rector invitó a los líderes laicos de nuestra feligresía para que iniciaramos un alcance a la comunidad LGBT. Dijo además: "sería maravilloso que esa persona fuera también miembro de la comunidad LGBT". Me levanté y sin perder un segundo dije: "Yo lo soy y yo lo haré". Todos se quedaron boquiabiertos y el resto es historia.
When I first became conscious of Jesus as a small child, I did not think or feel uncomfortable about his appearance or skin color. Then, as I got older, it occurred to me that Jesus was not like me, especially blond, blue-eyed Jesus, the surfer Jesus. Dark brown-haired Jesus was more comforting, but he still did not look like me. As an adolescent beginning the socialization process, I recall feeling not okay as I became more conscious of my skin color. The message was that there was something wrong with me and my Native people, but I could not understand it.
This was a painful time, not only because Jesus was white, but because I was not, and the white people seemed to either agree with or be influenced by this reality. This judgmental attitude was usually displayed by nervous, uptight behavior when these folks were around me and my family. Then, as I got older, pictures of surfer dude Jesus really pissed me off! By this time, I was conscious of racism and its reality and painful effects. I became defensive about this and angry at white people for what they did to my people and continue to do, via their judgmental attitude towards us. I began to think that Jesus was only in existence for white people and not us people of color.
This month we offer five resources on race and multi-cultural congregations. Please share this digest with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers, blogs, and the monthly digest.
Many Episcopal parishes have acknowledged that it is past time for The Episcopal Church to confront our nation’s history of systemic racism and to begin building Beloved Community in our congregations and local communities, as we have been enjoined to do by Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
Toward this end, ChurchNext, a ministry of Forward Movement, recently launched a free curriculum: Becoming Beloved Community: Understanding Systemic Racism For Individuals and For Groups. This six-session curriculum is available to any individual or congregation seeking deeper understanding of how systemic racism operates in our country and in our church. It is meant as a launching point for congregations and individuals that want to begin taking active steps toward healing our nation and our church from systemic racism and its effects.
"Lead me where people need your words, need my enthusiasm for life; where hope is faint, where joy is scarce, just because they do not know You. I give you my sincere heart to express without fear your greatness, Lord. I will have tireless hands, your story between my lips, and strength in prayer." Alma Misionera is a Spanish song from the Flor y Canto hymnal, and this is part of the English translation. These words were fundamental in cultivating my family's spiritual identity as a whole and my understanding of what it means to mean to a baptized person within this community of faith.
My story begins with my father, Rev. Simon Bautista Betances, an Episcopal priest, alongside my remarkable, devout, trailblazing mother, Amarilis Vargas Bautista. Who together built a loving, fun, creative, respectful, faith-filled, justice-oriented family who were raised to be proud of our Latino heritage and African descendants. Church for the four Bautista children wasn't a bore or a thing we "had" to do just because our father was the Priest. Instead, we marveled at being part of different diverse communities of faith where we were so loved, cared for, and welcomed. We were known as the "missional family," wherever my Dad was called to serve, the Bautista party of six served alongside him. Early on, my curiosity towards the Holy Trinity's mystery and who God was calling me to be settled in. God's calling began when I served as an acolyte at the age of nine years old, and in the moments where with my family, we would pray for the healing of one of our beloved church members. In those moments, I felt a yearning to learn more about this gracious and Holy God. When I could share God's Good News with the campers at City Camp in Philadelphia, I was left restless with how I am called to be part of God's hands and feet on Earth.
A key ingredient for a healthy, vibrant congregation is a strong appreciation for the ministry of the laity as well as the ministry of the clergy. Shared collaborative leadership is critical for the spiritual growth of our congregations. However increasingly, there in an imbalance in our optimal leadership paradigm.
Many congregations are faced with the issue of no permanent clergy leadership and are continuously being served by supply clergy or have no clergy. This situation strains the effectiveness of the lay leadership and worsens the vitality issues of these congregations.
For many search committees, having the opportunity to discern the right clergy is increasingly difficult when there are fewer options. This may lead to a mismatch of expectations and inevitable conflict.
Over the past 500 years, the perception has been that the old world had all the answers: the science, technology, and advanced ways of living. Can that still be said? Or perceived as truth?
We are facing a monumental moral crisis. Consider these observations:
• The United States is deeply divided politically
• Income inequality is at an all-time high; poverty and homelessness are on the rise
• Pollution of the air, water, and land is contributing to climate change
• Rainforests are being destroyed each day, contributing to global warming, and thousands of native people in South America are being killed for trying to protect the earth
• More and more animal species are becoming extinct
• Violence is glorified on TV—guns are becoming a national pastime—some sports have become barbaric (UFC, WWA)—while mental health is in decline
Laughter, games, art activities, punch in little dixie cups, and cookies with cream fillings are what I remember most about Vacation Bible School (VBS) on the Navajo Nation. Churches came in droves to visit and minister to the children and families. It was the place to be for Elementary and Middle School kids. We loved to see all the smiling and welcoming faces of new people from the big cities willing to play with us and read, sometimes ready to teach some kids how to play the piano or the ukulele. The partners all loved to sing bible songs - so loud it seemed the windows would burst.
I was a baptized Episcopalian but VBS and Holidays were mostly the only times I went to church as a child. My parents and most of my relatives in my community follow the ways of Navajo teachings, ceremonies, and prayer. My mother was devout about prayer. Each morning, before the sun began to light up the horizon, she would start her daily prayers.
Every month ECFVP offers five resources on a theme. This month we've asked Miriam McKenney, Forward Movement’s Director of Development and Mission Engagement, to choose five resources for healthy churches that resonated with her. Please find her choices below.
Community college campus ministry is likely the Church’s biggest blind spot, greatest overlooked missional opportunity, and even worse, a prime example of inadvertent systemic racism and classism. Which means it’s time we started asking ourselves, “Who are we missing?”
Over my 25+ years of ordained ministry, I have observed that as a general rule congregations and judicatories seem to put much more resources into campus ministry at 4-year colleges and universities than they do into 2-year community colleges. Not that campus ministries at 4-year institutions get all that much attention compared to typical congregation-based ministries, mind you. Most clergy seem to view campus ministry as a “junior varsity sport” when it comes to vocations, and those who start there quickly come to see congregation-based ministry as a better career move.