Why is Padre David Elliott So Glad to be an Episcopalian? Could it be Freedom of Thought – Freedom to Disagree – Freedom to Question and Search?

Passing the Peace at St. George's Episcopal Church. Visiting priest Rev. David Elliott in center aisle. Photo by DELTA BOHEMIAN

Passing the Peace at St. George’s Episcopal Church. Visiting priest Rev. David Elliott in center aisle. Photo by DELTA BOHEMIAN

By Guest Bohemian Rev. David A. Elliott III

       with Publisher’s Footnote

Clarksdale, MS – VIDEO – I AM GLAD TO BE WITH YOU THIS MORNING… IT JUST SO HAPPENED THAT I WAS IN TOWN THIS WEEKEND AND TIM ASKED—“CAN YOU SUPPLY THIS WEEKEND WHILE YOU’RE HERE???” I SPENT TEN YEARS IN THE DELTA—IT’S A SPECIAL PLACE AND I’M GLAD TO BE BACK…

AS SOME OF YOU KNOW, GENERAL CONVENTION OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WILL BE GOING ON IN INDIANAPOLIS… I WENT TO GENERAL CONVENTION FOR 21 YEARS AND DEPUTIES BOTH LAY AND CLERGY WILL BE GOING IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS TO MAKE DECISIONS THAT SOME WILL AGREE WITH AND SOME WILL NOT…

WITH ALL THIS IN MIND—I WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU SOMETHING I LOVE VERY MUCH–SOMETHING WHICH HAS BEEN A PART OF ME AND MY LIFE FOR AS LONG AS I CAN REMEMBER—THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH…..

I AM WHAT WE ALL CALL A “CRADLE EPISCOPALIAN” ALTHOUGH I WASN’T BAPTIZED UNTIL I WAS FIVE YEARS OLD…. MY MOTHER WAS ROMAN CATHOLIC–MY FATHER PRESBYTERIAN AND THEY FINALLY HAD ME BAPTIZED AT ST. PAUL’S, MERIDIAN….

I’M GLAD I DIDN’T DIE BEFORE I WAS BAPTIZED, BUT EVEN IF I HAD– THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH AND JESUS WOULDN’T HAVE CONDEMNED ME TO HELL–ANOTHER REASON I LOVE THIS CHURCH.

WITH THIS IN MIND THEN, I WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU TODAY WHAT I BELIEVE IS SPECIAL–WHAT I BELIEVE IS UNIQUE ABOUT THE WAY IN WHICH YOU AND I BRING PEOPLE TOGETHER AS A CHURCH—-HOW WE BRING PEOPLE TO JESUS, THE CORNERSTONE OF OUR FAITH….WHAT I BELIEVE IS SPECIAL ABOUT THIS BRANCH OF GOD’S ONE HOLY CATHOLIC AND APOSTOLIC CHURCH—THIS EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF WHICH YOU AND I ARE MEMBERS….
TO BE HONEST THIS MORNING—EACH ONE OF US IN OUR OWN WAY HAS HAD STRUGGLES WITH THIS CHURCH OF OURS–STRUGGLES WHICH HAVE CAUSED SOME TO QUESTION AND SEARCH WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A PART OF THIS CHURCH—WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CHRISTIAN–WHAT IT MEANS TO BE AN EPISCOPALIAN AND HOW WE LIVE OUT OUR FAITH…

SOME HAVE LEFT THIS CHURCH……. I PERSONALLY WISH THEY HADN’T AND HOPE THEY’LL BE BACK SOMEDAY.. WE’RE LESS WITHOUT THEM..WE NEED THEM AND THEY NEED US…

WITH ALL THIS IN MIND, I WANT TO SHARE WITH YOU WHAT  MY FAITH MEANS TO ME—-WHY I’M A CHRISTIAN AND WHY I’M GLAD I’M AN EPISCOPALIAN—-AND THAT I COULD BE NOTHING ELSE…

IN MANY PLACES WHERE I HAVE SERVED — THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH HAS OFTEN BEEN CALLED THE REPUBLICAN PARTY AT PRAYER…..AND I WILL  ADD TODAY—-SOMETIMES LED IN THAT PRAYER BY A DEMOCRAT……MANY  PERSONS SITTING IN THE PEW IN THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH ARE REPUBLICANS AND MANY EPISCOPAL CLERGY ARE DEMOCRATS….. THIS SPEAKS TO A TRADITION WE CHERISH VERY VERY MUCH—THE FREEDOM OF THOUGHT–THE FREEDOM TO DISAGREE—THE FREEDOM TO QUESTION AND TO SEARCH…..

WE ARE IN DANGER OF LOSING THIS FREEDOM TODAY… I HOPE TO GOD WE NEVER DO..WE HAVE TO KEEP IT….

DELTA BOHEMIAN DAVID ELLIOTT soaking in the warmth from the sun. Used by permission.

DELTA BOHEMIAN DAVID ELLIOTT soaking in the warmth from the sun. Used by permission.

NO TWO EPISCOPALIANS ARE ALIKE… NO TWO EPISCOPALIANS BELIEVE EXACTLY THE SAME THING.. WE ARE THE BROADEST CHURCH IN ALL CHRISTENDOM AND WE MUST CHERISH THAT TRADITION…WHERE TWO OR THREE EPISCOPALIANS ARE GATHERED TOGETHER–THERE WILL BE DISAGREEMENT…..

WE ARE INCLUSIVE–NOT EXCLUSIVE… THERE IS ROOM IN THIS CHURCH FOR “ALL SORTS AND CONDITIONS OF PERSONS..” AND I HOPE THIS NEVER CHANGES…..

WE BELIEVE IN A BALANCE OF SCRIPTURE–TRADITION–AND REASON…..AT OUR ROOTS IN ANGLICANISM, THERE IS AN ABSENCE OF LEGALISM AND LITERALISM IN INTERPRETING SCRIPTURE…

WE BELIEVE WHEN IT COMES TO INTERPRETING SCRIPTURE–WE MUST FIRST SEE AND UNDERSTAND WHAT THE SCRIPTURE MEANT TO THOSE TO WHOM IT WAS FIRST WRITTEN–THEN LOOK AT WHAT TRADITION–WHAT THE CHURCH HAS HAD TO SAY ABOUT IT OVER THE CENTURIES–AND THEN USE OUR OWN MIND–OUR OWN REASON TO MAKE IT MEANINGFUL TO US…… GOD HAS GIVEN US OUR MINDS AND OUR FREE WILL AND GOD INTENDS FOR US TO USE THEM….

WE BELIEVE IN THE GOODNESS OF GOD’S CREATION…. WHEN GOD  COMPLETED CREATION, GOD LOOKED AND SAID—BEHOLD IT IS GOOD…EVERY SINGLE THING GOD CREATED–EVERY  SINGLE THING GOD CREATED–GOD CREATED GOOD—ONLY HUMAN BEINGS MESS IT UP…

WE BELIEVE IN ORIGINAL SIN—-AND IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SEX OR SEXUALITY…..BY THIS I MEAN THAT YOU AND I ARE INHERENTLY BORN WITH A TENDENCY TO LOOK OUT FOR OURSELVES… WHEN THE CHIPS ARE DOWN–I’M GOING TO LOOK OUT FOR MYSELF FIRST–STAND UP FOR MYSELF FIRST—SOMETIMES TO THE DETRIMENT OF OTHERS—SOMETIMES EVEN THOSE I LOVE THE MOST…. I DON’T LIKE IT, BUT IT’S HERE…

I DID AN EXPERIMENT ON ORIGINAL SIN WHEN I TAUGHT AT ALL SAINTS’……THERE WERE FOURTEEN STUDENTS IN CLASS AND WE HAD BEEN DISCUSSING ORIGINAL SIN… THEY SAID THEY DIDN’T BELIEVE IN IT… IF SOMEONE WERE THEIR FRIEND, THEY SAID THEY  WOULD GIVE UP THEIR LIFE FOR THEM AND NOT LOOK OUT FOR THEMSELVES….

I PLACED EIGHT CHAIRS IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROOM AND SAID—“PRETEND YOU’RE ON A SPACESHIP THAT IS STRANDED ON THE MOON….ONLY EIGHT PEOPLE CAN GET ON AND GET SAFELY BACK TO EARTH… THE OTHERS WILL STAY ON THE MOON AND DIE…. NOW YOU HAVE TEN MINUTES TO DECIDE WHO GETS ON–WHO LIVES AND WHO DIES”….

“ WHOEVER IS LEFT ON THE MOON HAS TO STAY AFTER SCHOOL AND DO STUDY HALL FOR TWO HOURS––THAT’S DEATH….. THE OTHERS WHO GET ON THE SHIP LIVE—I WILL GIVE TWO DOLLARS TO EACH OF YOU–THAT’S LIFE…..NOW YOU MAY BEGIN.”

WELL THESE NICE WONDERFUL YOUNG CHILDREN—SOME OF WHOM MAY HAVE BEEN YOURS—STARTED FIGHTING–AND I MEAN FIGHTING–HITTING EACH OTHER–TAKING DESKS UPSIDE DOWN AND HITTING OTHERS’ HEADS ON THE FLOOR.. IT WAS BRUTAL–IT WAS SCARY…IT WAS EVEN BLOODY……BUT IT PROVED A POINT–WHEN PUSHED, WE LOOK OUT FOR OURSELVES–LOOK OUT FOR NUMBER ONE– AND THAT’S ORIGINAL SIN….

WE DON’T STOP THERE THOUGH….WE BELIEVE ALSO THAT WE ARE BORN WITH AN INHERENT TENDENCY TO DO GOOD–TO LOVE–AND TO SHARE….THIS IS IN US TOO AND THIS IS WHAT GOD THROUGH CHRIST WORKS WITH…

WE DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE TOTAL DEPRAVITY OF HUMAN BEINGS AS SOME OTHER CHURCHES DO..

WE DO NOT BELIEVE IN PREDESTINATION….WITH THE FREE WILL GOD HAS GIVEN EACH OF US, THIS IS NOT POSSIBLE..

WE DO NOT BELIEVE IN STANDING HERE AND SAYING WHO IS GOING TO HEAVEN AND WHO IS GOING TO HELL….WE LEAVE THAT IN THE LOVING HANDS OF GOD—WHO IS OUR FRIEND AND NOT A STRANGER…

WE BELIEVE IN TAKING THIS WORLD IN WHICH WE LIVE SERIOUSLY… GOD HAS GIVEN US THIS WORLD AND IT’S UP TO US TO MAKE IT MORE LOVING–MORE LIVABLE THAN IT IS TODAY…

WE BELIEVE IN TAKING STANDS AND TRYING TO DEAL AS BEST WE CAN WITH HOMELESSNESS–POVERTY–HUNGER–WAR—RACISM–SEXUALITY AND INJUSTICE…THIS HAS GOTTEN US IN TROUBLE SOMETIMES—BUT IT IS OUR CALL AS CHRISTIANS….

 WE TAKE SERIOUSLY THE TWO GREAT COMMANDMENTS—-YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART–WITH ALL YOUR SOUL–WITH ALL YOUR MIND AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH—-AND LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF…. WE  BELIEVE IN REACHING OUT TO THE DISPOSSESSED–THE DOWNTRODDEN–AND THE POOR…

AS OUR BAPTISMAL VOWS STATE–WILL YOU STRIVE FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE AMONG ALL PEOPLE AND RESPECT THE DIGNITY OF EVERY HUMAN BEING–AND THANK GOD, WE DO….THE GROUND AT THE FOOT OF THE CROSS IS LEVEL..

WE ARE A SACRAMENTAL CHURCH–BELIEVING THAT ALL OF LIFE HAS BEEN MADE SACRAMENTAL–BEEN MADE HOLY BY THE INCARNATION OF GOD IN JESUS CHRIST…WE ARE AN INCARNATIONAL CHURCH EUCHARISTICALLY CENTERED IN THANKSGIVING TO GOD FOR ALL GOD HAS DONE FOR US IN JESUS CHRIST..

WE ARE A LITURGICAL CHURCH–FOLLOWING A SET FORM OF WORSHIP EACH TIME WE GATHER TOGETHER…YOU CAN GO FROM ONE EPISCOPAL CHURCH TO ANOTHER THROUGHOUT THIS COUNTRY AND FIND BASICALLY THE SAME WORSHIP..

WE BELIEVE IN LIVING TOGETHER IN COMMUNITY…. WHEN A CHILD IS BORN AND BAPTIZED–A SON OR DAUGHTER MARRIED–A SPOUSE DIES–OUR JOY IS INCREASED AND OUR SORROW IS EASED WHEN WE SHARE IT TOGETHER… THERE IS PERHAPS NOTHING SADDER IN ALL THE WORLD THAN EXPERIENCING INTENSE JOY OR INTENSE GRIEF–AND HAVING NO ONE WITH WHOM TO SHARE IT…

PHOTO GALLERY

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH BELIEVES IN HOLDING THESE TIMES UP TO GOD–IN SHARING THESE TIMES–THESE CRITICAL, EMOTIONAL TIMES TOGETHER IN COMMUNITY..

YOU CANNOT BEAT OUR BAPTISMS–WEDDINGS–OR FUNERALS.. WE DO THEM AND DO THEM WELL…

WE ARE EPISCOPAL–BEING PRESIDED OVER BY A BISHOP—AND WE ARE CATHOLIC—ANGLO CATHOLIC–NOT ROMAN CATHOLIC….

MOST EPISCOPALIANS ENJOY THEIR FAITH—LOVE THEIR CHURCH–AND AS I SAID EARLIER, DISAGREE WITH ONE ANOTHER WHENEVER TWO OR THREE ARE GATHERED TOGETHER….

AT A CLERGY CONFERENCE IN MISSISSIPPI YEARS AGO, WE HAD AN AMERICAN BAPTIST MINISTER SPEAK TO US AND HE GAVE US SOME WORDS OF WISDOM I HAVE NEVER FORGOTTEN…. HE SAID—-YOU WILL NEVER BE A HUGE CHURCH–YOU WILL NEVER BE A MAJORITY OF THE POPULATION–FOR TWO REASONS………. ONE–YOU ENJOY THE LIFE GOD HAS GIVEN YOU TO LIVE AND YOU LOVE IT AND LIVE IT TO THE FULLEST… AND SECOND–YOU DON’T MAKE PEOPLE FEEL GUILTY WHEN THEY COME TO CHURCH–AND MANY PEOPLE WANT TO FEEL GUILTY… I’M GLAD I’M AN EPISCOPALIAN!!!

IN CLOSING, LET ME SAY TO YOU THIS DAY….WHEN SOMEONE ASKS YOU WHAT WE BELIEVE—HOW WE UNDERSTAND JESUS IN THIS BRANCH OF GOD’S CHURCH—TELL THEM WHAT AN OLD FRIEND ONCE SAID….

WE’RE A CHURCH OF LOVE RATHER THAN LAW—OF FORGIVENESS AND GRACE RATHER THAN DISCIPLINE–OF FREEDOM UNDER GOD, RATHER THAN RESTRICTIONS–AND A CHURCH WHO HAS A HIGH SENSE OF WORTH FOR EACH AND EVERY INDIVIDUAL……. THIS IS WHO WE ARE…..THIS IS WHAT WE BELIEVE…..AND THANK GOD WE DO…..

Publisher’s Footnote

We are very pleased to bring you a new submission from our faithful DELTA BOHEMIAN David Elliott. On Sunday, June 10, 2012, Padre did what he is known to do; he did the preacher pitch hit for the historical St. George’s Episcopal Church in Clarksdale. Resident Priest of St. George’s Jason Shelby, another Guest Bohemian writer, see his recent post HERE, is away on new baby leave  😀  and the scheduled stand-in priest couldn’t make it. David was in town doing a wedding for his friends The Pucketts from Jackson and Fran and Tom Ross from Clarksdale. He gladly serviced ole Saint George and we are glad he did. Watch the Video and Read the Text. What he has to say is important and he speaks to every one.

Read David’s previous article titled “How Taking the Chicago Plunge in 1969 Changed a Seminarian.” We appreciate you, Padre, and relish every opportunity we get to read your words of wisdom and we rejoice when we get to hear them in person. MM   

PS. Sorry the focus is off on the video, folks…. eyes ain’t what they used to be. 😎


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Comments

  1. wow … really enjoyed this

    • Thanks, Matt, I’m glad you enjoyed it! We appreciate so much the Clarksdale Press Register’s covering of the opening for the DB Guest House. It’s nice to feel loved!

  2. Lynne Taleff says:

    Amen padre!

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