Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Announcement of death premature :: Free Lance Star

A wonderful reminder for me of the Episcopal Church in Virginia - our stories and the gift of laughter. See the quote from Churchill Gibson at the end.

It all sounds ominously catastrophic. Yet if you take a peek in the history books, you'll find that the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia has witnessed several waves of divisiveness in its 217-year history. And each time, it has survived to carry on its Christian mission.

From civil war to civil rights, the church in Virginia was rocked to its foundations.

Indeed, in the post-Revolutionary War period, the church almost disappeared. Suffice it to say that its traditional ties to England did not win many popularity contests in the late 1700s.

Matters of theology, often described as low church vs. high church, divided congregations and enraged bishops in the 19th century.

One Virginia bishop was reputed to have cut off crosses from the tops of a church's pews as a way of casting out the "popish" influences associated with Roman Catholicism.

Yet if you take a look at the dozen men who have served as diocesan bishop of Virginia since its founding in 1790, you'll find spiritual leaders who, more often than not, have found ways to raise the passions of their flocks while calming the waters of dissension.
But then came crisis again--the national breakup of the Episcopal Church during the Civil War.

The 20th century saw the "updating" of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, the era of civil rights and the ordination of women. All produced passionate divisions--and yet the church survived.
Churchill Gibson, a priest in the Diocese of Virginia, tells this story about his grandfather, Robert Atkinson Gibson, who served as bishop of Virginia at the turn of the 20th century.

A visiting leader of the Australian church asked Bishop Gibson about how he functioned in his high office.

"I exercise a great deal of influence," answered Bishop Gibson.

"Oh dear," said the Australian. "I exercise a great deal of authority and have very little influence."

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