To understand the Episcopal Church, you must first understand a place like Mississippi: William Faulkner

grayActually, William Faulkner said, “To understand the world, you must first understand a place like Mississippi.” To understand the world of Episcopal Church, it helps to understand the Bishop of Mississippi, Duncan Gray. This is important reading:

A bit of personal history: I have been nurtured and shaped within the Evangelical tradition of my Church. Most importantly, this means that the ultimate authority of the Holy Scripture and the necessity of an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus as the way to the Father are foundational and non-negotiable components of my faith.

Within my own province, I voted not to consent to the election of Gene Robinson, for reasons both theological and ecclesiological. I have followed to the letter and the spirit of the Windsor Report — before there was a Windsor Report.

For my faithfulness to this communion I have been rewarded by regular incursions into our diocese by primates and bishops who have no apparent regard for either my theology or ecclesiology.

I have made some peace with this reality, preferring to think of the irregularly ordained as Methodists — and some of my best friends are Methodists!
What I cannot make peace with is the portrayal of my sister and brother bishops in the Episcopal Church, who disagree with me, as bearers of a false gospel. That portrayal does violence to the imperfect, but faithful, grace-filled, and often costly way, in which they live out their love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, I am in serious disagreement with many of them on the very critical sacramental and ethical issues about which the Communion is in deep conflict. Are we sometimes, at best, insensitive to the wider context in which we do ministry, and at worst, deeply embedded in American arrogance — Absolutely! And for that insensitivity and arrogance we have begged the Communion’s forgiveness on several occasions. But I do see the Church in them. As God is my witness, I do. despite my profound disagreements I continue to pray “One Lord, one faith, one baptism.” We continue to reaffirm our creedal faith together. We continue to gather round the Lord’s table together, bringing the brokenness and imperfectness of our lives into the healing embrace of our Lord who sends us out together to the poor, the weak and the hopeless. And, in the midst of our internal conflicts, they show me Jesus.

There are dozens of bishops like me in the Episcopal Church. We are not a one, or even two dimensional Church. We are a multitude of diverse theological, ecclesiological and sacramental perspectives — and the vast majority of is have figures out a way to stay together.

How is this possible? I think it begins with the gift from Saint Paul, who taught us the great limitations of even our most insightful thought. We do, every one of us, “see through a glass, darkly.” And none of us can say to the other, “I have no need of you.”

One day, Saint Paul says, we will see face to face, the glory that we now only glimpse. But in the meantime, as each of us struggles to be faithful, may each of us, the Episcopal Church and the wider communion, find the courage, and the humility, to say to one another, “I need you — for my salvation and for the salvation of the world.”

Hat tip: Bishop Alan’s Blog: Man from the South Cross posted from

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One Response to To understand the Episcopal Church, you must first understand a place like Mississippi: William Faulkner

  1. Jim Needham says:

    * Those who have shown “insensitivity and arrogance” to others have little room to complain about “incursions,” especially when said “incursions” are simply attempts to repair the damage the former have done and to keep the damage from spreading. It’s been said before it’s like an abusive husband complaining when the wife moves out that she is not being loving.

    *One wonders what might happen if you treated these primates and bishops with the same grace (or even the tolerance) you demonstrate for those whom you have “very critical sacramental and ethical issues.”

    * The same Paul who spoke about “seeing through a glass darkly” also spoke bodly and often about cutting oneself off from from those who preach a “false gospel.” While one may agree with you on the first point, they may also wonder if there is anyone whom you see the second camp. More to the point, are there those that Paul would see in this way? THAT is the question for those who believe that the “ultimate authority of Holy Scipture” as “foundational and non-negotiable components of (their) faith.”

    * Do you see Gene Robinson as a methodist as well? Or was his ordination “regular.”

    Without definition there is no meaning – and therefore nothing to offer this world except a heartfelt and sincere “can’t we all get along?” I suspect both of us would prefer real transformation. The current direction of ECUSA will not take us there.

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