Millennials: Rumors Abound

My parents were part of that pattern where people left the Church for a chunk of their late teens/early twenties and then came back, usually when they wanted the kids to go to Church (link). They may well have been one of the last to leave and return. We should stop accepting this pattern.*

For starters, not all of my peers’ parents came back to Church, leading to higher than previously recorded numbers of the unchurched among Millennials. Second, of those of us who went to Church, we haven’t all settled down into a life with kids (also in record numbers) and those who have are marrying outside of their religious tradition in, yes, record numbers.

Aside from all of that, Millennials are less likely to trust institutional leadership. We grew up in households headed by people jaded by the Nixon/Watergate scandals. Marketers have been selling to us from the womb. We assume you are working an angle. (Because, let’s be honest, most people are. It’s human nature.)**

I am not the expert on Millennials; in fact, I often tell people that I’m probably a bad Millennial. Here’s some research that can tell you more. (link)

  • The Church, which says that it wants us, that it needs my age-peers and I, is not any easier to figure out. (I promise.) Instead of unconditional love there is at best a mixed message.
  • God loves us, but what in the world is up with the clothes and the music and the tattoos. (I don’t have or want tattoos, but have and will defend them.) Also on this list: crazy hours, movies, lack of manners, texting at the dinner table.
  • The Church needs to do a better job of recognizing and supporting young leaders but email and cell phones are evil. (Actually email and cell phones–also Facebook, Twitter and more–are standard business, school, and relational tools. That doesn’t mean they are ideal for every situation, but neither was the telegraph.)

We are so glad you are here, what are you majoring in? (When this is the only question you ask after I’ve been coming to church for over a year, no you don’t have a college ministry.)

You don’t have to take my word on it. Other people have weighed in. I don’t feel a need to offer you a link here, just search Millennials and Church. (I’ll wait.)

The Church I grow old in isn’t going to look like the Church you or I grew up in. Those versions of the Church were part of their time and place. We need to become a Church of our time, and even a Church with our faces pressed against the future. We need to rediscover our role as Jesus’s voice and hands and feet and arms and everything not to me and my fellow Millennials, but to those people ten and twenty years younger than I am.

*I said this to the House of Bishops and Deputies listserv:
As a twenty-something Episcopal Preist, I am terrified by the thought that we are going to continue to accept the idea that it is okay for people to be away from the Church. If we take ourselves seriously as the incarnate Body of Christ, with a vow to do all that we can to support our brothers and sisters in their lives in Christ (BCP pg 303), what are we thinking?
It is not okay for the children of God to leave, even for a time. For some people it may be necessary, but the Church should regard it as a tragedy.
In the case of young adults, my age-peers, isn’t the better question, the more essential question, how can we better support young adults who need space to stretch and grow while going through a series of transitions?
And isn’t part of the answer what other denomination has a better tradition of faithful inquiry and questioning than we do?
When “you” give “us” permission to leave, “you” also give yourselves permission to let us go without effort.
**Remember? (link) I’m one of them.

Categories: Church, Episcopal | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Millennials: Starting Young

My parents picked The Episcopal Church for their family long before I chose to stay, and I’ve often thought that TEC ‘stuck’ better in my case than they might have wished. By the time I was the one choosing a lot more was involved than easy Sunday School registration.

The first time I chose TEC I was 14. It was because of my cousins’ non-Episcopal youth group. I had gone on a mission trip with them and came home convinced that I needed a similarly loving and supportive sort of community in my life. As an incoming High School freshman, I decided that my Church needed a youth group.

The same Church that had loved, fed, and supported my family through my mother’s cancer and death loved, encouraged, and supported me. Rides to Diocesan events, money for Provincial events, and when I wandered into someone’s office saying, “I think we should…” no one ever laughed at me. By the time I graduated High School, we had a youth group (creatively name the Grouth Youp), a young person was regularly elected to the vestry, and as a college freshman I was elected to Diocesan Council.

And a Church full of people showed me all of the broken, hurtful humanness of the Church. I saw people I love and respect behave in manners that no one anywhere should. By the time I was 18, I had seen the Church at her best and some of her worst.

So, of course, I stayed. I went to college. I got more involved. I started discernment for the priesthood. I saw more of our best and more ways we are at our worst.

My junior year of college was the year I almost left. I was too tired, too much on the outside, too weary of demanding that I be listened to, be seated at any table, not be ignored.
It was also the year I discovered that I will never leave. This is my home. This is my family.

I learned that I am not an Episcopalian because I like the liturgy or the history or because my parents didn’t pick an ELCA church. I am Episcopalian because the liturgy, our way of being The Church, best helps me be a Christian. My last service in The Episcopal Church will be my funeral. It will be lovely Rite II service with good music and, hopefully, many years from now.

I’m an Episcopal priest. I’ve been in a leadership role in this Church for my entire adulthood. I’ve been choosing The Episcopal Church for more than half my life. It is a rational decision, but even more it is a decision based on need and faith.

Because my parents didn’t pick an ELCA parish, because of the history, because of the liturgy, because of everything we (occasionally) get right. Because this is where I see Jesus.

Categories: Church, Episcopal, My Life | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Millennials in the Church: Before you hide the China and Change the Music

I have a confession: I’m under thirty.
Which is wonderful but I’m also an Episcopal priest. So suddenly no-one* seems to know what to do with me. I should celebrate my youth; I should talk up my experience (and at 14 years of leadership in this here Church, I’ve got some). I should learn more; I should lead more.

In short, I tend to get celebrated by the same people who wonder why “all young people” leave the Church (which has been said in my actual physical presence). When I talk with my fellow young Episcopalians, I know that I am not alone. We belong in a Church which says we are wanted but does not know what to do with us.

So, I’m going to devote a little bit of time to talking about Millennials and The Episcopal Church. This is looking like three parts:
1) Starting Young: More of how and why I am (still) in TEC
2) Rumors Abound: What people say/write about Millennials and where I think they are right and wrong
3) The End Isn’t Coming: why Millennials aren’t the end of the Church (and why the Church isn’t going to end)

I usually manage about one post a week, but I think these will go up a bit faster because of the work I’ve already done.

For now let me say this: As a young, socially liberal, female priest, I have always felt that people have the greatest problem with my age.

*This is an occasion where I can easily offend everyone. I am not going to tell specific stories about ageism in the Church, but every thing I say has a real story I’ve experienced beneath it. If you are worried about being who I’m talking about, it is you and it is your pew-neighbor and it is no one you have ever met.

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What do we do now?

The Episcopal Church is still getting ready for our triennial General Convention. For those keeping track, the budget is not much clearer than it used to be. I had originally planned to continue on and address problems one and two(remember that I started with problem three?). Then my friend and colleague The Rev Megan Castellan did just that over on her blog in a brilliant post. Go read it. (Then read her posts looking at the canon revisions: Sing the Canons! and Part II.)

We have heard that corrected but unofficial budgets will be available in early June. Canonically, not much can happen until GC. Which is not the same thing as nothing is happening between now and July.

GC is short. If there are changes we want to see, alternatives we want proposed (or not proposed), this is the time to be about that work. Now is the time to call someone and say, “this is what we should do and here’s how.” If you are a deputy, if you know a deputy, and if you don’t then it’s time to meet one.

But I’m going to take some of this time to talk about millennials and the Church. Because I’m tired of being told about me. Because I’m tired of being angry when Church people talk about those young ones. Because I am convinced that my Church has a present which I and people my age are a part of.

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General Convention, The National Budget, and Twitter

First, a couple of disclaimers. (1) I’ve been trying to write various posts on aspects of these topics for a couple of weeks now and have nothing coherent–yet. (2) I love Twitter. (3) I get tired of defending the ability to have a conversation on Twitter.
So when I realized that I had a conversation on Twitter about the topics I had been trying to write about and that there was a handy service (Storify) which would help me show this, my mind jumped to, “Win!”

I tweet as @theologybird.  You can follow me by clicking on my twitter handle there or through the handy widget on the right side of this page.  This conversation is largely between myself and a good friend @revlucymeg, although you will see a few other people and some links to articles.

So, here for your perusal, entertainment, and thoughts, a Twitter-based conversation about General Convention (and it’s potential restructuring), the Draft Budget, and whatever else was on our minds.  All opinions are our own and non-binding (that is, we reserve the right to change them).

If you want the slightly prettier version: [View “General Convention and Budget” on Storify]
And for those of you who find external links scary (I’m one of you) here it is, in rough form:

  1. ‘@episcopalcafe: Restructuring by de-funding bit.ly/x4QeSu‘ Every program that helped me discern/go to seminary will be gone.
  2. @revlucymeg I know. The Church that does not know how to let ppl in. Or this: ow.ly/9qX3D (Love him!)
  3. @theologybird yup. That’s on #fb. I agree w what he says, but how to argue w the budget in our process? GC isn’t set up for it
  4. @revlucymeg I saw somewhere that the budget used to be made available for review more often–not voting, but just visible. Step 1.
  5. @revlucymeg Don’t know what step 2 is. Don’t want to be on ExecComm. You?
  6. @theologybird HA. see, and here I thought we were friends…..
  7. @theologybird yes- and more transparent. (Debt?!) I’ve been around #SoVa too long. Hidden line items give me hives.
  8. @theologybird Nice friend! Friends don’t nominate friends for scary cmtes.
  9. @revlucymeg Hey–I’m not filling out any nomination forms. None.
  10. @revlucymeg Yeah, those make me twitchy too. And Debt. Different *interesting* history.
  11. @revlucymeg Deal! No scary cmtes without willing sacrifice (because we’re slightly crazy).
  12. @theologybird it might be from the embezzling scandal from 15-20 yrs back at 815, but who knows?
  13. @revlucymeg It might be b/c we’ve already been around church structure too long. Why’d we stay again?
  14. @theologybird Maschocism? And a sympathy for dying things?
  15. @revlucymeg I’ll accept masochism, but TEC has to hang in longer than I do. #stubborn
  16. @theologybird true enough. Lets call it preferential option for the underdog.
  17. @revlucymeg Yes. That works for me.
  18. @revlucymeg So, is the budget discussion solution to reduce GC, meet more often, or to wait and let the 50’s $ mentality die out?
  19. @theologybird a big help would be reduce GC. If it were smaller, we could meet more often/ as often, but it’s SO expensive.
  20. @theologybird & we let 50s $ mentality die too. Bonus!
  21. @theologybird but also! We can’t tea party the church. Dioceses can’t suddenly do all things when they’re broke too. No$=no program
  22. @revlucymeg On one hand I like this, on the other hand I have enfranchisement (fictional, I know) issues. We need all of us. 1/2
  23. @revlucymeg Maybe not for governance, but we need all of us. We need large groups of Episcopalians being us.
  24. @revlucymeg And! there are things when we speak best with a lger voice–even when it is confusing and complex. We need to give us the time.
  25. @theologybird not disagreeing, but 5 yrs wouldn’t kill us. there is power in the large group– agree.
  26. @revlucymeg I can now think of several ways to make this all more complicated #goodepiscopalian
  27. @revlucymeg I could do 5 yrs, but then more de facto power goes to Exec Comm. Not so sure about that.
  28. @theologybird hm. Maybe the real problem is ExecCmte. (too small/enclosed) And how GC governs in Bw mtgs.
  29. @theologybird @revlucymeg This is fascinating.
  30. @revlucymeg Transparency! Transparency!
  31. @fathertorey @revlucymeg What happens when Church nerds have the internet.
  32. @theologybird @fathertorey When we have Internet and want to avoid sermon writing.
  33. @revlucymeg @theologybird So no sermon, no procrastination. Just Internet. I’m feeling weird – a man w/out a country etc.
  34. @revlucymeg @theologybird Anyway you seem like decent people.
  35. @fathertorey can’t speak for @theologybird, but I try! 🙂
  36. @fathertorey @revlucymeg thanks! Impressed that you still think so. 🙂
  37. @fathertorey @agardenpath @theologybird @episcopalcafe #ecafe ah– there. &yes, I’m a deputy for AZ
  38. Days that prove why I love twitter. Thanks @revlucymeg @fathertorey @episcopalcafe
  39. @theologybird @revlucymeg @episcopalcafe Grin.
  40. @theologybird @fathertorey @episcopalcafe And twitter restores my faith in the church…

Categories: Church, Episcopal, Priest's Life | Leave a comment

The Episcopal Church: Catholic and Protestant

I am an Episcopalian, which means that I am neither Roman Catholic nor, and this is where people usually start getting confused, properly Protestant.  Yet, and this is where the confusion continues, the (Anglican/)Episcopal tradition is both Catholic and Protestant.

Catholic and Protestant. Via Media.  The Middle Way.  The Episcopal Church.

We are Protestant inso much as Protestant means “not Roman Catholic.” However, Protestant also, and as it is more often used, means “any Western Christian who is not an adherent of a Catholic, Anglican or Eastern Church.” Because we and the Eastern Church did not separate from the Roman Catholic Church under Protest.  (Neither did we leave simply because of Henry VIII’s divorce–the history is slightly more complex.  But that’s another post.)

I am not Roman Catholic.  I do not acknowledge the supreme authority of the Pope (even if only when speaking ex cathedra); I do not agree with many of the other teachings of the Roman Magisterium, although I love their work on social justice.  I am not Protestant.  I do believe in the Apostolic Succession; I do believe in the authority of Bishops and the tradition of the Church held in tension with Scripture, rather than the supremacy of either.

It’s not simple.  As an Episcopal Church we are constantly trying to figure out what it means to be the via media anew in each generation.  On specific topics like how we read the Bible, understand our tradition, homosexuality, marriage (two topics that are separate and related), the family, the institution of the church, politics, and many more.

We don’t always get it right.  And we don’t always know what to do when that happens.

I think that it is a struggle worth continuing.  That there are truths born between the authority of the Magisterium and the solas of many Reformed traditions.

Categories: Episcopal | 5 Comments

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