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A cler­ical aquain­t­ence and fellow mil­len­nial recently sparked a con­ver­sa­tion on Face­book when he shared an article by the Rev’d Mr Matthew Marino enti­tled, “Exclu­sive Inclu­sivity: Will The Epis­copal Church Keep Gay Mil­len­nials?” My acquain­tance affir­ma­tion­ally quoted Marino,

Did you notice that GenCon12 voted to become both more pro­gres­sive polit­i­cally while, at the same time, holding the line on the­o­log­ical ortho­doxy? Did you notice the groundswell to shrink national struc­tures and sell the national Church Center? Did you notice the Acts 8 Moment?

Many Boomers seemed sur­prised at those swirling winds…

Sur­prised, indeed. As a mil­len­nial, I have felt woe­fully mis­un­der­stood by ear­lier gen­er­a­tions — the power-wielders — within the Epis­copal Church, for what appears to be a dis­com­fort with, even hos­tility toward, the blend of pro­gres­sive values and orthodox con­fes­sion which many of my peers and I pro­fess. The assump­tion they make is that either one is pro­gres­sive and uncon­ven­tional or one is con­ser­v­a­tive and conventional.

Well, my friends, I am sim­i­larly dis­com­fited with, even hos­tile toward, such false either – or dichotomies and the gen­er­a­tional prej­u­dice they betray. Temper my indig­na­tion though I may try, I cannot help but believe that the gen­er­a­tion that has fought hardest for the full and unqual­i­fied inclu­sion of all people within the Epis­copal Church has also sys­tem­at­i­cally excised the very grounds of its exis­tence and pur­pose: Jesus Christ.

If the Epis­copal Church hopes to keep many mil­lenials, it will have to face the reality that there are innu­mer­able pro­gres­sive non-profit social jus­tice orga­ni­za­tions with equally impres­sive, if not better, records of inclu­sivity and diver­sity, with accom­plish­ments that would make the Epis­copal Church pale in com­par­ison, com­peting for our sup­port and service.

If the Epis­copal Church is nothing more than its pop­ular car­i­ca­ture — the Demo­c­ratic Party at Prayer — and if it cannot stomach the robust, intel­li­gent, sophis­ti­cated the­ology, resplen­dent liturgy, and rich polity of which it is presently an ungrateful heir, then mil­lenials will take their con­vic­tion, their prayer, their loy­alty, and — in what I am sure will be the worst blow for baby-boomers — their wal­lets elsewhere.

Is there anyone of that gen­er­a­tion who sees the intensely humorous irony, that in becoming cul­tural and philo­soph­ical rel­a­tivists; that in making an espe­cial point to estab­lish open, respectful over­seas mis­sions in places like Africa and Asia that cel­e­brate local cul­ture — places his­tor­i­cally abused by western impe­ri­alist gov­ern­ments and their equally con­de­scending mis­sion­aries, living out the white man’s burden and the white man’s com­mer­cial interest — are those places where vibrant, uncom­pro­mising, and unabashed con­ven­tional chris­tian com­mu­ni­ties are blos­soming, quite lit­er­ally exploding with blooms of grace faster than we count.

The very people whom we have his­tor­i­cally oppressed and whose cul­tures we have mer­ci­lessly sup­pressed as infe­rior to our own, do not believe that it is nec­es­sary to abandon our sto­ried con­ven­tions, even as we hem­or­rhage out every­thing pur­poseful and mean­ingful in our tra­di­tion in their name. It would seem that those who have felt most dis­en­fran­chised and excluded are sur­pris­ingly the least likely to desire a fur­ther dilu­tion of their faith.

Per­haps, they realize that it is not the creed that is his­tor­i­cally at fault; it is not Jesus Christ incar­nate, cru­ci­fied, dead, buried, res­ur­rected, ascended, and returning, who is exclu­sionary. To deny chris­tian tra­di­tion is to deny the founder, the mover, the inspirer of the very grace that led us to a more expan­sive, more inclu­sive church.

If not Jesus Christ, if not the Holy Ghost, then who, then what? If it were anyone, any­thing else, why main­tain the cha­rade at all? We might as well pro­claim our­selves sec­ular human­ists with a passing fancy for mys­ti­cism. Or, worse, is our con­tin­u­ance as a church really faith­ful­ness to the Church Pen­sion Fund? Now, there is a thought.

Tes­ti­mony to this effect is found in the afore­men­tioned article by Mr Marino, most espe­cially in the case of LGBT mil­lenials, who, in his expe­ri­ence, are no longer enam­ored with the Epis­copal Church’s pan­dering to them by loudly parading ’round and belauding their sex­u­ality, but who merely want a church that helps sus­tain and enrich their faith, pro­viding them a con­text within which they may do the same for others; a church that does not with­hold or dilute the truth, or reject the essen­tial along with the inessential,

As the cul­ture con­tinues to change, will the Epis­copal Church keep Gay Mil­len­nials? Or will they end up going some­place else — some­place that puts more emphases [sic] on their faith than their orientation?

Today, mil­lenials are more inter­ested in a church that behaves like a church. We do not believe in christ­less chris­tianity. We do not believe in squishy rel­a­tivism and core­less antifoun­da­tion­alism. We do not pro­fess Christ merely mortal, some­time preacher of good ideas, teller of mem­o­rable tales, wearer of a wicked awe­some hip­ster beard, and victim of an admit­tedly unfor­tu­nate polit­ical exe­cu­tion. We do not believe in a repack­aged, badly inter­preted, western rehash of ori­ental mys­ti­cism. We do not believe in the Epis­copal Church as the Demo­c­ratic Party at Prayer.

We do not believe that there is nothing excep­tional about Jesus Christ, because if there is nothing excep­tional about Jesus Christ then why in the hell are we wasting so much time and money main­taining an insti­tu­tion that bears his name? We do not believe in a church of nothing more that do-gooders and well-wishers who pay their ten per­cent, drink their coffee, and take a hol­iday from praying in the sum­mer­time to antique in Rhode Island, sup lob­ster in Maine, or sip wine in Martha’s Vineyard.

We do not believe in the Church of the Holy Con­cert Series; Ss Wine, Whiskey, and Cheese; the Basilica of the Modern Art Instal­la­tion; or the Cathe­dral Church of the Bian­nual Con­gre­gants. We do not believe in white­washing, cher­ryp­icking, glossing over, veneering, sug­ar­coating, or tossing the baby out with the bath water. We do not believe in a buffet-style, cafe­teria chris­tianity wherein we can take a little of this and little of that and leave the rest until they dis­con­tinue the menu item.

We do not believe in John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and Diana Butler Bass. We do not believe in our esteemed leaders inca­pable of even mouthing the holy name of Jesus Christ in public pro­nounce­ments. We do not believe in a church more pre­pos­sessed by prop­erty seizure, equity accrual, invest­ment div­i­dends, trust funds, pen­sion plans, copy­right enforce­ment, mar­keting schemes, and retal­ia­tory lit­i­ga­tion than it is by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.

We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eter­nally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our sal­va­tion he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incar­nate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was cru­ci­fied under Pon­tius Pilate; he suf­fered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accor­dance with the Scrip­tures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who pro­ceeds from the Father and the Son. With the Father and the Son he is wor­shiped and glo­ri­fied. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apos­tolic Church. We acknowl­edge one bap­tism for the for­give­ness of sins. We look for the res­ur­rec­tion of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

That’s what we believe and if the inten­tion of the Epis­copal Church’s powers-that-be is to hollow this con­fes­sion with indif­fer­ence rather than hallow it with faith­ful­ness, well, mil­lenials — like most human being — are bipedally equipped and quite capable of walking away and going else­where. The truth is, though, that we do not want to walk away, we want to remain and con­tinue to build upon the good work that the Epis­copal Church has done, is doing, might do — except we want to do so in the name of Christ for the glory of that name, not as an act of self-con­gru­la­tion for how lovely and wel­coming we are.

If our baby-boomer brethren and sistren (I promise that this is a real word) want to sit in sym­po­siums and sem­i­nars dis­cussing “How to Keep Mil­lenials in the Church,” maybe they should take some advice from actual mil­lenials. We would like nothing more nor less that a faithful church that preaches Christ incar­nate, Christ cru­ci­fied, Christ res­ur­rected, and Christ enthroned. We want a church that is unashamed to preach atone­ment, sac­ri­fice, suf­fering, ser­vice, and salvation.

Mil­lenials were born with extremely sen­si­tive bull­shit barom­e­ters and we want hon­esty, trans­parency, and integrity. We want a church where we can develop rela­tion­ships, build com­mu­nity, and engender fel­low­ship despite dif­fer­ence and dis­agree­ment, but without pre­tending that we believe nothing lest we offend someone, anyone. We want a church that respects us, because we have the courage to live in both faith and doubt, cer­tainty and uncer­tainty, bold­ness and meek­ness, and count­less other seem­ingly oppo­site traits wedded together in con­scious imperfection.

We want a church that doesn’t make us choose between arti­fi­cial cat­e­gories of super­fi­cial divi­sion. We want a church that allows us to be authentic chris­tians as well as pro­gres­sive activists, a church that does not assume that con­ven­tion means we are bigots, that we are fun­da­men­tal­ists, that we are young earth cre­ation­ists, bib­lical lit­er­al­ists and innerran­tists, “God Hates Fags!” pick­eters, or hard­line anti-abor­tion, anti-women, anti-immi­gra­tion neo­con­ser­v­a­tives. Our church is his­tor­i­cally the church of the via media — fraught thought that term is — and its mem­bers should know well the sort of cohab­i­tant and coöper­a­tive cul­ture we yearn for and which we find lived out in the pages of the gospel, in the life of Jesus Christ and the acts of his apostles.

Our idea of church is a place where ideas can flow freely and where ques­tions are never sti­fled, but also where our his­tory is accepted and our tra­di­tions respected. Chris­tology, hamar­ti­ology, escha­tology, and the­ology in gen­eral should not be for­bidden sub­jects, the domain of divinity stu­dents who will never revisit their study. Wor­ship should be less about nov­elty, play-acting, and pleasing and more about ado­ra­tion, sup­pli­ca­tion, lamen­ta­tion, and obla­tion; you know, worship.

We are thor­oughly tired of a church that dis­re­spects us by trem­bling fear­fully in our pres­ence, ter­ri­fied that it may offend us or chal­lenge us. We want to be offended, offended by our com­pla­cency exposed in the light of the gospel; chal­lenged by the indict­ment of sinful self-regard and the sub­se­quent call to go and sin no more, to be dis­ci­ples to all nations and carry the love of Christ to all people. We want a church that remem­bers what it was, works with what it is, and reimag­ines what it could be.