Episcopalian Church moving towards Unitarian Universalism?

I was, for a few years, a participant with a local Unitarian Universalist (UU) community. I was at the time an atheist, and I was drawn towards their acceptance of atheists, theists or whatever-ists. Pretty much, my UU experience can be summed up in, “be whoever you are just don’t be an inconvenience to anyone else”. :smiley:

Nearly a decade has gone by since then, where in that time I became a Catholic. Recently an Episcopalian Bishop addressed a group of us Catholics, telling us that the Episcopal Church loves us for who we are, and does not seek out a change in who we are. He also pointed out that within the Episcopal Church itself, the members of the clergy do not agree with each other and that is ok.

I’ve been thinking on this for a few weeks, have come to my own conclusions, and have a few questions, and appreciate any feedback particularly from the Episcopalian or UU POV.

  • Not seeking a change in oneself, as a Christian, strikes me as a UU approach. Does Jesus not call us to die to ourselves? From a UU perspective, I could understand this to mean God accepts everyone for who they are and the dying to oneself means an idea that God, or any gods, or your socio/psychological understanding of the world, should be oriented towards letting people be.

  • There is no absolute truth regarding God, gods, or no God, and therefore seeking the truth about God is really seeking the truth about humanity. Seeking a change in a person, persons or groups of persons, that is not towards this humanist ideology, is bad form. An inconvenience to someone, or a group of someones.

Is this the prevailing thought in the Episcopalian Church? If so it strikes me as Universalist and I see no difference between the two religions.

To be sure there are members of the Episcopal church that border on UU.

But what you were told could be explained by the Branch Theory that Anglicans can hold:


Some Episcopal leaders have been very soft on the issue of sin lately and some of what they say may be similar to what you’d hear in mainline protestantism or UU. However, we still have confession of sin and absolution and sin/repentance is still very much a part of the liturgy/worship and our beliefs.

  • There is no absolute truth regarding God, gods, or no God, and therefore seeking the truth about God is really seeking the truth about humanity. Seeking a change in a person, persons or groups of persons, that is not towards this humanist ideology, is bad form. An inconvenience to someone, or a group of someones.

Is this the prevailing thought in the Episcopalian Church? If so it strikes me as Universalist and I see no difference between the two religions.

Our cannons have not been changed at all and we don’t espouse belief in any Gods or God, but the one true God. Yes, Episcopalians don’t make judgements on what will happen to those of other faiths, but neither do most Catholics. However, I cannot and will not deny that there is some strange “Oprahfied” spirituality that is popular amongst some of our liberal protestant leaders. The Church of England has largely moved on from 1960s liberal protestantism, hopefully, Episcopal leaders will do the same.

Oh! Thanks, that explains a lot.

There is still the, “don’t change”, part that I’m trying to understand from an Episcopal POV. What does a Christan religion, the Episcopal Church, think is meant by dying to oneself? Doesn’t that automatically indicate that God desires in us a change? Of course I understand the Catholic view, which I though was held in all Christian religions.

I’m thinking that isn’t necessarily so, and am curious what “dying to oneself” means to an Episcopalian.

Thanks. I think this is present in Catholics as well.

The beliefs of the Episcopal Church are not represented by one priest, bishop, or lay person. What we believe is found in the Creeds, Prayer Book, and our cannons. If it can be shown that TEC has departed from some orthodox understanding of “dying to oneself” then I’d be glad to address it, but the Creeds, Prayer Book, nor cannons have been changed to reflect some new understanding. What “this Episcopalian believes” or “that Episcopalian says” is not really relevant to what the church officially says and believes. After all, the beliefs of the RCC are not represented by a priest or bishop who says something contrary to church teaching.

EDIT- A number of years ago an Episcopal priest was “defrocked” for wanting to be a Christian and muslim priest.

That isn’t what I meant, and I’m not really firm on what the Bishop I heard speak meant. People sometimes expect that the allusion to meaning is understood by whom they are speaking to. I’m trying to understand the allusion to what was being said, in, “don’t change”.

I see the Branch Theory, provided in this thread, says much to what could have been alluded to by this Bishop. That is, more of a statement of, “you don’t need to become Episcopalian”, so, don’t change means, no need to change from Catholic to Episcopalian. (?) An ecumenical statement, rather than theological.

I think you read a little too much into the bishop’s comments. Agreeing to disagree on issues (and not hiding it or pretending that everyone agrees) is one thing, but it doesn’t mean we don’t have any common beliefs and are an anything-goes UU congregation. We strive for unity in worship, and that actually covers a lot of ground. I certainly hope the Book of Common Prayer doesn’t strike you as a UU instrument. If you are baptized and willing to participate in the Holy Eucharist, you are the welcome to Communion. That doesn’t mean you never change - there’s just not this emphasis on overnight radical, dramatic change that is pushed in some evangelical churches, and your acceptance is not predicated on that.

That said, I am sure there are people in the pew in Episcopal churches with a UU perspective, as I’m sure there are in the Catholic churches too.

Thanks. I see that I understood his statement as theological, and as you point out, it was ecumenical. I get it. :slight_smile:

Thanks all for helping me get my head wrapped around what I heard.

Actually our two Bishops work closely together within the larger community, and I understand they are friends. So, the ecumenical approach to what was said makes a whole lot more sense!

Thanks again everyone.

Why aren’t all the clearly unorthodox priests excommunicated then?

Unorthodox as compared to…? This is too vague. There are canonical procedures for this when necessary. Keep in mind that in the Episcopal Church most congregations choose their rector or pastor anyway.

All orthodox who would want to do that left long ago.

I’m not sure what you mean. Episcopal leadership is too lax in some cases, however, I bet one can find multiple “unorthodox” priests in every denomination. I’m not making excuses, just stating the reality of it.

Ah, I see what you mean.

It may be present in some ‘Catholics’, but the Catholic Church has not changed any of it’s doctrine for 2,000 years, not will it! To many of the protestant denominations are getting weaker and weaker in their beliefs and practices. Now is the time we should all be coming together as Christ prayed we would all be ONE. We need to stand STRONG for Christ and HIS Truth! God Bless, Memaw

The Episocopal Church considers itself part of the Church, but not that it is the Church. Even personal beliefs that, say, Roman Catholic or Orthodox sacraments were invalid or anything like that would probably be very rare, even historically when ecumenical relations were much worse.

I highly doubt Unitarianism will ever take hold in Anglicanism/Episcopalianism. Belief in the Holy Trinity is pretty well embedded in the culture, even following the abandonment of the sacraments four hundred years ago. Thus neither the Episcopal Church in the United States, nor the worldwide Anglican Communion could be described as “Unitarian”.

The Episcopal Church prides itself in being very inclusive of even those with doubts regarding Christianity, however they are a small part of the Anglican Communion. As a whole, the Anglicans still cling to an episcopal model of the church, (one with a formal hierarchy of bishops) but accept as peers many non-Anglican Protestants who hold similar beliefs. I don’t think it is accurate then to describe the whole communion as “Universalist”, as some Protestants are excluded from their model of the Church.

Was Spong ever excommunicated? He is the most prominent figure that comes to mind. But if you can find anyone like him in Orthodox, Oriental or Catholic Christianity please name them.

It took longer than I thought for the Spong boogeyman to get yanked out of the closet! :smiley:

Most people don’t realize that Spong had heresy charges brought against him and there was an official investigation into the matter. However, he was not charged and whatever he said to those investigating him has remained behind closed doors. As an outsider that was not sitting in on the investigation, I can only offer my opinion that he should have been charged with heresy.

I may not be able to find one like Spong, but I’m betting it would be quite easy to find to priests who disagree with the stated beliefs of the church (Orthodox, Catholic, and all others). There is a RCC parish in my area that welcomes same-sex couples and communes them. The bishop is conservative and he knows about the parish, he just doesn’t seem to care.

Beats me, but he retired 14 years ago and has ended up having no lasting influence anyway. That’s the beauty of the Episcopal Church, no single errant bishop can really inculcate any lasting change without a lot of cooperation from other bishops and the laity. Episcopal bishops have less teaching authority in general than any Roman Catholic bishop.

FWIW, the Episcopal Church did reject a bishop-elect within the past few years that was incorporating a little too much Zen practice, so it’s not heresy hour out here exactly.

One could ask that of Catholic Churches too right?

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