Exit to Liberal Episcopalianism

Julianna Gustafson
Thursday, March 1st 2012
Mar/Apr 2012

I came out of fundamentalism and am now a very liberal Episcopalian, but am also still interested in Emergent evangelicalism. What personally intrigues me about Emergents is their ability to question, and the open communities of people who can authentically struggle in a way that we couldn't in my fundamentalist church.

I had questions about women being kept out of leadership and about homosexuality being this big ultimate sin, and all these things that just didn't feel true to what I was experiencing in life around me. You know, intelligent, insightful, brilliant women I know who should be leading a lot more men, and homosexuals who are loving and wonderful and fabulous holy people. My Episcopal Church acknowledges all of that. But the Emergent community is one of those places where people don't have to agree; they can struggle with theological complexities and move toward a way of living together that acknowledges their differences and knits them together in community more.

In my Episcopal Church we have a lot of tradition, and we have a lot of ritual and rigid rules that can keep people marching down one theological path; but we also have a lot of limits to that hierarchy that can inhibit the people who feel a call from God who want to be active but feel confined by structure. And the reverse is true when I look at the Emergent world, or really any evangelical church that doesn't have some kind of structure imposed on it. I think the question about boundaries for what you believe and how you live your life is a big one for people. Personally, I'm more comfortable seeing people live together in love, and be maybe a little bit heretical and not have all the right beliefs, because I think love is what should define Christians, and to err on the side of love is erring on the side of God.

Since I came out of the fundamentalist tradition, which had no theological rooting at all, I think that humans are always trying to make sense of God. And whether they come out of something that's heavily liturgical’I think there's a failing there too’people can see it as ritual and not get the theological teaching out of it. At least in the Emergent community, at least as far as I can see, people are trying to be intentional about what they're incorporating and why; they're digging into the theological richness and symbolism of what they're doing. So even if it might not be a complete system, the intentionality behind it is really rich. I think if you look at any tradition, they all have their failings.

Thursday, March 1st 2012

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
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