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Things Episcopalians Should Know

What? Episcopalians Wishy-Washy?

Some have said the Episcopal Church is "the bland leading the bland." For centuries Episcopalians have had a milquetoast reputation. Wishy-washy on what they believe or unwilling to take a stand.

Episcopalians are not comfortable being in the spotlight, we're often willing to listen to both sides of an argument, and live-and-let-live big-tent thinking sits well with the vast majority of us. Some criticize for being unwilling to take a stand. Others compliment us for our even-handedness. So why do Episcopalians revel in the lackluster?

It is helpful to keep that big-tent in mind. It isn't so much about reaching a compromise that everyone can live with but that satisfies nobody; its about having a comprehensive space in which sometimes contradictory beliefs can be accommodated together. It isn't about being wishy-washy in one's own mind, but respecting the minds of others, agreeing to disagree.

The penchant we have for comprehension (rather than compromise) comes to us quite naturally. As spiritual progeny of the Church of England, Episcopalians have inherited an English proclivity toward finding broad ground on which two extremes can at least one foot. It's called via media, the middle way. Formed amidst the battles between Roman Catholics and Protestants in the fifteenth century, the Church of England embraced and promoted comprehension as a way to stop the quarreling (and killing) and get on with the work of proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

On a practical level we all know you can be assured that the truth is present by having every reasonable option available. That's why most Episcopal Churches are known for their openness and willingness to listen. Years ago Episcopalians promoted themselves as a place where "you don't need to check your brains at the door," where open and honest dialogue is welcomed. This sense of balance may be one reason for this fact: More U.S. Supreme Court justices have been from the Episcopal Church than any other.

Adapted from The Episcopal Handbook: Revised Edition



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