Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Genesis of The Episcopal Majority

The following article ran in the Diocese of Missouri's online newsletter on September 8, 2006. It provides some information about the genesis of The Episcopal Majority that has not been previously documented.

Two from Diocese at birthing of coalition of the 'broad middle'

ST. LOUIS – A seed of a thought dropped on fertile ground has grown into a grass roots movement claiming to represent the Episcopal Church's "broad middle" and two individuals from the Diocese of Missouri have had a direct hand in raising it.

Calling itself the Episcopal Majority, the movement is the brain child of two former college chaplains, one of whom used to serve as a rector in the Diocese of Missouri. The Rev. David Fly, who was rector of Grace Church in Kirkwood from 1981 until his retirement in 1998, and the Rev. William Coats, a priest in the Diocese of Newark, were both college chaplains in the 1960s and 1970s.

About 35 former college chaplains, once members of the Episcopal Society for Ministry in Higher Education, gathered for an informal reunion in Columbus, Ohio, during this summer's General Convention. The reunion was organized by Fly and during the gathering he shared an essay Coats had written on the Episcopal Church's continuing membership in the Anglican Communion.

The response to the essay, which was critical of the efforts of conservative groups to separate the mainstream Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion, and the growing e-mail list of persons wanting copies of the essay, started Fly thinking.

"I talked with Bill and he was interested in pulling together a national coalition which would represent the broad middle of the Church, which we really believe to be the majority," says Fly.

"We didn't want groups like the [Anglican Communion] Network to define the debate over the Church's response to the Windsor Report or its continued membership in the Anglican Communion. We didn't want them to define the Episcopal Church," adds Fly.

Fly and Coats floated the idea of a coalition to the e-mail list they had assembled and asked members of the list to share the idea with others. Before long, word of a new coalition purporting to represent Episcopalians who consider themselves in the middle had spread to all corners of the Church.

"One person would link to another who would link to still another and so on and so on," says Fly. "The response started immediately. One person wrote me, 'Thank God, we finally have a group that speaks for us.'"

One of those persons in the network of contacts was Lisa Fox, a member of Grace Church in Jefferson City . On Aug. 9 she launched a blog for the coalition called the Episcopal Majority. In the first 30 days it was on the Internet, the blog had more than 12,000 visitors. It asked for people to publicly sign on as supporters of the movement and to date more than 300 have.

That has led to plans for a meeting of the fledgling coalition to coincide with the installation of the new Presiding Bishop in November. Fly is expecting as many as 150 persons to be at the meeting in Washington, DC, on the morning of Nov. 3. The Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori will become new Presiding Bishop that afternoon. The confluence of the two events is deliberate, says Fly.

"We see this as a unifying effort; a way to say to the new Presiding Bishop that 'we support you all the way and there's a big church that supports you,'" he explains.

How will the coalition know if its efforts are successful?

"We want to be a part of the conversation, and if not that, then we want to influence it. We want to sit at the table and be heard. We want the voice of the majority to be heard by the Archbishop of Canterbury and right now we're not sure it is. It is being drowned out by groups calling for our expulsion from the Communion," answers Fly.

"The Episcopal Church has always been a place where people can say what they think and have the opportunity to respond to what other people say and we're in danger of losing that," he adds.

Fly says the coalition has not yet heard from the Presiding Bishop-elect, but has received public endorsement by several retired bishops and the verbal support of some current bishops. It has also received a letter of support from the Via Media movement, which promotes the Anglican tradition of "finding a middle way" in matters of practicing the faith.

Maybe one indication that the Episcopal Majority's message is being heard is the existence of a parody blog that calls itself "The Anglican Majority."



Blogger BubbaHoTep said...

Wow Lisa, my fun little one-man blog got mentioned in the Diocese of Missouri's newsletter!?

It was going to be a one-morning project while I ate a bagel and drank a cup of coffee, but now I am going to keep putting up pictures and quotes. Hopefully I will get funding from the IRD. I hear they pay for things like that, but I have yet to see a check.

It is amazing in today's day and age what one guy in his pajamas can do with a cheap laptop. Thanks for the publicity!


9/13/2006 10:16 AM  
Blogger ... said...

David, Bill and all the good folks providing the energy to The Episcopal Majority, I want you to know that your efforts are not unappreciated, and the seeds you've sown have fallen on fertile ground.

Thank you both for starting the fire and for all those whose time, effort, donations, and especially prayers, are keeping it alive and growing. Having the opportunity to see the fruits of the collected labors from an insider's perspective, I am at once energized and humbled by the astounding amount of talent and true Christ-like love that is being poured into this effort.

To say that I am excited about where the groundswell that is building will ultimately take us is an understatement.

Thank you, and thank you for inviting me to play my humble part in this.

Jeffrey (aka Toewalker)

9/13/2006 10:35 AM  
Blogger Marshall said...

Wish I'd known about the meeting in Columbus; but then I was only in ESMHE 84-87 - seems a lifetime ago now. Still, I'd have been happy to join in.

9/13/2006 8:49 PM  

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