Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing Is the Main Thing
by the Rev. Canon B. Madison Currin
The Rev. Canon B. Madison Currin, Ph.D., is Rector Emeritus of Christ Episcopal Church (Pensacola, Florida). He is also Honorary Canon and former Dean of the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul in Charleston, South Carolina. The Rev. Currin ("Matt" to many who know him) submitted this piece as a "Letter to the Editor" of Charleston's The Post and Courier, and we print it here with his permission.
I have read with interest and some amusement the many articles and Letters to the Editor in The Post and Courier of late regarding the Episcopal Church. My reaction to so many of them is a feeling of deep sadness. I have noticed that many of them lack the real thing: Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. I see a lot of things that indicate that if you do not agree with the author then you are not a Christian. You are a heretic and therefore excluded from the True Church. I see little about love and forgiveness and understanding of one another. I see very little about the crucial thing in Christianity which is the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. This is sad indeed. This obsession with heresy and who is and who is not orthodox is sheer idolatry. In the Epistle to James we find this: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (James 1: 27).
In the days of the early church it was said that the "world" looked at the Christians and said, "See how they love one another." People then and now are converted to Jesus Christ not by theology and creeds and "orthodox" statements but by the Risen and Triumphant Lord of all Life. This is what matters and that is all that really matters. How we interpret the Holy Scriptures is not as important as meeting Jesus and letting Him into our lives and then going out to proclaim by word and deed the saving Gospel that "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).
One of the reasons I became an Episcopalian in 1956 was our liturgy. The liturgy is where our theology is found. Our Book of Common Prayer is our interpretation. And the Episcopal Church makes clear in the Baptismal service that we renounce Satan and the evil powers of this world and that we renounce all sinful desires that draw us from the love of God. Then we turn to Jesus and accept Him as our Lord and Savior and put our whole trust in His grace and love and then we promise to follow and obey Him as our Lord. Again this is reaffirmed in Confirmation and ordination. How much more "orthodox" can you get?!
I became an Episcopalian because of the diversity of interpretation of Holy Scripture that we might come together believing the Holy Scriptures to be the Word of God and that God has given us minds to "work out our salvation in fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). I became an Episcopalian while working on my Ph.D. in Reformation Church History of the Church of England during the 16th and 17th centuries. I read myself into the Episcopal Church. I became an Episcopalian also because of the community of faith I found in St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Richmond, Virginia. There I found a "colony of heaven" as Paul described the Church. These people welcomed me, loved me, and even though there were controversies at the time we all worked together even though we sometimes disagreed with one another. At one annual parish meeting, however, things did get out of hand and there was unexpected shouting at one another. A little old lady, God bless her, rose to her feet and banged on the pew with her cane until the place fell silent. Then she said in a very clear voice, "If we cannot behave like Christians let us at least remember we are Virginians." The place broke up in laughter. That settled that. Humor, warmth, love and grace, things which seem to be missing in the current controversies.
My rector in Pensacola, Florida preaches Jesus Christ and Him crucified for our salvation, and one of his sermons on this was entitled, "Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing is the Main Thing." And so it is. I would hope this can be reborn in the Diocese of South Carolina. I am sure those who are not Episcopalians wonder what is going on as do many people in the pews who are looking for Jesus and salvation not theological discourses. Perhaps getting back to basics and not having heresy and apostasy as the Main Thing but Jesus as Lord and Savior as the Main Thing will help calm the troubled waters. I fear we are concentrating on the wrong thing. Beloved let us love one another as God has loved us. Let us forgive one another knowing that unless we forgive we will not be forgiven. Let us listen with respect to one another. Let us cease being judgmental and leave that up to God, remembering that our Blessed Lord clearly said, "Judge not that you be not judged" (Matthew 7:1).