The Church-Idea for an Episcopal Moment

As you might have noticed, I didn’t have a chance to blog today.  That is because I defended my thesis for my Doctor of Ministry Degree at the School of Theology at the University of the South (Sewanee) at 11am today.  I’m glad to say that process went well, and after making a few corrections and one small addition, something close to a final copy is ready for printing.

Over the years, many of you have prayed for me in this process.  When I shared my Thesis Proposal, you encouraged me.  As I’ve written, you’ve dealt with how my reading of William Reed Huntington and Brian McLaren, among others, have forever influenced how I see the Church and, as a result, read the Bible.  Thank you.

Finally, for the few of you who asked, here is a PDF of the final draft. The Church-Idea for an Episcopal Moment – Final.



DMin Thesis Proposal

Today I officially became a Candidate for the Doctor of Ministry Degree at the School of Theology at The University of the South.  For the two people who might be interested in my full thesis topic, I’m posting the proposal here.

“William Reed Huntington Meets Brian McLaren and The Episcopal Moment”

            In 1870, The Rev. Dr. William Reed Huntington published a series of essays explicated his vision for the unity of the Church in America entitled The Church-Idea.  That text began with these words, “Dissatisfaction is the one word that best expresses the state of mind in which Christendom finds itself to-day.  There is a wide-spread misgiving that we are on the eve of a momentous change.”[1]  It does not require a great deal of understanding about the state of the Church in 2014 to realize that Father Huntington’s word continue to echo loudly through the decaying buildings of American Christianity.  Huntington saw the possibility of momentous change as an opportunity and spent his life and ministry attempting the change the future of Protestantism in American.  Nearly 140 years later, non-denominational pastor, leading voice of the Great Emergence, theologian, and author, Brian McLaren, stood before the 76th General Convention and declared the opening of The Episcopal Moment saying, “I believe this moment of Episcopal crisis is also a moment of Episcopal opportunity.”[2]  The argument of this thesis is that both William Reed Huntington and Brian McLaren are correct in their assertions that The Episcopal Church is uniquely poised to meet the religious and spiritual needs of a changing world.

My essay will be approximately one hundred pages, fulfilling the requirements for a six credit hour project.  It will begin with two chapters laying out the religious climates in which Huntington and McLaren find themselves.  The chapter on Huntington’s era will be based on his writings, General Convention Reports, and a few other historical resources.  Scholarship on the current era is prolific, however, I plan to focus my attention on the works of McLaren and his contemporaries: Diana Butler Bass, Phyllis Tickle, Karen Ward, and because McLaren first posited the idea of the Episcopal Moment while in England, the home of Fresh Expressions, some attention will be given to the work of Bishop Graham Cray.  Having established the similarities and differences between the American Church post-Civil War and post-modernity, I will turn my attention to what each of these men had to say about the future of the Church.  The third chapter will focus on Huntington’s Church-Idea and his subsequent work to bring forth a pan-Protestant American Catholic Church under the umbrella of what would become The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral, including a brief look at Huntington’s work to revise the 1789 Book of Common Prayer.  Chapter four will focus on McLaren’s speeches beginning with his presentation to the Lambeth Conference in 2008, through his General Convention sermon in 2009 and the subsequent tour of Diocesan Convention and Commencement addresses, culminating, hopefully, with a one-on-one interview of his current thoughts on the matter.  The final chapter would then be a proposal of the way forward, utilizing the work of both great thinkers to suggest a way in which The Episcopal Church might seize this Episcopal Moment with the aid of Huntington’s Church-Idea and become a Church for the 21st century.

There are, of course, many preconceived notions within my thesis, as there are within the theses of Huntington and McLaren.  There will not be the time in the essay to engage in a full sociological study of religion’s place within the larger cultural shifts of our time, although some review of the basics will certainly be in order.  Additionally, the basic premise of the essay is that it is addressed to a church willing to change.  This is a very large assumption, and I fully understand that; however having been one of the eight hundred plus deputies who voted with unanimity on Resolution C095[3], Structural Reform, at the 77th General Convention, I firmly believe that the Spirit is at work in The Episcopal Church, calling us forward to preach the Good News in the 21st century.  One final limiting factor will be the availability of documents pertaining to McLaren’s Episcopal Moment idea.  Several Diocesan Journals are lacking the text of his presentations as is his personal website; however it is my intention to spend at least four weeks in the Northern Virginia area in the summer of 2015, with the hope of meeting Mr. McLaren face-to-face at some point.

My primary areas of interest during my doctoral studies at The School of Theology have been Church History and Liturgics.  I stumbled upon this topic of study during the summer of 2012 when The Rev. Dr. Mark Chapman gave two lectures entitled, “American Catholicity and the National Church.”  As I listened to Dr. Chapman’s presentation of the passionate work of Dr. Huntington, I realized that I had heard similar ideas in a class at Virginia Seminary in 2005 taught by Dr. Diana Butler Bass.  As I have studied the past, it has become clear that it offers innumerable insights into the future.  I hope to build on my understanding of the history and liturgical flexibility of The Episcopal Church to suggest that the future for The Episcopal Church and Mainline Christianity in general is much less dire than some would suggest.  It is my sincere belief that if the leadership of The Episcopal Church, most notably the General Convention, specifically the House of Bishops, takes heed of the advice of Huntington and McLaren, we can capture The Episcopal Moment.  I offer this paper to the wider church in the hopes of producing new wine to pour into the new wineskins of the 21st century.


Tentative Bibliography

The Book Annexed to the Report of the Joint Committee of the Book of Common Prayer. New York: E. & J.B. Young & Co., 1885.

Butler Bass, Diana. Christianity after Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening. Kindle Edition, New York: HarperColins, 2012.

Chapman, Mark. “American Catholicity and the National Church.” Lectures to The School of Theology at The University of the South. Sewanee Theological Review Easter 2013 Volume 56:2. P. 111-148.

Cooke, Mary Huntington. A Few Memories of William Reed Huntington. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Riverside Press, 1910.

Cray, Graham. mission-shaped church. London: Church House Publishing, 2004

Cray, Graham and Ian Mobsby, eds. Fresh Expressions and the Kingdom of God. London: Press Norwich, 2012.

Croft, Steven and Ian Mobsby, eds. Ancient Faith, Future Mission: Fresh Expressions in the Sacramental Tradition. Norwich, England: Canterbury Press, 2009.

“Emerging church leader Brian McLaren on Lambeth, mission and reconciliation.” An interview with Christian Today on July 26, 2008. ( accessed February 11, 2014.

House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church. “Report of the State of the Church.” The Report to the 76th General Convention. 2009.

House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church. “Report of the State of the Church.” The Report to the 77th General Convention. 2012.

Huntington, William Reed. “American Catholicity.” Sermon, Trinity Church, Boston, MA, May 16, 1865. Transcribed by Wayne Kempton, Archivist and Historiographer of the Dicoese of New York.  Accessed August 15, 2013.

Huntington, William Reed. A National Church. New York: Scribner’s, 1898.

Huntington, William Reed. A Short History of the Book of Common Prayer; Together with Certain Papers Illustrative of Liturgical Revision. New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1893.

Huntington, William Reed. The Book Annexed: Its Critics and Its Prospects. New York, 1886.

Huntington, William Reed. The Church Idea: essays toward unity. New York: EP Dutton and Company, 1870.

Huntington, William Reed. The Four Theories of Visible Church Unity: An Address delivered at The Boston Session of the Church Congress, Friday, May 14, 1909. Transcribed by Wayne Kempton, Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2010.

Huntington, William Reed. The Peace of the Church. New York: Scribner’s, 1891.

Huntington, William Reed. The Permanent and the Variable Characteristics of the Prayer Book. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: Henry B. Ashmead, 1878.

Huntington, William Reed. Popular Misconceptions of the Episcopal Church. New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1891.

Huntington, William Reed. The Swift Ships. New York: A.G. Sherwood, 1901.

Huntington, William Reed. The Talisman of Unity. Thomas New York: Thomas Whittaker, 1899.

Huntington, William Reed. The Theocratic Republic: a sermon preached before the Twenty-Fifth National Conference of Charities and Correction in Grace Church, New York, Sunday, May 22, 1898.

Huntington, William Reed. Watch Words: “Brave Words and True”. New York: Knickerbokcer Press, 1909.

Huntington, William Reed. Whole Church: a Plea for the Four Temperments. New York: James Pott & Co., 1895.

The Journals of the General Convention 1870-1909.

McLaren, Brian. “Address to the 187th Commencement of the Protestant Episcopal Seminary in Virginia.” Sermon, Virginia Theological Seminary, Alexandria, VA, May 21, 2010.  Accessed June 21, 2013.

McLaren, Brian. “Address to the Diocese of Washington.” Sermon, The Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, Washington, DC, January 31, 2009.  Talty, Ann V., ed., Journal of the One Hundred Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the Convention of the Diocese of Washington (2009): 164-168.

McLaren, Brian D. A Generous Or+hodoxy: Why I am a missional, evangelical, post/Protestant, liberal/conservative, mystic/poetic, biblical, charismatic/contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, incarnational, depressed-yet-hopeful, emergent, unfinished Christian. El Cajon, California: Emergent YS, 2004.

McLaren, Brian D. Finding our Way Again: the Return of the Ancient Practices. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2008.

McLaren, Brian. “Changing Contexts: Breaking Open Our Models for Evangelism.” Lecture Notes and PowerPoint Slides, The 2008 Lambeth Conference, London, England, July 22, 2008.  Accessed August 14, 2013.

McLaren, Brian. “Foreword” to “Seizing the Episcopal Moment: A Manifesto of Hope for the Episcopal Church.” Karen Ward on Anglimergent (May 10, 2009 blog). Accessed August 14, 2013.

McLaren, Brian. “We Live in a Strange Time in Relation to the E-Word.” Sermon, The 76th General Convention, Anaheim, CA, July 16, 2009. Accessed August 14, 2013.

Memories of William Reed Huntington, Doctor of Divinity. Hartford, Connecticut: Church Mission Publishers, 1929.

Northup, Lesley Armstrong. The “1892 Revision” of the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church. Ph. D. Dissertation at Catholic Univeval, 1991.

Pagitt, Doug and Tony Jones, eds. An Emergent Manifesto of Hope. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2008.

Prichard, Robert. A History of the Episcopal Church, Revised Edition. Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 1999.

Sydnor, William. The Prayer Book Through the Ages: A Revised Edition of the Story of the Real Prayer Book. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Morehouse Publishing, 1978.

Schell, Donald and Karen Ward. “Seizing the Episcopal Moment: A Manifesto of Hope for the Episcopal Church.” Karen Ward on Anglimergent (May 10, 2009 blog). Accessed August 14, 2013.

Suter, John Wallace. Life and Letters of William Reed Huntington. New York: The Century Co., 1925.

Tickle, Phyllis. Emergence Christianity: What it is, Where it is Going and Why it Matters. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2012.

Tickle, Phyllis. The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books, 2008.

Woolverton, John Frederick. Willaim Reed Huntington and Church Unity: The Historical and Theological Background of the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral Ph. D. Dissertation at Columbia University, 1963.

[1] Huntington, The Church-Idea, 9.

[2] McLaren, “We Live in a Strange Time.”

[3] The full text of 2012-C095 is available here (accessed February 11, 2014).