Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Low expectations

Yesterday, I was working on a healthcare feasibility study questionnaire for the Church Pension Fund. This was sent out to everyone under the Episcopal Church's penion fund program--church employees such as musicians, secretaries, Christian education directors, chaplains, youth ministers, and of course clergy and bishops. I could not help but feel discouraged on the first page. The third question was:

3. Tell us about your healthcare coverage: (Select all that apply. For example, indicate if you are covered by both the Church and by another healthcare plan such as your spouse's/partner's plan).

Now I'm sure that the questionnaire was pretty much a standard format--the same for any corporation that needs to do this kind of study, and it was conducted by a company which specializes in these kinds of things. But these kinds of things are also necessarily tailored for the group being surveyed. Something tells me this question was not worded the same way when surveying a Baptist or Catholic or Methodist or Lutheran group, etc.

The question tells me right off the bat that in the Episcopal Church (except in isolated pockets like the diocese of Fort Worth), there is absolutely no expectation that church leaders, even the clergy who are called to be "wholesome examples to the flock," are supposed to live chaste lives.

It's not like this is any big secret, of course, but it a reminder of how discouraging it is when I'm working with couples to be married or talking with youth about the importance of chastity and not living together outside marriage, and yet the church which nurtured and ordained me has no expectation that I should strive toward same holiness in this one aspect of life.

The epistle reading for next Sunday is very fitting reminder about the vocation of Christian discipleship.

Colossians 3:2-10
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory. Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry). On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient. These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life. But now you must get rid of all such things—anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have stripped off the old self with its practices and have clothed yourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator.

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