On Saturday, I mentioned the election of Andrew Dietsche as the next Episcopal bishop of New York, over first-runner-up Tracey Lind, dean of the Episcopal cathedral in Cleveland. A conservative Episcopalian NRO reader from Cleveland sent me this enlightening comment:
I happen to be a member of Trinity Cathedral parish in Cleveland. In my opinion, that Dean Lind was not selected to be Bishop of New York is good news for both Trinity and the Church as a whole.
As to the latter, her election would likely have triggered another outcry, such as we experienced with Bishop Robinson, with more schism and more parishes leaving the church.
As to the former, her mission at Trinity has been truly remarkable. The cathedral (with its pews removed by the prior dean) has become a true community gathering place, with free concerts, a tremendous mission for the homeless and hungry, many community events, and a growing congregation (which is so rare these days). For the most part, Tracey’s sermons are free of political commentary, and focus on faith. She has hosted the usual liberal groups from time to time (ACORN comes to mind), and brings in the expected parade of liberal speakers, but given the success of the mission I look the other way, and you get this in just about every Episcopal church nowadays anyway. . . .
At the end of the day, she is doing the things that Christians are supposed to do, with vigor, joy, and compassion. Trinity is an interesting blend of traditional, blue-blood Episcopalians (it was built with Old Money from the Cleveland industrial giants such as the Mathers of steamship company fame), gays of both sexes, and everything in between. It therefore reaches out, and appeals, to an eclectic group of people, and everybody gets along.
It has been said that a church that stands for everything stands for nothing, and I think whoever said that may have been talking about us, but in the case of Trinity Cathedral I don’t believe that is true. We have to acknowledge the reality that the Church is not the same as it was even twenty-five years ago (let alone fifty years, when almost every Episcopalian was a Republican), and to choose whether to remain part of it nevertheless or move on. For me, there is nowhere else to go.
I find this quite encouraging, especially the part about the largely nonpolitical character of Reverend Lind’s sermons. Political issues and the passions surrounding them come and go, and the Episcopal Church — like any other religious group — will either thrive or wilt spiritually based on the level of spiritual nourishment it gives its adherents. (The very idea of politics in the pulpit always brings to my mind the poor fellow who goes to First Presbyterian, and hears the pastor thundering about how Almighty God demands that we cease our iniquitous, arrogant, imperialistic war against the defenseless children we are so mercilessly bombing in Iraq; and then he goes across the street to Good Shepherd Baptist, only to hear the pastor there thundering just as vociferously about how the poor oppressed Iraqis are being slaughtered by the regime of Saddam Hussein, and about how Almighty God demands that we not pass them by like the evil Pharisees, but go to their defense like the Good Samaritan . . . So our poor fellow shakes his head sadly: “Gosh, it sure sounds like Almighty God is a little confused in His political thinking.” When in fact it’s not precisely a question of Almighty God, but more a question of a couple of guys in robes who have read an op-ed or two and love to hear the sound of their own voices.)
And it’s encouraging that even in a largely liberal denomination, people realize that they don’t need to go to church for politics, and that they do need the church for other reasons. If all you’re looking for is Glenn Beck or Keith Olbermann, you should sleep in on Sunday morning and feast to your heart’s content on all the political material on TV and the Internet. But if you’re looking for a living connection 1) with other people who are 2) on the path to God, church has something real to offer you.
So Tracey Lind, who will not be the bishop of New York, is doing some good work in Cleveland. And it’s the kind of work that, unlike some of her acts of liberal political advocacy, will bear fruit that lasts beyond our age.