Many of you who read this and many won't will recognize the title of my blog. On twitter, a way to aggregate information is to put a # sign in front of it, called a hash tag. The Episcopal Church launched #episcopalianbeacuse a few months ago to tell the story of TEC, it's people and mission. They saw many topics and discussions and wanted to engage the Episcopal audience in an open-ended question with good results. This is ground up advertising: the people on twitter who are Episcopalian tweet that they are and why. All their followers get the message, and people who are searching for the hash tag can share the response if it resonates with their experience. And followers will see enough on their feed to consider going to an Episcopal Church. Rather than spending millions of dollars on ad campaigns, this is a way for people to share their stories.
Some have asked (and this isn't meant as a passive-aggressive rant directed at them; I'm just expounding on some of my thoughts, not throwing stones) why not #Christianbecause. A United Methodist mentor put it very succinctly when he said, "Because saying we are Christians doesn't identify how or with whom we live this out." I think I latched on to this so much because it's so right in my mind. Christian means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. I've been through three denominations. I'm very much a "company person." If I'm in a church I want to know why I'm in said church, what it believes collectively, what its polity is (how things should run), who all is there, what kinds of personal or mid-range group deviations there are (what kind of freedom exists within form, different interpretations of all our texts, Bible, BCP, Hymnal).
How We Live This Out. Saying that I'm a Christian doesn't tell people a lot about how I live my faith. It could immediately make them think of the Catholic diocese that contributed so much money to fighting LGBT marriage. They might think of "Jesus is My Friend." It could be a group whose congregational statement of beliefs starts with the importance of the innerancy of the Bible or a group whose Creed starts with "We believe in one God." There could be no mention of baptism or communion, or pages about them. The earthquake could've been the result of a pact with the devil or an unfortunate event that calls us to show love to our sisters and brothers without making any kind of judgmental statement.
Saying I'm an Episcopalian says that nine times out of ten the service will come from the Book of Common Prayer, wherever I am in the world, that there will be readings from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Epistles, and one of the Gospels. Even if the service isn't straight out of the Book of Common Prayer, we will gather together, hear the Word of God proclaimed, pray for the Church and for the World, exchange peace with one another, share in the Body and Blood of Christ, and be sent into the world to do the work Christ has given us to do. It says that we look at the Bible and read it with a sense of tradition and reason applied to it. It says that we aren't afraid to unpack all the metaphors in the text which actually make it richer, rather than detracting from it. It says that we believe that in baptism we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ's own forever. (BCP 308).
Identifying as Episcopalian gives me the freedom of not having to scramble for an answer to the question, "What do you believe about...?" Between the Catechism and the texts of our prayers that's answered. (What we pray, we believe). It says that I've promised to continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers; to persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever I fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord; to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving my neighbor as myself; to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.
With Whom We Live This Out. As Derek Webb points out on The House Show, "If you divorce the people of God, the local community, from the gospel, then it ceases to be the gospel. There is no other context for your faith as a Christian than to be in community with other people." By necessity we live our Christian lives in community. Saying I'm a Christian could mean that I go to a church that's mostly middle-class white people or of mostly African Americans or mostly LGBT people. Saying that one's non-denominational Christian church is "diverse" but only having white men as clergy and in any other leadership suggests otherwise without further explanation about what kind of diversity you embody.
Saying I'm an Episcopalian says that there are people who dance around the altar and people who do figure-eights so that the deacon and "sub-deacon" are on the correct sides of the presider as (usually) he moves around. That statement says that we have women, people of color, and people different sexual orientations in all four orders of ministry: laity, bishops, priests, and deacons. When I personally say "I'm an Episcopalian" it says that I live my Christian faith with people who know grace and show grace, striving to be in love and charity with all people. It says that we have congregations that meet outside in the Castro in San Francisco on Sunday evenings, in buildings enormous and historic like Washington National Cathedral all throughout the week, and that we have congregations that are made up entirely of prisoners that meet on Sunday mornings with a supply priest presiding for them.
I am a Christian. I worship a vulnerable child, a non-violent teacher, a crucified troublemaker from an occupied land. I worship the One who sent Jesus to us to live and die among us and reconcile us to God the Creator of us all. I worship the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life. Saying I'm a Christian and stopping there might imply those things (at least nominally). Saying I'm an Episcopalian says that the three parts of the trinity will be named many times through our prayers (almost all of them) and during our hymns. To me, saying I'm a Christian because is too general a statement. Saying I'm an Episcopalian says "I am a Christian whose tribe believes x, y, and z with lots of different kinds of people. And we welcome you.