Posted by: Titus Presler | July 14, 2009

Episcopalese and the Convocation in Europe

Resolution B015 highlights a problem that’s genuinely hard to solve.  The Convocation of American Churches in Europe wishes to have the Constitution of the Episcopal Church amended to change its name to the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe.  The convocation’s shift from chaplaincy to mission in Europe has succeeded to the point that parish memberships are genuinely international, with parishioners coming from the countries where the parishes are located — now with the BCP in those languages — and from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Oceania as well as from the USA.  Thus American Churches in Europe seems a misnomer in implying that these are congregations primarily of USAmerican expatriates.  Such an impression hampers the convocation’s mission outreach, hence the urgency for a name change.

Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe seems initially to be an unobjectionable alternative.  But it runs into the problem that Episcopal is a name far from unique to the USAmerican expression of Anglicanism, so the issue can ruffle inter-Anglican relations (again!).  It highlights our church’s legacies around mission and power, and our efforts to overcome those legacies.

The current shift within our church from the Protestant Episcopal Church in the USA (PECUSA) and the Episcopal Church in the USA (ECUSA) to The Episcopal Church (TEC) is prompted at least partly by recognition that we are an international church (not “the national church”) with 10 non-USA jurisdictions.  TEC honors the fact that Colombia, Dominican Republic, the two dioceses in Ecuador, the European Convocation, Haiti, Honduras, Puerto Rico, Taiwan, and Venezuela are full member dioceses of the church – not peripheral or transitional.  So that name change is an effort to overcome USAmerican hegemony in the church, and it has missional benefit.

Similarly, the convocation’s proposed name change is an effort to overcome USAmerican hegemony in the congregations of “TEC” in Europe, some of which were founded as enclaves for privileged USAmericans living in Europe.  Yet our claim to be “The Episcopal Church,” with no geographical modifier, has the potential of appearing insensitive to other Anglican provinces that use the term “Episcopal” in their names: the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, the Episcopal Church in the Philippines, L’Église Episcopal au Rwanda, the Scottish Episcopal Church – from whose bishops we gained the episcopate! – the Episcopal Church of Sudan, and the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain.  Unfortunately, two of these – Scotland and Spain – are in Europe itself, so that “Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe” appears to appropriate to ourselves alone a name long used by two others in Europe.

The irony is that in seeking to overcome USAmerican hegemony with one set of audiences, we risk appearing hegemonic to another set of audiences.  The World Mission Legislative Committee wrestled with this awhile and then decided to endorse the proposed name change, not because it’s perfect, but because the convocation struggled long with these very issues and the proposed name seemed best to them.  We may need to beg the indulgence of European colleagues and others, and they may indeed offer it for the sake of the convocation’s mission concern.  Meanwhile, we all need simply to be aware of these issues and be sensitive with our self-naming around the communion.  And keep thinking about our name problem!

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Responses

  1. Great site, I now have you bookmarked to come back again.

    • Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate your appreciation! Titus


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