Posted by: Titus Presler | May 10, 2021

Article on Episcopalians’ evangelism hesitancy is published by Living Church

I’m happy to report that my article, ‘Evangelism? Tackling the Roots of Episcopalians’ Reluctance,’ was published by The Living Church on its Covenant weblog on April 12.  Here’s the link.

Late addition: The Congregation of St. Saviour at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City has invited me to a conversation about the article during their coffee hour on Pentecost, May 23, at noon, and Vicar Steven Lee has said that people from beyond the Cathedral are welcome!  So feel free to join the St. Saviour folks on Zoom at this link.   

The article contrasts the joyful zeal of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, who has made evangelism a centerpiece of his leadership, with the continuing undertow of hesitancy, even aversion, that many Episcopalians have about saying anything verbally about their faith outside the confines of their church walls. 

The essay identifies and critiques nine key elements of that hesitancy, declaring that reluctance about verbal proclamation is:

            • linguistically nonsensical,

            • historically amnesiac,

            • genealogically disrespectful,

            • liturgically inconsistent,

            • cognitively incoherent,

            • culturally conformist,

            • ecclesially establishmentarian,

            • inter-religiously isolationist and

            • missionally incomplete.

Obviously this critique is provocative, and I hope it stimulates vigorous discussion. 

The one revision I would make is in the third critique.  True, dismissing the verbal witness that brought many of our forebears to faith and that they in turn offered to others is genealogically disrespectful.  More important from an ethical standpoint, it is generationally ungrateful.  One can understand how someone brought up in the faith but who then discards it in favor of atheism would dismiss the witness of his/her parents, grandparents or great-grandparents.  But if one is a believing Christian, discounting the witness of the previous generations from whom one inherited the faith is simply ungrateful.  None of us wants to be an ingrate, do we? We should be thankful that our forebears handed the faith on to us.

The essay arose out of a talk I was asked to give on the promise in the Baptismal Covenant – ‘Will you proclaim by word and example the good news of God in Christ?’ – at St. John’s Church in McLean, Virginia, at the invitation of then rector Ed Miller.  I’ve continued to mull and elaborate the issues in my role as convener of Green Mountain Witness, the evangelism initiative of the Diocese of Vermont.


  1. Thanks, Dana. For others, Dana Robert has since 1984 been the Truman Collins Professor of World Christianity and History of Mission at Boston University, where she is the director of the Center for Global Christianity and Mission. In her lecture inaugurating the Henry & Marion Presler Annual Lecture on Christian Mission at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in 2005 she talked about how evangelism is the heart of Christian mission.

  2. This is a fantastic article, Titus. Much appreciated.

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