Welcome to the Diocese of the East
Greetings in His graces, Beloved of God
“Why is the church important?” I am certain if we were to ask that question on the streets of this land or even within the church itself, we might be surprised by the answers given.
Recently, a group of students in a journalism class at a Christian university initiated a group project by asking that very question to their fellow university students on campus. In their report, they captured the comment made by a recent disciple of Jesus Christ who converted from Islam. “I believe the church of Jesus Christ is the most important force in the world today. Its task is more important than all the governments and universities of the world combined. There is nothing to compare with it!
Because the most significant event in human history was when the living God took on human flesh and lived among us as the Lord Jesus Christ to bear our sins. And since He ascended into heaven, His church now reveals Him on earth, even as He revealed God when He was on earth.
So, the church is important because it reveals Christ, even as Christ reveals God in human flesh. I became a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ because members of a local body of believers took the Great Commission seriously!”
Why is the church (local, national, and universal) important? Because the Almighty God has left it here to reveal His Son to the world, even as the Lord Jesus Christ revealed God when He was on this earth. As the household of God, the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth, we are the current expression of the Lord Jesus Christ in the world until He comes.
Recently, I read this great illustration that seems a wee bit appropriate here about the Church and its Mission. The great composer, Gicomo Puccini, whose operas number among the world’s favorites, was stricken with cancer in 1922. But he was determined to write a final opera, “Turandot,” which some consider his best. His students implored him to rest, to save his strength, but he persisted, remarking at one point, “If I do not finish my music, my students will finish it.” In 1924, Puccini was taken to Brussels to be operated on. He died there two days after his surgery. But his students did finish his final work. In 1926, the gala premiere was held in Milan under the baton of Puccini’s favorite student, Arturo Toscanini. All went brilliantly that evening until they came to the point in the score where the master had been forced to put down his pen. Toscanini, his face wet with tears, stopped the production, put down his baton, turned to the audience and cried out, “Thus far the master wrote, but he died!” After a few moments, his face now wreathed in a smile, Toscanini picked up his baton and cried out again, “But his disciples finished his work!”
Our Lord and Master died, was raised from the dead, and ascended to the Heavenly Father, leaving us the most important task in the world: to the finishing of His work, to proclaim His great salvation among the nations. To do it, each one of us must commit ourselves to a living relationship with the living God. We must commit ourselves to one another as members of God’s household. We must commit ourselves to know, live by, and defend God’s Word of Truth. As we move forward in this post-pandemic world as His Church, we have experienced some new things both good and bad. We are beginning to encounter new types of opposition both internally and externally.
Based upon current research, church attendance on Sundays is approximately 40-50% of pre-Covid-19 timeframe. Digital ministry has assisted in our mission but a passivity and complacency has found a home within the church. As you know, church attendance pre-Covid-19 has been in a steady decline. Casual comfortable Christianity has replaced active commitment Christianity.
In all of this new environment, we His Church are called to remain on the mission of the Great Commission.
I completely understand from personal parish experience that tithing and giving has also been dramatically impacted by the current situation. Giving has been reduced but ministry expenses remain. Sometimes our stewardship has taken a backseat to other priorities.
My encouragement to the parishes comprising the Episcopal Missionary Church is to please in your consideration of current budgetary realities to remember tithing to your individual dioceses.
As the Episcopal Missionary Church (national church) we are attempting a number of initiatives that will enhance our Kingdom of God activities such as the reconstruction of our website/webpage, development of an EMC specific catechism resource, development of a CPE capability for our clergy, and a continuing education component for our clergy as well (Scottish brogue: astweel). It is the desire of the Episcopal Missionary Church not only to be involved in “Come and See” evangelism but also fulfill the admonitions of St. Paul in Ephesians 4:11-16: “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. 15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”
"Rejoicing with a joy inexpressible and full of His Glory!"
†Rt. Rev. Dr. Vince McLaughlin, Th.D., D.Litt. Ph.D.
Presiding Bishop & Bishop, Diocese of the East
Episcopal Missionary Church
159 Emperor Dr.
Lake Frederick, VA 22630