Encountering God in the sacraments…

…and becoming agents of God’s Love

When the Church of England began ordaining women in the 1994 many of the Church’s historic devotional societies came out in opposition to the ordination of women. That same year, in the Diocese of Southwark in London, a group of Anglican clergy founded a new devotional society committed to honoring and valuing all people who are called to ordination the church, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. In 1994, the Society of Catholic Priests was founded. Today the SCP has hundreds of members throughout the Anglican Communion, in Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the United States, and Australia.

Last week I traveled to Chicago for the Annual Conference of the SCP where I was inducted as a member. Several people asked about the bright red SCP lapel pin I wore on Sunday, and when I explained the pin to be the insignia of the Society of Catholic Priests, you can imagine many more questions followed. The SCP is a catholic society, but not Roman Catholic. It is a Society committed to advancing the sacramental practices which are part of our heritage as Episcopalians. Just as we recite our belief in “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church” in the Creed, so we also claim a sacramental and theological connection to the historic Church of the Apostles, to the One Universal (Catholic) Church, which is the Body of Christ.

Membership in the SCP is made up of clergy, seminarians, and professed religious who believe that the churches of the Anglican Communion are part of the one holy and catholic and apostolic church; embrace as colleagues all those admitted to Holy Orders regardless of gender, ethnic background, or sexual orientation; believe in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist; embrace the sacramental life of the Church as means of God’s grace; and keep the Rule of Life of the Society. You can read more about the Society at www.thescp.org.

The Annual Conference in Chicago was both educational and inspiring. Attendees heard from bishops throughout the Church, such as the Right Reverend Melissa Skelton, Bishop of New Westminster in the Anglican Church of Canada. Bishop Skelton spoke eloquently of the need for “catholic evangelism” in our day: “The Church is a place where we encounter a God of unfathomable beauty, mystery, and love, and where, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the divine life is mediated to us through the sacraments. The Church is the place that equips us and inspires us to be the Body of Christ. Because God’s idea of beauty is justice.”
The heart of the catholic movement in the Episcopal Church is never simply about incense or vestments, but about the sacraments and worship of the Church pointing beyond our doors, inspiring us to go beyond the threshold of the church, to become Christ’s Body for the world. It is about encountering God in the beauty of worship and then becoming agents of justice so we might advance God’s mission in the world.

I am grateful to St. Peter’s for continuing education opportunities which allow clergy and staff to participate in such conferences. Above all, I am grateful for our shared life of worship, music, and outreach: where we gather for beautifully inspiring worship, encounter God’s grace in the sacraments, and are sent out into the world to be agents of God’s kingdom and love.

The Reverend Jacob Pierce, SCP, Associate Rector