Why we aren’t calling ourselves “Anglo-Catholic” these days

If you have known about Church of the Holy Trinity for awhile, you may have wondered why our tag-line calls us:

An inclusive parish celebrating the catholic traditions of the Episcopal Church

instead of “an inclusive Anglo-Catholic parish,” as it did for many years. The old version had the benefit of brevity, and perhaps even of elegance. For people in the know, that tag connected us with the liberal wing of the Anglo-Catholic Movement worldwide. It signaled that Church of the Holy Trinity was a place where homosexuals were welcome, as long as they didn’t have an asthma attack from all the incense.

The problem was what “Anglo-Catholic” seemed to mean for people who were not already in the know, which pretty much means everybody who is not already either a well-informed Episcopalian or somebody who went to seminary with Episcopalians. To the vast majority of people in our neighborhood, for example, “Anglo-Catholic” sounds like a Roman Catholic Church for whites-only. And, quite frankly, that’s not very inclusive.

So we took that label off our sign out front and changed our website, but we have a long way to go in rebuilding the neighborhood’s trust in our words of welcome. We are working to rebuild that trust bit by bit, in ways big and small. We have come to recognize that just opening the doors is not enough when you have a history of (seeming to be) turning people away.

I bring this up now, because of the current debate over the flying of the Confederate Battle Flag in public places. The argument has been made that people are not flying such flags as an expression of white supremacy but rather of pride in their heritage or respect for the soldiers who died defending their families and their comrades in arms. To that argument I reply that language and symbols are for communication. If a significant number of people are likely—in good faith—to mis-interpret what you are saying, then you had probably better find a different way of saying it. Maybe celebrating Southern hospitality by exercising it would be a good start, or working to defend the families around you from the depredations of poverty and violence.

Those are the kinds of things we are trying to do here at Holy Trinity, where the incense still rises along with our prayers.