This column by ACRU Senior Legal Analyst Ken Klukowski was published September 8, 2011 on The Washington Examiner website.
In addition to Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s barring clergy and prayer from the 10-year 9/11 memorial service in New York, another sad incident is playing out in our nation’s capital. Religious leaders representing half of the American people are being excluded from a memorial service originally scheduled for the National Cathedral.
The National Cathedral is a familiar sight to those who live around Washington. This massive structure sits atop a ridge in northwestern D.C. Its beautiful architecture is visible for miles on the Virginia side of the Potomac.
The National Cathedral is an Episcopal church, which is part of the worldwide Anglican Communion (the Church of England).
Days after 9/11 a nationally televised memorial service was held at the National Cathedral, at which President George W. Bush spoke. On the 10th anniversary of the attacks another service is being held, at which President Obama will speak.
So the dean of the cathedral — an Episcopalian priest — is inviting selected religious speakers. They include another Episcopalian, a Jewish rabbi, a Muslim imam, as well as Hindu and Buddhist leaders.
Collectively, this broad array of diverse clergy represents … around 6 percent of the U.S. population. So much for inclusiveness.
No other leaders of any part of Christendom are involved. These two Episcopalian priests claim to represent all Christians.
Not by a long shot.
In recent decades the Episcopal Church has increasingly become a liberal denomination, not only in its theology but also in its politics. Its theology might even be acceptable to the New York Times‘ Bill Keller, as many of the denomination’s clergy and theologians now openly reject the authority or reliability of the Bible, and various other core doctrines of historical Christianity.
It’s also currently splitting into two denominations. When Gene Robinson, an Episcopal priest in New Hampshire, divorced his wife (with whom he had children) for a same-sex relationship with another man the Episcopal Church promoted him to the rank of bishop. That was the last straw for many Episcopalians.
Consequently it is a denomination in decline. Reportedly there are now only 2 million Episcopalians in the country, and, as more conservative members either leave for new churches or seek to establish their own separate denomination, those numbers will continue dropping.
Their politics also tilt heavily to the left. Beyond the typical social issues, in recent years some Episcopal leaders have taken stands against the Iraq war and tough national security policies, while supporting big-government entitlements like Obamacare.
In terms of numbers, by contrast there are 80 million evangelicals in America. The largest evangelical denomination is the Southern Baptist Convention, with 16 million members nationwide. The Southern Baptists were not invited to participate.
Evangelicals may be denigrated by urban elites (of both political parties — especially if they run for president), but hundreds of thousands of vibrant evangelical churches are prospering. Evidently the Episcopal leaders of the National Cathedral will have none of that.
This is not just about evangelicals, however. There are almost 70 million Roman Catholics in this country. Yet I don’t see any Roman Catholics on the roster, only two Episcopalians claiming to represent 230 Americans who call themselves Christians.
Leaders of these 150 million Americans — half of the country — are not included. And a solid majority of them — especially evangelicals — strenuously object to the assertion that these Episcopal leaders represent their beliefs.
It is a sad commentary that in a memorial service for the entire nation remembering a day that brought us all together, some leftist religious leaders have decided that half of the country is not welcome.