Jesus saves, the Episcopal Church teaches, but a growing number of its clergy and leaders believe other faiths may lead to salvation as well. Long divided and distracted by questions of sexual ethics, the Episcopal Church (along with most mainline Protestant communities) are facing a cultural and theological shift towards religious pluralism—the belief that there are diverse paths to God.

The debate is not just academic. In two current cases, Episcopal clergy are under scrutiny for practicing and promoting other religions. On February 12 a devotee of Zen Buddhism was elected bishop of the Episcopal Church's Northern Michigan diocese. Meanwhile, a Seattle-area priest has been given until March 30 to decide whether she is a Muslim or a Christian as her bishop will not permit her to profess both faiths.

The Episcopal Church's problems with syncretism—the blending of belief systems—comes as no surprise to Wade Clark Roof, professor of Religious Studies at the University of California-Santa Barbara and a leading sociologist of religion. "Clearly there are people, including religious leaders, [who find] spiritual wisdom in faiths other than their own," he told Christianity Today.

This openness to other faiths is "in some respects good in an age of global religious diversity when tolerance and respect are essential to our peace if not our survival," he said. There is also something healthy about seeing "Christ in the face of the other," he said, quoting Thomas Merton. "It implies not just acceptance of the religious other, but something of the intrinsic similarities among people despite their differences."

But the spread of syncretism within mainstream Christianity is an even greater threat to the church than the 2003 ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

May
Subscribe to CT and get one year free.
Read These Next
Current IssueThe Greatest Threat to the Church Isn’t Islam—It’s Us
The Greatest Threat to the Church Isn’t Islam—It’s Us Subscriber Access Only
A leading Nigerian theologian believes the real danger to Christianity in Africa is in the church.
Current IssueA Shoplifter’s Search for God
A Shoplifter’s Search for God Subscriber Access Only
I equated material possessions with happiness, until a high-school mission trip changed my thinking.
RecommendedRussia Bans Jehovah’s Witnesses as Extremists
Russia Bans Jehovah’s Witnesses as Extremists
High court ruling puts pacifist faith in same category as terrorists.
TrendingForgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Forgiveness: Muslims Moved as Coptic Christians Do the Unimaginable
Amid ISIS attacks, faithful response inspires Egyptian society.
Editor's PickTogether for the Gospels: Unprecedented Unity Among Bible Translators Transforms Giving
Together for the Gospels: Unprecedented Unity Among Bible Translators Transforms Giving
Lessons learned from illumiNations initiative could transform giving to other causes.
Christianity Today
Muslim Priest and Buddhist Bishop-Elect Are ...
hide thisAccess The Archives

In the Archives

March 2009

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.