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Is Being an Ethical Episcopalian Enough?

Once a month I take my children to a food pantry to do volunteer work. On this particular Sunday we were stocking shelves with a group of Episcopalian Youth. I knew this because each of them was wearing an Episcopal shield lapel pin. Seeing these kids really lifted my spirits. Usually it’s adults who work in the food pantry and that can become pretty boring for my kids. Now they had the opportunity to work with students their own age.

While separating out cans from boxed goods, my son Drew entered into a very interesting conversation with a young man, Henry, who appeared to be about 16 years old. Drew and Henry became fast friends and worked together throughout the morning. When we were finished with our work, we got in the car and on the ride home, he started to share bits and pieces of his morning conversation with Henry.

“You know, Henry is not so sure if he believes in God,” my son informed me. This information kind of caught me off balance. “Isn’t Henry a member of the Episcopal Youth Group that came to volunteer at the food pantry?” I asked confused. “Yup, he said, “but that really has nothing to do with his volunteering. He does it because he thinks its the right way to do things, he says he does it because he feels it’s the right thing to do.

Now, I believe that part of being a good Episcopalian is being a good person, no question. But that’s not the whole ball of wax!

There are Christians who claim to be ethical people but who would not necessarily consider themselves to be “religious.” So my question is, what is their source for “goodness?” What does an ethical Episcopalian use as the litmus test for good, if not the scriptures? If goodness is defined by the individual, then it follows that morality can also be defined by the individual and that’s dangerous. That can lead us down that slippery slope where what “I” think becomes sacred.

Henrys’ discussion with my son ended up being a real opportunity for our family. It allowed us to explore our own concerns and perceptions on the importance of an ethical framework that’s God- based. Imagine how much infinitely deeper Henry’s acts of kindness would be if he were sensitized to not only the physical results of his being a good Samaritan, but the spiritual ramifications as well.

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