The Irony of American Episcopal History
This chapter is a narrative and reflection on the aftermath of the “Episcopal project” after cataclysmic shifts in American society brought it largely to an end. The Great Depression put a severe crimp in building campaigns, while the New Deal—under the aegis of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an Episcopalian—shifted to the government much of the responsibility for social change and relief. During the middle decades of the twentieth century, much of the cultural energy emanating from Episcopalians of the Progressive Era was eclipsed by their growing identification with the stereotypes of “WASPs,” “preppies,” and the “East Coast Establishment.” By the 1960s, the Episcopal Church was transformed by an era of conflict both within itself and within the larger society. The notion of a church that serves the nation as an informal religious establishment, however, vanished in the vortex of civil rights, women’s ordination, liturgical reform, and the challenges both of secularism and the Religious Right.
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