Values, Bible and Church
St. Paul's First Letter to the Thessalonians is considered to be the earliest New Testament writing, dated about 51 AD. "Thessalonica was the capital of the Roman province of Macedonia... The letter reflects the life of a congregation [founded by Paul] that was devoted to its faith and strongly aware of its separation from the society in which its members had until recently found their standards and values. At the same time it was also a community that was threatened by social pressures and at times outright persecution to turn back to the life from which they had come." [The New Oxford Annotated Bible, p. 291 NT]
Given the preceding comments on I Thessalonians, we might reflect on these questions: To what extent should every church, be "devoted to its faith and strongly aware of its separation from the society in which its members had ... found their standards and values?" To what extent are parishioners "threatened by social pressures and at times outright persecution to turn back to the life from which they had come?" In fact, have Episcopalians "come from" (set aside) values from surrounding society? Is the Church simply one more charitable institution or club to which one contributes? Is the Church a public utility with essentially the same standards and values as its surrounding culture? If there is continuity between the Church's values and standards and those of Town and County residents and associations, has society adopted the Word as its guiding principle, or has the Church surrendered to society? For example, is your congregation silent on its members (including clergy) participating in clubs that exclude people of color as well as Jews (and by implication, Jesus)? To what extent are various activities of the social scene compatible with the Gospel of Christ? What might be the content of St. Paul's First Letter to your church?