The Rt. Rev. James Jelinek, interim rector of St. Paul’s Parish, K Street, since August 2013, has written about the parish entering a phase of discernment about women’s ordination to the priesthood and same-sex marriage.
Writing in the September issue of the congregation’s monthly newsletter, The Epistle [PDF], Jelinek referred to the discernment period as resulting from a survey of parishioners. The survey, conducted as St. Paul’s seeks its next rector, drew responses from 226 parishioners, according to the parish profile. The parish also convened nine discussion groups to determine what qualities the parish seeks in its next rector.
“The survey indicated that many parishioners want us to move forward expeditiously to conclusion with this discernment. In my view, it would be difficult for a new rector to achieve this in the first year of his tenure,” Bishop Jelinek wrote. “We have our spiritual work cut out for us, and I trust you are praying for the parish and our leadership.”
The parish profile [PDF] explains St. Paul’s historic practice and contrasts it with future practice:
We have a clear desire for more connection and dialogue with one another. We come from a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints, and in order to keep our focus on what unites us — the centrality of the Eucharist and our mission as the Body of Christ — we have tended to avoid addressing some critical issues, including the role of women clergy at St. Paul’s and the blessing of same-sex unions/marriages. During the current transition, we have begun to explore these questions. We seek a rector with the ability to facilitate dialogue on such matters as we discern the way forward to a vibrant future, one who can also help us build connections within our parish community and with others.
The parish has faced challenges as the Episcopal Church adopted new approaches to the ordination of women and the blessing of same-sex unions. Parish policy was laid out in two pastoral letters from the previous rector. Parishioners seeking same-sex blessings would be assisted in finding a parish that offers them. Women clergy other than the Diocesan Bishop would not take on sacramental responsibilities when visiting St. Paul’s. Parishioners hold a range of views on both matters and some, on both sides of these issues, have left as a result, but the congregation as a whole has sought to focus on what draws us here — our shared commitment to sacramental worship and Christ-like living.
Since the prior rector’s departure, we have begun a process of discernment on both issues. Women priests have served as Deacon at Solemn Mass, including proclaiming the Gospel, and Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde will be welcomed for her regular Episcopal visitation to St. Paul’s in October. We have also had a series of speakers addressing the issue of same-sex blessings/marriages from a variety of perspectives. We expect this process of discernment to continue under the leadership of the next rector.
Based on the questionnaires, the parish profile offered several percentages about the members of St. Paul’s:
- 60% male, 40% female
- Nearly 50% married
- Nearly 70% heterosexual, 30% gay men
- Over 80% have no children at home
- Nearly 50% over the age of 56; nearly 20% between are between 18 and 35
- 95% white
- Half the parish has attended St. Paul’s for 11 years or fewer, over 10% for 36 years or more
Image of the nave at St. Paul’s K Street by Stpaulkstreetphotos (own work). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.