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Queering Episcopal High

Prestigious Protestant school celebrates High Holy Day Of Post-Christian America
Per Bengtsson/Shutterstock

The administration of prestigious Episcopal High School in Baton Rouge sent this e-mail out this week to the school community:

Hi everyone, This week, we will be doing our “Breaking the Silence” week. Last year, we had a successful Day of Silence, and the GSA is very excited to have another one this year! The Day of Silence is a day in which students and some faculty members from schools and organizations from across the nation take a vow of silence (they don’t talk during free periods) to symbolize the silencing effect of homophobic and transphobic bullying.

Though the actual national date is April 21, 2017, we will be participating in it this Friday. In addition to the DoS, we will also be giving you all multiple opportunities to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community. See below for the times, locations, and other details regarding Thursday and Friday’s special activities. Also, please don’t forget to submit your writing about experiences regarding the LGBTQ+ community to [email address]! We would love to see your writing or artwork! If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to ask me, [name redacted], or [name redacted]! Thank you all for your support!

Thursday, April 6 Friday, April 7 Tutorial (1:00 to 1:25): “Sex, Gender, and Sexuality: The Basics” – Optional Don’t know the difference between sex and gender? Confused about where sexuality fits into the mix? Curious about what it means to be trans-gendered? Intersex? On Thursday, April 6 during morning tutorial, [name redacted] will host an interactive workshop designed to give basic information and answer questions you might have. The workshop will take place in her classroom. All are welcome.

Our Day of Silence! All Day: During your free periods, remain silent. By taking a vow of silence, you are symbolizing the silencing effect of homophobic and transphobic bullying! Chapel (9:45 to 10:15ish): Chapeltalk by [name redacted] Immediately after, we will distribute special keepsakes that signify your allyship but will help you remember to be an “ally” for the future!

What is the faith life like here? The Spirituality page of this school informs us:

Episcopal schools are intentionally diverse communities. So, here at Episcopal we come together at different times, in various locations, and in many ways to encourage all of our students to dig deep into their individual faith and develop a sense of their own spirituality, all while helping them to develop a love for both God and their neighbor.

You can see it clearly as students express themselves through service learning, sharing their time and talent with the greater community.  You can hear it in Lower School morning meeting as children raise their voices in song.  It is the core of our school’s identity and what separates us from other education options in Baton Rouge. We invite you to experience the difference.

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism to the fingertips. If you look around the school’s website, it’s plain that it conceives of its mission as being a college prep school for the upper and upper middle classes. Standard Christian mission and identify is only incidental to that worldly goal. Which is fine, I suppose, if that’s what you see your role in life as being. But let’s not confuse that with being meaningfully Christian.

This puts me in mind of the Rev. Dr. Gavin Ashenden, one of the top clerics of the Church of England, who was forced out of his job as Chaplain to the Queen when he forcefully objected to the reading of the Quran in an Anglican cathedral. When asked how faithful Christians should respond to liberal hegemony within their own churches and institutions, Dr. Ashenden said, “Leave their church and look for one that has kept as much of the historic, apostolic and biblical values as possible.”

Shortly thereafter, he left the Anglican Church, telling the organization Christian Concern that he could no longer serve in a church that had contented itself with being “chaplain to a secular and hedonistic nation.”

“Rather than being a permanent irritant in a secular church that’s determined to continue to repudiate what we have in the gospels,” Ashenden said, “[I] would rather play a more constructive and creating role in bringing the love of God in Christ to people who are willing to listen.”

This is all useful information. As with Christian churches that have effectively abandoned the faith, so too with Christian schools. It’s a time of sorting. It’s a time to stop pretending that many Christian schools are anything other than vaguely spiritual educators to a secular and hedonistic nation.