Home > Liberal Mainline Protestantism > Episcopalian Priest Gives up Christianity for Lent (What Will Those Wacky Episcopalians Think of Next?)

Episcopalian Priest Gives up Christianity for Lent (What Will Those Wacky Episcopalians Think of Next?)

March 17th, 2011
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You probably thought Saint Louis was just another boring quasi-Southern/Midwestern city, boring and predictable. And you would be wrong! We are cool. We are hip. We are cutting edge, baby. And to prove it we even have our own local Episcopalian priest who is giving up Christianity for Lent! How awesome is that? Here’s the story, and here’s a snippet:

The Rev. Steve Lawler should have just given up chocolate or television for Lent. Instead, Lawler, of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Ferguson, decided to adopt the rituals of Islam for 40 days to gain a deeper understanding of the faith. On Friday, he faced being defrocked if he continued in those endeavors. “He can’t be both a Christian and a Muslim,” said Bishop George Wayne Smith of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri. “If he chooses to practice as Muslim, then he would, by default, give up his Christian identity and priesthood in the church.” Lawler, a part-time rector at the church, didn’t foresee such problems when he came up with the idea. He merely wanted to learn more about Islam, he said, especially in light of the ongoing congressional hearings on the radicalization of the faith On Wednesday, the first day of Lent, he began performing salah five times a day, by facing east, toward Mecca, and praying to Allah. He also started studying the Quran and following Islamic dietary restrictions by abstaining from alcohol, pork and fish. During Holy Week, he planned to fast from dawn to sunset as Muslims do during Ramadan. But in Smith’s eyes, the exercise amounts to “playing” at someone else’s religion and could be viewed as disrespectful.


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  1. Jen
    March 17th, 2011 at 10:05 | #1

    Stephen Colbert gave up Catholicism for Lent on his Ash Wednesday show. But, um, he was joking. He decided to be Jewish, but since he was still observing Lent, he gave up not eating bacon.

    I can’t believe anyone would do this seriously.

  2. March 17th, 2011 at 10:24 | #2

    … but will he be able to take it up again at Easter?

  3. March 17th, 2011 at 10:38 | #3

    Pr. McCain,

    Here’s another wacky, yet interesting, give-up-for-lent scheme involving emergent guru Tony Jones and uber-emergent speaker Pete Rollins. http://blog.tonyj.net/2011/03/i-challenge-peter-rollins-to-give-up-atheism-for-lent/

  4. Robert Wurst
    March 17th, 2011 at 10:47 | #4

    There is never a shortage of fools in the church.

  5. March 17th, 2011 at 12:02 | #5

    The article also stated that Rev. Lawler intended to hold “a series of informal public discussions at St. Stephen’s that will include a Muslim, an atheist, a spiritual-but-not-religious person and someone who ‘lives a full, moral life but has no spiritual or religious foundation at all.’”

    I wonder if Rev. Lawler plans to invite a Christian to speak at one of these discussions? That would certainly be a point of view the Episcopal Church is not used to hearing, and it might even broaden their minds.

  6. March 17th, 2011 at 12:47 | #6

    Under Sharia Law he is now a Muslim and subject to the penalty for apostasy if he claims to become a Christian again.

    • March 17th, 2011 at 13:13 | #7

      Yes, I was wondering the same thing. Though, if I’m not mistaken, to be a Muslim one must say in the presence of Muslim witnesses: “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet” so, perhaps, under that technicality, maybe he isn’t? I can however say that any good Muslim is no more pleased about this nonsense than any good Christian would be.

  7. Rev. Michael Penikis
    March 17th, 2011 at 15:14 | #8

    If the (ir)Rev. Lawler is defrocked, perhaps he could appeal his case directly to the Rt. Rev. Rowan Williams. After all, the Archbishop of Canterbury is the one who stated that, because Christians submit to Christ, and “Muslim” means “one who submits,” a good Christian could rightly say, “I am a Muslim” without contradiction.

    Bishop Smith makes an excellent point about “playing” at another’s religion. I can see application to discussions about closed communion and other fellowship issues, and to dealing with the teaching of Islam in public schools.

  8. Rev Steve Bliss
    March 17th, 2011 at 15:14 | #9

    This guy has clearly gone way off the deep-end. He’s clearly abandoned any notion that he might have ever held of being a shepherd. However, given the state of the Episcopal church I don’t think they have any grounds to say that he should be de-frocked; at least until they clean up some of their other messes. Is what he is doing any worse than their so-called “presiding bishop” Katherine Jefferts Schori going on national television and affirming universalism? As far as I am concerned, Episcopal church you made this mess now have to deal with it. You’re stuck with this guy.

  9. Andrea Frobel
    March 17th, 2011 at 16:31 | #10

    Given the fact that I have a recently pronounced Episcopalian in my family, I am not surprised by this. I have heard so many radical unbeliefs lately that I am appalled that my relative claims to be a Christian. His church is far removed from the true teachings of the Word after hearing some of the things that have come out of his mouth. They speak more of tolerance and less of the Christian faith than any other “church” I have heard lately. In the meantime, they are becoming less tolerant of conservative Christians and embracing other faiths.

  10. Rev. J Weatherell
    March 17th, 2011 at 17:25 | #11

    Recovering Lutheran :a Muslim, an atheist, a spiritual-but-not-religious person

    Sounds like the beginning of a bad joke.

  11. March 17th, 2011 at 19:48 | #12

    Yet more evidence of the spiritual sickness in liberal Anglicanism (not just throwing stones – I speak as an ex-Anglican who grieves over it). I will be very interested to see if this man is actually disciplined in any way by his bishop. Please consider posting news of any follow-up, Rev McCain.

  12. March 17th, 2011 at 20:04 | #13

    If he’s practicing Islam, he’s reciting the creed. I think if you recite it three times, that makes you a Muslim under Sharia, whether you meant it or not.

    Whatever the specifics, this is sad.

  13. Kurt Andrews
    March 17th, 2011 at 22:21 | #14

    Mr. Lawler’s thinking seems irrational to me. After reading the full article, his approach is one where he doesn’t take Islam seriously and ends up going through the rituals of something he doesn’t believe in for the season of Lent and thinks he can return to his “Christianity” when he’s done with his experiment. Does he actually think that pretending at Islam is really going to help him understand Muslims better. A man who identifies himself as a minister of the Gospel of Christ, endangers his imortal soul and spurns his wittness and cofession, for an idea that doesn’t even seem like it would accomplish his desired goal. That seems irrational to me.

  14. Terry Maher (Past Elder)
    March 18th, 2011 at 01:33 | #15

    When I’m not being Past Elder, I run a bleeding office and store, and have been a supervisor in other companies. This dude on the clock? Out here where the buses run, if you’re found at your work station kneeling on the floor with your arms crossed and staring at a book on the floor and it ain’t break you’re gonna get a) written up or b) referred to the EAP or c) both.

  15. Jack K
    March 18th, 2011 at 02:09 | #16

    How does one lead a congregation in the celebration of Jesus’ victorious resurrection after denying His suffering and death? Isn’t that what this man is doing by “giving up Christianity for Lent”?

    One question this story raises is: Does a man, once deemed to be qualified to be a pastor and therefore ordained as such forever remain qualified to be a pastor?

  16. Jonathan
    March 18th, 2011 at 07:42 | #17

    If he is practicing the tenets of Islam, the first of the five pillars is to confess the Shehada creed–”There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.”

    Saying that makes one a Muslim according to Islamic law. You can’t take it back. Otherwise, if you do try to “take it back” you are guilty of apostacy, and the penalty for it is death.

    Playing with another’s religion, indeed. It could be a deadly serious game.

  17. Karen Keil
    March 18th, 2011 at 10:36 | #18

    Reading this makes me wonder if Rev. Steve Lawler ever had a true personal relationship with Christ or a solid grounding in the Christian faith. No one who has real fellowship with Christ would want to explore a Christless religion.

  18. Rev Steve Bliss
    March 18th, 2011 at 17:55 | #19

    @Rev. Charles Lehmann

    Kind of like Beetlejuice!!

  19. March 18th, 2011 at 22:30 | #21

    The only thing worse than foolishness is poorly executed foolishness. If you are going to do something dumb, at least do the homework so you can execute it properly.

    That is the most “Anglicanized” salah posture that I have witnessed. Someone should tell him that he needs to be sitting back on his ankles instead of kneeling like a westerner. :P

    ….I don’t see any water in the picture either. So, he probably skipped that first step.

  20. March 19th, 2011 at 08:58 | #22

    @Rev Steve Bliss
    You’re my kind of scum. ;-)

Comments are closed.