Reader demand for “Welcome to the Episcopal Church” (Morehouse Publishing) by Christopher L. Webber with a foreword by The Most Reverend Frank T. Griswold III, former Presiding Bishop, has made the 1999 paperback scare in Albuquerque. Barnes and Noble stores no longer have a copy in stock, the library doesn’t have a copy, but the 2009 Kindle edition from Amazon remains a hot seller. Albuquerque’s Bookworks does indicate copies may still be available, as do several religious bookstores.
Interest in the book has increased as the internal spat about gay bishops, women bishops and declining membership nationwide drew wider public attention along with various scandals, including the current one involving the dean of the large Episcopal cathedral in Albuquerque. Members were reported deserting the cathedral for many of the other seven Episcopal churches in the city.
The book opens with an observation by the revered Presiding Bishop Griswold: “Being a religious person is not easy in our present society. All of us are pulled in many directions . . .” For Amazon the Rev. Mark E. Stanger of San Francisco reviewed, “Written in a rich but unfussy style.” That unfussiness ranks the opposite from the scandal in Albuquerque. The dean of the Cathedral Church of St. John, The Very Rev. Mark Goodman, has been the subject of an investigation by the regional bishop and the object of a complaint filed with the New Mexico State Attorney General and the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission (non-profit organizations, including churches, file reports with the commission, but the commission has no power to pursue wrong doing).
Much of discontent with Goodman stems from allegations made by the former cathedral accountant who resigned in February. The allegations were included in a broader Examiner story July 1, “Scandal adds to Episcopal woes as defections rise.” The story prompted an Albuquerque attorney to compile briefs as civil actions against Goodman were considered. Any member of the cathedral can file a civil suit against Goodman, according to the canons of the Episcopal Church. Elizabeth K. Korsmo, assistant attorney general in the charities unit of the state AG’s consumer protection division wrote that “I strongly recommend consulting a private attorney to discuss other remedies” after reviewing the complaint. She said that was because religious organizations are “entirely exempt” from the state’s Charitable Solicitations Act.
The book “Welcome to the Episcopal Church” seeks to bring understanding, a life-long calling of the author. As recently as Sunday July 29, Webber was in the pulpit at St. Paul’s Church, Bantam, Connecticut, with a sermon that included this observation, “The world is full of people who think they know it all, have all the answers, and the first step in becoming wise is recognizing how ignorant we are.” That simple wisdom is one reason “Welcome to the Episcopal Church” remains much in demand.
Readers turning to “Welcome to the Episcopal Church” report that it describes a religious experience just the opposite of that found under Mark Goodman’s direction of the Cathedral Church of St. John.