Sunday, April 22, 2018

Barbara Bush and Christian Culture

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People celebrating the life of Former U.S. First Lady Barbara Bush referred to her as classy and down to earth—a difficult combination for many to portray. Many celebrants also noted her faith. Barbara Bush was a Christian. And her funeral service was held in her local church—St. Martin’s Episcopal Church of Houston, Texas. The NY Times referred to the church as her “spiritual home.”

The relevance of her story to Christian Culture is her contribution to helping people connect to others while respecting diversity. Outsiders may not realize the incredible diversity that exists amongst those who claim an identity as Christian.

Mrs. Bush' story is also relevant because of the widespread respect she has received from people linked to conservative and liberal religious and political groups.

Not surprisingly, some Christians do not consider other groups as Christian. In the book, A House Divided: Sexuality, Morality, and Christian Cultures, I make a point of describing some of the commonalities of Christians reflected in the early creeds as well as noting some beliefs that set the faithful apart as members of various subgroups.

The Episcopal Church traces its origins to the second century when Christianity arrived in England. The Church of England was established in British North America during colonization and became the Episcopal Church following independence. Today Episcopalians are part of the worldwide Anglican Communion. Although often associated with Protestants—likely because they are not Catholic—Anglicans are not necessarily tied to the doctrinal protest movement of leaders like Martin Luther.

A glance at the official statements of beliefs confirms what one would expect from a group identified as Christian. But amongst protestants, Episcopalians are considered part of the mainline Christian groups and not a part of the Evangelical groups. Evangelicals, especially those holding fundamentalist perspectives, consider Episcopalians as “liberals” largely based on their social values. (Relevance: A House Divided Chapter 1).


Episcopalians differ from other Christian Cultures in ways relevant to several chapters in A House Divided.


Women may have a prominent role as clergy and as bishops. This sets them apart from Catholics where only men are priests and from various Evangelical groups, which hold to a traditional interpretation of the biblical texts that excludes women from church leadership. One unusual finding is the ordination of women in some Pentecostal groups such as the Assemblies of God—a group, which is a part of the National Association of Evangelicals. 

Barbara Bush was known as a wife, mother, and grandmother yet she supported women’s rights—as one article reports, her views on women were “complicated” (USA Today, 2018). (Relevance: A House Divided Chapter 10).


Episcopalians welcome those who identify as LGBT as children of God. They have an explicitly inclusive position. Clergy may identify as LGBT. And marriage is not limited to a man and a woman. For Barbara Bush’s compassionate view, see The Atlantic article (2018). (Relevance: A House Divided Chapter 9).


Following the #metoo movement, the House of Bishops met to begin a process of working to change the culture of the church with respect to the important concerns of those who have been harmed by sexual harassment and sexual violence. (Relevance: A House Divided Chapter 11).


The Episcopal Church views human life as sacred from conception to death. The church supports a woman’s right to an abortion with specific limitations (Church archives). 

Barbara Bush wrote “I hate abortion” but also believed abortion should not be a political platform issue (Slate, 2018). (Relevance: A House Divided Chapter 7).

Discussions of A House Divided have been well-received in conservative and liberal settings--in churches, universities, and a seminary.  The book is free to professors as an exam copy from PICKWICK. The publisher - PICKWICK- also offers group discounts.

A low cost Discussion Guide can be found on AMAZON.

Buy as an eBook on AMAZON and at other bookstores.


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Twitter  @GeoffWSutton 

Website: Geoff W. Sutton

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