Sainthood

Becoming a saint was easy during the earliest days of Christianity when the New Testament was written. All one had to do was come to faith in God through his Son Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. That’s all it took. Become a Christian. Attend church and then you might get a letter from the Apostle Paul like the letter to the Ephesians which is written “to the saints who are in Ephesus and are faithful in Jesus Christ.”

The word “Saint” means “Holy One” and all Christians were viewed as “Holy Ones,” not through their own merits but because they were justified before God by their faith in Jesus. They were becoming holy (being “sanctified”) over time as they came to live more Christ-like lives. But even before they were acting Christ-like, they were already called saints. This is proven by Paul’s letters to “saints” with whom he then finds much to correct as he admonishes them. The above is about recognizing God’s action in making us imperfect people holy.

Episcopal Saints
In The Episcopal Church, the process of being recognized as a saint is different from that of the Roman Catholic Church, which is more widely reported on in the media. The full guidelines for Episcopal Saints are online here. The criteria for those recognized as saints are: heroic faith, love, goodness of life, joyousness, service to others for Christ’s sake, and devotion. They will further be already recognized by the faithful as saintly. And all of this should come with historic perspective that results from widespread recognition for two generations or fifty years or more. The stained glass window shown here is in St. Ignatius’ Chapel on St. Simons Island

The main test however comes through long-term local recognition, which is allowed before national recognition. And so the commemoration of “local saints” is not only permissible, but encouraged. To that end, our Bishop, Henry I. Louttit, Jr., created a calendar of nine Saints of the Diocese of Georgia which includes the more internationally known John and Charles Wesley who both served in Georgia. Three of those on our local list (John and Charles Wesley and Thomas Bray) are recognized by The Episcopal Church nationwide.

The Episcopal Church has kept a Calendar of Lesser Feasts and Fasts which lists the saints of the church (the Major Feasts being Feasts of our Lord including Christmas and Easter). In 2009, the General Convention passed a sweeping group of proposed additions in a new book, Holy Women, Holy Men. The Diocese of Georgia augments that list with our Saints of Georgia, as some other dioceses do with local saints. The readings selected point out some feature of the saints life. The sermons on these feasts are crafted to help us see the Gospel through the life of these people who followed Jesus faithfully in their own day. Over time, these church history lessons connected to scripture have a real power to show the interconnectedness of the Communion of Saints. We gather not to worship the saints. We gather to worship the same Lord they worshipped and to see through the life of another human, how we regular Christians can more fully follow Jesus.

The inclusion of persons on the church-wide calendar takes place at the General Convention of The Episcopal Church, the once every three years meeting of the national church. The General Convention voted unanimously for her inclusion in those found in A Great Cloud of Witnesses (the successor to Holy Women, Holy Men) at its 2015 meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, adding denomination-wide recognition of this Saint of Georgia. The Standing Committee on Liturgy and Music voted to recommend that the Episcopal Church add Deaconess Alexander to Lesser Feasts and Fasts. A vote on that larger recognition for this Saint of Georgia will come during the General Convention meeting in Austin, Texas, 5-13, 2018.