One thing all the candidates for the presidency seems to agree on is the need for change. As an Episcopalian, that makes me nervous.

“How many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?’
“Change the light bulb? My grandmother gave that light bulb!”

Traditionally (the right word for it) Episcopalians have argued vehemently over the number of candles on the altar, the type of vestments to be worn, whether to call a priest “Father” or “Mister.” Many years ago I introduced an Offertory Procession in the parish I was serving. Nowadays most parishes have an Offertory Procession, but in those days two parishioners left. One because it was too High Church; the other because it was too Low Church. But the real problem was change.

“We’ve never done it that way,” used to be the decisive argument.

So if all the candidates are for change, who should an Episcopalian vote for?

What’s less clear than their commitment to change, of course, is what should be changed and how it should be done. Equally problematic is the question of whether the candidate once elected will change what he or she promised to change – or something else.

Most of us remember hearing George W. Bush say we needed a humbler foreign policy. That has certainly changed! Some of us remember how Richard Nixon, the crusader against communism, opened relationships with communist China. That was quite a change! Before my time, Herbert Hoover offered a chicken in every pot. But that’s not what happened.

Most of the Republican candidates this year seem committed to removing 4% of the population. That would be a change! Does anyone believe them?

Barack Obama’s web site offers “change we can believe in” – but requires you to provide your e-mail address to learn what that might be.

As an Episcopalian, I take a lot of convincing. Fortunately, the campaign has many months to go and the issues and candidates themselves are likely to change considerably in that time. Meanwhile I’d also like to hear about some things the candidates don’t plan to change – like the privacy guarantees of the Bill of Rights and America’s commitment to the Geneva Convention on torture and that verse on the Statue of Liberty promising opportunity to “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

We have an administration that has changed far too much of the basic promise of a free and open society. Could we hear something, please, about that?

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