Becoming Episcopalian: my journey

My faith journey is taking me on a path I never thought I'd ever take. I was (and still am) very Catholic, but for a variety of reasons, I felt like I could no longer be part of the Roman Catholic Church. I will delve more into the reasons as I write, but yes, one of the reasons has to do with the quite baffling outrage on part of the bishops regarding the "contraception mandate." I had been publicly disagreeing with a few things on my Facebook, questioning the soundness of some of the Church's moral theology.  I am not the first, nor am I the only one to publicly call out the bishops' idiocy and point out the political maneuverings behind some of these decisions.

I know many Catholics are in a similar situation. Quite frankly, the vast majority of dissenters are silent, or at least shouted down by the vociferous minority. Some people are able to just roll their eyes and continue being Catholic, despite being at odds with some of the theology.  I tried to do this, but I couldn't sustain it. I just could not consciously say I'm Catholic and and yet dissent, even if I do believe the Church is wrong. It just seemed...hypocritical, maybe. I don't know what word best describes it.  Quite simply, there was no room for me if I wanted to keep on growing spiritually and intellectually.

As a result, I'm joining the Episcopal Church.

Even after I am officially received at the Easter Vigil, I will continually become Episcopalian, in the same way I was continually becoming Christian, or becoming Catholic. I'm saying "becoming" because it's always an ongoing process to grow and maintain one's faith. One has to keep moving forward, or else fall behind. And it is my becoming a better Christian and a better Catholic that led me to the Episcopal Church. I'm not saying the Episcopal Church is the best form of Christianity.  I do know it's the best for me. That's the difference. I do disagree with a few things--for example, I'm not too sure about ecclesiastical recognition of gay marriage. Government? Absolutely! Church? I'm not sure.

You know what the best part is, though? I can say that and not feel like I'm a leper in my own faith. It's said that whatever you believe, there's at least two or three other Episcopalians who also believe the same thing. And the Episcopal Church is quite welcoming of dissenting views. It makes the fabric of the faith far more interesting and alive.

How can a church grow if its members don't ask questions? How can the members grow if they don't listen to dissenters, or question certain beliefs?

Or is that a librarian-ish thing to say?

Back to my point. Why am I writing about this? I know that I'm not the only Catholic who has become disaffected with the hierarchy in the Roman Catholic Church. I know I'm not the only one who has become frustrated with the Church's sharp right turn toward becoming even more conservative. I know I'm not the only one frustrated by cardinals who compare the Pride Parade to a KKK rally.

I'm writing this for other people who are also frustrated. For people who wonder why some Catholics leave the Church. For the Catholics who have, are going to, or are thinking about swimming the Thames. (Or joining any other denomination, for that matter.)

I'm also writing for me, to sort out my thoughts and to chronicle my journey.

Filed under: Becoming Episcopalian

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  • I admire your honesty and your search for spiritual truth is admirable. Liberal Catholics have good reason to be disheartened by the narrowed-minded hardliners in the hierarchy of the Church. They don't speak for the majority of the faithful who recognize how incompatible their pronouncements are with the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Hi Aquinas--I've seen you comment around on ChicagoNow, and I must say I love your username.

    It's funny, I'm not sure I would describe myself as "liberal," but I know I certainly seem liberal compared to the hierarchy of the Church and the vociferous minority. Much of what the Catholic Church does is good, but yes, there are definitely a few pronouncements and reactions on part of the Church that I definitely don't recognize.

    Especially the whole "religious freedom" bit in the contraception debate--the bishops' reactions are counter to how Jesus or the Apostles approached the boundary between church and state. It definitely ignores traditional theology about indirect contribution to "evil." I can't think of the name of it at the moment...but that will definitely be one of my posts in the future.

  • Holly,

    I am so very happy that you created this blog to chronicle your journey to the Episcopal Church. I too left the church, but mostly because as a gay male I was sick and tired of being regulated to second class membership in the church. I refuse to believe I am a "mortal sinner"...sorry that just doesn't jive with me. I am in a loving, committed relationship and the hierarchy's institutionalized homophobia was just over the top!

    I must say that I have never officially joined the Episcopal Church, however, after much prayer I too have felt the call to "swim the Thames" as you put it. I have attended the Episcopal Church for over 7 years, and I have JUST began talks with my parish priest to be received "officially" into the Episcopal Church as well.

    God bless you on your journey, and welcome to the Episcopal Church! It's a big tent church, and you're very correct many, many, many different and wonderful points of view.

    God bless you on your journey!

  • In reply to codyblr:

    Hi Cody,

    Thanks for your kind words! I look forward to writing more about the journey. I agree, there is pretty bad homophobia in the church--something I never really understood. (Seriously, Cardinal George? KKK?) And lately, the whole contraceptive issue has taken on a similar tone, making women feel even more second-class--even if they the Pill for medical reasons. That just drove me nuts. Gee, thanks for telling me I'm in mortal sin, people, just for treating a disease AND being married at the same time. I need to write about that too...that's a whole post in of itself. ha.

    God bless you on your journey, too! Will you be received at the Easter Vigil? If so, I will see you there :)

  • In reply to codyblr:

    I wonder if you knew that Cardinal Newman was buried in the same grave as Ambrose St. John, a priest and a long time friend. I think it a mistake from our position in history to speculate on the exact nature of their relationship. Without doubt they loved each other deeply. And that is the salient point.

  • In reply to Mark:

    I didn't know that, thanks for sharing. I find that story really touching. To have a friend to journey through life with you, whether platonic or not, makes the trials of life that much easier to bear.

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    Welcome aboard, Holly!

    I, too, was raised Roman Catholic. I had a terrific education in Catholic schools, was exposed to terrific social justice teaching--yet was not welcome because I'm gay.

    I joined the Episcopal Church in 1984, at the Easter Vigil in my first parish, and have been at home ever since. I pray that you have the "joy and wonder in all God's works" I have had.

    (By the way--has anyone recommended _What is Anglicanism?_ by Urban T. Holmes? It was really influential for me.)

  • Thanks, Inwood! I am so glad you were able to find a better spiritual home. Like you, I've been feeling more relaxed in the Episcopal Church.

    No, nobody has recommended that book to me yet, so thank you for sharing! I will see if the library where I work has it in stock. I have enjoyed "Jesus Was an Episcopalian" by Chris Yaw (actually a pretty funny book), and "Your Faith, Your LIfe" by Jenifer Gamber. I definitely highly recommend those two. Unfortunately, no library in Chicago has the latter title in stock. Some of the suburban libraries do, so you could probably do ILL if you were curious.

  • Holly, I appreciate your journey. Be careful with the Episcopal Church. I'll leave you with what my grandmother told me. She was an Episcopalian from cradle to middle age. I was a member for 20 years. When I asked her why she left in the 1960's, she just chuckled, and told me "People that believe in everything, end up believing in nothing." I am officially still a member, though have been attending another church the last 5 years. I finally opened my eyes to who was running the church, and what they believed in. Good luck on your journey.

  • In reply to LookingforLeaders:

    Thanks, LookingforLeaders, for your kind cautionary words. The diversity of beliefs is one of the Episcopal Church's great strengths, but it is also one of its weaknesses, as your grandmother said. People and churches have to find that middle ground between being extremely closed-minded to other views and being extremely open-minded.

    Me, I'm still used to the idea of strict orthodoxy on many of the main issues, of tradition and old, more settled theology. Donatism, Arianism, etc--we've pretty much settled those issues in old ecumenical councils, and yet I know some churches (not Episcopal, but I wouldn't rule it out) that are trying to deny the divinity of Jesus Christ, for example. That, I have trouble with people questioning too much.

    It's mostly the moral/social theology issues that need to be open to a variety of ideas, IMO. Thanks again for the words of caution.

  • I am a lifelong Episcopalian. I was baptized and confirmed in the Episcopal Church. But I too am still Becoming an Episcopalian. There are those who want their moral decisions made for them and those who choose to struggle with the issues. The issues may be moral today and theological tomorrow. But always remember, during your struggles that you and I are linked in the mystical Body of Christ. That you and I are linked at every Eucharist. I have had it pointed out to me that the Lord's Prayer is plural: Our Father...give us this day..forgive us...deliver us. Not I. Not me, me, me. So therefore we are in this together, both in our trespasses and in our deliverance. So we do not believe in everything, We Episcopalians, and we certainly do not believe in nothing. As a fellow Episcopalian, a fellow Catholic, I have got your back. The price is not that you toe the line. The price is that we line up as best we can, shoulder to shoulder with Someone Who loves us. And I am glad to be walking with you.

  • In reply to Mark:

    Hi Mark,

    Thanks for writing--I really appreciate your kindness. I am glad to be walking with you, too.

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