Sunday, July 27, 2008

Would I Leave TEC?

I love the Episcopal church for what it is today. I love the broad tent, the liturgy, the emphasis on scripture. I deeply respect its history and it's ability to look forward.

With recent speculation on whether there will be some sort of commission to guide the communion in the do's and don'ts of its theology, it now appears that I may have to make a decision in the near future: Do I stay, or do I go?

I was baptized an Episcopalian at St. Marks in Glendale, California. Here, with my parents and Godparents in a private service, I was marked with the sign of the cross and given to God.

Six years ago, my mother and I were confirmed together. At the time, my mother was 88 years old. She has remarked that this was the nicest thing I had ever done for her: Bringing her into my church family and being confirmed with her. It was very special. We were confirmed by The Right Reverend Chester Lovelle Talton, D.D., a lovely and gentle man who I immediately liked. At the last EFM graduation which I attended to support my fellow classmates, I was happy to bump into him again as he was presiding over the graduation.

My belief in the Trinity isn't at risk. I would remain an Episcopalian, but likely an unchurched one.

The question is what will happen if, as you can read here, TEC were to sign on to a statement banning further consecrations of gay/lesbian clergy under the auspices of some newly created Roman-like doctrine committee.

Obviously, this would not happen overnight, and my decision is not immediate in any case. But this new roil has gotten me thinking.

As some of you know, I was an unchurched Episcopalian before I became an atheist, and later an agnostic. I returned to God, willingly, after God made it perfectly clear to me that she/he existed in a very personal experience. From there, I was not certain what to return "to".

With my then-SO whose mother is a long time minister in a new age church, I began attending. I have tremendous respect for her and for the church she spent most of her life leading. It created for me a new way to look at life and the world. Eventually, given the very long drive to attend, we stopped going.

After almost two decades together, when we separated, one of the things that became important was the search for a spiritual home. There are only a couple of churches that even made it to a short list. I am a liberal in theology, open minded and willing to be wrong, but the Roman church (because of some of it's doctrine which I just don't buy), and most mainline Protestant churches (whose liturgies are, at best, unattractive to me not to mention their theology) were out.

It was suggested to me that I read some books by Bishop John Spong, which I did. They changed my life. At the same time, I was in an online beliefnet group a member of which was an Episcopal priest. He suggested I go and try some Episcopal churches. I did. I have never looked back.

There is a hollow place in my heart in typing this, reading the words that I myself am typing about my potential for leaving a church I have come to so love and respect. I don't let things go easily. This will be no different. I will have to reflect carefully and pray a lot over the many, many months to come. I can kneel at the rail with those who fully disagree with me. I cannot, however, belong to a church that doesn't respect all people and/or which does not include all people in every level of its Episcopacy.

The simple matter of it is, however, that if TEC truly does not welcome all because of "who" someone is, then I don't belong there, either. While I am straight, if those who are not are not treated as I am, I simply cannot abide that, spiritually. Reject them, reject me.

While some have chattered that Lambeth makes little difference, I do not share that view. I am fully set to accept that TEC leaves or is tossed out of the Anglican Communion or is considered an impaired Communion member. I can live with that. I cannot, however, live with TEC that rejects full inclusion in our church.

Tomorrow, we might learn more about the so-called 'shot that will be heard round the world'. I hate militaristic analogies, but this one I'm keeping. It might just be a shot to my heart.