Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Denominations!

A lot of my thinking has been along the same lines as Confessing Evangelical's lately. Anglicanism is in deep trouble. If I didn't have Church of the Holy Spirit (an AMiA parish in Roanoke), The Falls Church (an AAC parish in Falls Church), and Church of the Good Shepherd (a FiF parish outside Philadelphia) nearby, I probably would've already bolted for some form of Lutheranism by now. And, let's face it: at least so far, I have no objections to Lutheran beliefs.

For those who don't know, this doesn't mean that I've excluded myself from Anglican beliefs. Unlike many denominations, the Episcopal Church USA (and Anglicanism worldwide) isn't a "confessional" group. By this, I mean that there's not a specific statement of beliefs that must be followed to be a member. Obviously, one must affirm the Bible and the Nicene and Apostles' Creeds, but beyond that, there's a lot of leeway. The Thirty-Nine Articles was never binding on ECUSA, and is no longer binding on the Church of England (which is good, as I have trouble with some of them). Anglicanism is more like a family than a political party, if that makes sense. Whereas Protestants, generally being confessional, often break off over minor doctrinal disagreements, Anglicans tend to break off more because the agreed-upon minimums and church governmental rules are being ignored by the leadership or the laity.

I don't want to leave the Episcopal Church. If you know me at all, you know that I'm utterly enraged by ECUSA's recent (and not-so-recent) actions. However, I was baptized Episcopalian, and my doctrinal beliefs do not conflict with those of the Episcopal Church (obviously, because there really aren't very many). In my time, I've checked out Methodist, Mormon (an early and regrettable error), and non-denominational churches and ministries, and none have really worked for me. I'm a fairly high-church guy, and I like the liturgy. Realistically, I'm probably not going to switch to anything other than some form of Anglican, Lutheran, or possibly Methodist (itself an Anglican offshoot) worship, anyway. The odds of me going Baptist or Presbyterian are absolutely zero, and unless a church regularly serves Communion, I'm not likely to stay long. I'm going to alienate people, but I think it needs to be said: church without the sacraments is just a pep rally. I have too much of a theological beef with them to ever become Roman Catholic, and the only RC service I've ever attended, though with a fairly-decent liturgy, was so watery and with such an awful homily that I don't think there's much chance of me swinging that way. I like the Anglican way, and if at all possible, I intend to keep to it. I like being able to modify my positions as I learn more without having to wonder if my church considers me a heretic. While I don't hold it as dogma, Apostolic Succession seems like a pretty good way of doing business. I like our liturgy, our history, our artwork, and knowing that we can claim CS Lewis as a member. I know Lutherans are fairly similar in these things (the one time I attended a Lutheran service, I thought it was Episcopalian until I read the bulletin closely; my only real tip-off was that they used white wine instead of red). I. Don't. Like. Change. I don't like the idea of having to switch because people have polluted my community.

Of course, maybe this is a test of my...humilty? Patience? Open-mindedness? I'm not sure. Abraham was called upon to leave his home for a better one which God had prepared for him. Christ sent the disciples out to foreign lands. On the other hand, new believers (in most cases) weren't instructed to physically leave their job and place. Likewise, being more of a family than a party, there's more loyalty present; you don't just leave for a family with healthy members if your sister gets cancer.

Will I leave? I'm going to need more direction from God. A huge part of me wants to stay and try and heal my church. However, a growing minority of me wants to disassociate myself from blasphemers and heretics, especially given that there's another, similar church where I could go with my current beliefs. Right now, I think that the biggest factor may simply be geography: the East Coast, especially the Mid-Atlantic, is the heart of Episcopalianism, while Lutheranism is more of a Midwestern thing. My dad was/is a Lutheran, though he deferred to my mom's Episcopalianism in things like marriage and baptismal ceremonies. Most of my ancestors were either Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Puritan/Anglican, or Mennonite. The reason my Mom's family is Episcopalian, as I understand it, was because it was unfashionable several generations ago to be Mennonite, and the cool thing to be was Episcopalian. There's a lot to my church I like, but there may be too much that is poisonous. Will I switch? I don't know.

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