Thursday, September 29, 2005

Here* I Stand

*I have no idea where this place is

I was baptized Episcopalian, grew up somewhat familiar with Episcopalian worship, and sought out Episcopalian churches when I first became a Christian. C.S. Lewis, of whom it could fairly be said that he was the closest thing to a human who caused me to convert, was Church of England (which, if you didn't know, is aligned with the Episcopal Church USA). I like how the emphasis in ECUSA isn't on specific doctrines beyond the Bible and Nicene and Apostles' creeds, but rather on being something like a family of worship. The weakness of this view is that without a strong sense of doctrine, it can be easy for heresies to creep in. As most people would probably expect, this is exactly what has happened, leaving many to wonder if, in its quest to be hip, the Episcopal Church USA won't eventually simply cease considering itself a religion but a social club. Many already consider this to be the fact of the matter.

Anglicans are usually considered to be Protestants by most Americans, although Evangelicals will sometimes lump them in with Roman Catholics. Scholars, recognizing the position of Anglicans as being a "via media" or "middle way" between the Reformation and Rome, usually punt on the issue and divide modern Christianity into the four camps of Protestantism, Anglicanism, Catholicism (those aligned with Rome), and Orthodoxy (as typified by the Greek and Russian Orthodox churches). Due to its position in the United States, however, Episcopalians usually find themselves more aligned with Protestants, as Roman Catholics tend to keep to themselves on church matters while Protestants are more focused on big groups. Episcopalians dissatisfied with or isolated from their own church usually look for a Methodist or Lutheran church first, but failing that, wind up everywhere from Pentecostal to Eastern Orthodox churches.

For me personally, I'm about a likely to bolt for the Roman Catholic Church as to leave for a Baptist, Presbyterian, or Pentecostal church. I like the liturgy and church art and architecture, and I'm sympathetic to, though not necessarily a believer of, ideas such as Purgatory, praying for the intercession of dead saints, sacraments as effective means of Grace, and an ordained clergy with apostolic succession. I don't like plain, boxy church halls (the important thing is the congregation, but it boggles my mind how a congregation can be okay with spending millions of dollars on a parking garage but be opposed to ornamentation). I like the Catholic emphasis on the social Gospel and works of mercy. However, ideas such as Papal Infallibility and the Immaculate Conception strike me as resting on pretty weak foundations, at best. I like a more contemporary worship style, with "praise songs" instead of hymns. I also like how Evangelicals seem far more interested in correct teaching, as opposed to Catholics and Anglicans, who can most charitably be said to have failed spectacularly at catechis.

The most obvious thing to do would be to look for an alternative Anglican church, such as the Reformed Episcopal Church, Anglican Catholic Church, Anglican Mission in America, or Anglican Church in America. However, given my views supporting Conditional Security and Free Will, these are all questionable bets. How about the Methodists? The United Methodist church is kind of wishy-washy itself, and I imagine that given ten years, they'll be where the Episcopal Church is now. The Wesleyans and Salvationists (Salvation Army) have some things going for them, notably the Salvationists' love of social mercy, but are both pretty low-church. The Wesleyans strike me as somewhat grumpy and the Salvation Army's decision not to use any sacraments at all but rather to focus on service strikes me as understandable, but misguided. The Lutherans are in a similar boat to the Methodists, with the ELCA likely to follow the ECUSA and the LCMS and WELS seeming to be pretty cranky.

How about Baptists, Presbyterians, or Pentecostals? I disagree with denying infant baptism, with Calvinism, and with speaking in tongues, not to mention the lack of liturgy or ornamentation. And, let's be honest, "nondenominational" or "Bible church" is just another way of saying "store brand Baptist."

And what of Rome, with its rosaries and ring-kissing? Create an Anglican Rite and we'll talk. I don't know exactly how to put it, but Roman Catholic buildings often strike me as being beautiful but sterile, and kind of tacky. A high-church Anglican building has a nice, lived-in kind of beauty.

And, now that I've offended pretty much everyone, back to my homework...

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