The fifth (and final) in a series outlining why my family and I believe it is time for us to leave the Episcopal Church (read Part 1: A brief history, Part 2: A crack appears, Part 3: The deluge, and Part 4: The end). UPDATE: And don't forget the Addendum: Roma è chiamata.
So, we decided we needed to leave the Episcopal Church sooner than I had thought we might. The problem with leaving a church is that you are not just leaving a building and a service style, you are leaving people and a culture, an ethos if you will, that, if you have been brought up in ECUSA like I have, is very grounded in your soul—a certain way of doing “church.”
And now it is gone.
There are a few things I do know, however, that have become the parameters and priorities for my family (every person and family making this move or deciding to stay in ECUSA will have their own priorities, so please don’t think I’m criticizing anyone’s decision—I know how difficult this can be):
- To be biblically sound
- To have a discipline structure in place
- To offer youth programs that emphasize Christ
- To be part of a greater Christian community
- To be fairly close by
Also, all of these denominations seem to be just a few years short of finding themselves where ECUSA is now on the issues of biblical authority and church discipline.
I also, for better or for worse, am not interested in joining one of the continuing Episcopal churches (APA, REC, etc.), even though it seems as though there has been great movement to start bringing those together with Common Cause and the Anglican Communion Network. For a family with children, these churches seem awfully isolated and small, and they are not technically part of a greater global Christian family.
So, with those parameters, that leaves us with several options:
- Try a community church
- Find an Anglican church under a Primate in communion with Canterbury
- Swim the Bosphorus
- Swim the Tiber
We decided it would make a great Wednesday night Bible study, but left something lacking for a church service. I also feel community Christian churches are sometimes too personality driven. A particular pastor develops a following that starts a church. What happens when he retires? Or deviates from the Christian path? There is nothing behind a community church to keep it focused on anything other than what the pastor wants.
In San Diego, we have quite a few Anglican churches up and running, under the Southern Cone and Uganda, thanks to Bishop Mathes’s pastoral skills. The churches have worked hard together to create an Anglican presence here. One of the churches, St. Timothy & St. Titus, has taken the lead in organizing the youth and has done a great job in putting together retreats and programs that draw all of the Anglican kids in the area, including from Orange County. Unfortunately, St. TnT is quite a ways away and one of our priorities is proximity. My husband commutes every weekday down to San Diego and the last thing he wants to do on a Sunday is have another commute. It also makes it difficult for us to get involved in weekday activities if the drive is too far. There are two Anglican churches somewhat closer to us and we are looking at both.
But my concern with the Anglican churches, which I am still working through, is two-fold.
First, even though these churches have left ECUSA, there is still a lingering miasma of hurt and contention, within the churches and sometimes the clergy. These churches were part of the failed institutional structure of the Episcopal Church. That is not so easy to discard even though they have moved under another Anglican entity. I will say that the service with ++Gregory Venables at St. Anne’s Anglican in Oceanside was a joyous, forward-looking event that all of the local Anglican church participated in. If that feeling of moving on and focusing on God can eventually become the dominant thrust in these churches, that would be wonderful indeed.
My other concern is the overriding one of discipline in the Anglican Communion. Right now, there is none. Will that change? What is to keep what happened with ECUSA from happening again with another group? There is no there there to look to. The Instruments of Communion are broken and ignored. How will that change?
Lambeth seems geared towards keeping anything from happening or any decision from being made definitively. And I don’t believe an Anglican Covenant will fundamentally change anything. We have our Covenant Agreement, it’s called the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer. If a covenant does end up being adopted at some point, I think one of two things will happen. Either the covenant will be so anemic as to be pointless or the covenant will be ignored. Neither of these outcomes will bode well for the Anglican Communion.
So that moves us down to the Orthodox Church. I’m the first to admit I don’t know that much about it except that it strives to remain as the closest idea of the early church. Other than that, it seems to be present in this country divided into ethnic groups. We have the Greek Orthodox, the Russian Orthodox, the Armenian Orthodox, etc. With the last name of Coletta, I’m looking for the Italian Orthodox and I don’t see it (well, actually I guess that’s the Roman Catholic Church). There are Antiochian Orthodox churches in the area but they are way down in San Diego and too far away. We do have friends who left ECUSA and now go to the Greek Orthodox Church nearby who have invited us to visit with them (thanks, Jeff and Claudia!) which we will have to do before we make any final decisions.
And now we’re at our last possibility—the Roman Catholic Church. First off, there is one right up the street—less than five minutes by car (so how shallow can I be? Hey, try me!). We have been a few times, and to see the number of children there makes you realize right away that you’re not at an Episcopal Church! My main concern here is that there are areas of doctrine I’m not sure about (although I’m willing to give the church the benefit of the doubt—after years of ECUSA doing its own thing, there is something nice about admitting that I personally don’t have all the answers and that maybe, just maybe, the greater Church does know a thing or two that I don’t, since she has been thinking about them for 2,000 years).
But going to the Roman Catholic Church in a sense closes the door on being Anglican. You don’t just start going to a Catholic church—you join a Catholic church. You become Catholic. You can’t get away with saying, well, we’re just going here for a while. No, you have to commit to becoming a Roman Catholic. That’s a big step and not to be taken lightly.
So here’s my chart:
|Community||Local Anglican||Orthodox||Roman Catholic|
|To be biblically sound||Y||Y||Y||Y|
|To have a discipline structure in place||?||?||Y||Y|
|To offer youth programs that emphasize Christ||Y||Y||?||Y|
|To be part of a greater Christian community||N||Y||?||Y|
|To be fairly close by||Y||?||N||Y|
(I have no idea why there is such a big gap here-sorry!)
So, we are still in discernment and will be visiting churches over the summer and I will be doing more reading on various doctrinal and theological differences . . .
and we will see where God directs.