The Episcopal Church has been in the news a fair amount lately, due to the fact that several parishes have decided to leave the church and lawsuits are being threatened to settle the issue of who gets the property at the end of the day. The schism is due to the fact that a gay bishop has been consecrated. Some people are skewing this as my church being bigoted, intolerant, and discriminatory. It's time I stood up for my church.
Many people know the Church of England as "that one Henry VIII started so he could split with his wife." Which, although true on face value and a great little tidbit for a cocktail party, is not entirely true. During the reformation the split was, at least partly, inspired by the idea that the Bible should be the authority of the church, not the Pope.
The backbone of the Anglican Church's beliefs are often compared to a three-legged stool of scripture, tradition and reason. So, you've got to read the Bible, you've got to respect where you've come from, and you've got to think about it and be reasonable. All three are important or the stool falls down. Because of that third leg, reason, it allows the Church to change over time. As long as we respect the scripture and the tradition that are there, the reason is fully encouraged.
The Episcopal Church was formed at the same time of the United States. As settlers were breaking political ties with England worshiping at the "Church of England" didn't sit so well with everyone. The governance of the Church was set up very similarly to the governance of our nation. A parish is run by a vestry and will select their rector. A diocese of parishes will select their bishop. It's a bottom-up, democratic-type process.
On a national level we have a Presiding Bishop (who is a woman now, if you haven't heard), and a General Convention, which meets every three years, where the ecumenical commitments, policies, and programs of the Episcopal Church are decided. At General Convention there are two groups doing the deciding. The House of Bishops, made up of all the Bishops, and The House of Deputies, which is made up of lay people representing all of the Dioceses.
As a lay member of the Episcopal Church I have no doubt that my voice can be heard of matters of both local and national importance. If I feel my individual voice is not being heard, I can choose to be a more active member of the process. Even as a teenager I was an active voice in the process, and my church and diocese encouraged that voice and made it easy for me to participate.
Therefore, I can say with certain confidence that the Church's decision to allow gay Priests and bishops and to bless same-sex unions is not a whim of a decision. A lot of people used reason, scripture and tradition to get us to this point. If a small minority of people don't agree, and want to go elsewhere, that's fine by me. When our President was elected I know of many people who contemplated leaving our country because they couldn't support the direction our country was headed, and I supported that decision in the same way.
7 churches are leaving. There are currently over 7,000 Episcopal Churches. Really, their opinions are not those of the Church or those who have chosen to remain members of the Church. And that's really what I'm trying to get at here. The CHURCH is doing a GOOD thing.
And that still leaves at least 6,993 churches who are sticking around. Who, in their own way, are SUPPORTING the consecration of gay bishops and the blessing of same-sex unions. And that is a very good thing. There are probably some individuals who are leaving some of those churches because they don't agree with things, but there are also people who say they don't agree who are sticking around. If I chose to, I could name some names of folks who sit in that camp. But they are still a part of the church. And maybe through attending church and continuing to be an active part of their community their minds will change a little bit. And that, also, is a very good thing.
And maybe, just maybe, that can influence the rest of the country just a little bit.
And that, in a nutshell, is WHY I love my Church. We're encouraged, no, REQUIRED, to think and reason through it all. We can admit that we aren't perfect, and try to make things better in the future. And that is what I shall try to do in my own little way.
Needless to say, these are my views and opinions, and not necessarily those of the Episcopal Church. But I think my Church is OK with me having my own opinions.
Also, FYI, information on the Church's history was culled from The Anglican Vision by James E Griffiss as well as classes and other church teachings I've subjected myself to over the last 22 years of my life.