Friday, February 25, 2005

The Anglican split continues

Well, according to this article, the divide between the Episcopal Church (USA) & the Anglican Church of Canada and the rest of the Anglican Communion is reaching the long-expected breaking point.

Ever since the Episcopal Church USA voted to grant Eugene Robinson the right to be a bishop, those who are unwilling to accept an openly homosexual bishop have threatened to pull away. It has happened in the global Anglican Communion, it has happened in the United States and it has happened in single churches.

Tegan and I have been Episcopalian since we met in college and decided we wanted to get married. Religion has always been an important facet of our lives--her dad is a minister and my family was always active in my childhood Catholic church. We wanted to be united in our faith, hoping that our children would see it as important to us and maybe it would be important to them as they aged.

The Episcopal Church seemed to be a nice middle ground for the two of us. It is, in many respects, similar to Catholicism. There are certainly important doctrinal differences, but cosmetically it is practically identical. Tegan has more adjusting to do from her Disciples of Christ background, but she was willing to be open-minded.

We were drawn to our first Episcopal Church by a personal connection to a college professor of ours. He just happened to also be homosexual. The Anglican Church is well known for it liberal positions on many issues, something that both Tegan and I appreciate as it coincides with our general political views.

When Eugene Robinson was appointed bishop, we knew there would be issues in many places. It was all over the news. At the time, we were preparing to move from our previous home to our current community. Our Episcopal church in our last community was struggling to grow and had far bigger problems that devoting time to arguing about the rights or wrongs of homosexual clergy. They had much larger issues to deal with and both T and I were worn out from trying to help solve those personal, organizational issues. We looked forward to finding a new church family in our new community.

Once we began unpacking our bags this summer, we started visiting the local Episcopal church in our community. It was solidly established, full of people and programs for children, wasn't desperate for us to save it, and seemed to know what it was about. We liked several things about the church and the people were nothing but friendly. But, we occasionally got a vibe that we wondered about.

We continued to go there for about a month. But after one particular sermon from the priest, it was clear that this church, or at least its leadership, was not in favor of Bishop Robinson and was stepping outside of the boundaries of the Episcopal Church (USA) to protest the Robinson vote. Now, I don't really know what that means about this church's financial or apostolic connection to the official EC (USA), but Tegan and I knew that we would not feel comfortable going there if that was their stance.

(One of the reasons this church decided to make the move they did was because they would be unable to continue supporting a long-standing ministry in Africa. Because so much of the worldwide Anglican community is against the Robinson vote, a great deal of outreach from EC (USA) churches might suffer. So, while I don't agree with their political/doctrinal view of Robinson, I understand they want to continue supporting that ministry.)

Anyway, Tegan and I left that church and have since joined up with an Episcopal church in the next nearby community. They are without a building of their own, so they need our help more than the last one, but that is okay. They aren't desperate for us, so we can try to avoid becoming overwhelmed again. More importantly, for this story's sake, this church is not interested in taking a stance on Robinson. I don't think Fr. Rick is against Robinson, and when I discussed it with him one day, he said this church has more important things to do and "that wasn't on their radar screen."

I hope that means they don't care. I don't claim to know the doctrine on this issue. I just know that in my gut, I don't think God will condemn someone who is trying to do good in the world. A loving God looks at what someone is and what they do, not what their label is. I don't know anything at all about Eugene Robinson other than the fact that he lives in New Hampshire, seems to be well respected by the majority of the faithful in his area, and is homosexual. He is not my bishop, but I don't think that would matter.

I hope he does a good job and I am sorry that they global Anglican community is breaking down over this one man and the issue that he represents.

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