Thursday, May 23, 2013

Why I Stayed, Part II

Let me digress to my childhood for this installment. My father was a local democrat. Not a "bleeding heart liberal" as we used to differentiate ourselves, but one who voted democratic on the local scene, especially with regard to helping the black community rise out of its unfortunate unequal economic and social standing. He was a fiscal conservative, and usually voted Republican in National Elections. That was a broad model to grow up in in my household. And we talked about it (not like the caricature of "let me tell you one thing, Sonny Boy!" but more in the considered, gentle manner of instruction and give and take--civilized discussion). He also was Vice President of the Medical University for Development and Public Relations. He spent much time working with the South Carolina legislature, mostly trying to make sure that public monies would not get "trapped" in Columbia, and forget to make their way to the Medical School in Charleston. He would take me once in awhile to see the goings on and the debates in the State House and Senate, as well as the discussions over drinks and lunch with elected representatives and lobbyists. Sometimes the ideological differences were profound. Sometimes discussions were impassioned. But ALWAYS, ALWAYS there was table fellowship, courtesy, mutual respect and actual FRIENDSHIP. I once even witnessed political betrayal. Frank discussions followed. But they made up, shook hands and moved on as friends and with mutual respect. That was the extraordinarily beautiful model that was provided for me.

By contrast, the precipitous departure by the Diocese of South Carolina from TEC (some would say a precipitous response to precipitous ideological shifts), was so radically different in tone from the model shown to me in my childhood that it "felt" to me like the wrong course to take. By contrast, I experienced more love and respect among political opponents back in the day than I did in my Diocese and among some of my colleagues today. I will address the high priestly prayer of Jesus that we be one and love one another so that the world may know that we are His disciples at another time.

So as for "why I stayed", reason number one is: "My father modeled for me a different way." Next installment: "Back to Bennettsville"

I realize that this auto-biographical format does not lend itself well to comments. They are invited, nonetheless.


  1. Chris...this is a great blog and gives insight as to where you are coming from. For those of us who love you, it is a welcome "unveiling" of your thoughts concerning the current quagmire. I appreciate all you have said. I suppose the only question it raises for me is, although I know you and know where your heart is, are those who are at the "top of the food chain" in TEC still "disciples" of the same God that you and I love, especially when they have given the words of Jesus (I am the Way, the Truth and the one comes to the Father except by me...and even the ultra-liberal Jesus Seminar would probably agree that these are authentic words of Jesus)over to simply one voice in a sea of many others who also lead the way to God? Are we truly still disciples of the same teacher? Anyway, sorry to interrupt....carry on with Bennettsville, The Swamp Witch, abilities to meet any challenge of getting washing machines, vinyl siding and White Russians into one sermon on a challenge...and, not insignificantly, drawing me and my family into the Episcopal faith which I dearly love. I am forever grateful to you.

  2. This very topic of staying or leaving causes me grief, possibly because of my Christian roots in Catholicism which I had to walk away from. Im an adult convert. I remember life before Christ. Its a perspective I cherish because I remember how the void feels in your heart. I was raised to only believe in one God, the Almighty Creator--no Trinity, no church, no man-made religion, no Word. Just relying on our intuition and empirical evidence in nature to know that God exists. Sensible but leaves a void. I was longing for Jesus without knowing it. Unable to form the words. But my heart knew. The first 17 yrs of my life I was taught adamantly that Jesus was the greatest fairy-tale ever perpetuated and nothing more than a distraction to keep the downtrodden pacified and accepting of their wretched conditions imposed by their fellow man. At 17 my boyfriend introduces me to Catholicism. Skeptical and sure he was trying to proselytize me I read through the Gospels, curious but very guarded against believing for the wrong reasons (particularly believing for his sake and not mine or rebelling against growing up without religion and diving in to spite my dad). Honestly nothing he ever said was in any way compelling. He was a typical card carrying Catholic, emphasis on card carrying (no pun intended). It was the Gospels that intrigued me. I couldn't understand with my mind things that seemed contradictory so I learned to pray; something that didn't come naturally since I was taught God was beyond my comprehension and unimaginable. I think I knew from the beginning that I could not truly believe the mandatory perspective on Communion, namely the transubstantiation which is one of the reasons why other Christians can't receive communion. It was a dealbreaker and I knew it. Having unreconciled sin was also a showstopper for receiving communion. The message I received was you are not welcome at the table. I never felt Jesus was keeping me but rigid, doctrine that was not up for debate or interpretation. For years I felt unwelcome. I visited a Lutheran church with a friend, hoping to hear an invitation to the table but still felt unwelcome. It was so important to me but I knew I couldn't take it at a table where the rules were clearly spelled out that i was "not in communion with the church". It wasn't til I went to St George's for the first time.. anxiety ridden, broken from unwittingly worshipping my job and my duties in the military. That I first heard the call to the table. A call for all Christians, to join in, to share, remember, and celebrate the sacrifice of Christ with gladness and thankfulness. Everything I needed to hear for so many years. The invitation meant so much. After 6 plus years I felt welcome. The service also included an invitation from the priest: that the church accepts you where you're at in your journey and trusts that God will take you where He wants you in His time. I wish I heard that type of invitation more often in Christian circles but I can't say that I have.

  3. As far as leaving I wonder when is the time and what is the right way to go about it? Catholic doctrine is not changing at the local parish level. Most priests turn a blind eye towards all the people who can't technically take communion (divorced persons, cohabiting couples, etc). I felt like I'd have to lie to be a true member or sit out every communion. As for the Episcopal church situation: Is TEC leadership static and entrenched? Is it not possible to affect change or opposition without division? What happens if the main voices of resistance or change to faulty doctrine leave? Who will be left to stand up to the leadership or potentially be elected in to take their place? Is it not possible to have a middle
    way..must it always be left or right?

  4. Lynn, thank you for laying out your heart here and in this way. I am honored that you would feel safe enough to share your journey. It's a valuable story for all to hear, because it reveals barriers to God that you have experienced in various wings of the church. I'm sure there must be some Jesus-loving, unbound Roman Catholics who would be grieved to hear your story. And I shudder to consider those whom I have made to feel unwelcome to the table and to the Body of Christ because I erroneously thought that God called me to be His defender, rather than His follower. .

  5. Yes! Defender versus follower! That is what we're talking about. While I believe there will be a time to "fight" I'm not convinced it is now. I still feel strongly called to share and encourage (move within the tide) more than correct and change things (fight the tide).