Not that you (or anyone) asked. But the question arose after an exchange with Terry Mattingly on GetReligion. Mattingly said he has asked Andrew Sullivan why he remains Catholic instead of joining the Episcopal Church. And he said he would ask Anne Rice why she converted to Roman Catholicism instead of the Episcopalian denomination. (Both have stated positions on issues such as women’s ordination and gay rights that are opposed to the magisterium.)
As I’ve stated previously, I’m an ex-Catholic and current nondenominational Christian who describes my spirituality as “catholic in the truest sense of the word: universally open to truth wherever it is found.” So it’s quite natural that I feel drawn to the Episcopal Church. I’ve said so before, and have begun explorations into possibly joining the Anglican communion.
But here are a few reservations, off the top of my head, and in no particular order:
- Will I have a felt sense of not being “at home” there? Is it too conservative? Is it too rigid, cold, stuffy, and upper class? Is it the right focus for me, right now? My main impulse now is towards integration and spiritual practice, not listening to sermons designed to help Volvo-driving heterosexuals feel more well adjusted in their upper middle class American lifestyles. That’s what I’m afraid I’ll find as I explore the Episcopal Church… and if I do, I’m walking. It’s definitely not for me. On Sunday mornings there are also dharma meditation groups that I can join, and I’d be much better off with the Buddhists.
- Is it simply too Christian for my tastes? I’m not even certain that I want to call myself Christian anymore, but that’s a long story. I’m beginning to think the only people who really deserve to be called Christian are those who are selflessly following Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount and other hard teachings. You know, his hard teachings like sell all you have, give it to the poor, that sort of thing. Everyone else, I almost want to use “so-called,” “self-described,” or sneer marks when describing their religion. As in… Of course, Pat Robertson is a “Christian.” or… Pope Benedict, self-described Christian, says something evil again today. My religious ethos is still definitely inspired by Christ and the whole of Christian tradition, but it’s also influenced by other and conflicting impulses… various sorts of paganism, Native American religion, Buddhism, Taoism, astrology, Hindu philosophers… Do I want to join a church where I feel as if I have to hide the full diversity of my beliefs or be judged a freak or heretic?
- Should I be directing my energy instead to creating a spiritual community that I can embrace more whole heartedly? In many ways, I’ve moved on from the institutional Christian Church, even as my yearning for a more structured, organized, and institutional religious framework remains. There are some rumblings in the integral movement that are suggestive of a new religious experience. Is there the beginnings here of a new communion of seekers who have found a common approach to Truth, Goodness, and Beauty that allows them to bring all that they are into community in ways both traditional and new? In my opinion, it’s too early to say. My best guess is that integral thinking’s greatest impact will be on interreligious dialogue, and reforming existing world traditions–the “great conveyor belts” of consciousness, as Ken Wilber has described them. But there may also be something more unexpected: not only a new religious sensibility, but a new religion. Just a thought.