(This is the fifth post in a series. If you found this first, I suggest reading from the beginning here.)
I was born into an Episcopal family. My parents and grandparents all went to the same Episcopal church, Ware Episcopal Church in Gloucester, Virginia. My grandparents are all buried together there actually. We went to church every Sunday, were active in many ministries, showed up for all the clean-up days, etc... I was baptized, confirmed, and married in Episcopal churches. When we were going through the "discernment period" in 2013 before Old St. Andrew's voted on if they would stay with The Episcopal Church or the Lawrence diocese, the Rev. Marshall Huey said that for some people being Episcopalian was part of their being. This hit home for me. I had identified myself as Episcopalian for so long that it was part of my being but now I was being asked to choose.
When I stepped back and looked at the situation with some perspective, I am glad that I got to choose to be an Episcopalian. I had the time to stop and think about what I believe not what the church tells me to believe. It is a church that, to me, doesn't give you a "get out of hell free" card, or claim to get rid of the messiness in your life but says "Hey, we are all messy. Let's hold hands as we get through this mess together."
The Rt. Rev. Scott Benhase, Bishop of Georgia, posted on his blog this week about gender identity, the messiness of life, and the mercy of Jesus. I was reading it last night and was reminded of the messiness that I chose to be a part of. I shared the post of Facebook and it was reshared by many more people. In our world, it is easy to live into the hate that we see in social media and the political arena but what people really connect with is love. I choose to be an Episcopalian and continue to love. There is nothing that you can do that will stop that love. That is what Easter is all about.
But people will ask in South Carolina, what does it mean to be an Episcopalian. It is confusing because many of the churches that left still say Episcopal on them. In The Episcopal Church in South Carolina we have been careful to define ourselves as what we are, not what we are not. And that can be a very hard thing to do. But for me The Episcopal Church, at its best, is...
...a church that accepts you for who you are now.
...a church that supports you in becoming your best self.
...a church that thinks what we do in the streets is more important than how we pray on Sunday morning.
...a church that stands up against injustices whether it be racism, gun violence, or discrimination.
...a church that cares for the earth.
For those of you not new to this tradition, you may notice that I loosely followed the Five Marks of Mission. I didn't notice that I had done that until I went back and reread my first draft. I guess the Anglican Consultative Council knew what they were talking about. It is a part of my being.
I believe in God the Father.
I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
I believe in God the Holy Spirit.
I will persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever I fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord.
I will proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.
I will continue in the apostles' teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers.
I will seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving my neighbor as myself.
I will strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.