You always leave from someplace

A journey always begins from a specific location, even if the destination isn’t yet decided.

Although, for the time being, I am not giving energy to church-in-general, I have disengaged from a very specific strand of the Christian tradition, the Anglican expression as embodied in both the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Church of England. If I had t locate myself somewhere on the very broad spectrum that tradition embraces, it would probably be about 3/4 of the way between center and liberal.  So, it isn’t, as I said earlier, about having escaped a mind-controlling cult or extremely conservative and exclusionary Christian denomination.

There is much to be praised in Anglican Christianity–and I have spent much of the last twenty years studying the tradition, writing about it, teaching it, and trying to do what I can to advance it and help it prosper.  Of the Protestant traditions, it is the one where I find myself most at home.  It has a history of intellectual vibrancy and concern for the wider world that, for me, represents the best of what Christianity can be and do. 

I am particularly influenced by William Temple, perhaps the greatest Archbishop of Canterbury to appear during the twentieth century, and one of the tradition’s leading lights.  I am possibly one of the leading scholars on Temple’s thought who is still alive and of pre-retirement age.  I get a couple of emails a month concerning the work I have done on that topic, and am pleased (mostly) that people occasionally ask about his work.  I wish there were more, and I wish the quality of their inquiries was better than the Episcopal Church Meme on Facebook that ‘quotes’ Temple, but with the most famous thing he never said.

But,  my life with Anglican Christianity has become a relationship that does not, at this point, flow both ways–it may never have done so.  I’ve tried, as a layperson who earned a degree in one of our denominational seminaries, and then went on for a doctorate in theology at a large Catholic university, to offer what I have been told are significant gifts to the church.  That’s been rejected or misused for too long.  And when relationships cease to be mutual (or you discern they perhaps never were), you separate. There might be a chance to restore the relationship, but the terms the church tends to set (where the leaver ‘repents’ because the failure is entirely on her shoulders) make it less likely.

I have many friends still in the church, and I am glad their relationship with the institution is more satisfying than mine.  I hope I can keep my own separation amicable, so that I can continue with these friendships. 

The problem is, I want the church to thrive.  I don’t see the church wanting the church to thrive.  And eventually, no matter how much you love something, you have to give it the freedom to self-destruct if that is what it sincerely wishes to do.

 

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