Kinda thinking about becoming Episcopal


#1

Hey everyone. I'm a new poster.

I'm a 28 year-old Catholic guy. I converted to Catholicism when I was 16, got baptized and confirmed and received first communion all in one go. I'm extremely well-read in Catholic theology -- I'm ASD/Aspergers (yes, diagnosed) and theology is one of my obsessive interests. I was a daily communicant in college (when such a thing was possible) and I spent a year in seminary for the Diocese of Brooklyn, which I left due to the aforementioned autism making it an incredibly unpleasant experience, especially as it had not yet been diagnosed and I didn't have what I suppose you might call the proper support. I'm an incoming graduate student in theology at Boston College.

All of that is to establish some credentials; I'm not a poorly-educated Catholic who wishes the church allowed abortion or didn't teach that there was any such thing as truth or whatever. I take my Catholic faith exceedingly seriously as much as I can, I give great care to its teachings as much as I can, and, for what it's worth, I really dig the pope.

So why am I considering becoming Episcopalian?

Honestly, I'm not even sure how to answer that, and that's part of why I'm writing, to sort of hash it out and see what's going on, and bounce some ideas around. See what's up. Hope you guys are game.

Off the top of my head, I'd start with the following issues I've developed over the last few years.

1) I'm not wholly sure I agree with the celibate, male-only priesthood, something that has developed over the last year-and-a-half of attending both mass and services at an Episcopal church with my Episcopalian fiancee. The female ministers there have proven exceedingly skilled at what they do, really just being spectacular ministers of the Gospels, who bring a pretty different perspective that I've found pretty refreshing. I'm well aware of the Church's sacramental theology, about how the priest "stands in" as it were for Christ in a particular way which is understood as requiring physical male-ness, but it's an argument I'm not wholly I find especially convincing anymore. Beyond that, the argument in favor of Christ having only chosen male apostles seems to hold as much weight as Paul never telling anybody to free their slaves.

Further, I am increasingly of the opinion that a married priesthood would be a valuable addition to Catholicism's arsenal, and would do marvels by opening up the priesthood to a vast swathe of the population who had discounted it entirely. Those who say that the priestly ministry is designed in such a way as to make a married priesthood impractical need only be pointed to the numerous denominations -- including some of our own autocephalous churches that employ a married ordained ministry quite successfully -- to know that that is not the be-all and end-all of the argument. Obviously it can be done, and can be done very well, and our reluctance to try it is because we hold the delibate priesthood as a marker of Catholic identity.

2) I find myself very uncomfortable with some aspects of Catholic teaching, perhaps not the usual ones. I have immense, immense difficulty with how we treat Mary officially -- not even the sort of insane folk religion that surrounds her, but full-on doctrinal pronouncements. I'm at the point where if, as some would have it, Mary is ever proclaimed Co-redemptrix, I might simply bolt. I couldn't accept that, I don't think. I find much of the cultus surrounding her deeply upsetting. I think the rosary is treated like a magical charm, and the scapular, too. Prayers uttered like spells and glamours. The extent to which this goes on is very troubling.

I understand that maybe I just don't get Mary. I've read True Devotion, and found it, aside from its baroque prose, pretty much everything I don't like about Marian devotion distilled into a barely-readable tract.

In addition, while I like the pope, and even the papacy more or less, while I believe the pope to be the core and center of Christianity and the arbiter of Christian practice, infallibility really bothers me. Beyond the relatively late date for its claiming, and the intense controversy surrounding its adoption, the very idea of supernatural protections being handed to an institutional body which is itself historically contingent makes very little sense to me. Don't get me wrong! I'm a big believer in sacred tradition, and I really dig how Yves Congar describes it as that which interprets the Scriptures and which is corrected by them, but I'm not sure how an infallible authority fits into that. To me, it seems we have a self-policing system; controversy will never, ever disappear, but the tradition checks one sort of excess, and the Scriptures another. The teaching body of the Church is the means by which it does this, expressed either corporately through ecumenical or regional councils/synods/whatever, or through the juridical authority of individual bishop, running as high as Rome. I don't see where infallibility becomes any more necessary than simple obedience to authority.

Basically, neither infallibility of the ordinary magisterium nor of the extraordinary magisterium of the pope seem especially useful, necessary, or justified either from Scripture or Tradition.

I want to stress I am expressing some level of doubt on the matter, and have not reached a firm judgment in the negative.

[continued below because it wouldn't let me post the whole thing in one go]


#2
  1. I really, really dig Episcopal church governance. I am not a terribly big fan of the monarchical model. I am well aware that the monarchic bishop is not a teaching, and that we could govern the church more or less any way we like, but it really appeals to me. Pastors are not assigned to a parish by their bishop like he’s an admiral and they’re his captains, but rather a parish issues a call for a priest, and then chooses from those who respond. What’s more, they elect their bishops, although I am admittedly not sure of the structure for that. I like the idea of a collaborative relationship between the bishop and his parishes above the CEO relationship where parishes are the local branch. But hey, that’s me, and this isn’t a huge deal either way.

  2. I don’t know how I feel about Catholic claims regarding itself as the true church. Part of the reforms of the last few decades have abandoned claims that Protestants are heretics, adopting the “separated brethren” language, which I am starting to think might be entirely incoherent. I’m increasingly of the opinion that the Body of Christ is utterly indivisible, and emanates from Christ in concentric circles, wherein one Christian body and another Christian body may disagree on theology, but are all earnestly seeking after Christ. I suppose I’m after an ecumenical ecclesiology which is capable of encompassing the whole of Christianity. I keep reading histories of Christianity, and it seems to me that, rather than a distinctly European/Catholic phenomenon, the Church developed unevenly across much of the world, in often wildly divergent flavors, unified in a basic faith in the person of Christ as the savior of mankind, but disagreeing in particulars. From the miaphysites to Nestorians, divergent strains of Christian thought have popped up across the world, exceedingly far from a Rome which was incapable of exercising jurisdiction over them; let us not forget the absolute shock of the Portuguese in discovering Christians in India. Are we to hold that, in their geographic and doctrinal separation, they were diminished in their faith, and are we to expect that, upon making contact with Rome, they must necessarily fly into her arms? And are they then held deficient if they fail to do so, their faith lesser for not having access to subsequent ecumenical councils, or their understanding of how Christ was internally configured making them heretics or separated from the Body of Christ? I think these are reasonable questions.

So then, all of that being said, it seems to me sometimes that the Anglican communion, which I am the first to acknowledge is collapsing in on itself, is the only Western Christian body which seems to be able to make any sense of the questions, claims, and positions advanced above, and the only one in which I might feel vaguely comfortable. Of course, I know that that has its limits; I am a pretty low-church Catholic, but I am convinced of Petrine primacy, in some form anyway, and I have immense respect for and devotion to that office and its authority, however we might differ in understanding it. He’s Peter, plain and simple.

Further, I want to stress that my first principle in all of this is that there have certainly been, in the last couple thousand years, men and women smarter than I, and that I am very young, lacking in wisdom and discernment, and must be taught. As such, I try to submit to being taught, and must make clear that every position advanced above is held or considered tentatively, with respect for the teaching that has been given in contradiction; I am in a process of intellectual and spiritual discernment on these things, and do not take this lightly.

In other words, I am not here to say I am wise above all others, that I have solved the mysteries of the universe, or that I am wiser than the men who teach me. I have questions, and I will presume that there are answers for them. My dissatisfaction with those I have found thus far does not preclude that I may yet find those which satisfy my restless mind. Until then, I search.

Lord, be with me.

Thank you for reading this lengthy adventure, and I hope for good responses. God be with you all.

– O! Verisimilitude!


#3

It sounds to me like you would fit the Episcopal Church nicely, given your current state.

GKC


#4

[quote="GKC, post:3, topic:308536"]
It sounds to me like you would fit the Episcopal Church nicely, given your current state.

GKC

[/quote]

Or perhaps the ELCA. (redundant?)

Seriously, to the OP, I pray you receive guidance in your journey.

Jon


#5

Before you decide to join the Episcopalian Church, check out what its leaders are like. Take one (now retired) Bishop Spong for instance.

A prominent theme in Spong's writing is that the popular and literal interpretations of Christian scripture are not sustainable and do not speak honestly to the situation of modern Christian communities. He believes in a more nuanced approach to scripture, informed by scholarship and compassion, which can be consistent with both Christian tradition and contemporary understandings of the universe. He believes that theism has lost credibility as a valid conception of God's nature. He states that he is a Christian because he believes that Jesus Christ fully expressed the presence of a God of compassion and selfless love and that this is the meaning of the early Christian proclamation, "Jesus is Lord" (Spong, 1994 and Spong, 1991). Elaborating on this last idea he affirms that Jesus was adopted by God as his predilect son, thus embracing (at least at linguistic level) a form of the ancient adoptionist heresy (Born of a Woman 1992), and yet in an orthodox way he says that this would be the way God was fully incarnated in Jesus Christ.[1] He rejects the historical truth claims of some Christian doctrines, such as the Virgin Birth (Spong, 1992) and the bodily resurrection of Jesus (Spong, 1994). In 2000, Spong** was a critic of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith of the Roman Catholic Church's declaration Dominus Iesus, because it reaffirmed** the Catholic doctrine that the Roman Catholic Church is the one true Church and, perhaps even more importantly,** that Jesus Christ is the one and only savior for humanity.** Spong has also been a strong proponent of** feminism (read abortion), gay rights**, and racial equality within both the church and society at large.[7] Towards these ends, he calls for a new Reformation, in which many of Christianity's basic doctrines should be reformulated.

Ask yourself if you agree with all that. If you find you no longer agree with key Catholic doctrines, there are several other options out there that are more embracing of Biblical truth.


#6

My friend,

You are questioning core doctrines and dogmas of the Faith and from my understanding, also the authority of Holy Mother Church as the one true Church founded by Christ. That’s a “biggie” so to speak. I may be mistaken, but some of the matters you question may be de fide, meaning that every Catholic is bound to hold it to be the absolute truth.

I could write a novel on the many specific theological points that you bring up, but at this point, I think this is something you need to very seriously think about and decide on your own. Also, I note that your fiancé is Episcopalian. Do you intend to marry in the Catholic Church and pledge to raise your children in the Catholic Faith? It is a mortal sin for a Catholic to get married in a non-Catholic ecclesial community. Should you leave the Church you would also be committing apostasy and essentially turning your back on Christ and his Church. I’m not trying to use scare tactics here, but I believe in trying to save souls and there are some really negative and eternal ramifications should you decide to leave the Catholic Church.

I pray that God gives you the wisdom and guidance to see the Truth and beauty of our Catholic Faith.

mda
mda


#7

[quote="peter26, post:5, topic:308536"]
Before you decide to join the Episcopalian Church, check out what its leaders are like. Take one (now retired) Bishop Spong for instance.

Ask yourself if you agree with all that. If you find you no longer agree with key Catholic doctrines, there are several other options out there that are more embracing of Biblical truth.

[/quote]

Does this post conform to forum rules?


#8

[quote="missadeangelis, post:7, topic:308536"]

[/quote]

Does this post conform to forum rules?

I'm not advocating that the OP convert to any particular denomination. I am merely saying that he should know what various groups stand for before he makes his decision on this matter. I have no agenda here.


#9

A few points: there are married Catholic priests. The Ordinariate for Anglican converts and Eastern Rite have this as a norm.

Are you comfortable worshipping in a church in existence soley because Henry VIII wanted a divorce?

Do you believe they have maintained valid apostolic succession?


#10

Decree of nullity.

GKC


#11

I will pray for you, and hope that you don't join the Episcopal church.

The devil can bother us in many ways, and I think he is trying to haul you away from the truth which can only be found in the Catholic Church. The question I would pose to you is this, since I am not a theologian, I can only say so much, but: why did you join the Church in the first place, why TRULY did you join? And, how can a body which changes it's doctrines and beliefs every 20-odd years, or whenever a synod is called, be of any validity?

The Church hasn't changed Her beliefs and teachings, Her traditions remain the same.

God Bless :signofcross::byzsoc:


#12

If the OP were my friend, and provided that I thought that his church brought salvation (in this case, him being Catholic, it does) then I would urge caution in that it might be wise not to trade one set of grievances for a different set of grievances.

The physical church you belong to will always fall slightly short from our desire for perfection, perhaps instead of focusing on the troubles, perhaps one's time should be spend focusing on the man on the cross. For there is the true perfection we will see in this life.

May God give us wisdom when we try to discern the correct path.


#13

I would go back over the theology etc and not every catholic you meet will agree in the same thing and you are allowed to question things and not agree with but you still stick with it as a whole I mean do you not go to the same supermarket becuase they dis continued your favourite pizza or you may disagree with a price for a pork chop , do you stop going - no you don’t becuase you still like the supermarket and don’t split hair of one or two things that bother you - you see what I’m trying to say - just my two pennies :slight_smile:
Chuck


#14

Sounds like you have some sincere questions, and I hope you find answers. I am a recent convert to Catholicism from Protestantism and simply ran out of protests, including on issues of Mary, infallibility, Church "trueness", etc.

You mentioned that you attend Episcopalioan services with your fiancee. While I recognize that you may have sincere questions or concerns about the Catholic Church, are you sure your questioning leaving for the Episcopalian Church isn't simply an issue related to your Episcopalian fiancee?


#15

[quote="benjohnson, post:12, topic:308536"]
If the OP were my friend, and provided that I thought that his church brought salvation (in this case, him being Catholic, it does) then I would urge caution in that it might be wise not to trade one set of grievances for a different set of grievances.

The physical church you belong to will always fall slightly short from our desire for perfection, perhaps instead of focusing on the troubles, perhaps one's time should be spend focusing on the man on the cross. For there is the true perfection we will see in this life.

May God give us wisdom when we try to discern the correct path.

[/quote]

On 2 other threads, I've been saying the same thing. Thank you.


#16

[quote="liquidayno, post:14, topic:308536"]
Sounds like you have some sincere questions, and I hope you find answers. I am a recent convert to Catholicism from Protestantism and simply ran out of protests, including on issues of Mary, infallibility, Church "trueness", etc.

You mentioned that you attend Episcopalioan services with your fiancee. While I recognize that you may have sincere questions or concerns about the Catholic Church, are you sure your questioning leaving for the Episcopalian Church isn't simply an issue related to your Episcopalian fiancee?

[/quote]

Pretty sure, yeah. These are questions I've had in one form or another for years, which I only started developing and considering after I left seminary.

Leaving seminary was pretty rough, and it left me having words with the Church for a while. When the anger abated, though, the questions remained. My issues with infallibility originated years ago when I was an undergrad and reading Philip Jenkins' The Next Christendom, and much more recently in a related work of his called The Lost History of Christianity, about the growth and development of Christianity outside of the Roman Empire. It left me with a lot of questions about what exactly the role of the institutional church is if we live in a world where Christianity absolutely exploded in every direction from the very beginning, where church polities developed well beyond the means of effective communication. Most of this comes out, in one form or another, out of that -- my inability to make sense of the existence of Oriental Orthodoxy when considered within Catholic claims about itself.

The thing is, once you start chipping at the foundation of Catholic claims about authority and infallibility, suddenly a lot is up for discussion. My having an Episcopal fiancee is just giving me a pretty regular experience of non-Catholic church life.


#17

What about some other issues that are problematic with regards to the Episcopal Church? Some have mentioned adoptionism, there is also the danger of syncretism which has becoming increasingly accepted in Episcopalianism. There are conservative parishes of course, but many are also leaving toward other Anglican denominations in the United States.


#18

[quote="FabiusMaximus, post:17, topic:308536"]
What about some other issues that are problematic with regards to the Episcopal Church? Some have mentioned adoptionism, there is also the danger of syncretism which has becoming increasingly accepted in Episcopalianism. There are conservative parishes of course, but many are also leaving toward other Anglican denominations in the United States.

[/quote]

I have lost a 6 volume title regarding Denominations of the United States. Could remind me of a few other Anglican denominations?
Thanks


#19

[quote="cheezey, post:18, topic:308536"]
I have lost a 6 volume title regarding Denominations of the United States. Could remind me of a few other Anglican denominations?
Thanks

[/quote]

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglican_realignment

This is a good article on many conservative Anglicans who are joining other established Anglican churches.

The Anglican Church of North America is one of the newer known ones, and in communion with many of the other Anglican communities around the world.


#20

Please think and pray about this for a really long time before making such a decision and also ponder the fact that the protestant churchs do not have most of the sacraments, including the Most Blessed Sacrament, Jesus Himself: Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Also please ponder the fact that Jesus really emphasized that He is litterally the Bread of Life and that we are to eat His Flesh and drink His Blood. There was another way He could have said it if His language was symbolic and yet protastant churches like the one you're considering don't believe He was being literal. Also, did you realize that the Episcopal Church is basically the Anglican Church with no monarch and that the Anglecican Church comes was started by King Henry the Eighth because he wanted a divorce? What did Jesus say about divorcing? He said:

"And some Pharisees came up to Him, testing Him, and began to question Him whether it was lawful for a man to divorce a wife. And He answered and said to them, "What did Moses command you?" And they said, "Moses permitted a man to write a certificate of divorce and send her away." But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. "But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female. "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and the two shall become one flesh; consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. "What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate." And in the house the disciples began questioning Him about this again. And He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery."--Mark 10:2-12


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