I am officially becoming part of the Episcopal communion on Sunday and I assume that many people are curious about this new development in my life. Why on earth am I leaving the United Methodist Church and becoming Episcopalian? Am I really making the right decision? First I'd like to say, I've asked myself those questions over and over again. They make me stop and ponder what it is that God is doing in my life right now.
I guess I always assumed I'd be United Methodist forever. I was a third generation United Methodist, it connected me to my grandparents on both sides, and I was proud of that fact. I was an active church member, I was an intern at my church, I served my Annual Conference, I was a leader. Why would I leave something I knew so well and had a passion for?
I can say this: I'm not leaving because I have a major problem with the church. There were no fights, no heated discussions that turned me away. I am not leaving out of anger or malice. I'm leaving partially because I think the denominational structure is too big. I love the congregation I was a part of and the Annual Conference I was a part of, but I disagree with having large overarching structure that puts out a Book of Discipline and tries to run an effective and efficient church in that manner. I think that the system has become cumbersome and has held back church progress. That's not to say that I don't believe that churches should be structured and organized, I am after all joining a church with bishops and a loose national structure, I just think the global structure of the United Methodist Church is too rigid. It doesn't allow for regional differences in belief systems within the global church. Who is to say that rules about how to structure your church that comes from white middle class Americans really works for the African church? As I looked more into the structure and system of the national and global United Methodist Church, I began to seriously question whether following one Book of Discipline was really something that was best for the church. I began to also seriously doubt if I could connect myself with the Book of Discipline in my own personal ministry life. There were some rules that I simply did not feel comfortable with, and I am not going to go against rules and regulations set out by my church. I am not a rebel, I cannot knowingly break rules. It makes me uncomfortable and makes me feel guilty. And I kept thinking questions like, "What if one day my friends want me to officiate their wedding and I have to say no because they are a same sex couple?" It would break my heart and I questioned whether I could stand in a United Methodist pulpit after something like that happened.
All that being said, those are the reasons why I began to question the United Methodist Church. They are not the reason why I'm becoming Episcopalian. That was a much more natural thing, something that began the first week of seminary and has progressed since then. It all began the first week of orientation with a friendship. Since I have not asked his permission to mention him on my blog, I shall call him "D". D is an Episcopal Studies student and we became close friends fast. One Sunday he took me to his favorite Episcopal Church in town, and I was struck by the liturgy and the emphasis on Eucharist. I enjoyed the service. So when D asked me if I wanted to go to the Evensong service at school, of course I said yes. Things progressed and soon I was hanging out with Episcopal students and Br. K, the abbot of an order of monks in town invited me over to the monk house. As soon as I started doing complines with the monks, I was sold. I loved how everything was so scripturally based and so meaningful. I of course resisted the idea of becoming Episcopal every step of the way. I was United Methodist, it was part of my heritage. But the more I was at Episcopal services and doing the daily offices, the more I needed it. The liturgy and eucharist soothes my soul. The use of scripture in almost every aspect of the service is enriching and enlivens me. I walk away nourished. When I talked to one of the Episcopal bishops, I learned about a church that isn't as structured denominationally and has a lot of leeway and freedom within each diocese to do as they see proper within their context. This both terrifies me and excites me. So I'm joining the Episcopal Studies program at school and I'm joining the Episcopal church. It's honestly one of the scariest decisions I've ever made, but I am so happy with it. I can't wait to be a priest, to preside over the table, to lead people in morning prayer. I am free to be me, and I am in a church structure that supports me. That's why I'm becoming Episcopalian.