I was honored to be the staff member profiled in this month’s “Words of Grace“, the parish newsletter for my church, Grace Episcopal Church in Charleston. The article starts on the bottom of the front page, and continues on page 4.
I am a parishioner, choir staff singer, and the IT guy for Grace, so am pretty heavily invested in everything that goes on there. This is one of the big reasons why I am so sensitive about the ongoing conflict between the breakaway “Diocese of SC” and The Episcopal Church. Grace remains steadfastly part of The Episcopal Church, which is absolutely where I want to be as well. Grace also currently houses the ongoing official diocese of The Episcopal Church here, The Episcopal Church in SC (which is actually not allowed to call itself the Protestant Episcopal Diocese of SC” or other variations that make sense, thanks to legal aspects of the schism.)
Most of the time I think I have a great handle on the issues dividing the groups, and then other times I get confused because of various spin and intertwined feelings about the role of “sin” in life. I am convinced that it comes down to whether women and LGBT people should be allowed to participate in ordained ministry, due to perceptions of biblical direction and sin. I see nothing in women or LGBT people’s gender or sexuality that determines their spirituality (other than general rejection from those who believe the bible clearly orders these matters.) In conservative, bible-belt South Carolina, I am in the minority.
Anyone who has read my previous posts may remember that I’m not particularly convinced that the Christian (or Jewish) Bible should be used as THE definer of “sin”. As a “recovering Catholic”, I am well familiar with the role of sin and guilt in trying to live a good life. I have been indoctrinated with the notion that something will happen to my soul after death, perhaps including judgement by God and/or St. Peter, or I will need to atone for my sins. I don’t know if I buy that – certainly I have lots of doubt. The conflict between the factions of the Episcopal church, and the many, many Christian denominations and other major religious systems have convinced me of only one thing – that religion is largely a creation of men. Some people have had spiritual experiences, and some believe to have heard God speak to them. Some people have dedicated large parts of their lives to the recording, analysis, and propagation of their beliefs. I don’t know if it is possible to validate any of that. Much of the beliefs of Christians are recorded in The Bible, which I understand to be a collection of inspired writings, but not necessarily a historical record. I do think there is plenty in the book to learn and live by.
I strongly believe in science and reason. My training in philosophy is relatively weak, and I tend to get lost on matters like exegesis. I feel that religious discussion enters into a mystical realm where reason and judgement become intertwined. I hate being judged, unless I’ve willingly entered into a competition. I don’t think life is inherently a competition for salvation after death.
I usually avoid expressing my opinions about religion or politics on Facebook or other social media. I suppose this space is technically social media, but it is mine, and I have some control over the dialogue. I actively avoid becoming flame bait, and am also concerned about professional backlash. Too many people that I am connected with on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. have widely divergent views. Some of those feel the need to proselytize when they disagree with me. So, I hope it is understood that this space represents my opinion only. I welcome comments here, but will stop them if I need to.
Besides the links above, I strongly suggest looking through these two for much more detailed analysis of the TEC schism in SC: Warning: They are from the “liberal” view of the conflict.
It probably won’t surprise anyone that I am also a Democrat …