Why I am an Episcopalian

I have many roles. I am a wife, mother, daughter, and friend.  I have been married for 30 years, have two children, a mom in her 90s, and a dog. I have done many things. I have been a print journalist, disc jockey, radio newscaster, social worker helping chronically mentally ill people on the streets of Baltimore, psychologist in the California state prison system, forensic psychologist for the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health, neuropsychologist for the California Department of Mental Health, and a forensic psychological expert witness in both state service and private practice. A great deal of what I think and write about come from the many aspects of who I am, and my primary identity now is as an ordained minister of the Episcopal Church. Since I write many of our weekly articles, I wanted you to know what it means to me to be part of the Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church is a Protestant Christian denomination which is part of the global Anglican Communion.  We are a democratic and hierarchical organization, much like the U.S. itself.  We consider clergy and lay people to be equally important to the work of the church, with each group attempting to find and fulfill our specific call to serve from God.

The Episcopal Church has, as a body, made many mistakes.  We have been a powerful and privileged group and have used that power and privilege to advance the interests of the few over the many, to hold onto and build more power at the expense of others, and to force our beliefs on other people.  We have not only failed to care for those in need and raise up those who are kept low by systemic inequity, but we have helped perpetuate the situations and institutions that have led to injustice and oppression in our society.

Over the last four decades we have changed. In 2010 The Episcopal Church committed itself to: eradicate extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases; ensure environmental sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.

The Episcopal Church has also recommitted itself to the basic Christian values of loving our neighbors as ourselves.  According to our Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, “in the first century Jesus of Nazareth inspired a movement. A community of people whose lives were centered on Jesus Christ and committed to living the way of God’s unconditional, unselfish, sacrificial, and redemptive love. Before they were called “church” or “Christian,” this Jesus Movement was simply called ‘the way.’ Today I believe our vocation is to live as the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement. But how can we together grow more deeply with Jesus Christ at the center of our lives, so we can bear witness to his way of love in and for the world?…By entering into reflection, discernment and commitment around the practices of Turn – Learn – Pray – Worship – Bless – Go – Rest, I pray we will grow as communities following the loving, liberating, life-giving way of Jesus. His way has the power to change each of our lives and to change this world.” The Episcopal Church recognizes the deep suspicion many people have of organized religion.  We understand the depth to which many people have been wounded by those calling themselves Christian.  We attempt to be vigilant about our own actions that are based on fear or prejudice – and to stop them.

Episcopalians also have a sense of humor, as evidenced by this take on our denomination by Robin Williams, who was raised in the Episcopal Church:

Top 10 Reasons to be an Episcopalian:

  1.  No snake handling;
  2.  You can believe in dinosaurs;
  3.  Male and female God created them; male and female we ordain them;
  4.  You don’t have to check your brains at the door;
  5.  Pew aerobics;
  6.  Church year is color-coded;
  7.  Free wine on Sunday;
  8.  All of the pageantry – none of the guilt;
  9.  You don’t have to know how to swim to get baptized;

And the Number One reason to be an Episcopalian: No matter what you believe, there’s bound to be at least one other Episcopalian who agrees with you.

In other words, Episcopalians are open to questioning and doubt.  We welcome all people to our communities.  We welcome you.

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