Monday, May 17, 2010

Why I Left the Roman Catholic Religion to Become an Episcopalian

This is the first in a series of articles focusing on my religious beliefs. I was born into and raised Roman Catholic. My mother and father became pregnant with my brother. They were not married but, because of social norms and pressures of that time, were rushed into marriage. I am not saying that my parents were forced into a marriage they did not want, but society dictated that they make amends and were pushed towards marriage. My Mom was raised Roman Catholic and my Dad was Episcopalian.

As part of the Catholic tradition, Mom was required to raise her children Catholic. My brother and I both went through all of the Roman Catholic rituals and traditions. We were both Baptized as infants. We attended Catechism which is the structured indoctrination of the Catholic rites. We also went through the Holy Communion and Confirmation Ceremonies. The Catholic traditions were really ingrained into our lives. This really allowed me to understand religion, at least through the Catholics' eyes.

As a teen I started to question my beliefs. I did not feel a connection with God and felt when I went to church I did it because it was required of me. I felt a disconnect. In retrospect, I think my disconnect was with the Catholic Church, but not with God. But since I had that disconnect with the church, my relationship with God suffered.

Throughout my teens, twenties, and early thirties I was a disengaged Catholic. I felt that I could say I was Catholic, but I rarely practiced unless it was a holiday or went to a wedding . Even then when I went, I did not feel like I was part of that community. But a major event in my life transformed me, my daughter was born.

I felt, probably from that Catholic guilt, that I needed to re-connect with God. My wife felt the same way. Because of my disconnect with the Catholic Church, compounded with my personal beliefs that conflicted with the church, we looked at connecting with another Christian religion. I did not have to look to far. We went to my Dad's church and immediately felt a connection. I have been a member of St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Allentown, PA ever since.

Many ex-Catholics, like me, seem to move to the Episcopal Church. Services are very similar especially when it comes to the liturgy. So the Episcopal Church had a sense of familiarity. What really sets the Episcopal Church apart though is its leadership. It is a Bi-Cameral leadership, very similar to our government. The church has a Priest that leads the church, but it also has elected lay leadership called the Vestry.

This same Bi-Cameral leadership goes all the way to the top. Any changes to the church, including election of a Presiding Bishop, is voted on by a House of Bishops and a House of Deputies (lay and clergy). Nothing changes without these two Houses agreeing. It is just like the Senate and Congress. So instead of a Pope that dictates edicts to the masses, the masses in the Episcopal Church are the voices of that church.

My voice is heard here in the Episcopal Church. We all do not agree with each other, but the majority rules. Why I feel such a good connection with this church is not the leadership of it though. It is the church's (Episcopal Church as a whole) ability to welcome everyone, no matter what their beliefs are. Some may believe that a marriage is only between a man and a wife, while others may believe it can be between any two loving individuals. Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives all are Episcopalian. That is why I love this church community.

Recently, over the last decade, our church has been moving more liberal. We are allowing, and rightly so, gay lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) clergy become a larger part of our community. I believe it is not a choice in someone's life to be gay or a lesbian. It is who they are. My church is starting to reflect that. I look at it this way, if you are GLBT and want to marry someone else that is GLBT, you should be allowed. They should be allowed to suffer like the rest of us married folks. :-)

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