Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Episcopal Church -- Stay In or Get Out?

Since there have been two other options posted to the Northern Plains Anglicans blog, I may as well chime in with 'door number 3' -- Get the Heck Outa Dodge.

I am a cradle Episcopalian, confirmed in 1951, active in choir (junior and senior), acolyte, lay reader, etc., etc., etc., all up through living in, and serving on the vestry for, the Episcopal College Center, Auburn, Alabama, in the late '50's.

I married a Church of God, Cleveland, girl, started attending with her, joined, and called to preach, and subsequently making all the way to 'Ordained Minister' (now called 'Ordained Bishop') with the CoG. Working as pastor, district overseer, and institutional chaplain, I was active in ministry until 1995, when I surrendered my credentials, since I wasn't serving in any active ministry any more (mainly because I had divorced in 1991).

I returned to my home parish in Chattanooga, my new wife was confirmed, and I served on the Finance Committee, convenor of the Chattanooga Area Chapter, Order of St. Luke, acolyte, lay reader, LEV, LEM, and Linda served on the Altar Guild. When I retired in 2002, we 'hit the road' to volunteer across the country, Franciscan style, tent camping our way as we could.

In South Dakota, we worked for five months as a horse wrangler and guide for a mustang rescue operation until their 'regular' summer volunteer staff, those permanent Workamper volunteers, arrived. At that time, we were both called into ministry at St. Luke's Church, Hot Springs, as a part of their new mutual ministry team; me, as sacramentalist, preacher and catechist; and Linda as a member of the pastoral care team and team coordinator. We both entered into the diocesan program of study with the congregation and I read for Episcopal Orders for two years.

Two days before my scheduled ordination, my then TEC bishop, Creighton Robertson, 'pulled the plug', saying that my application (which he had on file for over two years) raised some 'red flags'. Yeah, sure, at his first question in my first interview of how I saw myself as an Anglican, I told him that I would describe myself as an evangelical Anglo-catholic, and that ended the interview.

Since I was also applying for clergy membership in the Company of Jesus Franciscan Order, I decided that the time was right for me to leave the Church of my birth, and seven counted generations of Irish and English Anglicans on both sides of my family, and align myself with the Anglican Province of Christ the Good Shepherd, apply for ordination, and was ordained a priest on Mother's Day, after serving as a transitional deacon for 18 months.

Our house church is small, but now beginning to grow, with new honored guests coming and staying with us; we have 9 services a week through the Summer tourist season: daily at 7:00 am at a city park downtown, and a 9:00 am at a retirement center, and our principle service at 11:00 am, all of them 1928 liturgies.

We are small, our liturgy is straight 1928 BCP (with a little Anglican Missal and Lakota music thrown in), and we wouldn't go back. We have prospects for the use of a church building to house our mission, for only the cost of utilities. Yes, we miss the Episcopal Church, we love and pray for the members of the local Church daily; but, no, we don't think we could go back.

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