A few months ago a friend asked me to write about why I’m an Episcopalian. I have often thought of that question. Why am I an Episcopalian or more specifically why do I believe in the Episcopal Way? It’s pretty insane in a way.
But, I find myself here because I’m committed to seeing the Eucharist embodied by the poor. I believe that Christ was born and died to save and set us free from oppressive structures and systems of tyranny.
The episcopal church gives me this space to reimagine the mystery of the divine. The majesty of God’s splendor. There is no where for me to go. I have to be where I feel the Eucharist leads to social and political transformation. How does the Eucharist do this?
It’s kind of simple the breaking of bread is the single act of any true community. If not for the breaking of bread there would be no church. There would be no story. There would be no church history.
When I take part in the Eucharist I’m not only taking of bread and wine. No, I’m taking part in the revolutionary life of my savior and liberator. I’m honoring his life, his passion, his message that we would be one. How do we become one? By breaking bread and saying goodbye to this modern life and living for something more, living for mystery and awe. By detaching from the dominant paradigm of oppression and repressive spiritual practice we come to the life of Jesus.
Jesus was not a Christian he could not have been. Because, one a religion such as Christianity only existed after the death burial and resurrection. Two, Christ was humble he did not pride himself on his ability to see through the dominant hermeneutics of the Temple and Synagogue. Christ was born into poverty, he was a Palestinian Jew and understood the scripture. But, even though he knew the scripture and could have used that to climb ranks in the Temple, he chose to give that knowledge to the wider community, most of which were illiterate and being exploited by the Temple.
Jesus was born into a time ripe with revolutionary thought. Just prior to his birth the Maccabean Revolt had happened where a small group of zealots who sought to cleanse the Temple of the unequally yoked relationship of the Roman Caesar and the Priests of the temple.
The Zealots were the organic representation of a people distrustful and fed up with the current and historic compromise of their supposed representatives.
For years the people of Israel and Palestine were being sold out to the power of Persia and then Rome. Rome being the most impactful.
Rome’s social belief of Victory Through Peace was a smokescreen of sorts. Used to kill off the Galls of Pauline history who were addressed as the Galatian church in the book of Galatians in the Second Testament of the Christian faith.
Victory Through Peace was literally peace through suppression. The Caesar prided himself on the idea that there was great harmony in Rome, when in actuality there was only great repression and that repression propelled the innovations that sustained it’s boast of human superiority. To keep insurrection at bay the emperors and Caesar’s developed pacts and agreements with the synagogue leaders, this in turn earned them privileges that the common people of the region did not enjoy. There were steep taxes and painful labor laws used through the Torah and other text of manipulation. The neighboring villages, towns etc had 95% illiteracy which impaired their ability to speak out. The taxes and increasing suffocation of healthy relationships with the temple had the neighboring lands absolutely without hope, Jesus was born into that.
Jesus was born poor, he graciously found education and their are many theories on how that happened. Some say he was able to escape the region and receive private training others believe that he was gifted and that helped him to learn and grow. Ultimately, how he became so learned in holy texts of the Hebrew scripture is not so important as is the fact that rooted in rebellion born into a spirit of resistance. He gave everything he learned to the people.
This terrified the Caesers and emperors there was no way to quell his message, ultimately he was murdered as a Palestinian Jew guilty of insurrection and leading a resistance movement against an unjust regime of tyranny disguised as providence. Jesus was no mere man, he was in essence the first anarchist, he was in essence a leader by example. He gave hope to the hopeless, he gave vision to the blind, he honored the prophetic message of the Maccabean’s and revolt (which is the celebration of Hanukkah) the 13 day revolt of the people (zealots or anarchists) against the temple leaders and Roman occupation.
The Maccabean’s (see the book of Maccabeas in the Apocrypha (which is not a evil “other” bible it’s a collection of writings that the original compilers of the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament canon disagreed on, because it did not fit seamlessly with the rest of the narrative the Septuagint wanted to convey) but in no way not a book of reference and stories to a very real and permanent experience in the history of the Jews/Christians and Israel-Palestine relationships.
The Apocrypha by all accounts should be regarded as sacred text alongside the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament “koinon” Greek scriptures. The only thing is it’s not going to lead you to believe Jesus is the Son of God it’s pretty much a collection of stories.
That’s why I’m Episcopalian because we are not afraid of the “other” texts. We know that this journey of faith is just that a journey…through faith. Faith in a variety of text and reason. That’s why I love theology. The discipline of theology offers me even more space to wrestle and interpret for myself, what or who God is. That question my friends is the very reason I believe in God.
God is more than an evangelical idea, a checklist of the top 3 or 4 Republican political issues. God is ever growing and evolving as I understand more of God. See God I believe is all knowing, All everything whereas I am very finite. That’s why I say God is ever evolving what I mean is, my understanding and faith in God is ever evolving. Our notions and concepts of God are trivial and dangerous. If left to our own understandings of God we would have no collaborations with interfaith networks etc.
So another reason I’m Episcopalian is because, even though I believe in faith and reason through research based on facts and mysticism with a little existentialism I believe that we are in a dangerous place to not have structure to our faith and practice. Through the liturgy I found that structure and that structure is constant. Every Sunday a new lectionary reading, prayers from the book of common prayer, it’s structure.
That’s the last point. The liturgy and breaking of bread. Perhaps it’s my Wesleyan background from my dad coming into play here, but liturgy and Eucharist are the essence of what it means to be Christian and Episcopal. These two principle beliefs and actions are the source of focus I need in my ADHD mind to believe in the mystery and awe of the divine.
I know that the Anglican/Episcopal church has a shadow side through the founding of this country. We could start by saying that Wall Street is owned by the Episcopal church. We all know what’s up with Wall Street 😉 but it’s in the holy Eucharist that divinity, awe and mystery coalesce in this beautiful symmetry of allegory in experience.
The holy Eucharist provides a framework and space to celebrate, to mourn and to resurrect with new insight and empathic compassion for the least of these among us. It’s in this framework of empathic compassion that I embrace the episcopal way. Through acceptance of actions and privileges less glamorous we provide others to heal, from both sins of omission and sins of commission. Both being social as well as personal. I enjoy the space provided to engage in social justice and moral concerns that celebrate depth and holistic interpretation which my hermeneutics would fall under radical emancipatory theology.
So in conclusion I have been in numerous churches. Followed countless denominations and even spent time in other religious schools of thought and philosophy but the episcopal church. Gives me just enough space to celebrate and participate in my “evangelical” roots of praise and communal worship through the reading of scripture but more importantly the awe and mystery of the unknown God.
A God that is not Christian, Muslim, Buddhist or Krishna but is all and in all of humanity and the earth. A God that is unknown yet experienced in awe and mystery. A God known through doubt and intersections of faith.
Honestly, the episcopal way is for me because I’m given room to not know and that has made everything so clear.