I don’t know why, but lately, I have been thinking about those I left behind in the Anglican Church. I pastored many churches as an Anglican and an Episcopalian, and a few of those churches I really thought that I made a difference. Churches and their pastor become a family of sorts, they grow together and become a community; many of those communities I still hear from even today. As I began to lean Catholic, I notice a change, that community looked at me differently, they let me know that if that step was taken, towards Catholicism, I would be taking that step alone.
As I look at the issues involved I began to understand that being angry at those who stayed did not answer this situation, I could never bring myself to be angry at those whom I counted as friends. What I found is that this is a situation best solved by shedding light on some facts, the first being, changing churches is difficult.
Your changing families! There were times, when I was a teen, that I might have considered changing families, but once maturity came, I found my family was the best part of life, and would not give that life up unless I had a very good reason. Right there! There is our first problem. Many will stop my analogy right at “leave my family for good reason” and say, “we should NEVER leave our families! Family is indeed a responsibility, one that is not always fun; but yet we don’t leave just because “for better or worse” tends to hover over the “worse” side of family life. So many stay with family through issues that can elevate even to abuse, but they stay. To make this more of a point, we are talking about a church here, not an abusive husband, nobody is getting abused! So we stay, we stay loyal and we stay with our church. But are we sure nobody is getting hurt? At church we love Jesus and He loves us, how can anybody get hurt? On this very shallow end of the pool nobody seems hurt, but the Christian pool gets much deeper than this. Is Christianity universal salvation? Just love God and He will love us? I can do what I wish and God will smile down from heaven? Now I have gone from preaching to meddling! IF we believe God smiles on us all no matter what we do then the particular church you attend does not matter; pick the one that makes you happy! IF we believe that God takes offense at sins, and rejoices in good works; then chose your church carefully.
IF we believe God cares how we live our lives then we enter into discernment. Are we living life to God? More importantly, are we raising our children to live to God? IF we believe God cares how we live our lives we must tackle:
The uncomfortable questions:
How does the church you attend treat these issues? These are issues that take many out of the Catholic Church, and keep many from joining the Catholic Church. Among these issues are the reasons I chose to leave the Anglican Church and submit to the Catholic Church. So what does your church say about these issues? If you are non-denominational, then it will depend on your pastor. If you are protestant, some have central teachings and some do not; from my experience your pastor will be the arbiter of theology. If you are Orthodox then the councils of the Church combined with the bishops of the Church answer these questions. If you are Catholic, the pope, councils and traditions of the Church will answer these hard questions.
So who is your pope? Let me be clear, who is it that dictates what you believe about the hard issues? Is it your pastor? Is it you? Whoever it is, ask how they came to their conclusion on these hard issues. Did he/she come to this teaching from a scriptural basis, or just his own feelings? Are you willing to bet eternity on feelings? Possibly your willing to gamble that God has a “sense of humor” about His wishes for our life? The Lord will overlook these hard questions if we have lived decent lives? I found I could not make this wager, so I left.
Over the next few weeks I will try to explain the Catholic Churches beliefs on these hard questions, hoping that if informed, many will make the correct decisions on whether to stay, or leave.