Next Sunday, Bishop Gregg (assistant to the Bishop of North Carolina) is coming to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Durham in order to lay his hands on those who are wishing to be confirmed and received into the Episcopalian church. After some consideration, I am not going to be one of those taking vows before the congregation.
When I was in high school, I first learned the difference between immigrants and refugees. An immigrant is someone who arrives in one country from another, intending to settle in the new place. A refugee leaves their home country only because conditions there have become intolerable for one reason or another, but they continue to consider themselves part of their old land – and they often harbor a longing to return.
Even as I long for my home, I do not know when or whether I will return. It may be that, over time, I will consider that I have immigrated to the Episcopal church. But for the time being, I am a refugee – I am grateful to the Episcopalians for offering me safe harbor, and I am even comfortable among them – more or less. However, I cannot help but notice that I am Methodist.
I am Methodist when singing a Charles Wesley hymn in worship makes me giddy. I am Methodist when I get worked up about the proposed Cokesbury closures. I am Methodist when I get excited about the content from the latest issue of Circuit Rider (a publication for United Methodist pastors, published by the United Methodist Publishing House.) I am Methodist when I sing from my United Methodist hymnal for nightly family devotions. And I am Methodist when I feel closer kinship with someone who was raised Wesleyan (Another outsider! From a Holiness tradition!) than with a lifelong Episcopalian.
I sort of wish I felt more Episcopalian. I like the kneeling, and Eucharist every Sunday with wine instead of grape juice. I like that the Episcopalians *don’t* have guaranteed appointments, which makes them more comfortable ordaining people who feel bi-vocational — the Episcopalians are not caught up in the worldly worry of “what am I going to do when this person decides they want a parish after all, and I am obliged to find one for them?” And of course there is the thing I like that sent me to the Episcopalian church in the first place – I like that my gay friends can get ordained or married in an Episcopalian church.
But no matter how much I like about Episcopalians, it is not enough to make me an Episcopalian myself. For now, I can only claim St. Luke’s as my refuge from an intolerable situation in the country of my birth. And some nights, I lay awake and wonder what it will mean to raise my daughter in a foreign land.