The Anglican Communion, the overall name for the whole organization that includes the Episcopal church in the US, is in the throes of yet another schism-type thing. The majority, I gather, wants to allow the ordination of gay and lesbian priests, wants to bless same-sex unions, and wants to sanctify (is that the term?) gay and lesbian bishops. A minority thinks these things are an abomination.
In the 80s, as I recall, the argument was about ordaining women, and some folks thought that was an abomination.
Before that, in the 70s, the Episcopal church in the US wanted to change the prayer book so that some services used language that wasn't archaic (that's what I remember from being a kid then, anyway). And some folks thought that was an abomination.
In each case, most people stayed with their parish, but folks who didn't like what was happening left. They didn't tend to leave for Unitarian congregations; because they were unhappy with the progressive movement of the Episcopal (or Anglican) communion, they looked for more conservative affiliations or made their own parishes.
And now the Catholic church is reaching out; it's like the Vatican is shouting, "If you hate gays, lesbians and women, come join the Catholic church! We've got a special deal for you!"
What a special deal. If you hate gays, lesbians and women, the Catholic church is the place for you. Really. If you think women aren't equal in your God's eyes, then join the Catholic church. If you think God hates the gay and lesbian people you think he created, join the Catholic church.
(The special deal part has to do with dogma and specific practices, I gather; but I'm guessing most Episcopals really don't care or know much about the dogma. It's not exactly the most strenuous in it's religious education, so far as I remember. And I'm guessing the folks looking seriously at the Catholic church aren't fretting lots over consubstantiation vs transubstantiation.)
I grew up in the 60s and 70s, in an Episcopal, church-going family, but by the time I hit college, I'd had my crisis of faith and decided that, comforting as all the pretty hymns and such might be, I really didn't see any evidence that what I'd been taught as a Christian had any basis in reality. And I saw a good deal of evidence that what I'd been taught made no logical sense at all.
I also wasn't really interested in worshipping a God that thought women were crap. My service in the parish was basically doing dishes. Yeah, it wasn't called that, it was called polishing brass, but it was basically doing dishes, and it was behind the scenes and respected about as much as all women's work. Only boys and men could be seen having meaningful roles in actual services. That didn't help my little crisis of faith. (If I'd been a few years younger, the female ordination thing would have played out and I wouldn't have been turned off by this particular aspect of Episcopal practice.)
And so, I had a couple big arguments with my Mom about whether I had to attend church, and at some point, I was an adult and that was that.
Retrospectively, as I became more aware of the Civil Rights movements that had been happening while I was growing up, and especially as I became aware that the Civil Rights movements had been led by Christians, often, and centered through Christian parishes, I began to wonder why none of the sermons in our church talked about Civil Rights or race or justice. The parish I'd grown up in had mostly middle class white folks (mostly), with a fair scattering of community leaders--bankers, realtors, lawyers. And I wondered what would have happened if the sermons had pushed the bankers and realtors to fairer, more just lending and realty practices.
As an adult, I know full well that most of the bankers and realtors would have pushed back, either threatening to leave and take their supportive tithes with them or threatening to get the rector fired. Either way, it would have taken a very strong rector with strong beliefs to take up that challenge.
I have no idea what the rector of the church where I grew up felt about Civil Rights. I don't remember him ever saying. (I do remember numerous sermons about the beauty of fall leaves and how we should all be grateful.) But by the time I was a young adult, I was disappointed that I hadn't been taught about justice and Civil Rights through my supposed Christian education, because it was the most important movement happening through my youth, and we should have been led to think about it early on. It would have been, as they say, the Christian thing to do.
The rector of the church, Father Last Name, shared a house with the deacon, Father First Name. Father First Name was my favorite, probably most peoples' favorite, because he was kind and caring, taught our confirmation classes, hugged us when we skinned a knee playing, and made us feel that there really was love in the world. When he greeted me on Easter after the service with the traditional "The Lord is risen; the Lord is risen indeed, hallelujah," his joy and love shone through. Father Last Name was more distant, forbidding, almost scary. He didn't seem joyful at all, but sort of a sour, dour man.
As I said, they shared a house. Neither was married.
In the 70s, a new assistant was hired, a young, married priest.
And then the first schism I talked about hit, and suddenly Father Last Name and Father First Name retired, and the young assistant I guess tried to take over, but ended up leaving the Episcopal church to start his own parish of folks who didn't like the new changes.
As an adult, I've talked to some people who were adults parish-members then, and the vague consensus is that Father First Name and Father Last Name were gay, closeted and very careful, lovers. Maybe people in the parish guessed it, if they cared, but since the two were closeted and very careful, and maybe since Father First Name was beloved by all, it just wasn't that big a deal. But the folks I know seem to think that Father New Assistant tried to use it against them, and forced them to retire thinking he'd be able to take over, but that he didn't fully succeed in that last part.
So I wonder whether Father Last Name could have preached about Civil Rights? Maybe as a privileged white man, he didn't care. But I wonder, when Stonewall happened in 1969, did he want to preach about it to his parish?
Of course, I'll never know. For all I know, they weren't gay. Or they had sex together but didn't identify as gay. Or whatever.
But I wish Father Last Name had preached about Civil Rights and Stonewall.
The very things that would attract me to the Episcopal church now (except for the whole God part) are the things that some people hate so much that they'll leave. It's not the logic that takes them away, as it is for me, it's that the church is too darned progressive. It's that they want a place where they can hate women, gays and lesbians. And the Catholic church welcomes their hatred.
Were I a believer in such things, I might conceive a special place reserved for people who hate so much.