When it comes to religion, I am rather an old fuddy duddy. I find little solace with hip services of overly contemporary language and music. I grew up in a very middling sort of Episcopal church, which until the Episcopal Church of the United States adopted the new BCP in 79, we stuck by in large with the formal liturgy of the 1928 Book of Common Prayer. One knew the order of services, Morning Prayers on the 1, 2, and 3 Sundays of the month (unless there was a feast day) and Holy Communion on the 4 Sunday.
Growing up in such a traditional setting, I despite some youthful rebellion, accepted the fact that one appeared in church in a coat and time and for women a proper attire. Like the Book of Common Prayer there was something ordered about the expectations of attending church.
Several years ago, I joined the Roman Catholic Church as I was disappointed by the direction of the EUSA, in particular the ordination of an openly gay Bishop in New Hampshire. I believed, at the time, that this was an open break with the sacred tradition of Christian teachings. I attended the Catholic Church quite regularly until I married my wife, who despite her protestations, was not interested in joining the Catholic church. Moreover I was also deeply disappointed in the response of the Catholic church to the allegations of rampant pedophilia within the church.
At Easter of this year, my wife and I attended a traditional Anglican service at a parish within the Anglican Catholic alliance. While the service was very traditional, I was struck by the lack of vigor in the service. This may of course be due to the fact that the church is currently being serviced by a temporary minister, but I suspect, that it has to do with the fact that the Church is in open rebellion against the EUSA and in turn the Anglican communion. It is a rebellion brought forth by the antics of the 1970s liberalism specifically replacing the 1928 BCP with a BCP of inclusive (and I might grammatically vulgar) language.
In recent weeks the EUSA has consecrated its second openly gay bishop, in California. (Go figure.) Meanwhile the Roman Catholic Church is reeling from yet another scandal involving abuse of children, primarily boys but not exclusively, by Priests in a number of European countries.
A few weeks ago I had occasion to visit my home parish in the Episcopal Church. I was frankly taken back by the informality of the service. It was hip, with horrible folk rock music of guitars, wind instruments, and brass. The service was the worst forms of the 1979 BCP and lacking both good grammar and substance. And many in congregation had forsaken coat and tie for more informal dress. (There were several students from a nearby college who were wearing shorts and obviously hung over!) Yet for all the informality and lacking of substance, there was however vigor in the body of church.
As I drove home from my visit, I thought about the nature of religion and concluded that my beliefs had matured over the years. First I concluded that since I saw no reason that openly gay men and women should not serve in the Armed Forces of the United States, that perhaps it was time for me to reconsider all my beliefs. (I have for a number of years believed DADT should be repealed.) I also concluded that it was better for the corporate body of a church for the Priests and Bishops to be openly gay and in committed relationships, rather than hiding in the “closet” and preying on innocent children. I also have settled in my mind that marriage should be an option for gay men and women in committed relationships, but that, our nation, must remove religion from the equation of marriage. As it currently stands in all fifty states, one received a license to marry from the State, but the legal contract can become binding when the service is performed by a member of the Clergy. Let me postulate that we should require all to have the marriage contract become legally binding when issued by the State and affirmed by an agent of the State Couples would still have the option of a religious ceremony but the minister would have no role other than acting solely as an agent of God.
I am still an old fuddy duddy when it comes to religion, I must prefer the traditional hymns and the words of the traditional Anglican liturgy. I believe one must dress properly to attend church, but I also believe that within each age we must be prepared to question what we believe. Being willing to change some of our beliefs with the ages is the mark of open thinking and discourse, however preserving some tradition also has its place. That is true conservatism.