To further round out the autobiographical details, I should probably mention something about my politics. I'm a liberal and not ashamed to admit it. In 1976 I was Jimmy Carter's campaign manager at my middle school. 1984 was the first year I was eligible to vote in a presidential election and I proudly cast my vote for Walter Mondale. I think I was one of about twelve or thirteen people to do so in South Carolina. (I exaggerate, but only slightly.) I like to hike and will readily admit to being an environmentalist. Heck, my wife and I went to a Sierra Club meeting on our first date. And our first out of town trip together was to Clinton's first inaugural. The only issue where I part ways with many on the left is abortion, and my position on that issue has only changed since we had children. (I'll save the story of my evolving views on the abortion issue for another post.)
I say all these things not to start a political argument, but to point out that I really should have been comfortable with the Episcopal Church. Worship was focused on the Eucharist and to the extent they took positions on public issues, they agreed with me most of the time. But here's the problem: despite being pretty liberal on politics and social issues, I consider myself fairly orthodox when it comes to Christianity. I believe that Christ's resurrection was a real event that actually happened and not just a metaphor for us changing our lives. I believe Jesus was fully God and fully man at the same time. I believe Christianity is more than just one way to God, but is indeed the Way, the Truth and the Light. In short, I really believe the Nicene Creed and the Apostle's Creed when I say them in Church.
My problem with the Episcopal Church is that I'm not sure these beliefs are required any more. Over the last several years, I've been to several different Episcopal Churches and heard a lot of sermons that sound like they could have been delivered at the Unitarian Church down the street. Now as they said on Seinfeld "not that there's anything wrong with that" but I don't want to be a Unitarian. The Episcopal Church (like all the mainline denominations) has suffered through a lot of controversy over the role of gay folks the last few years. But it seems to me that this drift toward Unitarianism and Universalism should be a whole lot bigger worry than whether two men hold hands on their way back to their car after the service.
The early Christians changed the world. They converted the greatest empire in the history of the earth. They were willing to die for their faith. Many were indeed martyred. I'm currently a member of a Presbyterian Church USA congregation. I try to attend services at an Episcopal Church whenever I'm out of town. I don't hear a lot of sermons that would inspire us to the point of laying down our lives for our faith. I don't mean this as a critique of the oratorical skills of the pastors, but to point out that when following Jesus is just one of a good number of equally acceptable alternatives, why would anybody sacrifice to be a Christian?
So off the soapbox and back to my problem. What's a socially liberal but theologically conservative guy going to do? I actually got desperate enough to consider Catholicism.