I started attending a nondenominational church back in 2000. For 14 years I was committed to this idea - the idea of a church stripped to essentials, open for discussion and communication. Unfortunately, as someone who holds liberal opinions, I learned that when it came down to reality, this model wasn't working as designed. Now I am attending an Episcopalian church, a church that aligns with the churches I was raised in, but also differs significantly in that it is definitely not an Evangelical church. Here are 10 reasons I made the switch.*
10. At the end of the day, I want a choir and an organ. As a classically trained musician, this is the music that I appreciate most. Not that pop Christian music doesn't serve a purpose in my spiritual life, but as a mother, I want my child to hear historical and unique music as well as by the numbers praise and worship songs.
9. The liturgy gives me words. Ever since I attended a liturgical church, at age 9, I knew there was something powerful in the words, words which were assembled out of the Catholic tradition over 500 years ago. Phrases which were assembled in the time of Shakespeare, in English, my native language. My prayer book does not disappoint: there are prayers for everything: for rain, for the care of children, for social justice, for times of war, etc.
8. I am finally in a community which affirms my own social convictions. Over time I have come to support and advocate for gay marriage. Episcopalians marry and even ordain gay people.
7. I am tired of Bibliolatry and fundamentalist interpretations of the Bible. The longer I studied the Bible, the more Episcopalian I became in my view of it - although I didn't realize my views were Episcopalian!
6. The rituals of the service remind me to be awestruck and reverent toward God. Watching the Bible be carried to the middle of the church for a reading, kneeling to pray, watching everyone process and recess beneath the Cross: it all reminds me of the majesty of God.
5. I am a feminist. The nondenominational movement struggles with women and where they belong. Episcopalians have been ordaining women since before I was born.
4. Sometimes, you can not be silent: you must affirm. In my experience, nondenominational churches stay silent on the issues of abortion, LGBT issues, divorce, and war. The LGBT community can no longer continue in a place of limbo: they must either be fully affirmed or denied. To stay silent is to condemn by inaction. In my experience, churches trying to be "seeker-friendly" avoid these issues, saying they want to focus on the essentials of the Gospel. But isn't affirming the oppressed and those in the minority one of the essentials of the Gospel?
3. No more surprises. Oftentimes nondenominational churches are pastor-centric, and when the pastor leaves, the church changes, sometimes significantly. Episcopalians have a well defined and thought out theology that will not change simply because a new priest has been hired.
2. It is the "via media." The Anglican communion was born out of a desire to hold on to what was good in Catholicism. The men who crafted it did not want the upheaval of the Reformation to dictate their faith. It is a religion of compromise: of allowing people to follow their conscience, up to a point. If there is any place where some wiggle room in beliefs is tolerated, it is here.
1. I feel safe again. My beliefs as a feminist, as a person who upholds the legality of abortion, and as an LGBT supporter made me a target in every nondenominational church I have been in. I no longer feel like my faith, my devotion to God, my willingness to follow the Holy Spirit, my very salvation, will be questioned because I hold certain beliefs.
* Full disclosure: I have not attended every nondenominational church in the world. I'm sure there are many which do not present the problems I complain of here. I have been wounded and I am beginning my healing process, so I'm sure in a year my opinions will be different. However, I do believe that the nondenominational model has some very fundamental problems, which I touch on in this post.