To be “catholic”

Growing up as an American Evangelical I was acculturated into the belief that ultimately it is all about me and Jesus. There is an element of truth in that idea that I still believe. If I am stranded on a deserted island, I can still have a vital Christian experience in my relationship with God through Jesus – just Jesus and me. But, as I have written previously, I am coming into an understanding of what it means to be a “catholic” Christian. I am beginning to understand how that idea challenges my American Evangelical, lone-ranger mentality.
There is a growing conflict within me about the Episcopal/Anglican controversies over gay relationships. Now that I am ordained, I am not in the same state as I was when I was a lay person. I am now under a different standard and a different obligation to God and to Christ’s Church universal.
I am a transitional deacon and soon-to-be-priest in Christ’s one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, and my “rights” or my “individual” anything are no longer a primary consideration. I have put myself under a different set of parameters for living. It makes no difference what my personal beliefs may be in the grand scheme of things. They are simply my beliefs – right or wrong. As a clergyman, my responsibility is to God and to the Church and not to my own fulfillment or desires.
So, I am very conflicted right now about what I should be doing – how I should be conducting my life. I believe the decisions of GC2003 are justifiable according to Scripture and theological perspective. Yet, as a clergyman in a Church that as of yet has not come to a common understanding of all this stuff does not mean I can just act as I would like. I am one under authority.
The Church defines marriage as being between the two opposite genders. The Church proclaims that sex outside of marriage is not within God’s will, and is ultimately harmful to us. Therefore, since the Church does not yet conclude that “marriage” between individuals of the same gender is right or proper, then I should not be engaged in a relationship that includes sexual expression. Maybe, maybe not. At the same time, the Church is often wrong and does not realize its wrongness without pioneers pushing for change, without conflict, without being pushed to the edge by those label heretics. How then shall I live? As an advocate that nevertheless abides by current Church teaching? As a pioneer who stands by and acts upon my strongly held personal beliefs and advocates for change? As someone who ultimately knows that I stand before God alone as my judge and that as long as I can honestly say that I believe this to be proper before God, then I will do or be such a thing regardless what the institutions of men say?
It is very hard for me to sublimate my own feelings, beliefs, and desires for the sake of a teaching I think is wrong. It goes against my individualistic American nature. This is what I think, and I am therefore going to act upon my belief, and no one has the right to keep me from it.
I am coming to believe that the Episcopal Church acted prematurely, even if the actions taken I consider proper. I am coming to think that The Rev. Jeffrey John in England was right when he said he and his partner refrained from sexual expression in their long-term relationship when the Church of England reasserted its call for the clergy who are outside the bonds of marriage to be celibate and chaste.
I am a deacon and a priest-to-be. I vowed to obey the teachings of the Episcopal Church, and as of now the teachings are still such that marriage is between a man and a woman. I believe Scriptures calls us to express ourselves sexually within marriage. As of yet, I do not have the option of marriage either by the State or the Church, even though we are in the midst of change. As a clergyman, I am really feeling the conflict of believing I should obey the teachings of the Church as they stand, even if I think they are wrong. I am not alone, however, and must consider the well being of another.
This, for me, is the conflict of being an evangelical and a catholic Christian.