There is something important about joining a tribe. A tribe is different from a family or from a small group of friends. Not everyone agrees about everything, except the need to stick together.
Most people are born into a tribe. I was. Some tribes are very inclusive and encourage outsiders to become part of that tribe. This one is. It is pretty common to gather a bunch of Episcopalians together and find out that the vast majority were Baptists or Catholics or some other denomination; and one day they fell in love with the Episcopal Church. The tribe began to change, as it learned from these different faith communities.
More people came. People that were even more different. Minorities, women, LGBT, poor, uneducated, and the disabled started showing up, breaking the WASP (White Anglo Saxon Protestant) stereotype from the early 20th Century in which we were “Catholic Lite” or the wealthy elite. This, of course, is unsettling for the old church practice of keeping the people around you looking just like you: for cohesion, of course. This practice of inclusion cost us greatly, and has since the 1960s.
We’re a tribe that didn’t just get it’s origins from England, but Scotland. We have loyalty to hierarchy and grassroots rebellion in our DNA. The changing form of the church in the 1960s was moving more toward our Scottish Episcopal heritage: embracing elements of mutual ministry (often referred to as the Royal Priesthood of All Believers) that brought Christians into a flatter structure, from the pyramid (in which all the lowly people at the bottom are crushed!). The key principle of this was the raising of the two primary sacraments (Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist) to the center of our tradition. Rather than crafting a new hierarchy, the purpose was to give full participation in the church through baptism. This is a pretty radical notion, particularly for a denomination so embedded in hierarchy, to suggest that an infant, upon baptism, is equal to the 55 year-old senior warden.
I choose to be a part of the institution that raised me because I have a dream for a better church, and the Episcopal Church has all the tools to make that happen. I believe in the transformation that has already taken place and the transformation in which I will be involved. I believe that my involvement must be more than in the local community, but in the wider diocese, the region, and the globe, something that the Episcopal Church is uniquely situated to do.
I am an Episcopalian because I am better with this church than without.