Tuesday, May 15, 2007

This Is The Way?

On Sunday I attended a church service for the first time in a long time. I went to a 5 pm service at an Episcopal church in the District. In a subsequent post I’ll tell you why, and about the delightful effect it had upon me. In this post I’m gonna tell you about the Episcopal church in my home town of Falls Church, Virginia.

I grew up attending St. Paul’s Episcopal Church on Staten Island. I felt safe, secure and welcome in that wonderful old church on St. Paul’s Avenue, not far from the ferry in St. George.

As a result, when I was growing up my religion lived within my heart, and was expressed by my best attempts to do good deeds. I knew the Lord to be loving and forgiving, and I tried to be the same. This included being tolerant.

That was the memory and knowledge I had of my faith, until I moved to Falls Church. There I attended services at The Falls Church (Episcopal) so that my children could be exposed to the church and its teachings. I wanted each of them to make up his own mind about what kind of a presence it would have in his life.

I never felt at ease in The Falls Church, nor entirely welcome. Everything was so severe. I listened to the sermons and in my opinion, they were intolerant, sexist, misogynistic and homophobic.

Principally they preached against homosexual unions being condoned by the faith and spoke disapprovingly about wanton or empowered women. The flock was usually directed to that day’s particular anti-gay tract, which could be purchased in the church’s bookstore.

The preachers I was listening to didn’t compare to Father Cope on Staten Island, whom I had trusted and loved as a boy. I didn’t trust and couldn’t love what I was now hearing.

One of my sons, the most sensitive one, uttered a curse word in frustration while attending Sunday School once. The teacher chastised him in front of the class for committing a sin and made him sit alone in repentance for the rest of the hour, apart from but in full view of the rest of the class. My young son’s lips apparently trembled the whole time. The thought of my child’s public ordeal at the hands of an adult still tortures me years later.

I obviously stopped going to this church and I wondered about my faith. Was it intolerant of persons who were different? Or did it have room for all, as I remembered it.

More recently, during my interminable divorce proceedings, the teen minister at The Falls Church, who had undertaken on his own to counsel my estranged sixteen-year old son, came to the custody trial and testified against me. Maybe I was too liberal and too tolerant for his taste. I guess this youth minister preferred that my sons have no father.

Unsurprisingly, I was awarded full joint legal custody with standard visitation after the two-day trial. The Guardian-Ad-Litem ("GAL"), the court-appointed overseer of our sons' best interests, was familiar with the Reverend Jeff Taylor's counseling of my son. The GAL addressed the Court, and his final report was incorporated en toto into the Final Custody Order. He gave my support of the other parent an A+, and her support of me to the kids an F. He said the following about this fine representative of the clergy of The Falls Church:

"I don't really think he was providing counseling in the way of an unbiased person. He was the friend. He was the father of Jimmy's best friend and I think he sort of heard his situation. But I didn’t hear in his counseling any themes of forgiveness. I didn’t hear any themes of honoring your mother and your father. I didn’t hear the things that I thought a truly unbiased counselor would be presenting."

Recently a majority of members of The Falls Church who were given ballots voted to leave the Anglican Church over their displeasure with the consecration of a gay bishop and the blessing of same-sex unions. These purists have cast their lot with a Nigerian Archbishop who has voiced support for a pending law in Nigeria that provides prison sentences for homosexual activity. Meanwhile the Archdiocese of Virginia has filed a lawsuit to get the parishes’ land and buildings back.

You might wonder why I would ever set foot in an Episcopalian Church again. I had a good reason.


jeanne said...

oh please don't confuse those VERY CONFUSED people with episcopalians. they stole the name and then twisted it.

We have a few Father Cope's at st. c's (not that i'm prosletizing here or anything!)

I personally think there should be a copyright on the word "christian" and only certain people should be allowed to use it.

You have been sadly abused by the falls church, and they will answer for it one day.

Anonymous said...

Very insightful perspective on Jeff Taylor. Without going in to too much detail here for fear of reprisal, I am aware that Jeff Taylor quietly left the Falls Church after it was discovered that his behavior vis-a-vis teen and pre-teen boys was inappropriate . . . to say the least.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. I had heard a bit about this and was also quite involved with the church as a teenager. Unbeknownst to me, my friends were being abused right under my nose.

Anonymous said...

I also has heard about this. Was there ever any disclosure or clarity on the situation? It could have impacted a lot of people?