Leaving Protestantism

Leaving Protestantism June 2, 2012

Ladder of Divine Ascent

Today is my last official day of being Protestant. Last week there was a sadness that accompanied my excitement about being received into a tradition that I believe has been boiling in my blood for a very long time. During my time as a Presbyterian (USA) and then in the Emergent community I made a great deal of close friends and compatriots on this winding journey of faith.

We shared this common mystical bond of seeking God in the everyday things and trials of life. We also bonded in the joy of the community itself and in the presence of one another. Those moments and friendships I continue to cherish and know they will persist beyond the bounds of tradition. I also know that the journey in which I am about to take my first big step presents a radically different vision of God, the church, and humanity from my previous commitments and most of those in Western Christianity. Those are points that this blog will discuss over time.

With every emergence there is a loss. This is a phenomenon in human development that Robert Kegan describes at length in his groundbreaking book The Evolving Self. If anything, my experience with Emergent lead me into the bosom of Orthodoxy. When we become something new, we lose something of what we were. We are no longer the same subjects experiencing reality as we did. It’s a dialectic between emergence and loss that happens in our cognitive development and expands in the society and culture as a whole.

Emergent Christianity, as I understand it, is a movement seeking an egalitarian, non-patriarchal ecclesia seeking to eschew the imperial and Greek influence of the early church. It’s an attempt to emerge from older ecclesial structures in order to form new ones that respond to contemporary relational needs. It might seem strange that this movement would lead me directly to the oldest Christian hierarchical, patriarchal communion that overtly presents Byzantine imperialism in its liturgical practice.

Nonetheless this is exactly what happened in my own spiritual journey. Emergent gave me permission to explore in a persistent search for where God was becoming me and calling me. There are other life events that drew me in as well. I’ll refer you here for that. Over the past year the ground I once thought was firm beneath my feet was an illusion forged in my psyche through a life sustained by the pressure of existence itself along with my own irresponsibility. Once the veil of misery was lifted, I found God who had been waiting for me and on the mercy seat of the altar.

There God was speaking to me in the Divine Liturgy. There the church was above me, in front of me, and all around me. The church eternal was singing praise to God in a place that eschewed time itself to say in unison, “Holy God, Holy mighty, Holy immortal, have mercy on us.” I met God outside of myself only to find God inside of me. I was for the first time in some way in the mystical presence of the Trinity and in a different way than before. Early in 2011 when I was sobering up I wrote this tiny poem which I kept on the bathroom mirror as a reminder:

care of the soul
is an archaeological dig.
with grace
we slowly chip and brush away our false selves
to find god
who has been there
all along.

My dig has lead me here, to this turning point towards theosis. Tomorrow I will give my life confession followed by chrismation and receiving the body and blood of Christ for the first time. For this I am thankful and grateful.

Tomorrow I go home.

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