I would like to believe that what makes us Episcopalians, us Christians, in general, different from secular institutions is that we truly follow the teachings of Jesus. I would like to be able to observe a crowd of people in a shopping mall and easily single out the Episcopalians or Christians. I can't.
We Episcopalians or Christians pretty much act like everyone else. I see this as a huge problem. We like to think we are special because we a have a "belief system". But of what good is any Christian belief system if we only pay lip service to the teachings of the person whom we proclaim to follow.
The single-most defining quality of an Episcopalian, to me, is our openness, our ability to welcome everyone into our community, regardless of their faith tradition. In my experience, Episcopalians are probably the least judgmental, the least prejudicial, the most thoughtful, the most evolutionary, the most accepting, the most tolerant, and thus the most loving and compassionate of all the Christian denominations. That is why I became an Episcopalian.
I was a Catholic for more than 40 years. I left the Catholic Church because, in my opinion, that institution is in a complete state of denial. I think it is an authoritarian system, where people are by and large brainwashed into believing that a heirarchy of old men dressed in pretty costumes, led by a self-proclaimed infallible guy working in an elegant palace are the only source of God's truth. I'm sorry, but I stopped believing in Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy when I was eight years old.
I have talked at length with and(or) worshipped with Southern Baptists, Pentecostals, Quakers, Jehovah's Witnesses, Universalist/Unitarians, Buddhists, Seventh Day Adventists, Lutherans, Jews, Muslims, and Mormons. I have enjoyed all of these brothers and sisters of mine and have entertaining stories to tell of my experiences with them.
The only ones that I truly related to are the Quakers, the Buddhists, and the Universalist/Unitarians. But they all seemed to be missing that "something" that would pull me way from the Episcopal Church. It may well be that I will one day join one of these faith traditions. My journey isn't close to being complete. At this point, I feel most comfortable in the Episcopal community, particularly as I'm seeing that there are an awful lot of Episcopalians "in the closet" who share many of my views.
The difference between me and many of these in-the-closet Episcopalians and Christians is that I have no fear to state what I believe without mincing words. Trust me, when one escapes from the Catholic Church, there's nothing left to fear! (... I'm kind of kidding).
We Episcopalians have a lot of common ground. We do. We're not going to find it, though, in the doctrines of the Church. We will find it in the teachings of Jesus. I am a follower of Jesus who happens to be a part of an Episcopal community. I would rather that we simply called ourselves Christians or followers of Jesus, rather than dividing ourselves into thousands of different Christian denominations and sects. The reason we've divided (and continue to divide) is based
more on our human inabilities to get along and accept our differences without judgment than the validity or importance of our doctrines and dogma.