What I'm thinking

Whew! I'm humbled and delighted at the outpouring of advice, as well as the depth of discussion created by my posting of Mike's original letter! I do feel a little bad--and would like to apologize--about posting the letter prior to getting Mike's full public opinion. I know he presented himself in a way that he may not have done publically otherwise. (Don't worry Mike, I'll tell Karen to go easy on you :). In any case, she understands the frustrations of trying to change things from within the establishment as well as any, so I suspect that she might not disagree with you as totally as you think... ) Clearly though, he shouldn't feel bad about what he said, because what he struck a chord that was sufficiently challenging that folks got a little defensive--always a sign that you're somewhere close to the truth.

And indeed, I posted originally because Mike stated so clearly what one side of my mind has been saying, and I was eager to hear if anyone would be kind enough to voice the other side, and "talk me down" so to speak. In this discussion, John Hebenton has been, for my money, the best advocate of staying with the institution. I have to admit that his views might be skewed a bit, being part of the (relatively) very healthy New Zealand Anglican Church. NZ is just a better world than the US all around :). In the US, my experience is that Anglican/Episcopal heirarchy functions a little differently, with our individualism and distrust of our neighbors throwing some unfortunate wrinkles into the Anglican system, which in my view functions most effectively in communal cultures, as does Catholicism. I'd like to comment more on that later, but I'm pressed for time right now and wanted to let you all know--who've been kind enough to put in a lot of time trying to help/persuade me--a little bit about what I'm thinking.

Tomorrow I have a meeting with the bishop who is in charge of discernment in our diocese, partly to discuss my place in the process. I think I've sorted out the gist of what I'm going to say--informed in many ways by this discussion.

Having spent two years in formal discernment in the Church, I've come to realize that there are currently several very strong pulls in my life, all of which I see as essential to fulfilling my calling. There's the pull to pursue the priesthood in the Anglican Communion, the pull to settle somewhere which promises to be a long term home, and the pull to give Angel the opportunity to get her career as a nurse practitioner established.

We've realized that the best hope for a long term home for us might not be in the US, because we've drifted out of connection with our culture, and neither of us has the desire or will to stay around and fight the political and ideological battles that will be facts of daily life in our chosen careers. (Remember that she works in health care and I work in religion and social services...) We've realized that essentially we're trying to fight the culture we live in on a number of levels, and that's not really where we want to spend our energy. So, it seems that the most promising location for us to accomplish our goals seems to be the Vancouver, B.C. area. It's got Nurse Practitioner jobs, it's got an Anglican seminary, it's absolutely beautiful, it's no further from family than we are now, it has a culture similar to New Zealand's (which we loved), and it's a two hour drive away from our present home, so we can maintain our present relationships, at least on some level.

My hope is that I can continue in the process of discernment, and ultimately the process of ordination, in the diocese I'm in, and also achieve the above stated goals. I think I can, if the community is willing to work with me and bend a few of it's less important principles. I think I am called to the priesthood, and that I have a voice that will be valuable for this community. I also want to give back to the people who have helped and supported me here as much as possible. However, the fact is that if this diocese isn't willing to send me to seminary in Vancouver--i.e., if it wants me to go to New York or San Francisco for at least a year--I'm not at a place where I'm sure that I'm willing to make the sacrifices that it would take to be ordained here. I'd rather step back and go through the steps I need to with the Diocese of New Westminster--albeit continuing in discernment during my time here in Seattle. I'm confident that I can fulfill a priestly role, and find work to support myself and Angel in any case, so I'm at peace with that. One of the functions of the discernment process is to help the discerner realize when it might be time to "wait" when it comes to ordination, and I'm at peace with my situation if that should be what we decide. (At the same time, my prejudice is that "wait" would be a decision that's made based primarily on unnecessarily rigid enforcement of diocesan procedures, rather than a healthy view of what's good for me and the church community in general).

I am of course putting the cart before the horse here--I'm not at a point where I've been presented by my congregation, and my bishop isn't at a point where she, or the Commission on Ministry, are making any decisions. However, I'm confident in my calling at this point, and I think that the Church will recognize it. (If not, what a relief in some ways!) I need there to be a full understanding--a full level of honesty about where I am--in order to continue in this process (more great advice from John H.) , and we're at a stage where this discussion is important.

With that, thanks once again for all of the great, and often very touching, advice. Now, it's off to pick up my wife and have my 28th Birthday dinner!