So, is there a denomination/faith/r
eligion that fits?
Please bear with me here, it may be long and a bit rambling... I became a Christian 6 years ago through a fairly typical path of: young children, toddler group at very active local (Anglican) church, made Christian friends, attended a parenting course at the church, attended an alpha course, became a member of the church and a 'committed' Christian. There were always a few key issues I struggled with: the view of homosexuality as a sin (I'm very pro gay marriage), the literalist approach to the bible (I studied anthropology and have an unshakable belief in evolution/ scientific explanations of how the world began), abortion (I'm pro choice) and other religions ( deep down I think I believe all faiths are equal). The church I am now very much a part of is a fairly conservative, bible led, evangelical one - I think their 'model' would be the Holy Trinity Brompton one. Their view on homosexuality for example is 'hate the sin, love the sinner'. Over the last 2 years the niggling issues that I struggled with at the beginning have become more and more important to me and I'm feeling less and less comfortable with this particular church and with the Christian faith in general. I do believe in God, but I'm not sure it's in a particularly 'Christian' way - I feel like I want to be able to pray to him, to be guided by him as a moral compass but that is about as far as it goes. No longer totally sure where I stand on Jesus as the son or God or the bible as 'God breathed'.
What do I do? I feel like every time I go to church, or speak to my Christian friends, or attend a prayer group etc I am living a lie. Also the kids are settled in their Sunday groups ( although DH isn't a Christian and doesn't come to church, and as a result the kids and I have only ever gone to church twice a month at the most). The kids also attend a C of E school and I'm a governor there. I do also like that feeling of shared worship that going to church brings and find the familiarity of it all quite comforting.
Not sure if I'm at the wrong church / wrong denomination or wrong faith altogether. Also not sure what to do about it ! Have tried praying but have never really heard God's voice anyway, let alone on this issue . Any ideas or am I just over-thinking things?!
Sorry for such a long post, thanks if you made it this far [ blush]
Hi op. An atheist (ex Christian) here. From the sounds of it the key reasons you go to church are for the community, opportunity for reflection and moral guidance. These needs can and are met by other avenues for those without faith. I just thought I'd point that out so that you don't feel like it's church or nothing. I hear people mention the Quakers a lot on here for a very relaxed and expansive 'spiritual' experience. I wouldn't be surprised if your church had quite a few members who felt the way you do.
It sounds like your church's very conservative stance is not helping you grown in faith. These sorts of churches are good for new Christians as they have very definite ideas about what Christianity is about. Faith is very much a journey so the church that was right at the beginning of a faith journey may not be the right one now. The more liberal churches are much more comfortable with mystery and paradox. Or the open evangelical churches may be more familiar territory for if you are used to the HTB style.
So why not try somewhere less conservative and see how it feels? You could try other C of E places or Methodist or URC. Some Baptist churches are in the open evangelical mould. Could you try and evening service or midweek service so that you get a feel of a place?
For what it is worth I'm C of E and hold that science and faith are completely compatible, would love to hold gay blessings in my church if it were permitted and I don't hold to any form of Biblical literalism.
There are many ways of exploring your spirituality without christianity or indeed Abrahamic religion.
You studied anthropology - you should have a wealth of knowlegde in which to explore your relationship with the divine/god/godesses.
Athiests are not without a moral compass- altruism was alive and kicking long before jesus got in on the act.
maybe the Unitarians then OP is for you?
Thanks for all of your replies and also for wading through my long post. I hope I didn't sound as though I thought atheists had no moral compass. In all honesty, altruism, compassion, forgiveness, open mindedness etc were all things I really valued anyway, long before I became a Christian. The thing is, I think I do believe in God, so that instantly discounts me from being an atheist...
I find the whole 'changing church' thing baffling and daunting, maybe because I've never been anywhere else really. How would I find out which are the more liberal churches? Round here they all seem fairly conservative, even the more 'modern' ones (as the church I go to is). And, as stupid as it sounds, I worry about offending people at my current church, possibly damaging a couple of really good friendships (or at least making things awkward) and leading to a raft of people to be 'praying for me to see the light and come back to the fold' which would feel very odd.
I know there are other faiths to look to (Unitarianism looks v.interesting, thanks Crescentmoon) and also the option of no faith at all, or faith without participation in an organised religion. What I'm keen to avoid is a lifetime of searching for something and never quite finding it...hmmm, lots to think about here.
Headinhands, I'd be really interested to know whether as an ex-Christian you have found any other avenues that provide the same level of community thinking, guidance for children (not indoctrination) etc as a church does?
I agree with all your view, apart from abortion (I've had 2, never got over it, so it does make me uncomfortable). I spoke to to my Priest (Anglo Catholic) and he agreed with me on all points which was a massive relief.
I find the more evangelical Christian branches I've experienced tend to take the Bible more literally and think gays are bad and everyone who's not a Christian is going to hell. This si just my experience.
I think you should try another Church.
Community thinking can be modelled within the family unit, volunteering, giving to charity etc. so in a sense, you become the church for your children. I think churches have the edge though in that they already have a captive audience who are used to giving money etc. I've often thought about how I'd like some sort of secular church to go to and hear other ideas but don't feel that my children are lacking because they aren't part of a church.
Thanks headinhands, that's exactly the kind of thing I was thinking of - I do feel confident that modelling those things at home is enough for the kids now (ages ranging from 8 to 6 months) but I suppose I worry about whether they'll listen to us when they're mardy teens. I think I had a vision that the church youth groups etc would at least provide some other grown up role models for them!
Although I thought I was community minded before, I was really struck by how the church community is mobilised to help others when they really need it, to go out if their way to support each other etc. but I guess now that I know how that works, putting it into practice in a secular environment would come more naturally.
Wingedpig that is really interesting as I would always have assumed that Catholicism would be more traditional in its thinking on those things. In fact, that's one of the reasons that despite having been baptised as a Catholic (although never practising) I chose to be confirmed in the Anglican Church - I assumed they were more forward thinking! My conclusion is that I should have done far more research at the beginning - and if fact I'm fairly shocked at myself for being so easily lead into it all without looking into it more .
I am also Anglo Catholic and have a lot of AC friends. This is the general view on things in our tradition (as I see it).
Homosexuality - never heard anyone express a negative opinion, a lot of AC priests are gay anyway. Generally, personal lives are considered personal and not up for discussion/criticism. As our Lord said, mind your own business.
Abortion - I'm sure people have different opinions (basically depends on whether you think the soul is joined to the body at conception or not) but would never impose them on someone else. I would not terminate an accidental pregnancy but what someone else chooses to do isn't really any of my business and I don't know what's best for them.
Biblical literalism - isn't really a big thing in Roman Catholic/Anglo-Catholic theology. More emphasis on scripture as a basis for things but pulling out the overall message rather than obsessing about details. Also not all parts of the Bible are made equal - obviously what Jesus said is the most important bit. You can ignore vast swathes of the Old Testament because that was written before Jesus came and set the record straight. A lot of books like Leviticus are just a list of very outdated old Jewish laws, not really anything to do with Christianity/the new covenant.
Evolution - Roman Catholics are fine with evolution, that's official. God as creator means as ULTIMATE creator, i.e. he set everything off. Of course, this does not rule out that humans have developed over millions of years in accordance with evolutionary theory. Evolution doesn't contradict anything in Catholic belief.
Heaven/hell - general idea is that Heaven = eternity with God and Hell = eternity without God. Very vague. Most priests don't even have a solid idea of what heaven/hell would actually be like. Best just to concentrate on being alive imo.
Contraception - not being Roman Catholic, it's 100% fine for me to use contraception, which I do. We don't accept the Pope's teaching on absolutely everything. TBH all the Roman Catholic women I know do use contraception as well.
Conclusion - most churches are not like your church. There is a lot of misinformation around about Catholicism, it's worth investigating if you like the sound of it.
Not sure if this really helps you OP, but fwiw I feel the same as you on many of your sticking points and am part of a church that sounds very similar to yours. But the community life, worship, teaching, outreach, mission, serving opportunities, children's work and Spirit-filled lives that I see there far outweigh the niggles. I am willing to continue in my faith journey with God and in the Anglican church whilst retaining my own views on certain things. Much as plutarch says they have Catholic friends who ignore the Catholic teaching on contraception, I just ignore the teaching on homosexuality etc. Good luck in finding what works for you though
I get we're you are coming from and I think maybe an open evangelical church might suit. Keeping the strong christian core but giving more space for questioning and the reality that we don't know everything about God.
I think these kind if threads can see faith and church attendance as just another consumer choice....Choose whatever works for you don't change yourself or think about God first just choose somewhere that fits your existing political and social commitments.... I think to some extent you need to be prepared to be changed by the church you choose Togo to. Christians should always be changing, becoming more like Jesus. The best way to choose a church is tidings one where you really think the people are 'being Jesus' in the world. Of course look out for somewhere more open to the questions you want to ask as well but don't try and form God into your tick list of social/p
Ooops... Should have said don't try and form God into someone who complies with your checklist of social and political commitments because that's not going to help you find deep faith or allow space for God to be God.
I hope that makes some sense. I hope you find a church where you can find depth and a lasting faith in Jesus!
Honey, I think the vast majority of people in this country feel the way that you do. This swing back to right wing conservative Christianity has come out of the US and a world afraid of the rapid rate of change...a normal (I.e. non-HTB obsessed) C of E would allow you to hold these views. Many Catholics also hold these view as too...but if you want a denomination who theologically as according to every last letter of their doctrine will allow you to openly support all these stances then the Quakers are the best as they are deliberately set up to be free thinking.
What I'm saying is...most churchgoers who are also part of this liberal society go to church to get their spiritual needs met but are modern enough no t to be so dogmatic. HTB and the evangelical movements are fun and certainly fill the void in terms of the community needs we are often currently sorely lacking due to the way society currently is. I attended churches like this during my 20s for precisely that reason and because they were exciting... But over time, like you, the mental incongruity between their doctrine and my more liberal values made it impossible. Keep your faith, don't let the church spoil it...but find a sensible vicar or liberal denomination to worship within. This the only way for the sanity...!
I go to a middle of the road Cofe church, baptised there in 2007. It is open to different views, loves everyone, no love the sinner hate the sin crap. I've openly argued in Bible study for gay marriage. I have been tempted by the larger Cofe church down the road which is more evangelical and more people and better youth stuff, but I just can't. We are, in evangelical terms, a dead church, but that shows up faults in their theology, not ours.
I would go for a walk, somewhere that nature is close to you, and find God through the wonder of the Divine creation. The only way any of us can find our God(s) is through reaching out and being with them.
It was doing this that led me to find Wicca, that is where I find my journey to the Divine. You may find yours elsewhere. (I am ex-Catholic)
Really valid points here, thanks so much. I'm feeling more and more that I'm in the wrong church. I think because this is the only church I've ever been part of I just assumed all Anglican - and in fact, all Christian churches would be the same (dogmatic, but with a veil of being welcoming to all). For example I have sat (cringing) through sermons on family life that condemn worldly forces setting out to destroy Gods perfect idea of marriage (I.e between two heterosexual people). It's all very modern, not 'brimstone and hellfire' at all, but the underlying feeling is that this is what the bible says and therefore what we should believe. No one I've spoken to within the church seems to question it - I think a lot of them just don't have strong views either way so are happy to go along with it. But I can't, and don't want to.
Fizzoclock, I do understand what you're saying, but I can't just ignore my social and political views on these issues while letting God do his work on me. I've been trying that for 6 years and it's actually destroying the faith that I started this journey with.
Try going to different churches and making an appointment to speak to the minister/priest. I did this, you really get a feel for their ethos that way.
You've had lots of feedback here already pinkpip, but just to add that you should not assume that all Anglican churches are like yours: they are definitely not. My own church looks quite traditional (in a smells'n'bells kind of a way) but is anything but in its teaching. I hope you find the right place for you.
Have you looked into the Quakers?
I reckon that your dc's would still have positive role models if you weren't part of a church community. What do you want modelled to them by these roles models? Is it something that can only be modelled by someone of faith i.e. prayer or are they values that we would generally admire in and outside of religion such as honesty and so on?
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