Updated: Mar 3, 2021
Today I was confirmed into the Episcopal Church. My friend from TikTok, Rev. Laura Di Panfilo, presented me before the Rt. Rev. Dorsey McConnell, the Bishop of Pittsburgh's Episcopal Diocese. This event was the culmination of a lot of discernment, tears, excitement, and prayer - and today, I am feeling nothing but joy to be brought into the Anglican Communion. This decision may come as a surprise to some, however, who have spent years with me in the United Methodist Church, and as much as I tried to inform some of the Methodists that I was particularly close with, I couldn't have possibly told all of those that contributed to my spiritual formation. While I know some will be disappointed by this decision, and I can't possibly fit all that I am feeling into a readable life update, I hope to partially explain my decision here.
Where am I being called?
For me, this question almost always had to do with location. I knew that I was (am) called to ministry in Western Pennsylvania, Appalachia, the Rust Belt, etc. Mentors worked with me to ensure this call was realized and developed by pairing me with other folks doing great ministry here. I loved going to church camps, spending time at annual conference and at youth events and so much more. The UMC has done a lot to form me. My church experience wasn't without bumps and bruises. I watched my home church fall apart. I witnessed upheaval when Pastors preached prophetic, orthodox messages to their congregations. After being fired from First United Methodist Church in Hanover for supporting Black Lives Matter and subsequently moving to Wesley Theological Seminary in DC, I had to (and was encouraged to) take a step back to catch my breath and ask this question in a new way. I started virtually attending the Washington National Cathedral in August, talking to Priests and Pastors and interacting with seminarians within other denominations – especially Episcopalians and Lutherans, and seriously thinking about why I was in the UMC and where I was supposed to be in the future.
The result of this questioning was that I needed to be somewhere else. I want to emphasize that I am not leaving the UMC because of any of the above reasons. The reasons above gave me a reason to think, and Wesley Theological Seminary and others within my life gave me room to do so and things to think about. Every church has issues, problems, and toxicity. These inescapable negatives of the church won't go away because I change where I worship. We get pictures of the earliest church drama in the New Testament, and we will continue to witness it until Christ returns. I am leaving because I believe that I am being called elsewhere.
For a number of reasons, my worship has evolved to be much more liturgical and sacramental, my spirituality far more monastic, and my belief more progressive - and though I think there are sparks of all of this within the UMC, the lack of consistent belief about what worship is, what the church is, and how we approach the world as Methodists leads me to look elsewhere. I am really attracted to the Anglican Communion, the Book of Common Prayer, and living into the apostolic faith of so many faithful before me. The way I feel called to express my faith has changed. I still love John Wesley, the hymns that I grew up singing (and still plan on singing), Wesleyan theology, and my friends who remain in the UMC. I will be excited to celebrate this heritage and all of my Methodist friends on March 3 when the Episcopal Church celebrates the Wesley brothers' ministry as Priests within the Anglican church.
I don't plan on burning bridges. I am still in the process of working on some really cool, non-traditional ministries with some of my Methodist friends. I have no intention of halting these, nor do I plan to stop doing the church's work within communities where I volunteer. I think this is wholly un-Christian, unproductive, and counter to the values that I hold. I plan on staying at Wesley Theological Seminary for as long as I am permitted, and I am really enjoying my classes and professors, many of whom contributed to the thinking behind this switch. I am deeply thankful for the United Methodists in my life that have done so much to form me into who I am today. I am immensely grateful for the clergy and lay folks of Community United Methodist Church in Harrison City, where I was loved and aided so dearly since we moved to Pennsylvania in 2006, Pine Run UMC, and the wonderful folks at the conference center that have aided me in my walk. I have joined St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Mt. Lebanon, Pa, and I am excited to join in life and ministry there.
Feel free to ask me questions about this decision.
You can watch the full service here: https://fb.watch/3X-bBFU_kn/