catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 12, Num 18 :: 2013.10.04 — 2013.10.17


Have mercy

In August 2011 our family moved from upstate New York to take a job in Austin, Texas. In February this year, I became Anglican.  Sometime in the next year, my husband will be ordained as an Anglican priest.

The first months we lived in Texas, Brian took to quoting Clark W. Griswold: “If I woke up tomorrow with my head stapled to the carpet I wouldn’t be more surprised than I am right now.” Two years in, this still sounds about right.

For starters, I said I’d never marry a pastor.  I grew up a preacher’s kid under the watchful eye of my father’s congregation.  I dreamed of one day being able to attend church — or not — free from any constraints that come with living in the pastor’s house. Now my husband spends every free hour completing a seminary degree and various requirements for ordination, all while serving as executive pastor at Christ Church of Austin.

Three words in his title alone surprise me as much as a staple to the head. There’s the “pastor” title and then there’s “Christ Church.”  Ever since my father parted ways with a hyper-conservative, separatist denomination, my family embraced a non-denominational status.  I, in particular, began flinging off denominational constraints like some sort of suffragette.  When my husband is ordained he will be an Anglican priest, a title spelled with four letters by our hyper-independent forebears only slightly less damning than the “Father” (as in “Father Brian”).

So now we live in Austin and I’m married to an aspirant priest in the Anglican communion.  

When I was five years old I prayed with my Daddy to follow Jesus.  That decision was eternal.  Becoming Anglican is not eternal.

When I was nineteen I wore a white dress and made a vow to Brian Murphy.  I put on his ring and his last name and said I wouldn’t take it off until I died.  That commitment was binding before God and man.  Becoming Anglican is not binding.

When I was twelve I stood hip-deep in a muddy river with my father who dunked me in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.  Becoming Anglican is not the same as becoming baptized.

But it’s not nothing.

And strong men from Martin Luther to my Daddy made proclamations against the abuses of church structures.  Luther started a Reformation, my Daddy started a Bible study.  The Church of England said no to Rome with the Act of Supremacy and my Daddy said no to some Baptists with a non-denominational church birthed in our living room.  William Tyndale wrote a Bible and gave up his life; my Daddy wrote church by-laws and gave up his salary.

Becoming Anglican is a little bit about that.

Well, there’s more, of course.  There’s the question my friend David asked Brian and me four years ago: “What church does your church want to be like?” And my only thought was, “Churches are supposed to want to be like other churches?”

And the grievance of a young Christian blurted to our former church leaders: “Yeah, but who do you guys answer to?”  And my first thought was, “Church leaders are supposed to answer to someone else?”

We know now, of course, no denominational structure guarantees accountability.  We’ve heard the grievous stories — every sort of abuse against the innocent by the frocked and titled.  May God bring justice and mercy to us all.

Yet Christ himself lived as a man under authority, doing all that the Father told Him to do.  By this same authority He sends us out to both give and receive ministry — an authority that first humbles itself to the Cross before being lifted up. 

On the same Sunday I was confirmed into the Anglican church, our friend — and priest — Peter, was ordained.  I kneeled on a pillow, submitted my head to the hands of our Bishop — the simple act itself a saying no to misaligned vows I’d made as an independent, me-and-Jesus kind of girl.  But Peter threw himself prostrate on the floor.  I heard him fall before I saw him sprawled — white robe splayed across wood floor, arms outstretched cruciform.  And I know when Brian’s ordination day arrives this will be the only posture of authority he’ll accept.

He’ll receive the vestments and prayers by those in authority over him:

Take authority to preach the Word of God and to administer the Holy Sacraments. Do not forget the trust committed to you as a Priest in the Church of God. 

And may God Himself remind and defend us all.

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