It's more than incidental for me, actually. I'm a cradle Episcopalian, who, after a very devout childhood and short periods as a Buddhist and a Quaker, grew up to be sort of a general-purpose evangelical who worshiped, and now serves, in independent churches. Trans-denominational...no, wait, Post-denominational churches. That's it.
My identity - my denominational identity - surges from foreground to background, from not-even-worth-mentioning to the primary fact of my identity, the first bullet point in my introduction. The last few years, it's come to the front again.
For one thing, it's a distinctive - it connects me to some people (Bob comes to mind) and sets me apart from others.
It sensitizes me to, and aligns me with, the victims of evangelicalism's tenacious anti-Catholic bullying.
I also suspect it's my primary qualification for my job.
Seriously, the Old Boss aside, hardly anyone in the congregation I serve has a sacramental background. The things I grew up believing and celebrating and doing are a part of what our church wants to give people - deep ritual, meaningful actions, a place to meet God beyond logic and sermonizing. The rhythm of the year; connections between this Lenten season and the one 5 years ago. Disciplines. Ancient poetry.
I haven't been to seminary; I never studied any of these things. I got them through immersion, through them being the only way I knew to be church.
And my background has plenty of holes. Growing up in my church, there was no moment of decision, of 'giving your life to Christ' - you were His already, obviously, baptised and raised under God's hand. Any decision - if one decided not to be confirmed, for example - would have been a refusal of the assumed order rather than a positive step. It was a little like the Columbia Record and Tape Club; it ran on negative consent.
The church I grew up in left lots of room for interpretation, so much so that famous Episcopal priests have published books debunking the virgin birth and the literal resurrection. Moral decisions were largely between you and God, but the directions for seeking God's guidance were pretty hazy. Also, if I had grown up 'born again' ("I've been born again my whole life!" as the character in "Saved!" says,)
I'd have a much better handle on the Bible, both as narrative and as compass.
Not to mention the class and gender baggage woven into the gigantic structure...the whole massive hierarchy (and its basis, apostolic succession) just seemed more of an impediment to God's work than a help. I couldn't sign on for that. And God was kind, and appears to have led me to a way to honor my 'calling' (I feel pretentious calling it that, but honestly, there's no other word) outside that structure.
And so I have made a commitment to an ecumenical, born-again community.
Nothing in my life has ever made me feel more Anglican. And more high church Anglican, at that.
I don't want to post a comment on Kyle's blog, cuz dude, they're all a bunch doctoral candidates and parish priests hanging out over there, and they'd eat me alive! Not in a mean way. They just know a lot of words that I didn't learn while getting my BA in theatre. I would be exposed.
But I will say this here (where I am constantly exposed) -
Kyle says that the differences between denominations are real, and to suggest that one is as good as another is disrespectful. Because we pick our denominational affiliations, at least in part, because we believe it to be
...the most faithful way, in this time and place, to respond to and embody the fact of God's reign in Christ?
And if you really think your church- say, the Baptist church - is the one that's 'the most faithful way', then to say
"I'm a Baptist, because that's what I think is right for me. I'm glad that you're a Methodist, because that's what God has called you to be. It doesn't really matter because we all love Jesus."
may be well-meaning and even kind, but it isn't truthful.
Here's where Kyle and I differ:
I think that I believe denominations were made for people, not for God.
People are limited. They're limited in their intellect and spiritual connectedness; they're limited by habit and taste and history.
God is enormous, majestic, passing understanding.
This may be the postmodernist in me -
I believe (and scripture and history support) that God reveals God's nature in many ways - scripture, creation, sacraments, supernatural happenings. Jesus was/is the most perfect revelation of God's character and nature.
Even people who knew Jesus in person, who walked with him 365 days a year for 3 years, did not get the fullness of God's revelation. They didn't even get the fullness of Christ. And he was right there. He ate with them, joked with them. They saw him rise from the dead.
Why, then, is it hard to imagine that Methodism might exist not because it's the best vehicle for revelation (and so everyone should get on board) but that it's the best vehicle for revelation to a certain type of people. Other people will be left cold by Methodism but love Roman Catholicism. Neither is 'the most faithful way' in God's eyes. Both are God-inspired but human-made, and so have truth and errors and beauty and hatefulness somewhere in there.
Does this make sense? It seems to me that God has done many things (Christ's incarnation, parables, Pentacost, to name three) to speak to people in a language they'll understand. Are denominations part of that?