This seems to be a big question now. I’ve heard a few clergy ask what is the difference? Why do people nowadays express themselves as spiritual but not religious and why do they refuse to attend or engage with the church, in whatever denomination? I suspect that religions other than Christianity also experience this but my experience is limited to Christianity so my views will also be limited to Christianity.
To the modern person, religion is identified with intolerance, hatred, condemnation, disrespect, condescension and spirituality with compassion, respect, equality, kindness, assisting others whoever they are….
Let’s put this in context with the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Communion elected to remove the American Episcopal Church from the Anglican Communion because …… of it’s stance on equality for the LGBTQI community. In English Law this action has a name. It is called hate crime.
To be clear, this is institutional hate crime committed by the Anglican Communion towards every person who identifies as LGBTQ or I who may or may not be a communicant member of the Church of England. For those of us who are, it is the Church telling us that we have no rights to be members of the church, that our faith is not real and that we do not belong in the church. Thanks Bishops and Archbishops …. I will pray for you as Jesus instructed us to pray for those who hate you and persecute you.
Which brings me back to the original subject. Religion is where people take the text of a book and make rules about what is or is not acceptable … people whom, for the record, Jesus condemned. Spirituality, on the other hand, is where someone lives by the core code found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Ch 5 – Ch 7).
Can you do both? I thought so until recently. Now I am not so sure and I am likely to join the growing number seeking to live the spiritual life away from the hatred of the institutional religion of the church towards people like me.
The Anglican Communion focused on the LGBTI issue …. not on world poverty, not on mass migration and enforced refugees, not on wars and how to find peace, not on meeting the needs of their fellow human beings. So tell me, Anglican Communion, just how are you fulfilling the commands of Jesus to love your neighbour?
I know many individuals within the Anglican Communion who practice spirituality, who accept all equally …. and I admire them for being able to do so within that environment. I, however, have come to the conclusion that I am not able to be part of an institution that is inherently institutionally continuing to practice hate crime. So I am leaving the institution of the Anglican Church with a heavy heart, wishing it had lived up to its potential to lead the way to an inclusive faith.