I can't be Catholic any more.
March 19, 2013 7:01 AM   Subscribe

Please give me advice on finding a new church.

After much anguish I have finally hit the breaking point with the Catholic church. I'd like to find a new church, but my lifetime of Catholic training means that I don't know exactly how to go about it.

I feel like the default option is to become Episcopalian, but maybe I should cast a wider net then just thinking the Episcopal church is good because it's what Catholicism would be without all the misogyny? I think you can see from even my stupid stereotypes about Episcopalians that I'm a bit lost.

What I want is a Christian church that is not misogynistic, is life-affirming, welcomes queer people, promotes social justice, seeks to protect its children from sexual abuse, won't give my children a lifetime of guilt over masturbation, is financially transparent, and doesn't choose Nazis as leaders.

Where should I start with this? I would appreciate advice on how to learn about different Christian denominations, how to find a local church that's a good fit, and how to actually switch from Catholicism to something else.

This is anonymous because I'm not yet ready to talk about this with people in real life who know my metafilter name.
posted by anonymous to Religion & Philosophy (57 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Sounds like Unitarian Universalism might be worth a try.
posted by mochapickle at 7:03 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Sounds like Episcopalians are a good fit. If you are ok with getting even further from Catholic ritual, maybe even United Church of Christ (UCC*)

* Oldest joke in the book: Unitarians Considering Christ.
posted by supercres at 7:03 AM on March 19, 2013 [12 favorites]

What about the very inclusive United Church of Christ?
posted by walla at 7:04 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

The Episcopalians are a pretty short doctrinal step. You could do worse than find a local church and go talk with the priest (or whatever representative you have) about your concerns and see where they stand. I imagine that individual churches vary quite a bit on inclusiveness depending on the make up of the community. Episcopalian is the default "back up church" for fed up Catholics in my very Catholic-heavy state.
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:04 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yeah, UU is what you want. It's missing some of the ritual and grandiosity of the Catholic church, but its advantage is in its far greater humanity.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 7:05 AM on March 19, 2013

(I figured someone would suggest Unitarian Universalism, and I often do myself, but that sounds like a step or two too far for OP. I'm guessing he/she wants some god/Jesus talk on a regular basis.)
posted by supercres at 7:05 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

I recently ended up reading about the Quakers and it sounded quite appealing to this lapsed Catholic.
posted by mikepop at 7:10 AM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I grew up Catholic, left it at 18 and am generally uncomfortable with organized religion, but I count several UCC ministers as friends. Most of them are women. I personally have no need for church as a regular part of my life, but I have a lot of respect for the work these friends do.
posted by jon1270 at 7:12 AM on March 19, 2013

While I do love the UUs, they are really only a marginally Christian church. I'd second the UCC, because it really is what you described. You could also do a lot worse than the Episcopalians, although that's going to vary a little parish-by-parish.
posted by General Malaise at 7:12 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

You might try switching parishes as well/instead. I am in the Orthodox church which can be even more traditional in appearance than the Catholic church (we have funnier hats!) and I think hit most if not all of those requirements, in part due to our priest and community. It is possible to attend a very misogynistic Orthodox parish as well.

Basically - the community and the leaders will define the church you attend more than just a list of doctrinal points alone. I know very rigid Quakers for example. (hah, typed that before mikepop's comment!)

Church shopping is basically to go to different churches for a couple of weeks and talk to people there. Be careful with first impressions - professionally friendly churches can be more focused on congregation numbers and tithing and appearance. Two of my favourite churches were not overtly welcoming, just polite at first but it was genuine politeness to a stranger and later warmth, not faked up impersonal warmth to a stranger. YMMV. You can definitely call ahead and ask to speak to someone about doctrine etc, most pastors/vicars/priests are used to enquirers.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:16 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

My Presbyterian (PCUSA) church meets all of your criteria. We're part of the More Light network, which might be a useful resource if you are seeking out new churches to try.

I grew up in the Lutheran (ELCA) church, which might also be a good fit. It shares a lot of liturgical similarities with Catholicism, but without the baggage.

In my experience, most mainline Protestant churches welcome ex-Catholics (we have a ton in my congregation), and there aren't a lot of barriers to entry. My church offers a short "new members" class for people interested in becoming members, but it is nowhere near as involved as RCIA. Also, most churches in my area have a fairly good web presence now, so checking them out should give you a decent indication as to where their priorities are (e.g., social justice ministries, etc.) and how they are governed.
posted by hovizette at 7:17 AM on March 19, 2013

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Not to be confused with the missouri synod. Each congregation is pretty different - one we attended regularly had communion every weekend and a service that largely mirrored the Catholic mass. Another had communion once a week and a service nothing like a Catholic mass. But in both cases, the churches were welcoming to all, spent a lot of time on outreach both in the community, across the nation, and abroad. The larger church is pretty democratic, and while it's hard to agree with everything they say about everything, they tend to take pretty nuanced (or wishy washy depending, I guess) positions. They'll ordain gays and lesbians; I think the official policy is that each congregation gets to decide about gay marriage. But their statements on social issues tend to recognize the nuances rather than going with "hey the old testament said X so X is banned!!"

Anyway, as someone who grew up Catholic, I found the ELCA to be both familiar enough, and different enough, to be a good fit.
posted by dpx.mfx at 7:18 AM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Another vote for Quakers here. The structure will be extremely different from what you're used to, but the mindset may appeal very much. (Raised Catholic here, and my bestest friend in grade school was Quaker and we occasionally visited each others' churches.)

And you are in my thoughts. It may take a while for you to figure out where you "belong" now - it took me a hell of a long time -- but God's out there, and what I believe is that God doesn't really so much care where you find Him or how, just as long as you find what works for you best. Memail me if you want to talk about that. Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:19 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

A very close friend of mine who is gay left the Catholic church, for pretty much all your stated reasons, for United Church of Christ and seems quite happy with it.
posted by dnash at 7:23 AM on March 19, 2013

I know some United Church of Christ people, and they are pretty much what you seem to be looking for. They've been supporters of gay marriage (both organizationally and personally), and they've done a lot of community service, both local and international.
posted by marginaliana at 7:24 AM on March 19, 2013

Yeah, as a former Lutheran you might really enjoy a Lutheran church. I sometimes miss the sense of ritual and the communion every Sunday. They can vary a lot from congregation to congregation, but a good friend of mine is an out lesbian member of a Lutheran church that runs a shelter for homeless LGBT youth. Doesn't get much more liberal than that!
posted by showbiz_liz at 7:24 AM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

A liberal-leaning Methodist or Lutheran congregation, or the UCC, sound like your best bets.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:26 AM on March 19, 2013

Disclaimer: I'm an Episcopalian who came to the Anglican Communion after really wanting to covert to Catholicism but not being able to stomach the church's position on birth control/gays/women's ordination.

I'm guessing, if you're otherwise committed to the Catholic Church's theology, that UU is going to be too far for you. UU is a very loving, welcoming, and open church, but it's light on grounding those beliefs in Christian faith.

I'll make my brief pitch for the Episcopal Church. In the United States, especially in the more liberal parts of the United States, you'll generally find a church that is "life-affirming, welcomes queer people, promotes social justice." My church's most recent Sunday sermon was entirely about stopping gun violence, even though that fit in poorly with gospel reading (which was the story Mary anointing of Jesus's feet). Obviously, this varies by parish, but some Episcopalian parishes are absolutely dedicated to these sorts of social justice issues. You may also find a church that seems very familiar to you as a Catholic in terms of liturgy; this may be good or bad depending on how you feel about the Catholic Church.

The other thing about the Episcopal Church is that it's a very theologically inclusive denomination. In my city, I have gone to an Episcopal church where they openly make calls for socialism and one where they have a society honoring Charles I of England as a martyr. If you're looking to move churches, the Episcopal church, at least in a larger city, is very likely to have a place that feels right to you, simply because of the diversity of congregations.

In general, I would recommend figuring what, apart from non-misogyny, non-homophobic, etc. you care about. For my part, I care about fairly traditional liturgy, I care about connection to the historical Christian tradition, I care about smells and bells. The Episcopal Church fits me nicely in that way, without forcing me to support a church which doesn't align with my theological beliefs; if you'd prefer something in a more lower church Evangelical vein, then the Episcopal Church might not be right, although you can definitely find parishes like that.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:26 AM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think you are going to have to look at actual churches - like, individual churches in your area. The thing about non-Catholic denominations is that they're much less homogeneous than the Catholic Church. I think Episcopalian and ELCA are good starting points because they have a lot of the same "look-and-feel" as the Catholic church, but individual Episcopalian and Lutheran churches can be really different from each other in terms of liberality etc. I was raised in a UCC church and experimented with UUism (before finally settling into "comfortable with my atheism") but they are very different-feeling from Catholicism.

You might want to check out the "Mystery Worshipper" section of Ship of Fools - it's basically like restaurant reviews for churches. Might give you some idea of what you're looking for. It's skewed towards Episcopalian/Anglican churches.
posted by mskyle at 7:27 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another (selfish) vote for Episcopalians--all the ceremony and cathedrals of Catholics, none of the hateful beliefs!

As to how to change, many Episc. churches practice open communion, so just walk in and take communion and meet people. My guess is that many other churches work the same way. You don't need a special confirmation or classes to join a liberal Christian church, any more than you do to get into heaven (imo).
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:28 AM on March 19, 2013

OP, I think a lot depends on where you are. You might be very happy with the more formal UU service on the Upper East Side in Manhattan, but uncomfortable with a pagan-leaning congregation in say Tennessee. And who knows whether there's a Quaker meeting near you. The Episcopalian congregation near you might or might not be liberal - some are very conservative.

If I were you, I'd take all the suggestions and look at what is actually available near you, and go visit all of them. I get that your primary concern is about the message of the church, but in practice things like music, friendliness, and availability of activities might be important factors.
posted by bunderful at 7:29 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm an ex-Catholic who occasionally flirts with returning to religion. I've sort of concluded that my only options within Christianity are Episcopalianism and Quakerism. You have certain expectations of what religious practice looks like and, frankly, most of the stuff in between is just kind of weird to me. (A non-programmed Quaker meeting is so far from mass that it's hard to sit there and think 'they're doing this wrong'.) You may not end up feeling the same way.

It is the case that any denomination varies pretty wildly, so you're going to have to church-shop. Honestly, you probably just want to make a list of all the acceptable denominations and the local churches and go down the list. Any of the denominations mentioned so far (except maybe UU, who I think technically aren't Christians) are liable to have the local congregation believe things that are unacceptable to you. You may be able to vet them via their websites, but realistically you're probably going to have to go and feel them out. You might decide they're nice people and their service is stupid, in which case you might have to cross the whole denomination off the list, or you might decide the congregation sucks and have to move on to the next congregation in the hopes they're better.

(Depending on where you are, the Old Catholic Church may have a presence and may be acceptable to you. Basically, they schismed over papal infallibility after Vatican I, but that's basically where my knowledge of them ends. However, they're another close approximation of Roman Catholicism besides Episcopalianism.)
posted by hoyland at 7:30 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Don't dismiss the Episcopal church just because it's the default Catholic back-up church. The Episcopal church ordains women and LGBT people, and has even called them to major leadership positions like bishop. I've heard my local Episcopal bishop talk about the church's understanding of homosexuality, and it was amazing and loving and mind-blowing. I've heard sermons about all kinds of social justice issues, from women's and men's role in marriage (equal) to solitary confinement in prisons (bad) to gun violence (also bad) to homosexuality (not an issue). You will find that the Episcopal church varies widely from high church (incense every Sunday, lots of pomp) to low church (incense rarely if ever, very casual) to everything in between.

As for how to find a church -- just go. You'll find people very welcoming and friendly. If you don't want to go back, don't. If you do want to, go. That's all there is to it.
posted by OrangeDisk at 7:31 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm throwing in another vote that you might have a good fit at a Lutheran church. As already noted, congregations vary hugely, so it might take some time to see which works for you.
posted by Fig at 7:32 AM on March 19, 2013

My mom left the Catholic Church 40 years ago and has been happily Methodist ever since. Methodist churches are generally low-key, no drama churches. I have never discussed my sexual preference at any church (I'm straight). I would assume that if anyone, straight or gay, began discussing their sex life at church, it would be frowned upon. That's just my opinion.
I grew up in a Methodist Church in the south. When I lived in Pa., the Methodist Churches that I found up there were charismatic, which was not what I was used to. I found a Lutheran Church that fit me fine. I am currently going to a Pentecostal Church that focuses on the Bible and the history surrounding the time that it was written.

Basically, shop around and pray for guidance. You will find the right church eventually. One thing to keep in mind- not all church leaders are doing it for the right reasons. If ever the voice of one person is louder in your mind than the voice of God is in your heart, then you are at the wrong church.
And if ever your lifestyle keeps you from God, then you are living the wrong lifestyle, straight, gay, bisexual, bipolar, or antarctic.
posted by myselfasme at 7:32 AM on March 19, 2013

I should also say that visiting churches is the only real way to figure this out. Once you're among the Protestants there's a fair bit of variation (I'm sure there is in Catholicism, too), in terms of what actual congregations look and feel like. This matters a lot if you, like me, are persnickety about liturgical matters*, but it also can matter in terms of commitment on social issues.

*I've left a church because they all recite the collect together instead of just letting the priest do it LIKE YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO. I don't hold myself out as a model of Christian charity, obviously.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:34 AM on March 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

You've said you want a Christian church, and for that reason I wouldn't suggest a UU congregation. Even the Christian-leaning UU congregations are likely to have services and beliefs that aren't quite Christian. (I grew up UU and as an ex-UU have affection for the denomination. I just don't think it will be a good fit for you.)

I would suggest you try out some Episcopalian and ELCA Lutheran congregations. Both demoninations are good on gay rights and are actually Christian. Congregations and parishes differ, but the services and liturgy should be more familiar than will be the case in other denominations. Individual United Methodist and Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations are great, but both demoninations are a little behind on the gay issues.
posted by Area Man at 7:37 AM on March 19, 2013

I'm also Catholic-raised, Quaker-educated, and I would identify as Quaker if anything. I think it will really vary on the actual church (and I am not what kind of Quakers, if any, you would find outside of the mid-Altantic US - I know they exist, but the Meetings are likely different from what I know).

There's plenty of Jesus and God in the Meetings I've attended, and equality, simplicity and service are their main goals.
posted by Pax at 7:43 AM on March 19, 2013

It has occurred to me that you may not know that Protestants don't all have communion every week (this blew my mind when I found out). This is perhaps a deal breaker for you. The ELCA does do it every week, as do Episcopalians. The UCC and UMC vary by congregation, some being weekly and some monthly. Anyway, this is usually googleable with "[denomination] communion frequency".

Individual United Methodist and Presbyterian Church (USA) congregations are great, but both demoninations are a little behind on the gay issues.

Also, be warned that the PC(USA) is not the Presbyterian Church in America, who you definitely don't want.
posted by hoyland at 7:47 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I found my local Quaker meeting a year or so ago, and it has been wonderful. I think you might feel at home there.
posted by jbickers at 7:55 AM on March 19, 2013

Please check out NorthPoint Ministries based in Atlanta. The lead pastor, Andy Stanley, is incredible. I went through 10 years of being agnostic/atheist until I was introduced to him.

You can watch all of his messages online, plus there are various satellite churches throughout the country who use his content.
posted by thank you silence at 7:59 AM on March 19, 2013

The ELCA does do it every week, as do Episcopalians.

As with all things, this too may vary. In some parts of the country, it is very common for an Episcopal parish to have communion/Eucharist only every other Sunday (and Morning Prayer the other Sundays). I even know of Episcopal churches that have Eucharist only once a month, and I think I've heard tell of a few that have Eucharist as little as once a quarter. (The latter is very, very uncommon, though.)

Hi! Former Catholic, now Episcopalian, here.

I left the Catholic church in my late teens for a lot of the reasons you mention -- I wanted a church that was more life-affirming, that welcomed greater participation by women, that was more responsive to the needs of the communion than a church led from Rome. At the same time, I really need a church that embraces liturgy and one that respects and honors tradition. The Episcopal church really fills that need for me (if you look around, you'll see some rhetoric abut the "three-legged stool" of the Episcopal church, with the three legs being tradition, reason, and scripture).

The difficulty with the Episcopal church is that what you find will vary not only parish by parish but also diocese by diocese. There are dioceses in the U.S. that are, as a whole, very liberal, with a diocesan focus on social justice, on inclusion, on transparency; and there are dioceses that are very conservative and more concerned with fighting the national church on a variety of sexuality-related issues. And in both cases, you are likely to find individual parishes that don't really match the diocese -- a liberal parish in a conservative diocese, or a conservative parish in a liberal diocese. I think this is a GOOD thing about the Episcopal church, but it can make finding a church home a little more difficult.

Whether the Episcopal church is the place for you will depend a lot on where you are in the country; and whether there's a good parish for you in that area will depend on how diverse that diocese is, etc. You're just going to have to go to a lot of churches to see how you feel. Don't give up if the first two or three don't work for you! Keep trying, and try a given church more than once -- you might be surprised how things can vary from Sunday to Sunday.
posted by devinemissk at 8:07 AM on March 19, 2013

I was raised Episcopalian, but attend mostly UMC now (my partner's father is a UMC minister).

Switching from Episcopalian 'high church' to the traditional services @ UMC, the hardest part for me was finding a prayerful place without kneeling. If you like the pomp & circumstance of catholic services, episcopalian might feel a little closer than other options while still being a better fit ideologically.

As for how to find a local church, when I'm moving I generally look at websites in my denominations of interest (episcopalian, umc) to see which have ministries that seem welcoming and interesting to me. I also want traditional services with a choir, so a lack of that can immediately rule out some congregations! If the service is a positive experience, the congregation is welcoming without being pushy, and I feel at home, I'll go back.
posted by worstname at 8:33 AM on March 19, 2013

I am a former Roman Catholic who recently left Rome and became Eastern Orthodox. It took me over a year of serious thought and reflection. So, in some sense, I was you a few years ago. However, I think that my response will be of a different sort than most you have received thus far.

The reason I converted to the Orthodox Church was because I was convinced that it was the apostolic church founded by Christ and the apostles. I was convinced that its theology was correct and apostolic. So, if your desire to leave Rome is for theological reasons, I think you have to examine what you believe. For example, if you believe in the Real Presence in the Eucharist, becoming Methodist isn't an option, but you could be Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, or of a few other denominations. On the other hand, if you think that Jesus of Nazareth was non-divine but just a really cool guy, you have a lot of options. Do you think the Great Apostasy happened? What denominations are acceptable to you will depend on the answer.

But, those are my comments of advice assuming that your concerns are theological. I take from your question, however, that you are more concerned about the nature of the human infrastructure of the organization. If that is the case, I ask you to give your intentions more thought before you make any commitments. Whatever denomination you end up choosing, you will be trading one set of problems for another. This is not to make light of some of the objections you cite in your question. The victimization of children and young adults and the Roman church's cover-up of it was a grave sin, and no sin will escape the grave day of judgment. However, I did not leave the Roman church because of it because no matter the bad behavior of the humans in that church, it would not change theology. I believe theology to be as objectively real as physics. Can the behavior of people change a law of the universe? Of course, if you have a different view of God and theology, maybe that doesn't matter so much to you. My church has married priests but not because that is cool and modern; to the contrary, we have married priests because it is apostolic.

To paraphrase Augustine, there are wolves within the church and sheep outside the church. *Any* church. I do not know if I have been very helpful with this answer. I only left Rome after over two years of serious study, prayer, and anguish. I feared for my soul. In the end, I made the change, but I did it looking forward with open hands instead of glaring backwards with clenched fists. Whatever you decide, I pray that you can do the same. Of course, please feel free to MeMail if you would like to discuss further.
posted by Tanizaki at 8:36 AM on March 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

I grew up part-Catholic (12 years of Catholic school) and part protestant. I am now UU, and agree with the above posters that UU would be too great a leap from where you are now. Depending on the congregation, you may have a hard time finding others who accept Jesus as their Lord and savior.

I don't know much about the Episcopal church, but Lutheran might be a fit, and I seem to be encountering a lot of free-thinking, progressive Presbyterian congregations lately.
posted by TrixieRamble at 8:41 AM on March 19, 2013

Generally speaking, Anglican is similar, just Catholicism minus the pope; Episcopalian is slightly more liberal. Unitarianism is friendly and welcoming an socially conscious, but might seem as too much looser.

I recommend my own bunch, The Presbyterian Church of the USA --- not the Presbyterian Church of America, they're much more conservative than the PCUSA: PCA does things like banning women from a lot of church posts and such, while PCUSA says if you're willing to serve, welcome.

(Gotta admit there is one ongoing dicussion in the PCUSA you might be interested in: current church bylaws say anyone holding a church office --- deacon, elder, preacher etc. --- must be either married or celibate; the discussion is, should this be amended, since unless & until gays are legally allowed to marry in all states, it's unfair to gays/lesbians. Not 'should gays be allowed to marry', just 'do our current bylaws treat everyone equally?')
posted by easily confused at 8:48 AM on March 19, 2013

Depends on what's highest on the list for you. The Episcopal church ticks off a lot of the boxes, but there's still quite a bit of controversy over LGBTQ issues, at least at the denominational level. The UCCs are the only Christian denomination I'm aware of who are officially pro-gay on a denominational basis. UCCs, though, are a congregational denomination, so the official pronouncements from the denomination are technically toothless on a church-by-church basis. UUs are not exclusively Christian, and are also congregationally organized, but are the most LGBTQ-affirming in a widespread way. We (speaking as a UU) have other diversity problems, though, and don't sound like a perfect fit.

If I were you, I'd try the local Episcopal outfits first, but my parents, when they finally fled the RCC, found a UU congregation that was largely made up of other disaffected ex-catholics.
posted by rikschell at 8:50 AM on March 19, 2013

What do you want? I see what you don't want which is a good start, but the good/bad news is that a lot of churches fill those requirements. Do you like the ritual? Then UUs are not likely to be your cup of tea. Do you like strong guidance and organized pastoral leadership? Friends (Quakers) don't have that. Is sex-positive education a priority? UUs do that best.

Then there are individual congregational differences!
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:16 AM on March 19, 2013

The Episcopal church ticks off a lot of the boxes, but there's still quite a bit of controversy over LGBTQ issues, at least at the denominational level.

Yeah, if you're interested in the Episcopal Church it's worth noting the on-going controversies in the Church. Many American Episcopal Churches are very welcoming to gays (not all), the American Church has consecrated as bishop an openly gay man in a committed relationship, but it was controversial. He got death threats, churches left the American episcopal church and put themselves under the jurisdiction of the Nigerian Church so that they wouldn't be part of the church with the gay bishop. Per my priest mother-in-law, someone stood up at his consecration and described in graphic detail the mechanics of homosexual sex, I guess in hopes that everyone would be disgusted. On the national level, in the US, there is a general tendency for Episcopal churches to be welcoming, but it's obviously a contentious issue.

On the International level, there's plenty of churches in the Anglican Communion in the Global South that are opposed to gay marriage. There's a constant looming threat of schism between the African churches and the American church over this issue. The Anglican Communion is different from Catholicism in that each national church is autonomous, so it's hard to describe exactly what's happening on the international level succinctly. Generally, the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury (the head of the Anglican Communion although without the kind of power of the Pope) has been that the American Church should rethink the consecration of gay bishops because of the threat that it poses to the unity of the church. The new Archbishop is also against gay marriage, although his position is unlikely to have any impact on what American Anglicans believe.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:16 AM on March 19, 2013

Do you know about independent Catholicism? I have a friend (female, btw) who is a priest in a queer affirming independent Catholic church not affiliated with Rome. Apparently they vary quite a bit theologically, so you'd need to do some research. For example, Mel Gibson is an independent Catholic, but so is Sinead O'Connor (who also is a priest).
posted by Wordwoman at 9:20 AM on March 19, 2013

Another vote here for the United Church of Christ. The particular church I attend hits every one of your criteria. I only joined recently, but I found the church to be very welcoming and it meets all of my values.
posted by maurice at 9:25 AM on March 19, 2013

Just a data point - our current minister grew up in the Catholic church, went into social work, and eventually went to seminary to become a Lutheran minister. We belong to a small, open, and liberal Lutheran church in Ann Arbor -- it's part of the ELCA. I grew up in the ELCA, and it makes me happy to belong to a church that's part of that tradition, honoring it while using it as a framework for individuals to explore their beliefs. Our members are diverse in many ways and generally progressive.
posted by hms71 at 10:30 AM on March 19, 2013

I grew up Quaker (often listed as The Society of Friends), among many ex-Catholics. The style of worship will vary depending on where you live; the northeast is pretty much all unprogrammed (a full hour of unprogrammed, silent worship) but I've heard meetings in the midwest and beyond can have a mix of silence and sermon. It's very easy to stop in one Sunday and give it a try, as there's no hymn or ritual to learn, no kneel-stand-sit or chanting in unison. You just sit quietly.
posted by chowflap at 10:42 AM on March 19, 2013

Another former Catholic here. One of my kids got pretty interested in religion, and so I was trying to figure out where to take him to church if he wanted to pursue it (it turned out we only went once and then he moved on):

- The local liberal Catholic church (the kind I grew up, which is partly what kept me there for so long)
- Quakers (I'd do this for me if I wasn't atheist)
- Unitarian Universalists

You can find out a lot about churches on their websites these days. Many are quite assertive about being pro-queer, anti-racist, etc.

Good luck!
posted by bluedaisy at 10:46 AM on March 19, 2013

I thought this United Church of Christ ad said it well.
posted by jmmpangaea at 11:31 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'll throw another vote for the ELCA though I'm incredibly biased as I'm currently studying to be an ELCA pastor. As mentioned above, each congregation is going to be different. Although the ELCA has a denominational structure, it's very congregationalist - much more than the Episcopalians or Catholics are. Some can be extremely conservative socially and others are socially progressive. However, finding the community that speaks to you is important. If you're located in the North East (I'm currently serving as a full-time intern at a church in Manhattan - a church filled with Catholics who will always be RCC but fully support, fund, and attend services here), I might be able to help you discover communities that might work for you - or help you find people who might help you talk through this. If not, one way to find a community you might be into is to discover which congregations near you are 'reconciling in Christ' congregations. These congregations publicly declare that they are welcoming and affirming of LGBTQ individuals.
posted by Stynxno at 11:54 AM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would suggest that you make a list of the things you like about the Catholic Church as you look into Christian denominations. It is easy to focus on the differences that delight you and find that there are real and meaningful aspects of the current church that you will miss. In the end there are no perfect churches because they are governed by fallible people.

Many people have found their outlet within the RCC by working with organizations, such as The Catholic Worker, to make a personal impact on social justice and some issues that they feel aren't present enough in the liturgy.
posted by dgran at 12:15 PM on March 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Where in the US are you? I'm a sometimes-Quaker, and if you too are somewhere in the mid-Atlantic or New England I might not recommend Quaker meeting. (At least not if regular talk about Jesus and the gospels are important to you.) At the very least, read over the different types/belief systems of Quakers listed in the wikipedia article, and then google your local meeting or Friends Church. You should be able to tell roughly where your meeting stands theologically from there.

If your local meeting is a liberal unprogrammed one (which will likely have many non-theist members), bear in mind that the idea of inner light means that anybody can and will speak about anything they please. Most people don't abuse the privilege, but I've definitely been to weekly meetings that have turned out a lot like this.
posted by ActionPopulated at 1:24 PM on March 19, 2013

I'm UCC, and we have many ex-Catholics in our congregation. I think the main thing they tend to miss is the style of a Catholic mass - UCC services are much more free form. So, it will depend on whether that is something you highly value or not. If it is, I think the Episcopalian church would be a good choice for you. As many of the above have said, I would check out local churches in your area, and get a feel for them. You should also be able to meet with a minister as well to ask any questions you have about the approach of the church to various social/social justice issues.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:09 PM on March 19, 2013

I was raised atheist, came to faith as an adult and joined the UCC, and now work in a Catholic church, so I don't get back to my home church very much. My gut feeling is that the UCC is a good match for you on social issues, but you need to give serious credence to theological issues and the style of worship.

Do you believe that the Catholic church is the true and apostolic church of Christ? If you do, is that important to you? Is it important that your church services be well and reliably structured? Are you going to be comfortable if Communion isn't an important part of the service, or even not celebrated some weeks at all? What if the Mass isn't said? What if the pastor takes the pulpit in jeans, or the music is provided by a rock band?

There are no wrong answers to those questions, but it's important that you be honest with yourself about what your answers are. Memail me if you want to know more; as a singer, I've sung for a LOT of different churches and different denominations, and can sketch out some of the big differences.
posted by KathrynT at 2:35 PM on March 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

One of the advantages of the Episcopalians/Anglican Communion vis-Ă -vis the Catholic Church is that they respect each other's sacraments and ordination, including, I believe, confirmation (this is probably also true for most Orthodox denominations, though I can't say for certain), if those kinds of issues matter to you
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 4:09 PM on March 19, 2013

i think the best way to find a new church home is to pray and ask God to clearly lead you to where He wants you to be. you may end up someplace you weren't expecting but then find it turns out it is just where you need to be. God has always led me whether to stay or go at a particular local church and has led me to some pretty great places. it is about a lot more than picking and choosing one's theological pets. it is about following God.
posted by wildflower at 5:23 PM on March 19, 2013

Oh, I hear you. If you like Catholicism but hate Rome, seriously look at the independent Catholic Churches above. I'm in the US, and I would love for this to become a larger movement here. Don't let Mel Gibson throw you. Many of these churches allow married priests, female priests, welcome gay people, and are positive places to worship. And you don't have to say the crappy new mass!

Because, Episcopalianism is great, but it's not Catholicism. I miss the saints and Hail Mary and rosaries…
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 7:38 PM on March 19, 2013

I was so dissatisfied with the one holy catholic and apostolic church that I converted to Judaism (Orthodox version) sixteen years ago this month. It's a long story, of course, but that really, truly, from the heart, is the punch line. Orthodoxy and Catholicism have a lot in common.

I say this not to encourage you to convert (I don't recommend it, and besides, we do not proselytize to non-Jews). Only to let you know that I have some idea of where you are coming from.

If Jesus had not been such a sticking point with me, that is to say, if I could have considered a Christian faith--for me it was not an option--I myself would have looked into the Catholic Worker.

While I do not have any regrets, certainly not theological regrets, I will say that there is SOCIOCULTURALLY a part of my identity still stuck in the church. It is buried deep but it is still there. For this reason I would suggest turning out all pockets within the church before going and doing something else entirely. In my father's house there are many mansions, you know. This does not mean oh, stay a Catholic! I'm just reflecting.

In addition to the options above--or maybe I didn't see this--perhaps you could try an Episcopal, Anglican, or even Catholic campus ministry. Lots of progressives there, and even if you're past your 30s, say, a representative from the older generation is often a good addition.
posted by skbw at 8:02 PM on March 19, 2013

I'm a Quaker who attends at a UU from a Catholic/Fundamentalist family (yeah I know) and I don't think it sounds like you want Quaker or UU, much as I like to share about those faiths. UU has Christian roots but most congregations are explicitly no longer Christianity-focused, though many individual members are Christian, the church liturgy descends from the antecedents of mainline Protestantism and some hymns and Christian texts are used (along with texts from just about every other tradition). That said, we have a lot of new/recent members who are fleeing from the Catholic Church and seem happy to have discovered UUs.

Quakers are one step further away from the familiar for a Catholic. Unprogrammed, self-directed worship of the common Liberal-Quaker kind is really not for everyone, and particularly jarring for those used to a hierarchical and very programmed order of worship and a liturgical calendar. It might be that you find it's for you ultimately but it's a big leap right now. So I think the UCC and Episcopal suggestions are right up your alley and that you should give some of those services a try.

Of course, you don't have to answer this question through this thread. In fact this discussion can only give you some background information and suggestions, and in the end you'll find a church home through trying them out. Plan to spend a few months of Sundays traveling around and visiting several different churches - different demnomninations, and even the same denominations in different parishes. At each one, you can simply say, at fellowship time, "I'm moving on and interested in finding a new church home that's a good fit for my values." You'll find out a lot about each church and denomination this way, and it will represent your real, local options rather than the abstracted positions we can give you here. Also, it's a very interesting entree to good conversations. We just did this process to choose a church and it was very pleasant and comfortable all along the way. We found that the process of visiting a church can be very surprising, countering expectations and upturning our presumptions. The very same denomination can have two very different congregations within the same municipality, and you may strongly prefer one over the other. It may end up that the niceties of doctrine matter a lot less to you than the friendliness and warmth of the congregation, the style and feel of the service, the minister's personality, the social action programs. So you really just have to go and test a few different services out. It's a fun project and you can even make a little chart and do a debrief after each visit, which we were nerdy enough to do. Good luck!
posted by Miko at 8:48 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some Episcopal churches identify as Anglo-Catholic, and some Anglo-Catholic churches uphold the same values you've identified. Here's a list of some Anglo-Catholic parishes at Wikipedia.
posted by apartment dweller at 7:38 PM on March 21, 2013

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