I blog anonymously for a particular reason, and expect that reason to come to a close – at which time I will stop being anonymous.
The week before I began blogging, I had a run-in with the pastor and his wife… and it led to me leaving the church to attend a sister-congregation at the end of December (I stuck it out there for 2 months until after the holidays). I figured at the time that things would be settled by Easter, but they weren’t, and still aren’t. I’m settled, but the meeting we requested to sort out the relational issues which ensued has not yet been arranged. They did call one Friday and offer me a meeting a mid-afternoon the next day, but I declined it; after certain travel schedules were passed, they were supposed to arrange it; nothing. I followed up a month ago, and still nothing since.
To be fair, I haven’t really been attending for the past 6-8 weeks… but I don’t think it should be necessary for me to have regular attendance in order to get a meeting to settle an issue like this.
When I started blogging, I thought that I would end up writing a few posts about the whole thing, in a more direct way than I have… I thought I might talk more directly about my consideration of this local church, and I did not want to uncover them in the process until I had completed processing things in my mind. Sometimes during a process like that, the pendulum swings too far and you say things you later regret… so if people didn’t connect those particular posts with the actual church and individuals involved, that would be a good thing. As it turns out, there really aren’t many of these posts. Maybe there should be I wrote a few and never published them, perhaps I should have. I’m doing so now with two of the most significant of these, for those who wish to read them.
As I kept blogging, I thought I might talk about how I’ve come to believe that this particular local church is controlling, engaged in spiritual abuse, wrongly understands the grace/works tension, and lacks the accountability they claim and espouse. It’s the same church who recently decided to charge extra for tithes contributed through debit and credit cards. The farther I get from this group, the worse it looks, and the more glaring the problems. Am I becoming more judgemental? Maybe. But when your pastor turns up on your doorstep 20 minutes after church ends one Sunday and yells at you in your driveway, you have to know something is a bit “off.”
Recently I was told that the group to whom these church leaders are accountable said that the congregation didn’t have faith for a particular course of action desired by the elders but resisted by the congregation, and they would have to wait to do it until the congregation had faith for it. Problem is, these leaders talk about consensus in decision-making, about hearing God as a people rather than autocratic rule. The people in this congregation are actually under the impression that they are hearing God on the issue and the elders are not. Turns out that perhaps the elders hear God ipso facto, and the process of taking major decisions to the congregation maybe has less to do with having them confirm the will of God (why the congregation thinks they are being asked) and more to do with testing the waters to see if they have enough faith for it.
I was in leadership of various types for a number of years with this group of people, and now that I’m leaving, I still grieve a bit about my participation in the whole thing… I grieve for what I personally said and did to other people; things I probably don’t even know has hurt them, or how badly. I know of one couple who left the church fairly directly because of me, and while I’m sorry for the pain I caused them, I’m glad for the pain I’ve inadvertently saved them had they stayed.
I expect to be providing a letter to the elders of this church in the coming week or so telling them formally and officially that we’re moving on elsewhere. Like the last letter I sent to them, we see this move as a moving toward and not a moving away; iow, we feel this is about engaging with God and where he wants us much moreso than simply running from where we were. Once this chapter is finally closed in our lives and the dust has settled, I expect I’ll stop blogging anonymously… but now you have some more insight into the reasons for it.
Anyone who wants to read the dirt posts The Last Straw and Giving it up for Lent, you’ll find them just below this one; the password is detox. These are the ones I did not want to publicly connect with the actual individuals, and am still not yet doing so. I post them because they provide some personal disclosure they are negative (one in particular) toward the church we’ve left, and for this reason I’ve password-protected them so they don’t come up unless you really want to read them, and they won’t come out in the RSS feeds (at least they’re not supposed to).
The whole thing is made all the more complex by the heartfelt love we have for so many in the church we’ve left. These things exist on a personal, relational level, and have nothing to do with church or church function. In this particular church, abiding friendships between those who have left and those who have remained are a stark minority, but we continue to hope and pray these precious relationships that we have will continue.