I wrote the following post shortly after receiving notice of my discontinuing from provisional deacons status in March of 2017. I had failed to preserve it except in a Facebook post. When I came across it today, I decided to preserve it here on my own blog so that I can recall it someday when all of the dust has settled…..
Anyone who’s been around us “church people” (or any kind of people, for that matter!) for any length of time know about “people pleasing” and “tickling ears”. While clergy may have enjoyed a sense of “control” over churches at one time, clearly church laity has a huge hand in who comes and goes. Now, though, clergy have broken ranks with one another and not only can they not control the congregations like they once did, they cannot control their own Orders and steer the UMC’s expanding vessel in any way other than around in circles, it seems.
Any illusion of “control” by clergy has generally, it has seemed to me, to have been granted to them by laity and earned by mutual respect, charity, and cooperative working together and realizing shared goals in ministry, not by the heavy handedness that has been more apparent in the cases of some situations I have witnessed through the years and that appear to be increasing. In the late 70’s Bill and I were at a church in Montgomery where the laity decided that a godly man’s style was not to their liking …the only thing I ever heard against him was that he didn’t wear a robe and he walked around too much and gesticulated with his hands in ways that were too emphatic. Bill and I loved him. With his warmth, sincerity, and trusting goodwill he led us to begin the journey of discovery of a depth of spirituality for us that was missing in our lives and has continued to be someone I have kept up with through the years in a casual way and I have followed a lot of his publicly published work. Influential laity’s complaints got him moved after a year…
Later in another situation a wonderfully gifted teacher/preacher was dismissed from ministry altogether (or left because of the unacceptable options afforded him) because he insisted on preaching in keeping with how God led him to instead to suit people who had agendas contrary to his bilbical teaching. A few church appointments with laity resisting him and his family and he was forced out. He, too, helped us grow tremendously and we were grieved by the way he was treated by the local congregation and his supervisors.
But none of that drove us from weekly involvement in church or our love for the pastors we’ve known and been privileged to have as our own or away from our support for UMC overall with all of what we had to offer…until these past few years and the deepening rift between polarized forces and what has appeared to be the unwillingness or inability of leaders in the UMC to offer productive guidance to bring the increasing disappointment with the church’s political divisions to an end. So many people have quietly slipped out of the pews, wanting nothing to do with wishy-washy religion driven by political and social issues…They were looking for relationship with Christ. Can that still be found in the UMC?. Absolutely, and increasingly without regard to institutionally authoritative levels….but rather at the local church level. Churches are changing logos, removing the appearance of connection with the UMC, even. It makes me sad.
The Wesleyan tradition has been and will continue to be a blessing to me and those I have the privilege of serving. I know that God is at work in all of this mess….mine, the church’s, the world’s….and I trust God to resolve all of it according to his will. In the meantime I have my marching orders, “Get up each day and do what you are supposed to do… be faithful in teaching those that I bring to you.”