Welcome to part six in the series. If you would like to catch up on other posts in this series, or on anything else I have written, Internet Monk keeps them all here.
When your views don’t match
Two weeks ago we had some questions from JohnB. I rephrased his questions and put them so some of my pastoral friends who are largely in conservative and/or evangelical communities. We will deal with these questions and responses over the next couple of weeks as I have just started getting responses in.
Three of the responses to one of the questions really struck me, and I thought we could deal with them early as a bit of a side topic. One of my last questions to the Pastors was:
Are any of your answers… constrained by the fact that you are in a particular denomination?
Here are the responses:
First,I would not allow the denomination or church that I serve in to dictate their opinion of this issue. There are issues that I would, but this is not one of them. If I were in conflict with my church’s position and there was no give I would leave.
I still don’t know this particular Pastor’s position, as he will be responsding in detail later, but I must say that my curiosity is piqued.
Pastor #2 had quite a different response:
I would consider myself to be an ally, but… [have not] been able to publicly say so… Denominational restrictions… essentially make it impossible to be supportive of LGBTQ people… unless one wants to be fired. That being said, there is definitely a need for more courageous people than myself to take such stands, especially when there’s such a digging-in of collective heels within neo-evangelical camps to maintain “family values” (which is essentially code for conservative, moralistic, anti-gay patriarchy). However, the issue of livelihood seriously complicates matters and unfortunately when one’s job is on the line, it makes it tricky/risky to be completely affirming within most church/christian contexts.
Pastor #3 told me:
While I would like to be more open to LGBTQ within our congregation, I have chosen to be credentialed and serve within [his denomination] and so have chosen to abide by the restrictions that they put in place.
I will be talking about all their responses to all their questions over the next week, or possibly two, but the thought struck me today that one of the big advantages of being in the “Evangelical Wilderness”, and while attending a church, not being in leadership in a church, is that I feel freedom. Freedom to write what I want. Freedom to believe what I want and express it. Freedom to be wrong.
Yes, I will show some self restraint. I don’t want to hurt people. Relationship IS more important than being right.
Right now, I am just so glad to be in a place now where I have that freedom. I have been in a circumstance similar to that of Pastor #2, and the inner turmoil was crippling. I don’t know how a Pastor could sustain it for long. Yet the response of Pastor #1, “to leave”, isn’t that easy either.
Four and a half years ago I wrote this on Internet Monk:
Like Michael Spencer, I find myself looking over my shoulder. I find myself at increasing odds with my church on both theological and philosophical matters… There have been many times when I have wanted to speak my mind on an issue, comment on Facebook, or even like a post, but have not done so. Primarily because I know that doing so will create conflict and hurt feelings within the church, and probably lead to my removal from leadership of my small group. It is my love and care for those in my small group, and others in the church, that causes me to bite my tongue. To quote my lovely wife, “being right isn’t necessarily always the most important thing.” I wonder though if my convictions about various topics will reach the point where I will no longer be able keep quiet.
For now though, I soldier on, but it seems like I am marching on a finer and finer line. One foot in the church, and one foot in the wilderness.
It feels SO good to be free of that. And yet, I miss my old church SO much.
So here is my question for our readers. What has been your experience in being out of step with others in your church? What did you do about it? And what was the eventual outcome? How did you feel during and after the conflict?
As usual your thoughts and comments are welcome.