Tuesday, February 06, 2007

When Your Denomination Leaves You Behind

Today I had the sad duty of writing to the head office of the denomination that I grew up in and was ordained with, and officially surrendering my ministerial credentials. This was a decision that I have struggled with for a few years now. The issue came to a head this week, when I received my yearly annual credentialed minister's report form to fill out, along with minister's covenant that I would be required to sign. Amoung the things that the covenant asked for was an affirmation of my agreement with the doctrines and practices of the denomination.

This is the crux of the issue. When I originally received my ministerial credentials over twenty years ago, my denomination held to certain practices and doctrinal beliefs that they have since modified and changed. Perhaps not many but a couple have been rather significant and ones which I disagree with rather strenuously. My positions on these issues were clear in my original doctrinal questionnaire that I was required to defend when I was first credentialed by the denomination. Since my convictions on these issues were synonymous those of the denomination at the time, I was credentialed. Twenty years later, I still hold to these positions. However, these very positions which once were requirements for my ordination are now impediments to my continuing to be ordained. Isn't that ironic? In many ways, I do not feel that I left the denomination as much as that the denomination has left me.

This decision causes my wife and I a great deal of sadness, especially as my wife's family was one of the founding families of the denomination historically. But we both agree that our consciences and convictions cannot be held captive to decisions made by voting delegates who frequently are not especially well informed or even qualified to decide such weighty issues. I have also attended enough of these conventions to know that the push to maintain unity is often stronger then the need and opportunity for honest, fair, and vigorous theological debate.

I will not identify the denomination. Nor will I identify the theological issues that led to my decision. VOMC is a non-denominational mission and it would be inappropriate for me to air these grievances in this forum. Nevertheless, this is to affirm that even though I am the CEO of a non-denominational mission, this does not mean that I do not have strong personal convictions. I refuse, however, to let theological differences influence whom VOMC serves or works with. However, as an individual, I need to be true to my own convictions by refusing to sign covenants that I cannot, in good conscience, affirm. We are all called to this, even (maybe especially) when it may cost something. And such decisions should also be made carefully, prayerfully and with sorrow, not with clenched fists, fiery eyes and harsh words.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I emphathize with your sorrow, and am glad that you are able to weep for them, rather than raise that clenched fist and sharp voice.

Michelle said...

I like your blog and am going to link it to mine! Thanks for your honesty in this post. Churches and the men that lead them change but Christ never changes.....

Holly Garcia said...

The Fiery eyes might be appropriate. So many denominations are making choices that go directly against Biblical teachings. How can a pastor stay within that denomination if they have to say, marry a homosexual couple. Or the Christian adoption agencies that have to place a child with that same couple. Or the pastor who can't hold a member accountable for a continuing sin. Why was Sodom and Gomorrah predominantly homosexual? Were they all born that way, or was it a sin that had spread like a rampant wildfire? Sorry you have had to make this decision, but denominations are not important. We are the Body of Christ, and the only approval we need comes from the Lord himself.

Bubbles said...

Jesus said that if we stand up for Him then He will stand up for us on the last day. That if we deny Him then He will deny us. In James it says that is we know the good & right thing to do & don't do it, that this is sin. Also denominations are not in heaven only Love.

I Pray that you & your wife have Peace & Joy as you move on in Gods Grace & Love. Just remember that your church may have deserted you BUT God never gives up on you, He never leaves us & He always stays the same. Be encouraged.