Home » Rambles » White is white – on blind obedience to the Church, and going it alone.

White is white – on blind obedience to the Church, and going it alone.

Some of you will remember that I was in the deacon discernment process for the Episcopal Church. This means that I believe (and the priest believed) that I was being called by God to serve “the least of these” – the poor, the homeless – those who have no one to serve them. Some of you have been reading along since April of this year, when I stopped going to church. The part that is interesting to me is that only a handful of people have even seemed to notice I’m gone.

I’ve recently written to the team that was involved in the process. It took me this long to get over my anger at and sense of betrayal by the priest. I didn’t want to write an angry letter. There are/were (what tense do I use?) nine people on that team, all trying to “listen” with me to see if it was a call from God. None of them have written back. I then sent a copy of the letter to the Bishop. Nothing, again. I feel like I’m standing at the front of an auditorium and the microphone isn’t on so nobody can hear me. Or maybe they are ignoring me, hoping I’ll go away. But the weirdest part is that more people from a church that prides itself on being welcoming and friendly hasn’t contacted me.

I was very active in this church. I was there every week. I was the leader of the team of lectors and chalice bearers. I was also an acolyte. I served up front as part of the worship team nearly every week. It is a small church. I’m hard to miss.

To be a deacon in the Episcopal Church is a big crazy process. It takes years. It takes homework and meetings. You have to submit your transcripts. You have to submit your baptism and confirmation records. You have to submit to a physical and psychological exam. Basically, you have to submit. They want to make sure that you are hearing from God, sure, but they also want to make sure they can control you. They want to make sure that the Church is safe by not signing off on a wacko, sure, but they also want to find out if the priest or the Bishop tell you to do something, you’ll do it.

The odd part is that you have to go through all this for an unpaid position. You are expected to keep your day job. You have to do more at church and in the community, but you don’t get paid for it. They have this whole multi-year process to shape you into a deacon. The process is arduous.

But it turns out that they don’t really have a framework to teach you how to follow God when the Church isn’t. That’s the scary part. There’s a group in the Catholic Church that embodies this blind faith in the Church. The Jesuits say that if they see that something is white, and the Pope says it is black, they are to say it is black.

I’m not about that kind of obedience. I understand it, somewhat. We humans are fallible. I entered into this process because I know of my weakness. I’m bipolar. So I wanted training and oversight. I wanted to make sure that if I thought I was seeing white, it was indeed white. It is my greatest hope that I not deceive or mislead anybody. I think it is really important to make sure it is God’s voice I’m hearing and not my own imagining.

I left church because I could see white and everybody else was doing black. The more I read of the Gospels, the more I realized that what we, collectively as a Church, are doing, is wrong. It isn’t about building church buildings or having ordained ministers. It is about building up the Body of Christ – by teaching every person who is called to be a Christian how to be a loving servant of God and how to hear the voice of God. Everybody. Not the elect, not ordained people – everybody.

I think everybody needs to go to Cursillo and be woken up to the Holy Spirit. I think the homework assignments for the deacon process are very helpful for helping people “hear” their calling. I think small groups where people “listen” to each other and keep each other accountable are useful. I think reading books by progressive Christian authors about their struggle to integrate the ways of God with the ways of the world are helpful. I think we all need to work on our faith rather than take it for granted.

Perhaps this is what they are afraid of. Perhaps this is why they haven’t contacted me. I represent a total upheaval of the way things have always been done. No more church buildings. No more vestry. No more priests. Church isn’t a social club but a way of life – and that life is service. Perhaps this frightens them.

It is like the early Christians, who knew in their hearts that what they were doing was right, was in fulfillment of all the promises that they as Jews had been told. They knew that Jesus was the Messiah. But everybody else railed against them. How dare you upset the way we’ve always done things? How dare you tell us that we are doing it wrong?

I get that. People are like that.

But white is white, and black is black, and the blinders are off now.

3 thoughts on “White is white – on blind obedience to the Church, and going it alone.

  1. Hi:
    I am a lot farther down the road than you are in years, but not much else. I recently read something that helped me in regards to my current understanding of belonging to a church. It is that we are in community because it helps us to grow. I have separated myself from the church community at a few points in my life, one for 20+ years. I am currently back as a member of an episcopal community, despite my own misgivings and the dedicated persistence of a a priest who does not like my 5 year old granddaughter. I have quit a couple of times, and no one noticed or cared. I was hurt, as I say I stayed away for 20 years once. I am back in community now, in spite of the priest who tries to drive us off all the while shedding crocodile tears about how we are doing, as long as we don’t show up at her services.

    I am sorry now about the separations.

    I stay because of the community. Because being in community challenges me to question myself and continue my growth as a christian. I don’t see any other way to grow as well. I am fed constantly by the small interactions, the smiles, the comments and what happens with other members of the community. I can get pretty much to stewing in my own juice and fail myself in a couple of ways. I let my own bullsh!t get to me and get down on myself. Something that doesn’t happen when I am around others and get challenged about my negative beliefs, and secondly, I start to believe my own bs, and come to value you my own thoughts and self to highly. So I get banged up at both ends of the spectrum.

    It isn’t easy when you go expecting no reward from myself or any one else. It isn’t easy when I know I will get hassled about the kid, all the while the priest smiles and asks about her (I know it sound contradictory, it may be something you have to see to understand), and that I will not be anybody in leaderships best bud, or even appreciated, but I am not going for approval, I am there to be in relationship to god and the others in community even if it isn’t what I would define as friendship.
    zoej

    Like

    • Thank you for your comments.

      There is something about the very framework of church as it is that I can no longer participate in. I am in a community, but it is not church based. It is part of the Compassionate cities. We support each other and call out each other. It is refreshing. It is weird to be one of the very few who still follow Jesus who are part of it. Many walked away from church and Jesus at the same time.

      But church? It isn’t the building. It is the people. When the people aren’t real, then there is something deeply wrong. Actions speak louder than words.

      It isn’t the ordained ministers. When the priest tells you to stop talking about God, there is something very deeply wrong.

      I had to walk away because to be part of it is to agree with it. To be part of it is to say it is OK when I know it isn’t. I am part of a community, it just isn’t what I expected. Sure, I’m sad that what I thought was right was so terribly wrong. But I’m glad that God opened my eyes.

      Like

  2. It sounds like you were in a sick parish. A good church is a lot more than a building and a priest.

    The good part about a religious community is that it has a staying power, Something that most of the intentional communities I have been around don’t. Even the best intentional communities have a shelf life. The church for all it’s faults has stuck around for 2,000 years.

    As I look back over almost 62 years of wreckage and debris that is my life, broken communities, lost friends and jobs, deaths, wonderful children and grandchildren (not all my life has been bad), it is the church that was always there waiting, a refuge and a safe place to grow from again.

    And I like the old words, and reciting them in community. I love the pomp and ritual as it is reassuring at times of loss and doubt and it binds a community together.

    But most of all, I love the singing, in community, voices upraised in common joy. Some of the most pure moments of joy in my life has been voices raised on Easter Sunday, the congregation raised up on angel’s wings. And even Sunday afternoons, when our late afternoon bilingual mass brings an oasis of peace with it’s wonderous songs.

    I wish you peace and distance from the rather co-dependent parish you were part of. Remember their are others out there when you need them, and sometimes you can go just to sing.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.