When people walk away from the Church

29 May

Walking away

There is a time for some when they recognise their status as a spiritual refugee: a soul without a home, an IDP. They’ve been part of community for what may seem like a lifetime but it’s never felt like home.  Then they find they can’t remain.

Perhaps it’s never feeling like they belong, never feeling valued, never feeling honoured. What is one to do when their mother Church plays favourites?

How do you maintain self-esteem under such circumstances? They’ve tried the way of silence, the way of waiting to see if the unease settles. They’ve tried talking it out, to be reassured that they needn’t be concerned. However, the concern remains and grows.

There is a time for some when they find their feet and walk away from community, walk away from the pecking order, the silly stuff, the favourites, the boxes.

The sad thing is that few who remain do anything about what they see going on in the Church.

The following post on the nakedpastor’s blog recounts the sad journey of one walking away after alienation.  guest post: Syl’s story | nakedpastor.

Is this your experience of church?  What might be done, in your part of the world, when your mother Church tells you that you’re not good enough?


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9 responses to “When people walk away from the Church

  1. Jean

    May 29, 2012 at 6:45 am

    My heart aches for anyone who is “forced out” of the local body of Christ, for whatever means and for whatever reason.

    My own story is two-fold. I had been primarily away from my home congregation for 2-3 years, completing my internship for my M.Div., when the new pastor of my home congregation invited me to come back and preach and to teach the adult Sunday school class beforehand. There were a number of women in the congregation who did not agree with ordination of women, and made it quite clear in their body language. Pots and pans were flying out of the cupboards in the kitchen below the Sunday school space. Doors were slammed, loud conversations about people ‘having power they shouldn’t’ were held in earshot of the class. During the worship service, as I stood to preach, a family got up and left. A number of families came to the pastor later and said they would withold their tithes if I was ever in the pulpit again. I haven’t been back (except for 2 funerals of 2 wonderful Godly people) since.

    The second story happened a few years later. My denomination, like so many, has been experiencing a great deal of conflict over both hierarchical and Biblical issues. Finally, the denomination declared that anyone who did not agree with them were schismatics and were to be treated as such. I had the added displeasure of having a synod staff member ensure that I was aware that I was now a schismatic. My wrong–I joined another Lutheran association (Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ–LCMC) that disagreed with the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America).

    None of the differences have to do with salvation. But as pointed out above, there can be a time when one, in order to further the CAUSE of salvation and to empower as many as who are willing to use the gifts that God has given them, that separation is needed. But, to declare another as schismatic (at least in my tradition) brings their relationship with Jesus into question. Not unlike Syl’s story.

    • Katie and Martin

      May 30, 2012 at 12:32 am

      Thanks for sharing your painful story Jean. You certainly know what’s it’s like to walk away.
      Ah, ‘schismatics’, we’ve heard that word in Lutheran circles before. It’s strange how we want everyone else to agree with everything we believe.
      With increasing diversity through multi-culturalism, globalism and air-travel (amongst many other factors) we need a new way of living with each other – not through discussion that highlights our differences, but through living together and growing together. Living with diversity is our only option.

  2. Christoph Donges

    May 29, 2012 at 11:22 am

    I think things like the roles of women and homosexuals in the church can be a gateway to atheism. When you see the church doing something you know is wrong it can make you wonder how an all powerful, all good God can both not be clear in letting us know what we should be doing, and why God would allow marginalisation of those who are either born with two X chromosomes or were born with an attraction for the same gender. And, together with serious critical study of the bible, it’s not that far to go from an irrational God to an non-existent God.

  3. Katie and Martin

    May 30, 2012 at 1:21 am

    Christoph, we think you’re right. At least, it may lead to an exit from the church. The reactionary way that the church responds to women and homosexuals certainly alienates people. How long can people suffer alienation?
    Perhaps it just a matter of years that separates hurt and healing, alienation and indifference, belief and unbelief.

    • Robbie

      June 18, 2012 at 5:32 am

      I left my home church many years ago for that very reason. I realised I was gay and no longer felt welcome despite not actually coming out to anyone. I knew attitudes wouldn’t be favorable so I felt it was just easier for me to leave. Only recently have I rejoined a church community within the Uniting Chutch as I know I’m welcome and women are ordained too. Whilst my heart yearns for the Lutheran rituals and knowledge, I don’t think I’ll ever return.

  4. Katie and Martin

    June 18, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    I’m sorry Robbie that you found you were not welcome. Maybe in another generation we might be there. While CSBQ has put together some sensitive statements on the homosexuality they are not allowed the light of day by Rev Michael Semmler.

    If you have found a safe home it will be difficult to think about leaving.

  5. cdonges

    June 19, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    I hope I am wrong but I don’t think the LCA will ever be there. I think slowly the liberals will leave for Anglicanism, Uniting Church or Atheism and only the conservatives will be left in a self perpetuating cycle.


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