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Walking away from church #2

We didn’t do our homework.

Walking away is big.  It’s much bigger than you might imagine. Have you visited a rural congregation lately?

From Rachel Held Evans – 15 Reasons I Left Church.

Last week, Christian Piatt offered seven reasons here, and four more reasons here. David Kinnaman recently authored a book entitled, You Lost Me, which details the findings of Barna researchers who interviewed hundreds of 18-29 year-olds about why they left the church.

I left the church when I was twenty-seven. I am now thirty, and after trying unsuccessfully to start a house church, my husband and I are struggling to find a faith community in which we feel we belong.

I’ve been reluctant to write about this search in the past, but it seems like such a common experience, I think it’s time to open up, especially now that I’ve had some time to process. But let’s begin with fifteen reasons why I left:

1. I left the church because I’m better at planning Bible studies than baby showers…but they only wanted me to plan baby showers.

2. I left the church because when we talked about sin, we mostly talked about sex. 

3. I left the church because my questions were seen as liabilities.

4. I left the church because sometimes it felt like a cult, or a country club, and I wasn’t sure which was worse.

5. I left the church because I believe the earth is 4.5 billion years old and that humans share a common ancestor with apes, which I was told was incompatible with my faith.

6. I left the church because sometimes I doubt, and church can be the worst place to doubt.

7. I left the church because I didn’t want to be anyone’s “project.”                More.

Perhaps if you’re over 29 years the chances are low that you’ll ‘walk’ but if you’ve spent time in country congregations, you’ll know that young members are the hope of congregations.  The absence of them spells death.   Then again, older folk do walk. If you go to Wayville Uniting Church, South Australia, you’ll find quite a few ex-LCA members.

Rachel Held Evans has 15 reasons for walking away from church.  Why did you walk away?

 

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When people walk away from the Church

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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It’s time

The more Church leadership attempts to fix the situation of women’s ordination in the LCA the further the Church gets into trouble.

Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the principle that the legitimacy of the state is created and sustained by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power.  Despite different systems of governance, most people would accept that ‘the will of the people’ is paramount, encapsulated by Abraham Lincoln in that significant Gettysburg Address, hoping “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

What is ‘the will or consent’ of the people of the LCA?  On the matter of women’s ordination we will never know.  In fact, we will never the will of the people on any matter, as we don’t have a structure, or the will, for conducting a nation-wide poll of membership.   As the LCA uses a synodical structure, the laity express their voice through congregational motions to General Convention and through elected delegates to General Convention.  While we might revisit the structure of governance within the LCA, such a constitutional change is a matter for another decade.

We have known since 2001 that Synod delegates are in favour of women’s ordination.  As very few young people become delegates or have the freedom to afford time off work and pay for travel and accommodation for the length of the Synod, it is a fair assumption that a larger proportion of membership are in favour of women’s ordination.  That vote was also affected by the President, when he gave serious warning to delegates to vote against the motion if they were at all concerned about schism.  In addition, the President decided that absentee votes would count against the motion, with no reference to the source of authority for this decision.  Even without the influence of the current President, it is presumed that the necessary 66% support would still not have been achieved (with an actual vote of 51%), however, if it was for example 58%, it would have been more obvious that this issue had to be treated with more tolerance and sobriety.

So, we have a situation where a majority of membership and the CTICR is in favour of women’s ordination (statements from 2000 and 2006), while we have a leadership, comprised of generally older and elderly men, who not only are against women’s ordination but obstruct it through a clamp-down on media and the regular creation of extra hurdles for the establishment of women’s ordination.  How long might be this situation be tolerated? How long until congregations begin to take their own initiatives?

Let’s revisit our opening definition of sovereignty: Popular sovereignty or the sovereignty of the people is the principle that the legitimacy of the state is created and sustained by the will or consent of its people, who are the source of all political power.

In the LCA we have a situation where the will of the people and committees is minimised or discounted.  While leadership is entrusted by the Church to lead, if trust is broken by losing the consent of its people, the Church can choose to withdraw its trust.    While women’s ordination may need a two-thirds majority vote, the removal of Pr Semmler as President only requires a 50% vote.   This will free up Church media, allow the national conversation to continue, give back respect to CTICR and CSBQ, and also give back respect to women who experience the call to ordained ministry.

It’s time!

Read the rest of this entry »

 
 

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A Catholic woman’s open letter to the Pope

A post reprinted in its entirety from Baptist Women for Equality’s Blog | Claiming our equality by Shirley Taylor which reprinted a post from Phyllis Zagano [1] on Apr. 27, 2011

___________________

This may not be entirely legal, but I found the words of this blog so important and I want you to see what this Catholic woman has to say, so I have copied her entire blog post which was printed in the National Catholic Reporter.  The words in this post are not mine, but her words are our words.  Her frustration is our frustration. Her anger is our anger.  Her fight is our fight.  I trust she will understand as we connect with each other in righting a wrong.

Following is a letter she wrote to the Pope.  This is a lady who is fed up.  She is speaking up.

By Phyllis Zagano

Created Apr 27, 2011

by Phyllis Zagano [1] on Apr. 27, 2011

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI
00120 Vatican City State, Europe

Your Holiness:

Forgive my presumption in addressing you directly, but the matter I bring is both urgent and pressing. Women are no longer walking away from the church. They are running away. They are running toward churches that make it clear women are made in the image and likeness of God.

I am not writing to argue for woman priests. But you told me many years ago in New York women deacons were “under study.” From 1992-2002, the International Theological Commission worked on that question, producing a report essentially repeating what you said: the Magisterium must decide.

When you met with the priests of Rome in 2006, you wondered aloud: could the church open more positions of responsibility to women? Were you then signaling the recovery of the tradition of women deacons?

In 2009, you changed Canon Law to echo the Catechism. Priests are ordained to act in the person of Christ, the head of the church; deacons are ordained to serve the people of God in and through the Word, the liturgy and charity. Since doctrinal statements only forbid women priests, and deacons are not priests, it seems you removed another hurdle.

You know it is not just me asking. Thousands of people sent Cardinal William Levada, your successor at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, e-mails and postcards about women deacons in a campaign organized by the US-based group FutureChurch. Several other organizations including the Canada-based Femmes et Ministères have claimed April 29, the feast of St. Catherine of Siena, as an international day of prayer for women deacons.

It is a new-old question. The only person in scripture with the formal job title “deacon” is Phoebe, deacon of the church at Cenchrae (Rom 16:1). Some see the start of the diaconate in Jesus’ washing the apostles’ feet at the Last Supper, but most see it really beginning with the apostles calling the seven to a more formal ministry (Acts 6: 1-6). There were many women deacons in the early church.

The bishops of the world were talking about women deacons at the Second Vatican Council. They are still at it. Most recently, the Swiss Bishop of St. Gall, Markus Bűchel, said women deacons were a good idea. Others before him — even Cardinal Carlo Martini when he was archbishop of Milan — wanted to restore women to the diaconate. Bishops from Australia to Ireland say more women in power would have stemmed the priest sex mess. I think they are correct.

I am told your curia knows women can be ordained as deacons, but does not want women in the clerical structure of the church. That cuts both ways, Holy Father. A lot of women do not want anything to do with clericalism. Some want the whole system to collapse. More say it has collapsed already.

Where is the church without women? I know you are concerned about the fading influence of Christianity in Europe. I write from the United States. Things are pretty bad over here, too. The country is over three-quarters Christian (with 68 million Catholics) but newspapers like The New York Times had no front page Easter story this year. Their ink is used on scandal.

The Christian message is lost in the daily drama of the sex abuse crisis. I fear, Most Holy Father, that bad priests and worse bishops will be your legacy. You will be remembered as the pope who belatedly started a laboring sludge pump to clear the swamp.

I know you love what God loves and hate what God hates, but I also know how bureaucracy can stymie even (maybe especially) the most brilliant person. Is the bureaucracy keeping you from doing the right thing? That goes for the crisis as well as women deacons.

Let me come to the point. The Catholic Church in developed nations is dying out. I am convinced it is dying because of the way it relates to women. Surely you see the numbers — declining membership and eroding donations — but do you have any idea how angry women are? And every woman you alienate extends her influence to several others — to her husband, her children, her friends, her neighbors — until the last person out the parish door closes the lights.

If I may, I think it is time for you to make a decision about women deacons.

It is an opportunity for you to state the Christian message in a way that can be heard. Yes, God is love and all persons are made in the image and likeness of God. But the world will not and cannot hear that until you have a woman deacon standing beside you and proclaiming the Gospel in St. Peter’s.

Again, pardon my presumption, but perhaps no one else will tell you.

Correction: An earlier version of this column gave an incorrect scripture citation for Phoebe, deacon of the church at Cenchrae. The correct citation is Romans 16:1.
[Phyllis Zagano is senior research associate-in-residence at Hofstra University and author of several books in Catholic Studies. Her book Women & Catholicism will be published by Palgrave-Macmillan in 2011.]

Won’t you join me, and this courageous sister in Christ, and speak up for equality by writing, and going to the top earthly person you personally can go to.  We can discuss the subject to death, and never get anywhere.  Now is time for courageous action.

Note to Readers:  Please respect the intent of this post, which is that women in various denominations are speaking up, and we have the same goal.  What we think about a pope or whether priests are the earthly representative of Christ is not relevant to this post.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on September 24, 2011 in history, theology

 

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Why Women are the Key to the Church’s Future

Christian Piatt of Sojourners Community

Christian Piatt of Sojourners Community points out that the majority of those still hanging in within the walls of most churches are women. He says that since prehistoric times men have gone out to hunt, developing independence, while women have remained at home establishing and maintaining communities.  He suggests that, due to changing times, women are key to the future of the church.

While in the past we needed strong leadership, today we are guarded, sceptical and even pessimistic about leadership.  What hasn’t changed is our need for one another.

Who better to model such a resource for our culture than those who have been at the heart of such community since before the dawn of recorded history?

We can hold fast, clinging to our authority, drawing lines and issuing ultimatums, while watching people continue to walk away by the millions. Or we can recognize that what the world needs at this point, far more than another sermon or worship service is a model of healthy interdependent community. And as scripture assures us, if we gather together with the intention of truly seeking God in our midst, we will find what we’re looking for.  (more)

Not so long ago in Australia the Lutheran Church was a rural church with strong Germanic origins.  We had little money for our own religious texts, beyond the Bible and devotional materials. We were farmers with only primary education and we relied on the local pastor to bring his tertiary education to the interpretation of Scripture so that we might be educated.   As a corollary, we relied on our leaders to pave the way ahead.  They were our navigators and we trusted them.

Today, education to a tertiary level, at least in Australia, is almost universal.  In this information age we are hyper-connected, and we are exposed to issues across the globe – even religious issues.  We need to filter enormous amounts of material and contradictory political opinion with some discernment.  Times have changed. We are no longer passive consumers of opinion and theology, and yes, we are guarded about top-down leadership which doesn’t reflect the common experience.  We no longer have the mono-cultural allegiance of early German settlers.  There are many options. Ref 1 and 2

‘Strong leadership’ at the helm of the LCA is, ironically, destroying the trust that some of us have in the LCA.   Those who oppose women’s ordination seem to oppose living together with a diversity of practice, even valuing isolation in the name of purity. Such determined isolationism contradicts their evangelical DNA and does nothing for the Gospel. We fear that such closing of options may lead them to schism.

On the other hand, women seem to offer gifts in building community. They have been nurturing families and relationships since time began with leadership styles that are generally more consultative and encouraging of interdependence. God is not finished with the church just yet.  There are yet more changes to come.


Reference

Why Women are the Key to the Church’s Future – Christian Piatt | God’s Politics Blog | Sojourners.

 
 

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Standing before the forces of power in Alabama

“They told us we wouldn’t get here, there were those who said we would only get here over their dead bodies. All the world today knows that we are here and we are standing before the forces of power in Alabama saying ‘We ain’t gonna let nobody turn us around!’” – Martin Luther King Jr, Selma to Montgomery, March 1965.

I will never know the names of the people who marched from Selma to Montgomery with Dr King and chances are you won’t either.  Nor are you likely to know the names of the people who walked with Gandhi on the Salt March, yet our history and imaginations are caught by the thought of hundreds of ordinary people going to (and walking for) extraordinary lengths to fight for justice.  No matter what came, nothing would move these people, and nobody could turn them around.  Reference

We lose track of how difficult it is to bring about  change.  People understood that civil rights may actually cost them their lives.

Gordon Gibson knew the civil rights movement in the 1960s was serious when a friend said not to leave for Selma unless it was more important for him to go than it was to come back.

“I decided it was more important to go to Alabama, and we wrote our wills,” Gibson said.

He was 26 years old.  Reference

Australia had it’s own Freedom Ride in 1965.  It exposed endemic racism in rural Australia and “punctured Australian smugness, borne of ignorance, that racism did not exist in Australia.” (ref)  While the move towards the 1967 referendum on Aboriginal equality had started shortly after Federation  in 1901, the Freedom Ride must have helped people understand that racism was entrenched, not just in country towns of NSW, but in the Australian Constitution as well.  There was resistance over decades, much of it vitriolic, and some resistance continues today for racism cannot be legislated away.

Change doesn’t come easily, for it threatens some people’s way of being.  It is difficult for some to imagine how they will function under the innovation and so it becomes important to resist, despite understanding why it is important for many.  That resistance is justified by a lifetime of living in a different paradigm.  “It is my experience, don’t take it from me!” When change does come, the new reality is rarely as confronting as was expected.

The road towards women’s ordination has been difficult.  Through hope and despair starting in the 1990s, and now through a growing voice protesting the silencing of debate on women’s ordination, there is an ever-increasing hope that the LCA will yet see women’s ordination.

The difference between civil rights and women’s ordination in the LCA is that while both the US and Australia are democracies and function under freedom of the press, the LCA on this matter, does not.  While Pr Semmler communicates freely with membership when he wishes, the women’s ordination movement cannot even pay for an advertisement in the national magazine.  Repressive regimes use this tactic throughout the world to maintain control on power through controlling communication and the national discussion. As this contravenes the LCA Constitution Pr Semmler needs to be censured.

 

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When should congregations refuse to play the conservative game? Reflections on Gen.Synod 2006

Martin Luther

Luther worked within the structures of the Catholic Church to convey his understanding of Scriptures, but when continually hitting immovable walls conscience dictated his actions. Perhaps the LCA has operated from fear that conservative congregations would break from the LCA if women’s ordination was approved.  Little thought, however, has been given to the possibility that moderate congregations would break away after suffering the closing down of the discussion.

When is it time to step away from an abusive Church?  How long should congregations suffer the manipulation of democratic processes?

The following is Tanya Wittwer’s reflection after General Synod in 2006.  The despair she expresses from that time is evident again in our Church as we lead up to General Synod in April of 2013.  There is significant expectation of change.  Members and congregations of this Church are not content to forever suffer diversions and stalling.

From the beginning of the proceedings it was apparent that the leadership had decided to keep a tight lid on Synod.  The first woman to speak asked that one of the two nominees for the position of President share his vision for the church, prior to the election; the incumbent had just delivered his report and it seemed reasonable to be able to at least have heard from each of them.  This request (repeated by another woman the following day) was immediately denied.

The ordination question was clearly established as something to be debated from opposing sides, rather than an issue that could be discussed collegially.  On the Monday evening of Synod there was an “information evening” at which two seminary professors had been chosen to speak for 25 minutes – one presenting the position that only men could be ordained, and the other responding.  Unfortunately it was the No position that established the parameters of the “information” presented.  In the format chosen and the time limit given there was no opportunity to address bigger questions of Biblical interpretation, or faithful decision-making.  The chair contributed negatively to the debate, with a long, heavy-handed introduction, and unhelpful remarks.

The chair had been clear in his direction that only Scriptural and theological issues were to be addressed, but this did not prevent some of the anti-lobby using manipulative anecdotes and sweeping statements to support their arguments.  The style of “debate” meant that there was no opportunity to respond to these.  When the chair declared that only those waiting to speak would be given an opportunity, and no more were to go to the microphones, the balance was such that the final five speakers were against the ordination of women.  The chair urged people to abstain from voting if they had any doubts at all, or if they thought the time was not yet right.  Then the votes were cast.

I felt surprisingly free.  I felt free to leave the LCA, and join another denomination.  The reaction surprised me, but it felt as if the part of the race I needed to run was complete, and it was time to hand the baton over.  I was overwhelmed by the people – many of them strangers – who thanked me for my words, and shared their sadness.

When I woke on Wednesday morning, I had moved to a position of feeling free … to stay, at least for a while. To stay and to support others in being the church we believed we needed to be, even if this meant pushing boundaries. The nice, polite, official way of doing things seemed unhelpful; maybe now is the time to forget being “good.” We need to name clearly the legalistic turn in our church. We need to work against the pressure being applied by Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the International Lutheran Council (ILC). We need to find ways to proclaim more loudly God’s inclusive grace.

via GENERAL LCA SYNOD 2006 — “There’s nothing new under the sun.” (Ecc 1:9) | Women’s Ministry Network – Tanya Wittwer (6 October 2006)

 
 

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