Yesterday, after a wonderfully positive conversation with my pastor, I left the Nazarene Church.
My membership with the church started when I was a teenager. I loved church growing up. It was home. I was dedicated in the church as an infant, as were both of my children. I was baptized in a river at a Nazarene church camp, and married by a Nazarene pastor. I spent years in Bible Quizzing, going on trips to Nazarene events, and making friends. My bachelor’s degree is from a Nazarene university. The same school where my grandmother attended high school, and where both of my parents went to college. I have deep, binding connections.
My adult relationship with the church has been rocky. I’ve written about it here before and so I’m not going to spend a lot of time rehashing things. What’s important is that there have been times when I’ve been tempted to leave, and yet decided to stay.
The last time I went into this, my post and I were dragged onto a Nazarene forum called Naznet. The community picked me apart. They hounded me, called me names, accused me of being everything that was wrong with young people. A couple of nice moderators stepped in, and they removed some of the more upsetting comments, however, they’d already hit their mark. They wheedled their way in, and between then and now I’ve come to realize that they weren’t wrong. The truth is, to a majority of the Evangelical and Nazarene population, I’m not welcome. I’m a progressive, young, feminist liberal. I put the rights of others ahead of my own. I don’t think the church belongs in politics, and I don’t believe that a political party should be affiliated with the church. I am not convinced that Evangelicals, as a group, agree with me.
Instead of continuing to sit quietly, hiding, and remaining complicit in what is going on, I sent an email to the pastor of the church I attend. This is a part of what I said when I asked to be removed from membership:
I cannot put myself in the position of becoming the enemy to the disenfranchised, those seeking asylum, the lonely, or to anyone who feels persecuted or wronged by the church. I have to be a safe place. It’s who I am… And, right now, if I stay under the Evangelical or Nazarene umbrella, I’m not safe to a lot of people. That isn’t okay with me.
That right there, is my heart. As long as Evangelical Christians* continue to associate themselves with bigotry, fear-mongering, and racism I cannot be a card carrying member of the community. I have to separate myself. My faith dictates it. I do not believe that Jesus would be okay with the things represented by popular religion right now. I am lead by a simple mandate to love, and I do. I love you. I love people of different faiths, creeds, colors, lifestyles, and orientations. No matter who you are, or where you have been. I love because I am loved. I can no longer stand with a church or with a group who does not have that as their prime directive.
PS, Pastor B, if you’re reading this, please know how much I appreciate you. I appreciate that you let me make my choice. I appreciate that you listened, and that you didn’t try to stop me. Thank you for understanding where I am coming from, and for loving me through it. Thank you for telling me that I’m always welcome. You’re a rock star, and I’m glad to know you.
*I know I am speaking in generalizations, so please do not think that I am attacking any individual person, or church building.
Thank you for your heartfelt and cogent note. I can empathize with you to a certain extent. I’ve said a number of times, even in a Bible School class on apologetics that I have taught that “Church would be great if it weren’t for the people.” (That raised a few eyebrows). The simple fact is that people suck. Period. People will always let you down at one time or another – that is the nature of humanity – we are all self-centered. And we will all continue to suck in some way, shape or form while were are here. We can, as C.S. Lewis put it, “put on Christ” but we cannot do that perfectly – at least not yet.
Christ didn’t establish “a” church, he established HIS church when he was here. Unfortunately, people got in the way. I would urge you, if you haven’t in the past, to read through some of the classic works of Christianity, starting with C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity. Good luck to you.