July 1st, 2019

speed limit

Lead, kindly Light

There is a call upon my life. Even though I’m retired from “the job,” I’m not retired from the ministry for which I was ordained. That puts me in an awkward place in trying to figure out where and with whom to follow Jesus. And as we contemplate the breakup of The UMC, it puts me in a very awkward place.

For one thing, I don’t know if I’m going to wind up in the remainder denomination after other people leave, or if I’m going to wind up among the exiles seeking to start up somewhere else. I’m waiting on GC 20 and its aftermath, like everybody else. If I’m needed to help rebuild after the big breakup happens, I want to be able to do that. I see that more in teaching and organizational leadership than in the pastorate, but still, one must be open to wherever God leads.

This intersects with another pressing need, however. I hope to eventually move out to Wilderstead. Looking around that area, I don’t know where we’d attend church. There are few options in our preferred denominational flavor, and the breakup may render them even less attractive in terms of my own spiritual needs. I could, of course, volunteer to whatever powers there be to pastor someplace, but I don’t know that I want to do that. Perhaps, in the confusion of the times and the abandoned nature of the place, I may even just call on anyone who wants to join me in regular prayer. Not as a full-bore church, but as a gathering of the church. It would be a last resort, but you never know. We are rapidly running out of resorts these days.

What I know is that while I stand ready to help those who need help, congregationally, organizationally, pastorally, etc., I am not interested in sustaining people and institutions in their dysfunction. And I think there are going to be a lot of people and congregations after the big breakup who will be snatching at straws, trying to find something to keep them afloat, spiritually, but all the time just hoping to transfer their existing dysfunctions to a new setting. These ravaged survivors are not going to make it, whatever side of the fault line they find themselves on after the earthquake, and trying to “save” them as they are will only involve more people in their inevitable decline. No, if we’re going to start over, do ministry that raises the dead and finds new life, that makes disciples, that teaches the faith and the life practice the right way, then we can’t just try to keep all the wounded congregations going. There is going to be some serious triage involved.

I’m willing to help. I was ordained to do so. But I’ve got my own soul to save, too, and I will not spend my remaining healthy years putting up with some of the craziness I put up with for forty-one years. I want to find companions for the journey. I want to worship God in the beauty of holiness. If I can’t find a church in which I can comfortably cohere, I may try to organize something on my own. Or I may just become the Hermit of Wilderstead. I just don’t know.

It’s all in God’s hands right now.