Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why I Stay in the United Methodist Church: the background

It's no secret that I was not raised in the UMC; in fact, in seminary at Asbury, the last thing I wanted to be affiliated with was the UMC. But somehow I ended up here. The UMC is a denomination in decline, yet there are plenty of us who are sticking with the UMC, not just because "we've always been Methodist" but for other reasons. I'm joining in the young clergy conversation, started here, about why I stay in the United Methodist Church.

Again, I didn't start out UMC. I didn't want to be here. But I came anyway when beckoned. A professor in seminary steered me toward Ohio and I (after praying about it) came to a UMC in the Columbus area. It was overall not that great of a situation; I even perceived when determining whether to go or not that there were a whole lot of "cons" as opposed to few "pros" involved. Yet I still felt like God was calling me to go.

Though I believe that I did some significant ministry there for God, it sucked the life out of me. Toward my third year there, in my prayers (as I have been reminded as I re-read my journal from that time), I asked God to let me leave. His answer was "wait" (the worst answer an impatient person can receive).

I still don't know why He asked me to wait, but I did.

When I finally was given "permission" to leave, I started looking elsewhere (within and outside the denomination). I interviewed at several churches and made several short lists. Then I got the call that I was being moved. I hadn't requested a move within the conference, and it was quite a shock that one had been requested for me.

I moved because I had voluntarily agreed to become obedient to the denominational authority. Thus I had a sudden, surprising, and unplanned move to New Knoxville. On paper, it looked like my gifts and skills were just what NK wanted; in reality that was more or less paper (as an aside, it looks like their new pastor is really fitting in well in that church). Through all of the pain, the time in NK was an important time for me, a time of healing and forgiveness.

But as it was coming time to move again, I told my district superintendent (who was ironically the same seminary professor who had steered me toward Ohio) that he had "one more chance." I think that this move was perfect for me and that the "on paper" description actually matched the desires, needs, and character of the church.


Anonymous said...

The move to NK was a good thing for many involved...sorry you did not feel comfortable with us...we did love you and your family...whether you knew it or not.

The Thief said...

It wasn't about not feeling comfortable; it was about my gifts and passions not being matched well with what the church really wanted from a pastor.

There were three families who really took us under their wing and loved us like their own, inviting us over, especially at holiday times when we would have been alone. For the others, however, we were simply another set of outsiders...