This letter is on the same theme as the last two: relationships.
Like you probably already know, when Lisa and I left the church, it wasn’t long before pretty much all of our relationships were severed. That wasn’t the plan, but the incoming pastor decided that’s what he would do and he was effective in ending all our friendships except for a few.
Needless to say, it was hard to take.
It wasn’t new to us. In fact, it has happened to us many times. But this time was harder because we really had some very deep friendships there.
My conclusion is that the church favors ideology and compliance over people. That is, correct doctrine and social conformity is more important than love.
I get a lot of messages from people saying that they think I’m too cynical. They’ve never experienced or witnessed what I’m talking about.
It’s like trying explain grief to someone who’s never lost anyone. Or like explaining systemic racism to a person who doesn’t believe it exists.
You don’t get it until you’ve experienced it. Like probably all of you. Or almost.
Sally (not her real name) and I were good friends back when I was her pastor.
I got an email from her this week. She gave me permission to share it in full with you guys only (please don’t share anywhere):
“So just over a month ago I got officially removed from my church. I jumped moments before I was to be pushed. It was horrible and for the first few days afterwards I almost messaged you many times, just to say… I get it now. I viscerally understand what it’s like to have a body of people turn away from you, look at you with confusion and fear. Shun you. Disown you.
‘Good’ friends, the people who have cared for me since I left your area, they are all steely silent now. Following church protocol to not fellowship casually with one who has been disciplined by leadership, so not to bring comfort and drive me to repentance.
I have a boyfriend, 8 months now, a wonderful guy and who knows where it will go. But they had a keen interest in what we did in private and that’s what resulted in this.
So there ya go. I get it now.”
We’ve been talking since. We’re still good friends. I’m sure she’ll find her way, like many of you have.
The point of this letter to you isn’t “I told you so!” or to exonerate myself.
The purpose of this letter is to encourage you, in a strange way. This happens a LOT. I hear from people I bet every day whose relationships with the church are under great strain or already snapped. And for all kinds of reasons. Including your private love life.
Many of you, like my friend, also know what it’s like to be marginalized, rejected, shunned, and exiled. I know I do.
The intention, I suppose, is to remove us from help. But the good thing is we learn to help ourselves.
That’s the whole point of TLS.
And I’m glad we’re together.