As many of you know last year I resigned my ordination credentials and left my former denomination, The Church of the Nazarene. But I never really told you why. The official reason was theological differences, which is true enough. There were also many general leadership decisions made in the previous three years that I did not agree with. I had thought about leaving before but stuck around. Last year was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
I started a home church in January of last year. I had been talking about this with the district superintendent and others since October 2007. In December I found out that they were creating a “mother” church for the Chicago area that would meet at the newly rented city district office. The main district office is in Bourbannais. Most of the denominational activity that happens in The Church of the Nazarene in northern Illinois happens in Bourbannais, Kankanee, and Joliet. My church plant would be a satellite of this “mother” church. It would have been nice to know about this a little sooner than 3 weeks before my church plant started. Then a time and day had to be set up for services. I had set my church plant to meet on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. The mother church decided to meet on Sunday at 10:00 a.m., which meant I could not make it to anything. This was the week before my plant started. So I felt like the rug was pulled out from under me to begin with.
Then emails went unanswered. Then there was a pastor training event. My husband was ill, and we spent the night before wondering if we were going to the ER for the pain he was in. We didn’t get much sleep. The morning of the training, I left a message on the answering machine telling them I wouldn’t be there and why. In fact, we were still wondering if we would be going to the ER. No one called or checked in on us. No one called to see if we needed any help. No one checked to see if my husband was in the hospital. Silence.
The silence became deafening in May of last year. My husband was very ill and looking at major surgery. I sent out an email to my district superintendent and my “mother” church. I was met by silence again. No one called to see if we needed any help. “Do you need help with meals?” “Can I run some errands for you?” “Do you need help cleaning?” Nothing. I didn’t even hear from the district superintendent, who was supposed to be my pastor (although he was quick enough to call when he received my resignation letter and credentials).
But the help and support I needed did come. The year before I had become friends with the priest at Grace Episcopal Church, Ted Curtis. I had worshiped a few times at their Wednesday Bible study and communion service. After sending out an email to the Nazarenes in Chicago, I sent an email to other friends in Chicago. Unlike the deafening silence of the Nazarene church, Ted told me to come to Wednesday service and during prayer they would pray for me. They did. They gathered around me, laid their hands on me and prayed. I cannot describe the peace and comfort of that time. After the service Ted told me that if we needed anything, to call him. He would get people organized to help us with meals, errands, whatever we needed. I was not a member of Ted’s church or a member of his denomination, but Grace Episcopal was there for me.
That is when I made my decision. It just wasn’t worth it. On top of the problems I was having with general church leadership and major theological disconnects, I had no community. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s when I told my husband, “I think about resigning my credentials, and it no longer bothers me. In fact, it’s a relief.” (My husband is fine. His doctors decided against the surgery and became more aggressive with drug therapy. He has been healthy for eight months now. Whoo-hoo!) I was okay with having no financial support. No biggie, I can live with that. I couldn’t live with not having any pastoral, emotional, or familial support. I decided that I wanted to be a part of the church that doesn’t just talk about loving and serving people. I wanted to be a part of a church that actually lived loving and serving, not only “other” people, but it’s own people. I mailed my resignation and credentials to the district office the end of May 2008. I even gave a two weeks notice: As of June I was no longer an ordained minister, nor a member of The Church of the Nazarene. I felt such peace. I knew it was the right thing to do.
Last October I was confirmed into the Episcopal Church, and I am now a member of Grace Episcopal Church. I can do all the things God called me to do there without being ordained: teach, preach, and write. My first time to preach will be on Pentecost, May 31. It seems very fitting that my first time to preach at Grace, my new church, will be the birthday of the Church.