I awoke this morning in pain. This is my normal. I have chronic back pain from being forced to move out of their parsonage. I also suffer from the ongoing effects of being in such pain, physically, emotionally, and spiritually from a self-inflicted gunshot to the brain. I had been falsely accused (by a person they paid) of sexual impropriety. No evidence, all hearsay, and the actions/inaction of a district supervisor who wanted her friend to replace me. I was a perfect storm. Enough of that narrative.
The church tortured me while the Church sustained me. For over forty years of my life, I have sought to serve the Church by being a pastor/prophet to the people of the church. The Church is the called-out people of God who seek to Holy Spirit and live in the light of their baptism. I love the Church. I do not love the local church in this country. My experience of the pain and torture the church has caused me was worth it for the Church.
The social institution we call the local church is a beacon to mean, hateful people who love challenging anyone in charge or who has an education. Everything will always be your fault. You will be continually reminded that they are your boss and you had better say “how high” when they say jump.
Does God not know what is going on? Of course, God does. Why then, does God not act? God does act, and God continues to work with those local institutions hoping at least a few (the narrow road) will enter the Kingdom of God. The call to ministry (a true call) is a call to pain and suffering. If you carry out your calling as God intends, you are going to upset some people. Over a period of time, the number of antagonists will grow. Eventually, those who you have offended will exceed those you have helped, and when that balance is reached the sorrow and suffering of ministry will begin.
I am very aware that I was not the perfect pastor. I am very aware that the stances I took did make some people mad. Yet I can truthfully say that I gave those churches my best whether it was good enough for church members or not. I am aware I make mistakes, but I am willing to acknowledge them (this is a big mistake for a pastor to make). I have had church members steal money out of my desk and my wife’s purse. I have been cussed out in the middle of a service. I have had death threats and other physical threats. And when I was at my lowest, all support, all help, all peace abandoned me. Thus enters the .45 caliber pistol.
I do not remember anything after I pulled the trigger. Except for talking with God who ask me if I would go back? I said yes (why, why did I say yes, perhaps I realized that my death would be painful to a few people I cared about. A month later I was released from the hospital and sent home humiliated by the failure of my suicide. I was contacted by a few members of the Church. Mostly though, I have been forgotten.
Would I serve a mean church again? Yes, if it was what God wanted. So far though I have not found a church within the Church that would want for a pastor a 68-year-old male who survived a suicide attempt. Not really the type of stuff that stands out on a resume. No matter that I have 40 years of experience and a doctorate in my field.
So I serve the Church by writing sermons for the church to be used by individuals who likely are suffering as much as I am. To those, I say, “Remember, this is not our home, this is not our end.