Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Breaking Up and Breaking Out

I almost dropped out of seminary.

The reason for my "almost break-up" with the church, the "straw that broke the camel's back" is, at this point, mostly unimportant. I credit a good friend of mine for convincing me to stay. He told me I only had two options: I could leave and let the church stay the way it was (break up), or I could stay, and exact change from the inside (break out). I chose to stay, because at that time I could never see myself as being anything other than a Lutheran. Maybe the idealist in me really believed that this is still a "reforming" church, and not just the "reformed" church of Martin Luther's Reformation.

My blog has been silent for a long time. The last few months have been filled with wonderings and wanderings as I struggle with a church that falls so short of my expectations, and a call to ministry that even I don't entirely understand.

My struggle is with a larger church (i.e., not a specific congregation, but the wider church) that preaches the "priesthood of all believers" but doesn't live it. My struggle is with a church that doesn't know how to affirm my gifts for ministry not only as a church leader but also simply as a Child of God. I struggle with my own ability to be a diaconal minister (deacon, or servant) in this world and in a church that I feel has let me down. It has told me my service is important and then turned its back on my call in so many ways. In the semantics it plays between "ordination" and "consecration" and in the inequality in pay and responsibility between clergy and deacons, the church has made its stand. My call did not come out on top. I wasn't really hoping it would--equality would have been nice.

I could go on, but I won't. I am writing this blog so that others who struggle with questions of faith might know that you are not alone, and so that you know that even the people who "work in the church" are often plagued with doubt and misgiving. I also wish for something better for my church, and for myself.

The question that faces me today is the same one that has faced me for months, perhaps even years. It was 2003 when I almost dropped out of seminary.... in many ways my questions today are still the same....

Should I "break up" with the church, or "break out"? Is my role the role of a leaver or a reformer? I know that I want something better, but I'm not sure I have the heart to make it happen. I'm not sure I'm a reformer. All I want to do is be a diaconal minister (deacon, servant) in the truest sense of the word. I just want to serve... I don't want to spend my time convincing people it's a good idea. I'm not sure the church knows what this call to diaconal service really means. What about the preisthood of all believers? If we're all priests, then who says diaconal service needs to happen within the context of a "call" or a "consecration"? Isn't God bigger than even the church's box?


Kim Krogstad said...

It's not just those called to a ministry of service that struggle with the sorry state of (too much of) the Church today...So far I've leaned (barely) toward breaking out from the inside out, but I wonder about my future too....

telemann said...

I'm definitely interested - but your struggle and complaints remain unclear. They are not necessarily obvious to outsiders.

Why did you almost drop out of seminary? How did Church fall short? What did you expect in the way of affirming your gifts? How did the Church turn its back on your call.

This isn't just a Lutheran problem. I'm a Lutheran, but in my public policy research since retirement as a federal scientists I've discovered that over past 35 years the nation has become fragmented into groups that don't communicate - and that apparently means ELCA too.

Part of the problem is that people are reluctant to be get candid and down to earth like Luther was. So problems remain politely suppressed until they burst out in schisms where they become articulated by the most ideological or radical people in groups.

I have gradually come to realize that professed constructive rather than blaming intent, and avoidance of pejorative language gets me to place I never thought I could go earlier!

Consider Obama. He's a pretty radical guy, but maintains a calm demeanor, constructive approach and been willing to listen. Look where he's come.

Warm regards, Frank Manheim, Fairfax VA

I hope we can learn more from you.

Warm regards, Frank T. Manheim, Fairfax VA