About a year ago, a family circumstance forced me to reconsider my profession as an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. The family circumstance called for a greater income that I could ever hope to make in the church. I informed my DS and bishop of the circumstance and began to look for work. There were lots of intriguing options and I submitted about a dozen resumes and applications.
The family circumstance forced the matter and I had no choice but to act. I have always loved being a pastor, even with all the turmoil my particular career arc has brought. And I have almost always felt called and equipped for this work. But family is what it is and I had to live with the possibility of having to leave the ministry. Surprising even to me, was how readily I was able to accept this new reality and the parameters it would be placing on my life. In short, I was at peace with leaving the church.
The family circumstance changed just as quickly as it had arisen, and I was appointed to Orchards where I have loved being since day one. But that almost 3 month period made a deep impression on me for both the family circumstance and what it would have meant for my career.
I learned that my calling was from God. I learned that my calling was to God and God’s people. I learned that the church has been a great conduit and facilitator of this calling. But I was reminded that the calling is not to or for the church. And if the avenue of the church is not available, God’s will will be fulfilled some other way. Even though I was leaving the institutional church, I never felt that I was leaving ministry.
Today, the United Methodist Church facilitated a very Pentecostal occurrence at Orchards. I was privileged to welcome Bishop Mary Ann Swenson to preach. Bishop Swenson had served Orchards for 9 years early in her career. We also welcomed Janjay Innis a Young Adult Mission Advocate with the General Board of Global Ministries. A former US-2 classmate of mine was also in attendance. She is now a deaconess and her brother is being commissioned as a Home Missioner Monday morning at General Conference. We also had missionary trainers and PNW’s Conference Secretary on Global Ministries. In all it was a joyous gathering that highlighted much of what is great and beautiful about the United Methodist Church.
Then I went to lunch with a couple of Texans who want to bless the PNW with an awesome program called Project Transformation. It’s Methodist to the core: it cares about the poor and structures a program to put the resources of the church to work for the vulnerable around us. Holy Lord, I really want this to come to Orchards. It is right up our alley. And it is so connectional it’s almost embarrassing.
Then I got home and got back to watching the twittersphere inebriate itself with talk of schism. It just seems so stupid.
But in the end, I work for the Lord. And so do you. If God has called you and there is no more church…well, God has still called you, so you’ll have to find another way. And another way will open. I’m not trying to play fiddle while Rome burns. I’m trying to say the church, even in all its splendor and meaning, is not Rome. And the forces of division cannot prevent people of good will and hope from accomplishing what God has set out for us to do.
The one who has begun a good work in you will be faithful to complete it. Thanks be to God.