What I am about to discuss is something I need to get off my chest. Please realize I am ranting, and, at times, I may not make much sense. Hopefully, I can clarify later. I really need to thank Ryan for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions as I struggled through this process. Ryan was a big help and, unfortunately, probably more of a pastor to me during this time than my own pastors. That, however, is for later.
It all started with a song. The song was innocent enough at first. I mean, who wouldn’t like to listen to an upbeat song every once in a while during the service like “Shine Jesus Shine”. There was one problem, however. The aesthetics of the song are not pleasing when played on a pipe organ. I also began to wonder if we should really be ordering God around by telling him to “Shine”. After that, the questionable theology began to pile up. Bad Baptist hymns replaced the Gloria, a “Jesus is my Boyfriend” tune (Open my eyes Lord) replaced the confession of Peter (Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life), and the liturgy was slashed as to be and hour or less, guaranteed. About a year and a half ago, I began coming home from church angry and questioning what the pastors were trying to do. Why was the service being dumbed down? Why were theologically questionable songs, at best, being introduced to the congregation, stuff so bad I wanted to puke? Why couldn’t the bell choir reverse this trend?
Article XIV of the Augsburg confession states, “Of Ecclesiastical Order they teach that no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.” (Bente and Dau) So when the Vicar began consecrating the elements, I was quite confused. Ryan was a big help with my reservations about this practice. He reminded me of Article XIV and what it states. So, unless Vicars have suddenly received calls I am unaware of, he has no business consecrating the elements. This one drove me nuts because, somehow, I always ended up with the Vicar consecrating elements no matter what service I attended. I now wonder how many times did I participate in an empty ceremony without any meaning or power. I should have just had crackers and wine at home.
At this point, I am not only angry at my church, I am angry at myself for being at a church that has a problem with orthopraxy. What drove me even more insane was when I was asked to participate in a service in which the doctrine of Two Kingdoms would be proclaimed and then muddled. Ryan, once again, was a voice of reason to me, and I confronted the senior pastor about what I believed to be a violation of Article XVI of the Augsburg Confession. We discussed my conscience, my views, and he then sent me home with a CTCR document on Church and state. He said that the CTCR document was the official position of the Synod. I know CTCR documents are not the official positions of the Synod (except one that went through the proper means to become official) but just documents for further study and reflection. To his credit, he also said that if I was uncomfortable with the service, then I shouldn’t do it lest I sin against my conscience. I am not happy at this point, and I go to a different pastor and a vicar who tell me to see if I could separate the “masturbation for America” (as I called it) from the rest of the service. If not, I was given the bad advice of just gritting my teeth and bearing it because it was an issue not worth fighting over. I cannot really blame them. I was the one who decided to participate to help keep the peace, and I was the one who sinned. The other part of the conversation, however, was what really made me think. The conversation was about trust and the necessity of it. Did I like my pastors? Yes. They were both outgoing and cared deeply about the congregation. Did I trust my pastors? To answer that, I asked a different question: why was I asking Ryan and other pastors questions I should be asking my own pastors? Would I be bringing these other people into these problems if I completely trusted my pastors? The answer is “No”. At the point I realized that, I knew that all the thinking I had done about leaving prior to this would, at some point, turn to action.
After all of that, however, I still hadn’t requested to be transferred even though I began to attend other congregations when my obligations to my home church did not interfere with my plans. I intended to just fade away into oblivion and transfer somewhere else where I would not be angry after the service. I didn’t want nor need perfection. I just wanted somewhere where I could bicker about the church wasting its valuable money on decaf rather than questioning the practices of the pastor. My idea of transferring changed when I heard that District President Benke’s case had been reversed. Both of my pastors were big Benke fans, as was much of the congregation. I was alright with staying in fellowship with everyone as long as the Benke case was in limbo. I justified it somehow using logic. I don’t really remember how I justified such a move now. Anyway, as soon as the decision was announced, I began writing a letter of resignation. I neither resigned from my position as bell director nor my position as LOGOS chime director. I resigned my membership in the church. Many will say churches work very slowly. The elders accepted my resignation within 48 hours. All I have to say is I was happy. I no longer deal with the hypocrisy I saw every Sunday. I soon joined a church with a confessional pastor and arguments about the type of coffee. It’s amazing how much you appreciate the petty arguments after coming out of the situation I was in. I also have a pastor who I trust and can bring up concerns. That is a blessing I have not had in quite a while.
Here comes the hard part: where did I go wrong? Through this whole process, could I have done something differently that might of resulted in change or, at least, me leaving like I did? My only real regret is that I did not discuss my problems with the liturgy, the vicar, and the trust issue with either of the pastors. I believe those issues really needed to be discussed and much of the bad blood I now possess might have been avoided. At best, we might have found solutions to these problems so I could, with a good conscience, stay. At worst, I would end up where I am now. I do miss many of the people at my old church. I miss the bell choir. I am saddened by what I had to do, but yet I accept the burden gladly, because being sad is easier than being angry.